This is review number two hundred and thirty three. This anime is part of the Summer 2013 lineup. It’s one of its hard hitters. The anime I’ll be reviewing is Danganronpa the Animation. It’s a thirteen episode anime about a bear forcing teenagers to kill each other. I love this anime because it’s awesome. The fact that it’s a video game adapted anime does seem a bit concerning though. Any show that requires the characters killing gets a gold star sticker from me though. That being said, let’s read on.
Makoto Naegi couldn’t believe his luck. He was accepted in the most elite academy in the country. Hope’s Peak Academy is a prestigious school where the students are carefully chosen for their impressive abilities. The graduates of this school are considered to be among the best of their generation. For a normal guy like Naegi, he feels like the luckiest guy in the world. His new high school life in this school is going to be a memorable one. Perhaps it’s all too real though and he isn’t really lucky. Naegi discovered that the school is shut from the inside and no one can escape. After meeting the rest of the students trapped in the academy, a robotic stuffed bear suddenly appeared. He wants them to play a game.
You want to leave? You need to do one thing first. You need to kill one of your classmates. Here’s the catch though. You need to do it so cleanly that you can’t be caught because if you get caught as the culprit then you’ll be punished, or executed as the bear calls it. If enough time elapsed and you aren’t caught then you get to leave. The rest of the students will then be punished for not catching the murderer, or executed as the bear call it. Of course, you don’t have to kill. Enjoy your life inside Hope’s Peak Academy for the rest of your life with your classmates. That’s always a choice. The mastermind easily gets bored though and he isn’t afraid to stir the pot until someone kills someone else.
Taking the Pants Off
Here we have another video game adapted anime. This is kind of anime that is probably the most difficult one to critic simply because the standards for adapting a game is pretty steep. As much as one would enjoy watching the anime version, a handful of people that played the game will be very adamant on how it doesn’t live up to the original source. I’ve learned my lesson with Devil Survivor 2. To this day, I’ll defend the anime and call it success. A lot of people don’t share the same ideals as I do and it’s honestly easier to hate than to love when it comes to video game adapted anime. When I heard that a PSP game would get an anime adaptation, I knew there would be trouble arising. Danganronpa was something that had a wonderful concept and even those that haven’t played the game immediately had expectations for the anime. After all, it’s really well conceived. A group of kids trapped in a school can only leave when they kill one of their classmates. That idea easily made me want to watch the show. It’s really been awhile but I’ve had the pleasure of watching another anime that I finished in one sitting. These are anime that I can only call so gripping that I didn’t notice the time pass by. Whether or not the anime lived up to the game’s standards is pretty irrelevant because this is one hell of a show. A survival game angle is a pretty forgivable cliché in anime and this is the sole reason why this anime is so amazing. You don’t even need to read this review. TPAB promises that Danganronpa the Animation is amazing and you should definitely watch it.
The premise of the anime is pretty simple. You have fifteen students trapped in Hope’s Peak Academy by a mastermind that controls a stuffed bear called Monobear. The students are asked to live in the place for the rest of their lives and Monobear is willing to provide them with their basic needs. For a bunch of kids who was invited to a prestigious academy and expected a wonderful high school life, forcing them to live in this cage isn’t something that sits well with them. Monobear has given them a choice to leave though but they need to do one thing first: they need to kill their classmates. It’s a pretty interesting premise because you know that things are going to get ugly with that kind of stipulation looming in their heads. It gets better though when a murderer can only be granted freedom when enough time elapsed with the rest of the classmates not finding out they’re the killer. The killer gets to go out and the rest of the classmates are executed. It’s a do or die kind of survival game that just guarantees a wonderful anime experience. The best part about this show is that the expectations of a video game adapted anime seem to be moot. As far as I’m concerned, the anime was able to present all the interesting aspects of the game while also presenting the story as clearly as possible. Perhaps the game was just really easy to adapt. It’s something unheard of though considering how many video game adapted anime have disappointed us in the long history of video game anime.
One of the strongest aspects of the anime is that it feels like a game. It was able to incorporate all the interactive elements of the game in the show. I haven’t played the game, by the way. I read a few entries on Wikipedia and a few youtube videos that gave you an idea of the game. It’s like Ace Attorney where you contradict statements of other people and then find the true culprit. The interactive element is so crucial though because, in the course of the game, you solve a mystery with the use of a rhythm system, a visual novel multiple choice system, and a stricter Ace Attorney gameplay that seems all too intimidating if you’re going to adapt it into an anime. The show really tried to capture all of the elements of the game. The gameplay was nicely incorporated to the point that you truly feel like you’re playing a game. It is so inviting that I am a bit bummed the game isn’t on English so I can finally brag about owning a f*ckin PSP. The pacing of the anime flow smoothly while making sure the interactive elements of the game was present in its full form. The anime was smart to go as far as to make the show look like a video game because I think it’s that simple novelty that made the hurdles of a video game adaptation not a concern for the show. Of course, no matter how the anime captures the interactive elements of the game, it’s still different from playing a game. I’ll admit it. The anime is not perfect. Certain aspects of the game are still watered down and heavily rushed. In the game, you search for clues pertaining to a crime yet the anime cuts that out for the story’s sake. So the excitement of finding out who is culprit was only half the fun the anime presented it to be. It’s like the game is on auto pilot and that’s no fun. Of course, like most video game adapted anime, the characters are also watered down. In the game, you get a chance to bond with the characters through certain “free time” and these bonds can help in certain aspects of the game later on. There is no time to have fifteen students reveal their background so they are poor versions of their video game counterpart. With all that said though, the anime still have a lot of things to offer.
The anime is divided into three plot points. The first one is about the students being forced to live in this academy together. It’s a pretty straight forward plot point. The various characters try to get to know each other while trying to play Monobear’s twisted game. Monobear pointed out that he wanted to show the students what despair looks like and this little experiment of his was the perfect way to achieve that. In the show’s case, you can call this the “free time” period where the characters are introduced and how they relate to the others is presented. You can also call this the calm before the storm because soon enough one of them will die. I was actually hoping for a more psychologically twisted anime considering how dark the premise is. The show is surprisingly calm though and there is very little paranoia arising among the students. It’s not the kind of survival game you’d expect but the progression is still the same. The students know that Monobear is the enemy and not each other. There is no need to play into his hands and murder each other. As long as they keep their heads up then anything Monobear throws their way is easily overcome. The students believe that they can get out of the place without any of them dying.
Then one of them dies. The students will be shocked and Monobear now gives them time to gather clues to find out who the culprit is. I was expecting a psychologically disturbed anime but the true form of the show is actually a mystery one where the students now try and finger the killer. While still in their free period, the students must examine the scene of the crime, look out for clues and collect data that can lead them closer to finding out who the killer is. I was expecting the focus to be on the heinous acts the students would do. Since the show was about a bunch of kids who are bound to kill each other, I was pretty excited to see at least one of them choked to death. This wasn’t the case. The murders are all plot devices to the mystery aspects of the show. In the game, the true fun is actually trying to find out who the killer is. Once the students found enough evidence and information about the murder, the show then proceeds to go to court.
This is the second plot point of the anime and probably the strongest one. The show enters the Class Trials and they proceed to talk among themselves then try to figure out who the killer is. This is the crucial “do or die” part of the anime because if they guess wrong, they will all die. This is also where the students lay out all the facts to try and solve the mystery. This plot point is pretty fun because the audience is able to keep up with the conversations and then try to find a killer themselves. I’ll be fair. The Class Trials is pretty fun simply because we get to see who the killer is. It’s not that engaging though because the riddles are too easy to solve. The anime would introduce new background information about a character during the free time period and you’re basically sure that they’ll be involved in the murder. The show was able to nicely lay out all the clues but it’s given in the most obvious way that you can see the twist coming long before they talk about it. The way the clues are collected, the characters are introduced and the questions of how the victim died are all easily given out to the point it’s not even fun joining in to find the culprit. Sometimes, you’re even annoyed at how slow they are to pointing out the discrepancies that you easily caught long before the trial started. To be fair though, I am a big mystery fan and long hours of being shamed by Detective Conan made my attention to details sharper. Some of the mysteries may be challenging to the right person or if you don’t pay attention but clearly not good enough to be called a challenge.
The Class Trials are exciting though because of two things. One is the revelation of the killer and their motive. This was the one thing the show didn’t present. They hid the motive until the culprit is caught. I personally found this a bit intriguing because the show is pretty light. You won’t see a death coming until it happens because the show doesn’t have any paranoia. There is no sense of betrayal or psychological yandere awesomeness to be seen. Every character is of right mind and body that they are able to come together for a common goal. Even with a couple of pot stirrers and assh*les, the characters are all pretty normal so it’s often a bit interesting to know who killed who and why. The explanations are often a bit fun to watch because you often feel a bit sorry for the characters being driven to commit murder and killing their fellow classmates. Finding out the reason for why they want out of the academy is one of the high points of the show. The second reason the Class Trials are fun to watch is because we get to see a character be executed. Monobear explains that people that breaks the rule and disrupts peace will be punished for their crimes. The thing that makes this fun is that Monobear is one twisted f*ck and the form of punishment given to the characters is a bit extreme. It’s hard to explain without spoiling it but let’s just say it has the flashiness of a stage play, the whimsy of a child’s game and the darkness you’d expect from someone being executed. The fact that the actual cut scenes of the character’s execution from the game is shown in the anime makes it all the more special. It makes me want to play the game even more because I want a save file of that particular death played over and over. I’m pretty twisted myself.
The third plot point is simply WHY. Three letters that is felt all throughout the anime is the final plot point of the show. The reason why the characters are trapped in the academy and the mystery behind the academy itself is tackled in the show. This one is probably my favorite part of the story because it’s really something that I personally want answered. The mystery aspect of this plot point is something the anime nicely paced. It was able to bring up some interesting details about why the students are locked inside the academy. The show often present certain clues pertaining to the academy and I love how it keep teasing on something really huge yet only gives us small hints we can’t piece together unless we keep on watching. The show was really smart about it and, as you progress through the show, you won’t believe how big of a deal the students is actually thrown into. It’s the perfect kind of story that compliments the crazy theme of the anime. As the mystery is also slowly revealed, small details presented in the early parts of the show now seems very clear and I love how the show handled it. It’s gripping and exciting that you can’t wait till the moment of the big reveal.
The identity of the master mind and the guy behind Monobear is also part of this plot point. The name of the evil bastard that created this whole nightmare is slowly revealed in the show as well. I’m personally distracted by Monobear himself that you often can’t help but wonder what kind of evil person is behind the stuff teddy exterior. The show was able to give us a wonderful mystery angle concerning the identity of the guy that it made the whole experience pretty sweet. To be fair though, some aspects of this plot point is pretty confusing. Considering how the anime followed the game to a tee, I can definitely tell you that the game was pretty vague about certain parts of this plot point as well. The reason is actually pretty simple but I’ll keep my mouth shut and let you bastards figure it out for yourselves. I personally found the mystery aspects of this plot point a challenge because the show has easy mysteries to solve. Seeing something vague and a bit hard to predict was fun to solve and ultimately knowing your theories were on the mark is a pretty fun experience. See if you can solve the identity of the mastermind as well before the show gives it away.
The characters made this show special. They’re all pretty stereotypical and generic but it fits well in the format of the show. We have fifteen characters with varying personalities that clashes and compliments each other. It made the show all the more engaging because you’ll soon find one character more appealing than the rest and the idea he/she will die makes it all the more exciting. The main character of the show is Makoto Naegi. One hellish hurdle for a video game adapted anime is capturing the personality of the main character. In most games, the silent protagonist will bite you in the ass if you try to adapt him into an anime. Persona 4 and Devil Survivor 2 lacked the engaging aspects of the game simply because the character in the game is free range. His personality relies solely on the player controlling him and this means disaster for an anime adaptation. Danganronpa thankfully had its main character well rounded before the show even started. He isn’t the silent protagonist type and he is the same kind hearted gullible pussy that he was in the anime. For a survival anime, the pussy character actually works great because his kind intentions and strong will cuts through all the personalities of the other characters. The anime also doesn’t heavily put focus on him. Every character gets an equal chance to show their stuff so there is very little time for this weak character to wallow in self-pity and feel worthless like how his stereotype usually do things. There were enough strong personalities in the show to make sure we aren’t stuck with the main character. He still is a bit unbearable at times though because his kind intentions might be the sole reason no one is blatantly choking another to death or any yandere awesomeness isn’t available in the show. He does stand out though when it comes to investigating mysteries and solving the riddles presented at the Class trials.
The rest of the characters are pretty weak but they served their purpose wonderfully in the show. The anime explained it nicely. There are three types of characters among the students. One type is the ones that follows the rules and wakes up early. They’re as normal as normal can be and they obey the rules to avoid conflict. They’re straight laced and the least to commit any sort of crime. They are most likely to be stabbed by a pair of scissors though because that’s just how they are. Then there are those that wake up a little bit late. They don’t care about the rules and they follow their own. They don’t care about others and they aren’t shy on expressing that idea to any one that bothers them. They’re the unstable kind that seems more likely to kill and the kind of short tempered characters that are more suspicious that anyone else when a murder is committed. Lastly, there are the ones that wake up fairly late. They are usually the pot stirrers and the kind of unfazed bastards that makes the whole endeavor pretty unsettling. They seem to be the type that keeps to themselves yet are extremely suspicious because of how they go against the group. They welcome the opportunity to kill others and they’re the type to create chaos if they can. They’re also easy stand outs because their personalities are so strong that their mere presence is felt throughout the anime.
The anime was pretty smart about presenting the characters. Fifteen characters isn’t something that can easily be balanced. The show divided the show into certain arcs so a character can be fully introduced in a timely manner. Some of them need no introduction though because of how awesome they look. All the characters really had the chance to make a statement and I love how they were all utilized. I’m a bit bummed at how certain characters die though. As I said before, I wanted a truly dark psychologically jarring experience in terms of how the characters die and some of them die rather pathetically. I’m often left with a “that’s it?” reaction because of how disappointing most of them leave the stage. The anime wanted a dark comedy kind of approach to the deaths rather than an extreme one that’ll leave viewers scarred. It’s all good since each character still had some time in the spotlight no matter how short.
We can’t forget about the other important character, Monobear. He is the twisted principal of this school. He is a bit whimsy yet you also can’t deny his dark demeanor. He would often act cute yet he would make sure everything he does is totally bi-polar. He’d be talking cute one moment but then would try to blow up a character on the next moment. He would do something that’ll make you laugh yet you also want to strangle him to death. I love his character because it gives the anime the dark comedy element it needed to complete it. Most executions and death scenes are often finished off with a Monobear trademark that is a bit unsettling and comedic at the same time. He is the Kyuubey of Danganronpa or the Kokopelli (the mouse from Bokurano) of the show to be more precise. They’re the acting mascots and they’re also the face of evil in the show. Most mascots should be as cute and creepy as these guys.
This is an amazing show. The way it was able to crush the video game stigma that haunts most video game anime is amazing. Why is it always the small time studios that punch hard in terms of video game adaptations? I fondly remember Studio Lerche because they did Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai! It’s one of my most viewed posts but it’s pretty subpar. I think the video game is just really easy to adapt but I think it takes one special visionary to pull it off so hats off to Studio Lerche. The director also deserves some praise here. Oh my f*cking god, Seiji Kishi must be hell bent on creating the perfect video game anime. People hated his efforts on Persona 4 and Devil Survivor 2. It looks like all the experience he had from those anime culminated in one perfect adaptation of Danganronpa. Most people don’t want to give this guy a break but I hope they give him the deserved praise now. This is an awesome anime from a guy that truly knows how to do great video game anime.
Sight and Sound
One of the first things you’ll notice in the anime is the flashy character design. Rui Komatsuzaki’s design is pretty outstanding. It’s not the kind of design you’d see in anime. The characters truly scream video game characters with how flashy they are and how much awesomeness they emit. Rui’s stand out design is special because of how the skin color is different. He mostly sticks to a brown or tanned skin color and his characters often stand out in a lovely way because of how unusual they look. There is a wide range to the characters look and I love how each of them were unique. The basis of the design is simple but the bold lines and the crazy outfits make the characters all the more special. Even characters that die early on still leave a big impression because of how awesome they look. The characters also dress pretty modernly with the familiar urban style outfit you’d see on most teenagers accentuating their ages. Perhaps it’s the way the designs of the characters eat up every possible space makes them all the more special. One character might be the typical frail character but he’ll have a really crazy design that eats his entire character and makes him all the more memorable. Makoto Naegi looks pretty simple though. It’s typical of a main character in a game. They need to be as simple looking as they can and that’s all right by me. The male characters of Rui are something I really admire because they look so bad ass. The way their outfits matches their personalities is insane. From a high school biker to an otaku, the design is simply yet overly complicated that you can’t help but see more of that character. The female characters are especially pretty but the crazy amount of details they have makes them really awesome. From their crazy hair to the simple yet smartly conceived outfits, there’s a layer of complicated chaos in Rui’s design that I can’t help but admire. I love how Studio Lerche was able to capture the awesomeness of his designs as well.
The animation is pretty inconsistent. Studio Lerche isn’t really that known yet but I’m not a fan of one episode having awesome animation then another having subpar animation. The show is pretty dialogue heavy though so it’s OK. There aren’t any fight scenes and the show is more about giving an aura of dark comedy without any disturbing content. The way the characters move are pretty smooth and the various facial expressions are top notch though. It’s also amazing how they retain the complicated character designs through the various scenes without sacrificing the integrity of the animation. Some episodes lack the intricate details of most episodes though but it’s forgivable. The game aspects of the anime were especially amazing. The way they capture the interactive elements is something only the animation can achieve. From the loading bullets scene to the guilty verdict scenes, I love how they managed to slip them in. The CG aspects of the anime are pretty special as well. They intentionally make certain CG scenes with spinning camera angles abrupt with the characters being 2D to bring out the game appeal of the show some more. The way the camera zooms in and out is something I am a fan of. It often feels like you truly are part of the show with the way the animation is done.
The death scenes are pretty tame. As I said, the anime is along the lines of whimsy and dark comedy. The murder scenes strongly support this. The characters are shown in their dead state but the blood is not red. It’s colored pink so the goriness of the scenes isn’t fully appreciated. Some death scenes are also pretty weak in terms of how an awesome character should die. It was truly missing one psychologically depraved moment and sadly, the anime (and the game) isn’t particularly concerned about it. The cut scenes are my favorite aspect of the animation. The anime actually took them from the game and I love how you can tell it was from the game. The storybook like animation was amazing and the characters look especially pretty with how they are done in the cut scenes. Their looks before they die and the way the stage is set is really unsettling then the moment of their death leaves a big mark on the viewers. It’s a shame it’s not as dark and gory as I’d expect but the effort was there. This was completed with some high beat music that compliments the characters and the style of execution.
The anime’s OP is “DANGANRONPA” by “Never Say Never” by TKDz2b. This is a nice rap techno song that nicely fits the anime. It’s sung in English and it takes a few listening to get used to it. The rap is especially fast but the chorus is slow and solemn. It does sound cool though and I love the instrumentals in the background of the song. The OP sequence features all the characters and a nice feel of the game. Rui’s artwork is strongly presented and a flashy techno approach is done in the sequence. The chorus is accompanied with Monobear sexy dancing to the song. It’s pretty crazy but awesome at the same time.
The anime’s ED is “Zetsubousei: Hero Chiryouyaku (絶望性:ヒーロー治療薬)” by suzumu feat. Soraru. Soraru is an utaite. They’re like vocaloids but fan made. The idea of a fan made song making its way to an anime is pretty awesome. The song is really chilling yet catchy at the same time. Soraru’s voice is a nice compliment to the anime’s goal of making a game-like show. The 8-bit avatar of the characters on the rolling credits was a nice touch. The ED sequence features a picture of the characters. Naegi is at the center and when a character dies, they join him in the picture of the ED sequence. It’s pretty awesome. One my personal favorite EDs and I usually skip EDs to watch the next episode.
8/10 “This is an as-close-as-you-can-get adaptation of a medium that often delivers subpar anime. Danganronpa is engaging and thrilling to watch with only a few elements separating the game from the anime.”
Of course, the game is still superior and I know some people are already b*tching about how the anime isn’t accurate. I f*cking dare you to make that statement. This is a great anime and I was ready to give it a ten. In terms of adapting a video game, this anime easily deserves a ten but it’s the various elements of the show that was weak. It’s a trait the game and the anime shares but the interactive experience balances it out. It’s an element that isn’t in the show. If you enjoy thrilling murder mysteries then you’ll love this anime. If you like the survival game kind of shows then you’ll really love this show. If you love engaging characters and some of them dying in a flashy cool way then this show is for you. I highly recommend it.