Danganronpa: Fail School Mystery Anime

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Hey there, what’s up, I haven’t been able to write much because the new semester has started. You wouldn’t believe the amount of books I need to read. Okay, so Danganronpa has been on my watch list and I’ve been following it the entire season. The final episode is upon us and we all know who’s the mastermind by now, so here’s a review of the series. Enjoy!

So sixteen high schoolers get accepted into the best school in the country… and two are dead in the first episode.

Danganronpa tells us the story of sixteen teenagers who were all accepted into Kibougamine School, the best school in the country where only geniuses are allowed inside. Our protagonist is Naegi, with the title “Super Duper High School Luckster” because he got into the school by winning a lottery. On the first day, the group meets with Monobear, a twisted little contraption that runs the entire school. On the very first day, Monobear announces that in order to “graduate”, the students will need to conduct the perfect murder and get away with it. So, how does the group escape from this madhouse?

Apparently, the animators misunderstood the word “mystery”…

Judging from the plot synopsis alone, I thought Danganronpa would be a battle of wits as the group tried to kill each other; not a battle royale kind of anime like BTOOOM! or Mirai Nikki.

Danganronpa is supposed to be a thrilling mystery anime. They executed this premise pretty well… in the first three episodes. After that, the same routine goes on and on. It always the same: find a dead body, find some clues, Classroom Trial, guilty gets executed, new floor opens, rinse, lather, and repeat. This repetition sort of dulls the whole mystery element of the anime. But what really dulls the mystery element is how the animators reduced the process of searching for clues into voice-overs, montages, and nifty “Item Acquired!” effects you would find in the game. Unlike the popular Detective Conan, we don’t even have time to think for ourselves how the clues are related. The entire clue-searching process only takes a few seconds and we are instantly plunged into a Classroom Trial. Oh well, so much for mystery. It’s not a good mystery if the viewers are not involved in the thinking process.

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However, I do enjoy the Classroom Trials though…

The Classroom Trial is the most important aspect in Danganronpa. It’s where the anime shines and it’s the only reason I kept watching this anime.

The Classroom Trial occurs after clues are gathered and Monobear says so. Monobear acts as the judge and the students battle it out in a classic courtroom debate battle. Naegi, equipped with “ammunition” can shoot down (to some extent, literally) arguments that contradict the truth. As a fan of Phoenix Wright, the short “Objection!” animation when Naegi points put a contradiction is quite awesome. What really piqued the psycho in me was the end of the Trials, when the culprits were sentenced to death. Each culprit had their own way of dying; for example, the Super Duper High School Baseballer was mauled to death by a thousand baseballs.

The story is just too fast…

The other real problem with the anime is the fact that it squeezes the entire Danganronpa game into a 13-episode anime. The pace of the story is just too fast. But, the pacing is still way better than Sword Art Online. After the first three episodes, the story progresses at a rather linear rate due to the repetitive detective scenes, but still, it doesn’t give us enough time to actually “feel” the characters (well, except the Naegi and Kirigiri).

If anime was all about visuals, Danganronpa is the best.

Danganronpa gives us an array of rather weird visuals similar to Gainax anime. First, the occult guy with the ridiculous hairdo and the serial killer with a viper’s tongue. Scratch that, ALL of the characters are weirdos from Gainax anime with Naegi, Byakuya, and Kirigiri being the only normally drawn ones (which should be a hint that they’re main characters). Second, they did a good job depicting a school full of despair and mystery. And finally, they did a really good job censoring the gore by coloring the blood a shocking pink and animating the psychedelic death sentences.

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Now on to the hearing part of the exam…

Danganronpa gives viewers a techno upbeat array of music. The OP was reminiscent to the Persona 4 OP; an Engrish song. The ED was sung by soraru, the only reason I wanted to hear it and it’s pretty good and upbeat. The sound effects in the anime are nicely done along with the techno background music.

So, here’s the verdict:

Story: 2/5 = too repetitive, a bit fast-paced

Visuals and Graphics: 4/5 = superb, I just don’t have a thing of overly weird character designs

Characters: 3/5 = we are only supposed to love a few and forget the rest

Music: 4/5 = upbeat and just awesome

Should you watch?

Well, if you’ve played the game, you may watch the anime out of pure loyalty. If not, Danganronpa is a rather boring anime unless you find an aspect which makes you really want to watch it.

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