Kiznaiver follows a group of high school students who are chosen to be a part of an experimental program which creates bonds between people by forcing them to share each other’s pain.
White haired and vacant, Katsuhira “Kacchon” Agata lives a half-life, neither fully present or entirely withdrawn, numb to the sting of experience and physical sensation. Pain is the one true universal language, and without having this evolutionary mechanism in place, he is immune to anxiety, attracting the fear of others and leaving him bullied since childhood. Fear is the first instinct, written into our DNA, and so being unable to feel and express that is to exist as non-human.
The inability to feel pain is based on the rare real-life condition known as congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP) where a person cannot, and has never felt, physical pain. While it’s easy to grasp pain as a concept, it truly needs to be experienced in order to be understood, and being unable to feel even a pinprick leaves you a stranger in your own skin. This is Kacchon’s plight, mourning the sense of pain he can no longer recall and trying to staunch an emotional loss that left no wound. By rediscovering that lost part of his existence, he can again relate to others and reclaim his diminished humanity.
In Buddhism, pain is a path to transcendence, a necessary boundary to overcome in order to achieve enlightenment. Though most of us will be familiar with walking across hot coals, the connection goes deeper still. The Four Noble Truths are the distillation of Buddha’s teachings, and the first upon his awakening. They are the ‘truth of suffering’, ‘the truth of the cause of suffering’, ‘the truth of the end of suffering’, and ‘the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering’. Among these teachings is the parable of the two arrows which, simply put, claims that physical pain is like being shot with a single arrow. The person who does not resist physical pain feels one arrow alone, but the average unenlightened person who experiences pain also adds a layer of emotional suffering. Anguishing over pain, the Buddha claimed, is like being shot with a second arrow. But what of the individual who welcomes that first arrow, begs for it even?
Aside from Kacchon in his painlessness, there is only one member of the group who experiences the single arrow and not the constant sting of both. After being linked together and clearing their first mission to develop a deeper inner understanding of one another, the group are tasked with discovering and confronting their seventh member – the only willing participant of the Kizna experiment.