Kids killing kids? A crazy talking bear that wants you to feel… Disbear? Well count me in. Now if you didn’t know, a game series called Dangan Ronpa (Trigger Happy Havoc, Goodbye Despair, etc.), that soon got a first game anime adaptation. Trigger Happy Havoc was turned into an animated series that took what was probably 30 hours of gameplay into 12 episode of very sort of cardboard cutout characters. The anime was produced by Lerche and directed by Seiji Kishi, who is perhaps best known for his other game to anime adaptation Persona 4.
So the basic story plot is that Naegi Makoto has been accepted to Hope’s Peak Academy, where only those of Super Duper High school Level citizens may go, and he has been accepted under Super Duper High school Level Luckster. There you can truly succeed, but only if you’re a SDHL When he goes to the school entrance he enters and then promptly passes out. When he awakens he is within a classroom and told to go to the school auditorium where he is greeted with the irritated and equally confused faces of his classmates. They are then confronted by a talking stuffed bear, Monokuma, who wants them to proceed into a life of mutual killing and despair. At first all the students disagree and refuse to partake, but slowly murder begins to stain the halls of Hope’s Peak.
The characters we meet are all with a Super Duper title that makes them different from the others, from Super Duper High school Heir to S.D.H.L. Oracle. This makes for an interesting dynamic because all have vastly different backgrounds that sort of all get left out in the anime comparatively to the game. So I’m only going to focus on three of the characters, two protagonists, a jerk, and our antagonist.
First of is Naegi Makoto, SDHL Lucky student. He describes himself as pretty average and he pretty much is. He has a good heart and wants to get to know the people he’s stuck with, as well as conquer over despair. Thought the show he remains a vigilant reminder that there is still good within the ruined world. Nagei also serves to solve a majority of the cases as he’s the only one who ‘connects’ with everyone and is able to see all sides of things.
Kyoko Kirigiri is our SDHL ????. Yes, I know, what does that mean? Well, it’s a wait and find out tactic that the writers used for us to care for our calm collected character. She is mysterious and doesn’t even recall what her talent is, but she knows she has one. Kirigiri trusts Naegi to make the right choice, often realizing that he is solving the cases. She also is attempting to unravel the mystery behind Hope’s Peak and why they’ve all been trapped there.
Next is Byakuya Togami, SDHL Heir, who will take over the Togami business and essentially run the world. He literally is a huge jerk to everyone because they’re like peasants to him. He’s sort of just there to be a douche and being a minor support for Naegi, who he thinks will be of use to him later on. I’m only including him because… Well every anime needs a sort of mean and pointless character. He derails a lot to be like ‘look at me and my money’ but also helps in the possible future for the rest of the cast.
Then finally there’s Monokuma! Our antagonist who wants to bring despair to every living creature and also bring about the tragedy or The Worst, Most Despair-Inducing Incident in the History of Mankind. It’s insinuated that this incident would cause despair to ravage the land. He acts as the principle of Hope’s Peak and hopes to bring the students mutual life of killings to a start. He makes sure that all the students follow the rules as well as sets up bribes to get what he wants started.
The animation in comparison to the game is, well I suppose, and upgrade? There isn’t any actual animation as they only have sort of cardboard cut outs of the characters, so it was nice to see them move fluidly in the anime. While it does lose a lot of the harsher lines that the game had in terms of design for each individual character it isn’t that bothersome either? Honestly, it’s a clean animation that doesn’t really amaze or detract from the source material. There is also the still strange choice to this day from both game and animation, which is making all of the blood a very annoying pink, which in terms of like censorship it’d make some sense, but it just felt hokey and out of place to me as a viewer.
Sound wise considering there is no current dub of the animation the sub is actually quite good. All the Japanese voice actors returned for the animation and that includes Megumi Ogata, best known for her role as Shinji Ikari in Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Akira Ishida, best known for Kaworu Nagisa from NGE as well. The music was composed by Masafumi Takada, best known for his work in the video game No More Heroes. The opening theme is called Never Say Never by TKDzZb and is a pretty alright track but not really outstanding. There are currently dubs of the first two games released for the PS Vita, if you’d prefer to go to the source game material, and it’s alright. The dubbed games has mostly newcomers with far and few veterans. Still the dub is possibly a good place to start if the game is more what you’d want to try.
While this anime was a pretty popular subject little less than a year ago, it’s a pretty okay show. It’s not outstanding and doesn’t really breakdown a lot of barriers or do anything necessarily new in terms of storytelling or animation, but it doesn’t go overboard and alienate the viewers. I found it to be a pretty fun anime to pass the time with, but overall still preferred the games in term of overall content. It’s worth a watch if you’re just looking to have a pretty easy going time. I may have a different reaction to some of the topics within the anime, so it may not be for everyone, but I found it to be pretty approachable. We are also still receiving sequels to the game which currently means there will be more content out, as well as possibly more anime adaptions.
Dangan Ronpa: 6.5/10