Based on the highly popular Danganronpa: Academy of Hope murder mystery game, this is a thirteen episodes anime released in 2013. As with many popular games, light novels and mangas there will always be anime adaptations to fully monopolise the market and Daganronpa is an example of that. I am reviewing this from a point of view of someone who has never read the light novel or played the game before.
Danganronpa sets place in Hope’s Peak High School where only the best and ‘super duper’ students are accepted to hone their particular talent. Makoto Naegi is one of these students and on his first day, he instantly blacks out as he steps into the school. When he wakes up, he finds himself in a room along with fourteen other students he has never seen before. Not long after they realise they are trapped in the school by a mysterious white/black bear called Monokuma.
Monokuma explains that they will have to live the rest of their lives in the high school and if they want to, they can try to ‘graduate’ by killing a classmate without getting caught. After each killing students are allowed some time to look around for clues to help solve the murder, followed by a class trial where students debate and vote on who they think the killer is. The only way someone graduates is if they survive a class trial after killing a classmate. If the students successfully identify the killer, the killer will be executed. Monokuma provides a lot of dark humor to the series and is voiced by Nobuya Ooyama, who voiced Doraemon for 26 years. So if you can imagine the original Doraemon’s voice in a meaner and cunning tone, that is pretty much how Monokuma sounds like.
I thoroughly enjoyed every single episode as each episode left me wanting more. We see how different motives can set off normal high school students to kill off each other. Most of the murders are unpredictable and until the class trials, we can barely guess what happened and how each murder occurred. Towards the end, we finally see the unfolding of the mystery as to why these students are even trapped in the first place. If you are afraid that the killings might be too gory, don’t be. Instead of the colour red, pink is used instead of blood making it less realistic and gory so to speak, which helps those with a weak stomach for these things. Furthermore, graphical scenes are kept to a minimal and the emphasis is more on the investigation of each case.
However, this anime is very fast paced and if you are someone who likes character development, and more in depth reasoning behind everything, you will probably not enjoy this. We see at least one killing, if not two, in almost every episode including the execution of the killer from the class trials. With so many deaths, there is very little time to develop a character and the relationships between the students so when they die it is does not evoke a lot of emotion. The investigation phases after each murder are also very lacking. At most you get a glimpse of how the students investigate before the announcement of a class trial. This gives no time or clues for us to solve the murder ourselves. By the end of the series there are still quite a lot of unexplained events but I guess there are always flaws like these when the creators try to condense a 25 hour material in thirteen episodes.
All in all, I liked this anime a lot and although the ending hinted for a second season, it has been 3 years since the original release don’t get your hopes up for a second installment yet. You could always play the game and see what goes on next.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.