*Warning: This may contain minor spoilers*
~Special Note: I’ll be talking about the story and characters after both having partially backseat gamed to the first game and having watched the first season of the anime. So, I’ll be mentioning Trigger Happy Havoc, but I’ll ONLY be reviewing the anime. I may review the game itself in the future once I play through it myself; we’ll see.
Synopsis: Hope’s Peak Academy is a high school where only the best of the best can attend. In order to get in, you have to be the absolute top of any field or subject. After the new freshman class enrolls, they find out that it’s different from what they had originally expected. They’re now prisoners inside of this school, where only one person can graduate. The catch? That person needs to kill someone and survive the trial without getting caught.
Story/Plot: I’m actually not a lover of these ‘who done it’ stories where there’s a death and we need to spend a majority of the time trying to figure out who committed that murder. Don’t get me wrong, I love certain detective shows, but only when they delve deeper into the characters and their personalities/issues, where you really have to know people in order to figure certain clues out, not just “Oh, yeah, person A that we saw one time three months ago is the killer.”
Danganronpa is the type that I enjoy.
Although I say that, I didn’t particularly like the way it was handled in the anime. It’s fun to find the clues and such while playing the game, but for the anime, they just spoon-fed everything to you before you could even make sense of who had even been murdered. It felt a bit lackluster and made me feel like I was just watching a recap of the events (I mean, for me, that’s technically true… But, you know what I mean), as opposed to feeling like I was an actual part of the investigation. It was less of a murder-mystery and more of a “What character that I don’t care about killed someone that I don’t care about this time?”
Characters: Now, there’s a reason why I said what I said in a way that made it seem like I didn’t care about the characters. Give me a moment to explain.
In the beginning, when I first partially backseat gamed to Trigger Happy Havoc, the characters really annoyed me, I need to be honest. I hated all of them since they were just over-the-top in their respective fields/subjects and with their personalities. But, the more I ‘spent time with them,’ the more I started to warm up to them. They’re all so diverse and unique, albeit still over-the-top. Nonetheless, that fact didn’t matter to me as much since each person got quite a bit of screen time to be able to help me understand them better.
However, because the anime is so regrettably short, I feel like I genuinely wouldn’t have cared about anyone if I hadn’t been exposed to the game first. There isn’t enough time to get to know anyone, much less form an emotional attachment to any of them. To an anime-only watcher, those characters might just feel like NPCs that are there to help the main character escape his predicament(s). It was practically about one death an episode (more or less), so as soon as you start to think, “Oh, hey, this person might be interesting later on,” then boom, they’re found dead in a room. I just feel like a longer adaptation might’ve helped people actually get to, at least, feel something for some of the characters, which would, in turn, help them further enjoy the story.
Oh! I must add (since I forgot to say anything about this earlier) that the one thing that thoroughly surprised me was that they kept the same voice actors. I told myself that if the voice actors weren’t the same from the game, then I would have a very difficult time sitting through all 13 episodes. I know, I know. That’s super petty. I don’t care; I like what I like.
But, alas, not only the voice actors but the soundtrack for the class trial (and a few other moments) were the same, as well. I was ecstatic about that point, and I thought that little detail should be pointed out.
Favorite Character: Oh, this one’s easy. It’s Monokuma, without a doubt. I do like a few of the other characters in this freshman group, but he takes the cake. He’s super sarcastic, silly, antagonizing, and can go from being rude/immature one second to being super polite/mature the next. He also has the most contagious laugh, and ever since I backseat gamed to the first game, I’ll randomly laugh/giggle like him just because it instantly gets stuck in my head whenever I’m exposed to it. My favorite part about him, though, are his jokes because a lot of them are bear puns. And, if there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s that I’m a sucker for perfectly executed puns.
The anime left out a load of amazing quotes from Monokuma (seriously, gold just pours out of him whenever he speaks), but the random squeaking that would occur whenever he was doing something in the anime slightly made up for that. Yes, I like cute things, too.
Overall Score: I’m not one that enjoys telling people “read/play the source material instead” when it comes to anime adaptations, because, well, duh… The source material is much better than the adaptation about 90% of the time. But, in Danganronpa’s case, I have to say it: If you liked the 13 episode anime, then play the game. The anime is the same exact story as Trigger Happy Havoc but without all of the good parts. You get all of the main plot elements in the anime, save for two things: character development, and all of the fun in-between stuff, like exploring the school, trying to form bonds with the other characters, and best of all, participating in the class trials.
Do I Recommend This?: No, I really wouldn’t. I think I would only recommend it to people who have already played the game and want a quick recap in anime form. For those who are interested in the story, but don’t have 20ish+ hours to dedicate to the game, then I just suggest you read a detailed synopsis of it, or just watch a play-through on YouTube or Twitch. Don’t watch the anime because you’ll be missing so many of the details that make the story great.
It was an okay adaptation, to say the least, but because they tried to squish an entire game into only 13 episodes, they sadly left out all of the ‘meat’ that makes the story what it is. With that said, I would have to give this a 6/10, because it does serve as a very good recap.
So, before I leave, tell me one thing, “When you learn the whole truth… what kind of despair will you show me?”