After the heartwarming episode concluding the main character arc of Honoka Maki, I must say that my expectations were significantly lower—and I’m afraid they were not surpassed. I’m not surprised, as the emotions of the last episode are not easily matched, but at the same time I worry this may mark a downward turn in the story’s quality, although it was still fairly good, and there’s plenty of room for everything to turn around.
Urushibara, Yamada, and Sonozaki analyze the emotional data of the Kiznaivers. Sonozaki might be starting to realise that she’s a horrible person, but she still seems very invested in their work, so her progress, if any, is not very evident. I feel sad that all the effort the Kiznaivers have put into forming their friendships are side swept, their bond instead being seen as an impossible feat achieved through copious amounts of meddling. True, the Kiznaiver experiment initially brought them together, but I don’t think it would have worked so well if they weren’t lonely in some way, and so, though their relationships were forced upon them, their desire for friendship drove most of them to experience genuine bonding.
During a storm, the Kiznaivers get purikura, which is a sticker photo booth that makes pretty extreme adjustments to your appearance. Katsuhira has a flashback, which feels a little redundant at this point. We figured out long ago that Sonozaki and Katsuhira knew each other as children. I suppose this does reinforce his own process of remembering, but I had gotten the impression that was already underway. At least they add to the atmosphere.
They all get kidnapped and taken to the school, where Yamada further explains Kiznaiver history. Originally, the experiment was not about connecting wounds but emotions, with poor results when it came to positive emotions, and better results with emotions rooted in pain. I’m really interested to see how these assertions are used in the story. Are positive emotions things that can only be shared normally? I would hope so. Is pain somehow better at connecting people? It seems that’s what the Kizuna Committee concluded, but I think they may soon discover that pain can drive people farther apart.
The experiment only worked on children and teenagers. Although he says all child experiment subjects are alive, he doesn’t specify whether any harm came to them, which suggests to me that Katsuhira and Sonozaki’s apathetic states may be the consequence. I also gather that Katsuhira’s parents were involved in the committee, and I hope they show up at some point! It’s interesting that the Kiznaivers react so strongly while having adopted a detached attitude about their own mistreatment. Tenga’s response was pretty heartwarming. I’m sorry I ever disliked him. How did I not see that he obviously was being set up to have a heart of gold?
Once again, Sonozaki is shown receiving an injection. She declares that she won’t let the Kiznaiver experiment end, which could be about the mayor’s complaints, but she’s so determined, I almost think maybe she was actually referring to something else. Tenga jumps at the sound of lightning, which makes me wonder if dogs aren’t the only thing he’s afraid of, and even whether he has a tragic past of his own. The Kiznivers predict that if they stay inside too long, the gomorins will take action to push them out, and they’re right. I love how the Kiznaivers are now so genre-savvy, nothing can even surprise them anymore.
Yamada, Urushibara, and Sonozaki speculate on the romantic feelings between the Kiznaivers, which they want to encourage to test. They note all the obvious affections, the only one that’s less obtrusive being that Nico likes Tenga. Sonozaki realizes that Katsuhira likes her, and suggests she join the Kiznaivers. She makes a vague statement about if Katsuhira gets his pain back, she might find herself within him. I feel like this suggests that the pain they lost was actually emotional, and maybe Sonozaki cares about the experiment because the return of her emotions might accompany his due to their old bond.
The romantic focus is the biggest part of the episode I take issue with. I don’t mind romance, and I knew some would be inevitable, but I can’t stand it being forced, and I’m a little bitter that it is suddenly the most crucial part of every single major character except Hisomu, who feels a lot more like a secondary character at this point. Exploiting romance to develop characters in this way is really lazy writing, in my opinion. It’s especially disappointing as the last episode focused so much on friendship, and now that’s been abandoned.
The Kiznaivers split up. Tenga gives Nico a jacket, and tells her she looks cute, which causes a new Kiznaiver feeling. Nico is really clever, and pretends that she’s just getting a cold. I am very happy that she is getting a little more depth, though I’m disappointed that it has to revolve around a crush. That being said, I don’t think it’s a bad pairing, and at least has been implied with some subtlety, although I was already partial to Chidori and Tenga.
Honoka and Hisomu bicker, and she runs off after he suggests that she is trying to get rid of the pain in her heart by befriending everyone. It was interesting to see Hisomu finally take meaningful action, but it’s hard to tell if this is supposed to reflect on his character, or if it’s purely for the plot. What are his motives? Him carelessly hurting Honoka makes me feel like he’s the only Kiznaiver who doesn’t really connect with his teammates. His presence initially seemed to doom the Kiznaivers, but is only really an issue now that they’re emotionally connected, which feels like a waste, but could point to something I’m missing. I have no idea what direction they’ll take his character from here, and I’m worried that in the end, it’s not going to go anywhere.
Yuta runs after her and tries to subtly hug her, but fails, betraying his feelings, which Honoka already knew about. I’m actually pretty content with the scene. It meaningfully advanced their relationship, and Yuta trying to be smooth was adorable. They may now be my favorite canon couple, despite my negative first impression. I feel they’re the pairing that most naturally reveals their vulnerabilities and hidden characteristics.
Sonozaki arrives. Chidori is on the verge of confessing to Katsuhira again, but alas, we never even hear what exactly she says because Katsuhira is pulled into a series of vivid flashbacks. The music in this scene is really good, and there’s an impressive amount of tension for a reveal we always knew was going to happen. He flings open the doors and runs into the storm, throwing himself from a height and saving Sonozaki from a collapsing statue. She breaks her necklace, and a Kiznaiver mark starts to shine on her neck.
It looks like Chidori and Katsuhira aren’t going to end up together at this rate. If this meant that Chidori”s character arc would stop revolving around Katsuhira, I would be happy, but I’m not going to get my hopes up. I’m sorry she has to be hurt, but who knows, maybe it will be interesting.
This episode was somehow more serious, despite the last one featuring some pretty heavy stuff, and I fear it is because of a lack of heartfelt emotion. The shift from friendship to romance may also have something to do with it, and perhaps the colder atmosphere is to blame. It wasn’t a bad episode, and I was happy with the amount of hints and information given, as too much could have rushed the story. As long as there isn’t a bunch of exposition they plan on cramming into the last four episodes, I’m good.
Speaking of rushing things, I wonder if I misjudged the sudden romance. Perhaps this is where the experiment starts to go wrong, in a beautiful demonstration of how forced romantic plot lines can go astray. Perhaps the Kiznaivers’ bond will actually weaken, and Sonozaki will finally be forced to rethink everything. It’s a lot to wish for, but I can hope!