- Alt. Name
- Danganronpa: Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei The Animation
- Release Date
- Summer 2013
- No. of Episodes
When it comes to online communities, one can expect two things: fans of whatever the group is about, and biased opinions towards them. Now, if one is a huge fan of a video game that gets an anime adaptation, then, of course, they’re more then likely going to watch it. Though if the series is terrible, and by the majority of the games original fans believe so, is it truly bad? Sometime’s the things we love blind us to the truth the most.
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Danganronpa: The Animation is a 2013 Mystery anime from studio Lerche, which surprisingly at the time of its release was the second television series they had produced. While according to most online communities, this series has been deemed “terrible,” but upon reading massive amounts of comments, it has been stated that the preponderance of original viewers of the series were fans of the original game. At the same time, some adaptations of video games fail miserably to the masses due to original fans hating the series for plethora amounts of various reasons. This brought me to the question, is this series as terrible as people say it is?
The story is a typical mystery setup with some psychological horror elements sprinkled in as well. Hope’s Peak Academy is an elite high school that accepts only the most talented students. Individuals who successfully enroll receive their unique individual titles, which are suitably reflective of each student’s skills and traits. Of the fifteen candidates admitted into the peculiar school that year, Makoto Naegi is a completely ordinary individual who has been accepted by sheer chance, with the title of “Super High School-Level Luck.”
Naegi and his classmates are initially ecstatic to study at this prestigious institution, but these feelings of happiness and glee are short-lived. They are soon confronted by Monokuma, the principal and resident bear, who traps them inside the school. The pupil’s hopes of escape and graduation hinge on successfully murdering one of their peers without being discovered. However, if the killer happens to be exposed, he or she will be executed. The remaining survivors will be left to continue the deathmatch until only a single victor remains.
With any story in any genre, there are some tropes stories will have, and Danganronpa: The Animation is no exception. Now it’s what the show does with these tropes is what truly matters. This series tries to combine the mystery genre with a battle royale setting, with hints of psychological horror mixed in for flavor, which work in some areas, especially when needed to build suspense, though it wasn’t perfect. As mentioned before, it does have horror elements. Still, I wouldn’t classify this series as anything outside of a mystery due to its multiple cat-and-mouse whodunit story elements.
Though the story has a significant element both in psychological and horror within itself, though less in the latter, that doesn’t stretch it too thin, nor comes off as too tedious. The story itself was interesting, especially if the viewer enjoys watching murder mystery shows. Outside of the well made three-tier elemental premise, the story doesn’t offer the viewer much else. Now not having much to go off of isn’t entirely a bad thing, though in most cases, it’s a negative aspect, and this one does seem to fall into that category.
The negatives within this series are not exclusive to this anime alone, but unfortunately, there have been better shows with the same gimmick. One aspect of Danganronpa: The Animation didn’t help the series at all was the pacing. The pacing within this series is pretty rapid, and that’s rather unfortunate for an anime series with this type of premise. Danganronpa: The Animation events are divided into six chapters within the thirteen episodes, which means that each section must be complete within two episodes.
Another negative aspect of this story is that the ending was more or less humdrum. When a series is supposed to tie up all the loose ends, or at the very least finish the story that it started to do and decides to have a weak ending shows it’s lack of creativity and storytelling. Having said that, if one is hoping for decent character development or at the very least one that will give the viewer emotional attachment. If the viewer enters with this belief, then they’re going to be disappointed though there is character development just not in ways that one may be expecting. Outside of those two significant negatives, is the predictability within the series, though it does throw viewers through loops, which is all part of the fun within a murder mystery.
The art style within this series is very ambiguous at times. There are three different artistic styles within Danganronpa: The Animation and, in some instances, they’re well used, others not so much. The first one is the traditional Lerche series have, two dimensional, which is adequately produced. The next style is seen in a few transitions, mainly leading up to the chapters’ trail portion, which is three dimensional. The last is personally better of the three, and it’s only used when the punishments are being conducted. It pays homage to a retro videogame pixelated as the character is being hauled away to its doom. It switches into a very edgy and eccentric with discotheque music playing in the background.
While the multiple styles portrayed within this series were enjoyable, the use of shading and the effective use of color for each character was delightful. This artistic style is well suited for a story of this caliber, though it’s not necessarily a positive in this case. However, one of the silver linings within this series is that each character is easily identifiable, mainly because most of each character looked different. However, the style within the characters are rather basic and lacking creativity in some areas that other series have done much better.
If the art style within this series could be described as amiable, then the production would be classified as discourteous. While the series has excellent use of background music and wonderfully crafted opening and closing animation outside of those, it’s very harsh for most of the series. The most prominent troublesome aspect within this series is that there are ample amounts of poorly used ways to cut corners on costs. For example, the characters in certain scenes will be in the same position every time, recycling animation. Other times characters will either cover their mouth with their hand or with an object, so the artists don’t need to spend money on animating the scene. Downright cheap.
Another dreadful aspect of this series is that if an adaptation is going to be based on a game, don’t copy and paste it. Danganronpa: The Animation is supposed to be a professionally made production; if one were allowed to use other people’s work and call it their own, the world would crumble in the stupidity. If they tweaked it and put their spin or perhaps did it within the same style of the series, it could have worked, but nope. This production team seemed to either not know what they were doing or didn’t care in several sections of the series, and it shows clear as day. One could probably find better-produced content from Fan edited videos on YouTube, though I have seen some pretty fantastic quality videos online.
On the other hand, the characters range from lukewarm to fair at best, though it’s easy to point out that not every aspect will be enjoyable with every viewer. The main protagonist of the series is Makoto Naegi, an ordinary high school student accepted into the academy by raffle. Though unlike his classmates, he has no spectacular talents, other than the title of “lucky.” He is the stereotypical generic male character who fights for his friends and always wants to do what’s right. Outside of that, he’s rather terrible when it comes to being the main character, mainly due to being so generic.
The main heroine of this series is Kyoko Kirigiri, a teenage girl who comes across as a loner and cold-hearted individual, but she is rather cunning tactful at what she needs to do. However, she tends not to trust others until she finds that Makoto is true to his words. While everyone within this school has had some of their memories erased, Kyoko seems to be the one with most of her memories removed.
Byakuya Togami is the rich kid of the group. He is the successor of a highly successful family corporation who considers himself superior to all the other students in the academy. He’s cold towards others, seeing them as mere competition and, he hates losing. Though who wouldn’t mind when it’s kill-or-be-killed? After a while, though, he starts to turn around and realize that though he may be better than his peers, they’ll need to work together to escape this death sentence.
The most intriguing character within this series is Toukp Fukawa, and that’s not a good thing, mainly due to her split personality. One personality is that she is a gloomy girl who happens to have a persecution complex – irrational fear and obsessive feeling or fear that one is the object of collective hostility or ill-treatment on others. The other personality happens to be a homicidal maniac known by Genocider Sho, though she prefers Genocider Jill. Her most prominent character trait is that the killer side loves blood, and the “normal” side passes out at the sight of blood, often reverting to the killer. I guess it’s supposed to be funny.
Of course, there are other characters within the series, but they’re of little importance or get killed off too early to talk about them. One of the better aspects of the series happens to be the headmaster of Hope’s Peak Academy, Monokuma – literally translated into bear-person. He is best described as the yin and yang design due to the left half is a cute white teddy bear with black details and gray shading; his right half has black fur that includes red as a spot color for his eye, mainly to contribute to his sadistic appearance, and the final touch is that evil smirk. He is funny, cute, and even willing to kill anyone just for the fun of it. Which is something that anyone would look for in a psychotic villain.
While this series does have its problems, and that’s being very optimistic. It did have some entertaining parts within the series that I wasn’t quite expecting. This series honestly does give viewers a few curveballs that make one go “Woah”, and that’s a fabulous part about this series. Would this series be better if they had more episodes? Absolutely, with only thirteen episodes in the series, there wasn’t enough time to give viewers the emotional impact of each death. If it had over twenty episodes, would it be a great show? Maybe, but who knows. This series did have a decent number of visual stunts, some great and some bad, but it was a decent show.
If one wants to test out the mystery genre, then this may be a good start for them, though there are better options to choose how to spend one’s time. Danganronpa: The Animation has been described as a terrible anime series, and though it had its small number of positives, the negatives within this series outweighed it. However, I don’t believe that this series should get as much hate as it gets, mainly due to the source material being roughly twenty-four hours long. With such an extended amount of material going over its inevitable, areas will be either changed or cut out completely to fit into thirteen episodes. If one enters this series without playing the games, then this may be a moderately pleasant series for you, and if one has played the games, remember it’s only an adaptation.
Cody Senpai is the creator of BakaNow, an anime review website that specializes in spoiler-free reviews for everyone. He is an avid anime watcher who has traveled to Japan numerous times to not only experience the culture and history but also to build friendships with people through a common interest. He is an avid animation fanatic from birth and even went on to major in communication to help share the importance of the stories we love to watch and listen to. Cody lives in Denver, Colorado and loves to do anything adventurous.