Thoughtful Thursday: Noriko Sonozaki Character Study

Welcome to this week’s Thoughtful Thursday, focusing on the character Noriko Sonozaki from the anime Kiznaiver. Warning: there will be major spoilers for Kiznaiver in this post. Now first, let’s review Noriko’s story and the Kiznaiver system.

Noriko’s Story

New and taboo technology in this anime’s world is capable of connecting people in a strange way. Their physical and emotional pain can be shared among them in the Kizanaiver system. It’s unclear how the linking process is done, but it involves an injection and some kind of medical or surgical procedure. When the link is activated, a scar with a certain shape appears on the individuals who have been connected to each other. The Kiznaiver system is an experiment to see if connecting the pain and emotions of individuals can lead to them truly understanding each other. If so, it could even bring peace to all humanity.

5-year-old Noriko was one of nineteen children who became test subjects in the first human trial of the Kiznaiver system. It didn’t go as expected. Instead of physical and emotional pain being divided equally among them, the pain of nineteen was directed onto just one individual: Noriko. She suffered greatly. In fact, Noriko once jumped from a great height, which I interpret as an attempted suicide. She survived, of course. She spent much of her childhood taking daily injections that helped with physical pain but numbed all her senses.

(Young Noriko)

As for Noriko’s eighteen friends, they never got their sense of pain back even when the link was broken. The loss of their pain eventually led to the loss of their minds. Some died, and others were put in permanent care because they could no longer live independently. The only one (besides Noriko) who got to return to a semi-normal life was Katsuhira. He was the boy Noriko crushed on as a child. He never recovered his sense of physical pain, and the trauma of the experiments led him to forgetting most of his childhood. Noriko is still connected to Katsuhira throughout the series until the last episode, feeling his pain.

Twelve years after the initial experiment, Noriko set the Kiznaiver experiment into motion again. seventeen-year-old Katushira and six other teenagers from his school were linked. This time, the pain was indeed evenly divided among them. By this time, there was also a way for the Kizna links to be severed safely. Kiznaiver is about this group of highschoolers as they struggle with becoming connected to each other. There are many hardships and much drama along the way.

Thanks to the trial run with Katsuhira and his group, Noriko considered the Kiznaiver system a success. The group members became able to deeply understand each other and feel each other’s pain even after the Kizna link was severed. In the last episode of Kiznaiver, Noriko declared that everyone in the world should be linked to her and each other with the Kizna system. She ignored the fact that being linked so deeply all the time leads to distress more often than understanding and peace. Also, Noriko disregarded the basic right of indivuals to refuse the Kizna system. She launched an aggressive plan, forcibly turning dozens of individuals into Kiznaivers.

Eventually, however, Katsuhiro was able to convince Noriko to stop her plan and return everyone to their natural states. It worked only because she was still in love with Katsuhiro. Such is the story of Noriko. You have all the background you need. Moving on, we’ll consider Noriko’s MBTI type, and then her personality in more general terms.

Noriko’s MBTI Type

In the MBTI, there are 16 personality types. Each type has four letters, which are opposing dimensions. I is for Introverts, people who get their energy from being alone, while E is for Extraverts, who get their energy from interacting with others. N is the standin letter for intuitive types, those who are more abstract than practical. Alternatively, S is for Sensing types, who are more grounded and in tune with sensory information.

T stands for Thinkers, who make decisions based on objective logic. F is for Feelers, who make decisions based on personal values and gut feelings. Judging types (J) have premeditated actions, while Percieving types (P) are spontaneous and flexible. That’s all four dimensions. On top of that, each one of the sixteen variants has general traits associated with their type. For example, ESFJ usually loves taking care of others. INTP is usually very smart. For more information, take a look at The 16 MBTI Types as Anime Characters.

Noriko Sonozaki is either an INTJ or INFJ. For now, we’ll operate on the assumption that she’s an INTJ. She is Introverted, enjoying her alone time, speaking in a subdued tone most of the time, and never saying more than is necessary. Of course, Nori-chan gets lonely, but she doesn’t require the same amount of social stimulus as extraverts like Tenga and Nico. More innovative than traditional, and more driven by intellect than physical senses, Noriko is intuitive. Her great intuition comes in handy for strategizing, analyzing, and predicting.

So far, we can see Noriko is an IN type. Let’s wait and analyze the third letter last. First, I want to establish that she is definitely the Judging type. If you watch her behavior through the series, you’ll see she isn’t spontaneous in nature, she doesn’t like sudden changes to her situation, and she isn’t very flexible in general. That rules out Ps (Percieving types). Her ability to plan ahead and make sure all her plans go smoothly is noteworthy, and very indicative of a Judger. In summary, we know Noriko is an IN-J, but we haven’t covered the third dimension of F versus T.

Now, Fs are usually in tune with and understanding of the feelings of others. They seek harmony between people, and see everything in a personalized way. But Noriko seems careless of the people around her and their emotions. She can analyze others inconsiderately, without even trying to be rude. She takes an impersonal perspective on many things, and when she makes her decisions, she follows a logical process rather than gut feelings. That makes her sound very INTJ.

Like many INTJs, she makes long-term strategies, and is able to lie in wait for years for her plan to pay off. She rarely reveals her true motives. She is decisive, commanding, and intelligent on the positive side, and private, stubborn, and arrogant on the negative side.

There is, however, another way to look at it. In a sense, Noriko is an empath, taking on the emotional and physical pain of others. Part of it is the Kiznaiver system, but part of it is because, according to the show, she unconsciously takes on the pain of others around her. She is always taking on the pain of Katsuhira, but doesn’t bother him by talking about it. All of this stringly suggests Noriko is a Feeler, an F type. In addition, much of her seemingly cold behavior and lack of emotion could be a result of the injections she had to take and the amount of pain she’s endured. This is what makes it hardest to determine if she is an INFJ or and INTJ.

You can easily consider her either type, INFJ or INTJ, or you can consider her right on the borderline. Here you can see a list of INTJ strengths and weaknesses. If you wish, compare them to these INFJ strengths and weaknesses. Personally, I believe she is an INFJ with T tendencies. INFJs can be private and closed off, and/or have trust issues. Nevertheless, they are also often influential and convincing speakers, just like Noriko. INFJs are usually perfectionists, and in a way, Noriko is perfectionistic too. Despite seeming coldly rational on the surface, Noriko is actually driven by her emotions and beliefs. This suggests she is an F.

Most convincingly, INFJs need to have a noble cause to strive for (and/or obsess over). It’s often an unrealistic cause. Well, Noriko’s cause is to connect everyone in order to have true peace between people, and to restore feeling to her five remaining childhood friends, plus Katsuhira.

Noriko’s Personality In General Terms

Especially early on, and again in the last episode, Noriko seems like a villain. She is the reason the six members of Katsuhira’s group were forcibly made into Kiznaivers. She did not obtain their consent or consider their feelings on the matter. She intimidates them and other people by controlling the Gomorins. She forces Katsuhira and company into some danger-ridden situations in their Kiznaiver missions.

You’ll recall that in the last episode, she tried to turn everyone in the city into Kiznaivers. The city itself was an huge experiment site of the Kizna Committee, which manipulates it from the shadows. Noriko is never bothered by this. In fact, she and Yaamada lead the committee. Noriko’s actions cause many traffic accidents as people try to flee the city. To top it off, Noriko uses explosives and blew up part of the bridge leading out of town.

Even when she’s not being evil, Noriko is often inconsiderate and confrontational. When Katsuhira disappoints her in episode 1 (partly because he can’t remember her yet), she pushes him off the stairs, resulting in injury. Sometimes, Nori-chan coldly and abruptly analyzes others, like when she said that Nico was in love with Tenga. In one episode, she pretends to kiss Katsuhira right when Chidori walks by, probably to make sure Chidori knows that Katsuhira is “hers.” Most of the time, she ignores the other members of Katsuhira’s group, refusing to be friendly, or else not knowing how. To be fair, some of that is because she’s very unsocialized.

On top of often being unpleasant, Noriko displays very little emotion even on the best of days. Her constant coolheadedness often irritates others. Part of that is her facade, but another part of it is she can no longer feel or express everyday emotions as deeply or readily as others. Remember that for much of her childhood, Noriko was given injections to help with pain, but they numbed all her senses, too. That surely led to being less expressive. Despite her general lack of affect, however, she is a convincing and influential communicator. You can tell by the way she speaks confidently in front of the Kiznaivers, and when she addresses the Kizna Committee.

Noriko is a very lonely person, behind her cold facade. She felt a sense of emptiness in her life until she became part of the Kizna experiment. Then, she was overjoyed to be connected to the eighteen other children. She fell in love with the concept of being connected to others. Because of her heartfelt desire for her friends to be happy, Noriko took on the pain of all the others. She became lonely again as the children from the experiment were separated, and as most of the others became numb and unable to speak, play, or live independently. It must have been especially painful, on top of all that, to have Katsuhira fail to remember her.

When Noriko made so many others in the city connect to her with the Kizna system, she took all their pain on herself, as well as continuing with Katsuhira’s. This, plus the way she took on the pain of the eighteen children so many years ago, shows that Noriko is actually self-sacrificial and compassionate at heart. She is also capable of great love, continuing to “like” Katsuhira for 10-12 years, and growing to love him in a more mature way in the present. Her dream is to bring back the feelings and senses of her childhood friends from the first experiment. This proves she’s capable of loving and fighting for her friends.

Noriko is extremely dedicated to her two grand causes of 1) returning feeling to her friends, and 2) connecting everyone to make the world truly peaceful. The first cause is impossible because of the way she unconsciously holds onto everyone else’s pain. She would die of pain before linking enough people. The second cause is not feasible because, well, how could one tiny organization in Japan make all the people of the world use their system? Despite that, Noriko carries on with her plans, idealistic and stubborn. She goes through the whole series this way. This anime girl is one of the most determined female characters I’ve ever seen. She’s determined to a fault.

However, Noriko sometimes entertains the idea of giving up on her causes and dying. For this and various reasons, in episode 10, she attempts suicide. In general, she has suicidal and risk-taking tendencies. Even during the experiment 12 years ago, she said goodbye to Katsuhira and jumped from a relatively great height to try to kill herself. She puts herself in danger at least as often as she puts others in danger. In the last episode, the explosives she used to blow up part of the bridge almost killed her, too, and she doesn’t care. She continued to stand at the very edge of the bridge while talking to Katsuhira, as if threatening suicide. She might probably would have died from that fall if Katsuhira hadn’t jumped after her.

As you can see, Noriko is a person who is always planning or scheming something, making sacrifices to work toward her impossible goals. She seems cold-hearted, but the truth of her hidden feelings and motives make her a sympathetic character. If if she does it half-consciously, she is an empath, and also someone who easily suffers from loneliness. On a much lighter note, what do you think Noriko’s -dere type is? Surely, she must be a Kuudere. That’s the type that acts cool and distant but changes over time to become affectionate.

At any rate, Noriko is (in my opinion) the most interesting character in Kiznaiver. She’s also among my top 35 favorite female anime characters. I really do thank you so very much for reading my post about her story and personality. You are appreciated. Take care now!

Images from: Kiznaiver. Dir. H Kobayashi. Trigger. 2016.

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