This review, I’d like to review a relatively obscure anime from 2013. Based off a visual novel by the same name, today, we’re looking at Danganronpa: The Animation
This is Hope’s Peak Academy, a school so prestigious, only students with skills of the “Super High-School” level are allowed to attend. The school works in a very simple way: once you step on campus, you are forever trapped there; you cannot leave. That is, only if you don’t want to graduate. Fortunately, graduating is easy. There’s only one requirement: kill another student and not get caught. It is up to the fifteen students trapped against their will inside Hope’s Peak to survive the death game and unravel the secrets of the sadistic academy.
Right off the bat, Danganronpa immerses you in the story, simply because of the way it structures itself. You don’t know who will die (unless you’ve played the visual novel), and it becomes almost a game to figure out who will die and, when that does happen, who did it. Before each murder, the show takes the time to describe the soon-to-be crime scene, giving you all the information you need to figure out who killed who. Once the murder is committed, the rules mandate a class trial, where the survivors try to guess who did it, explaining everything about the crime. If you like games like Phoenix Wright or even enjoy simple mysteries, Danganronpa will draw you in and really get you involved with the story. Not only that, but it also perfectly captures the despair and desperation
However, it’s not perfect. This show is only about 13 episodes long, short by anime standards (most are usually about 24 episodes long). Short animes tend to suffer from pacing and character development issues. Danganronpa dodges this bullet, but not enough. Its story really falls flat at the ending, where they explain the whole world in the span of about 24 minutes. Too much information at once, while sufficient to explain the story (a little. The ending wraps up most loose ends), comes too fast and ruins the ending to an otherwise superb story.
The Characters:As I said earlier, short animes tend to have problems with character development. Danganronpa is no exception. In exchange for having a good story, Danganronpa fails heavily in its characters. On one hand, that is a function of the story. In a show where anyone can die at any point in time, there isn’t much room for development. Furthermore, Danganronpa doesn’t have problems with character development because there is hardly any development to have a problem with. Still, I’ll, as best I can, talk about the main characters (I can’t talk about all 15 characters. It’d be too long.)
Makoto Naegi:The main character, Naegi is the Phoenix Wright of this show, putting together seemingly unrelated facts together to find the culprit and keep everyone (well, except the culprit) alive. He’s the blandest character in the show, even more of a goody-two shoes than Kirito in Sword Art Online. While this affects his character development, he’s still an enjoyable character and, inevitably becomes the beacon of hope for the survivors.
Kyoko Kirigiri:The only main character who gets any amount of development, albeit infinitesimal, Kyoko is a mysterious girl who is effectively Sherlock Holmes (being a Super High School Level Detective, that’s understandable). She helps Naegi throughout the show putting pieces together in each crime. And…. that’s about it. The backstory she gets in an attempt to flesh her character out does nothing for her, leaving her in the same state, developmentally, as Naegi.
Monokuma: I don’t normally talk about antagonists, but Monokuma’s too good to pass up. The sadistic “principal” of Hope’s Peak, Monokuma is the cutest horror-filled teddy bear you will ever see. On one hand, he is the main villain, making him sinister and one to not take lightly, but at the same time, he also serves as comic relief for the show, popping up in odd places with hilarious dialogue. Monokuma’s easily the most interesting and enjoyable character in the show, I think because of that contrast between sadistic antagonist and hilarious clown.
Final Verdict: As far as short animes go, Danganronpa is one of the best you’ll find. It’s far from perfect, but it’s definitely worth your while if you’re looking for something quick. I suggest you go play the visual novel instead; it looks like it would be more interesting than the show, which is saying quite a bit.