Title: Danganronpa Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei
Summary: A group of 15 elite high school students are gathered at a very special, high class high school. To graduate from this high school essentially means you’ll succeed in life, but graduating is very difficult. The school is presided over by a bear called Monokuma, and he explains to them that their graduation hinges around committing a murder. The only way to graduate is to kill one of your classmates and get away with it. If the other classmates discover the identity of the killer, the killer is the only one executed. However, if they fail to catch the killer, only the killer graduates and the others are annihilated. Which of the 15 will survive the bloodbath to come?
Review: There have been quite a few game to anime adaptions recently, or anime that revolve around the game world. I’ve always liked to give them a chance because of how much I enjoyed Persona 4 The Animation. I believe that every adaptation has the potential to be good, but not all the writers have the ability. Danganronpa was one of those cases. The anime pulls the audience in by adding a heavy fog of mystery and tense atmosphere. The first few episodes did a wonderful job creating a dark storyline with some interesting characters. However, the glory didn’t last long and the anime soon fell from grace once it started to introduce very odd twists. In the end the anime barely held my interest for a short thirteen episodes and pulling out some weird stops.
The art style for Danganronpa can either be very cool or very dumb for viewers. Personally I thought that they did a good job utilizing bright pink colors to allow for a more gory scene instead of heavily censoring dead bodies. Although it did take away from the seriousness of someone’s death, I think that it was a better alternative than having a black bar across half the screen for a mystery anime. On top of having bright pink blood the series also decided to use heavy CG for the death sentences. These sequences gave the idea of a puppet show with blocky limbs and non-fluid body movements. Normally that wouldn’t be a very interesting look unless you look a little deeper and realize that it was more of a metaphor that these kids were only moving to the strings of the show master. Really my only complaint were the characters’ facial expressions. They didn’t strike me as realistic or varying. They all had the same faces when they were shocked or scared which made everyone feel too similar despite having set character roles.
The characters of Danganronpa all had very different personalities, but they didn’t progress along with the series. The biggest problem was probably having fifteen students with only thirteen episodes. That alone goes to show that the anime wouldn’t have enough time to get to everyone’s story or background. While that wouldn’t be a big deal for most shows, a mystery like this played a lot on the actions of the characters and trying to understand where they were coming from. The small glimpses of the past that you end up seeing only occurred when someone was finally caught for committing a murder. The anime would try and have you feel sorry for the murderer every time. Even characters in the anime would have mournful expressions on their faces like they didn’t just see someone brutally murder one of their comrades. I don’t know if any of you have ever witnessed a murder or a beating, but regardless of the reason it is very difficult to sympathize with someone you essentially just met. A lot of the time the reason behind the murder wasn’t even well thought out; they would always have this heat of the moment snap where they would kill someone with the closest object. I’m no statistics major, but I don’t think that a majority of people have murderous tendencies from the slightest amount of tension.
Danganronpa also tried to come up with a twist nearly every time there was a trial. I can understand there needs to be some sort of unknown each time to keep the story interesting, but this also caused a lot of plot holes. The holes weren’t even things that you can really have an explanation for, or attempt to make an argument. This was a very big problem with the anime that I’m sure most people couldn’t overlook. Most of the time the audience wouldn’t be able to figure out the culprit or make any sort of educated guess because we wouldn’t know the full back story of each character or all the evidence. All that being said, what really brought the steak to the heart for this anime was the constant bombardment of the word “hope”. I couldn’t stand that every single trial brought out this idea of “hope will keep us together” and “hope will help us uncover the truth”. I don’t mind a motivational speech every once in a while but they laid it on really thick with this one. Then again if these kids were so quick to murder someone in cold blood, maybe they just need a corny monologue to help them turn over a new leaf.
Final statements: I’m going to say that anyone who enjoys mystery, character development, solid story, and realistic characters should avoid watching Danganronpa. For everyone else I guess you can give it a shot if you want to waste 6 hours of your life.