Danganronpa Anime Review

Overview

This is anime review 9

When it comes to anime, there are several shows that attempt to have good mysteries as a main premise. However, it is usually a case that these shows fall more than a little flat, especially when the anime attempts to incorporate other genres. Today I take a look at the anime adaptation of Danganronpa. Note that I haven’t played the game, so this review won’t really talk about it much.

Characters

As a whole, none of the characters are really worth mentioning individually, at least for the students. You have your cast of 15 students and Monokuma.

The students are mostly one dimensional and highlight whatever trait or generality they represent. For example, one of the students is an otaku character and it is very obvious that is the case right away. For this reason, the characters are brought to life more in design than in development.

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The colorful cast

This isn’t to say that there is no development, there is some, but overall the characters mostly serve as a vehicle for the story. Normally, this would hinder a show but for Danganrompa it was a minor inconvenience at worst.

Had the show been longer than 13 episodes and not gone at a break-neck pace, then I would be let down by the amount of development in the students. Instead, I was impressed that they were able to keep all characters designed in such a way that I could clearly identify each one, and knew what each person was good at, just by looking.

The only real character of note is Monokuma. Whenever I saw promotional material for the game or show, I always saw this two tone bear that looked menacing. Well, turns out, that’s exactly the right vibe I should have been getting. Monokuma works well as an antagonistic force and drives the students into action, thus advancing the plot where it otherwise wouldn’t.

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Monokuma

Monokuma’s character also managed to be multifaceted, which was unexpected. His character was able to switch from dark and menacing, to light and comedic on a dime. This added to the atmosphere of the show and enhanced my enjoyment.

While the characters may fall a bit flat in some aspects, the show manages to more than make up for it in design choice. Additionally, by allowing the antagonist to have a good chunk of the spot light, without being overbearing was a wise decision. This is especially important when the story is considered.

Story

This is where the show suffers. Don’t turn away yet though! While the story certainly can be weak at times, it was highly engaging and kept my interest for the duration of its 13 episode run.

The problem with the story is that it’s obviously rushed. From not having played the game, they did a pretty great job getting the actual story crammed into 13 episodes, but recognize that for several people the pacing is just going to be too fast.

The general plot follows the students of Hope’s Peak Academy, a school for elite students, as they begin their new lives at this school. This is all great and dandy, until they realize they are locked in and now must murder another student (without being caught) to get out.

Each portion of the show is split between two episodes. Episode one usually details normal life and then is interrupted by a murder. Episode two follows with an investigation and trail. This was not a bad format for the show considering the small amount of episodes.

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A trail underway

While none of the murders where overly complex or difficult to solve, they were fun to puzzle out. Mileage is going to vary here, but in general the mystery aspects weren’t super simple or convoluted to the point of being unsolvable.

In addition to the murders, there is an overarching mystery centered around the school and why everything is going on. This mystery is more difficult to figure out, and for a first watch, may seem completely from left-field. If you pay attention, the big mystery shouldn’t be too difficult, but it could be easily overlooked.

Going back and watching the first few episodes over, I noticed that everything is hinted at rather well. This increases the rewatch value and definitely dealt with my biggest complaint about the ending. On my first watch, the ending was a bit of a stretch, but having gone back I noticed that it actually made perfect sense.

Overall, the story is pretty solid. It’s obviously rushed, but past that I’ve been told it’s a great representation of the game’s story. From not having played the game, I can’t be certain, but it definitely seemed to be a full experience and got me interested in checking out the game.

Visuals & Sound

This is where I felt the show was extraordinarily unique. The visuals were highly colorful and contrasted nicely with the darker themes of the anime. Of particular note, the death scenes in Danganronpa for the executions were absolutely stunning.

Normally, 3D animation is pretty out of place and doesn’t do much to enhance a show. However, in the case of Danganronpa, the use of 3D in the execution scenes was highly clever and added a lot of flavor to the show. Words can’t really do this part justice, it’s something that definitely needs to be seen to fully appreciate.

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An example of the art for one of the executions. The style reminds me of a children’s pop-up book

There are a few opening and ending variations in this anime, but only the main ones are particularly noteworthy. The opening is done in full English, which is very rare in any anime. I wasn’t sure about how much I enjoyed the intro at first, but it quickly grew on me. Take a listen:

Don’t own the video or music

As for the ending theme, it was done in this strange 8-bit style with an arcade-like sound. Considering its video game roots, and how aspects of the show are highly stylized to mimic this, the ending felt like an excellent fit. 

Same as the other video

When it comes to the voice acting, nobody really stood out for me. Everybody sounded more-or-less as expected. Greg Areys was my personal pick for top performer as Monokuma. While I felt he wasn’t the perfect fit, his energy and ability to go from goofy to sinister, quickly had me satisfied with the choice.

Score & Where To Buy

Danganronpa manages a solid 7/10 with the recommendation to try it if you don’t want to play the game, or want to see the game animated. For those uninterested in the game, there is definitely a worthwhile show here, but it’s not going to be for everybody.

Danganronpa is available at Rightstuf for $45.49 (DVD/Blu-ray combo).

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