A Review of Danganronpa: The Animation – Dastardly Despair

Hey guys, Samurai here! And yes, I know I was going to write-up a review about Yamada-Kun and the Seven Witches, but to be honest, I really wanted to write up a review about this one as it’s my first review of an anime based off a video game that I actually played. Truth be told, I’m not that much of a gamer. In fact, only this year did I buy my very first Playstation 3 and later a PS Vita…

I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing. Okay? All done? Good.

In any case, one of the games that I discovered for the PS Vita is “Trigger Happy Havoc: Danganronpa”, a high school murder mystery game that plays much like an anime version of the board game “Clue”. While to some that might not sound amusing, to me, it was very intriguing; holding my attention for hours on end as I solved mystery after mystery. Then, not long after I finished the game, I found myself remembering something from a few months back…wasn’t there an ANIME based off this game I saw on Funimation’s streaming website? I hit up their site and sure enough, there it was. So I figured “Well, if the game was really good, the anime should be really good too, right?” Was my logic sound? Let’s find out:

I’m the Cajun Samurai, and this is my review of Danganronpa: The Animation

Warnings and Other Objectionable Content:

Danganronpa: The Animation is rated TV-MA, and it deserves that rating. Murder and violence are the order of the day, boys and girls, and it’s very bloody. Granted the blood is bright pink, but still, the deaths themselves are pretty gruesome. Language is PG-13, and there is a small bit of double-entendre talk from our Bi-Colored Teddy Bear friend, so keep the kiddies away from this one.

Series Availability (-0.50):

2016-05-24 05.29.08Danganronpa: The Animation is available in Funimation’s infamous Blu-Ray + DVD Combo Packs. There’s also a collector’s edition which only gives you a nicer looking box. As far as extras go…you only get one commentary track for Episode 1, an extended Director’s Cut version of Episode 13, and the typical clean opening and closings and trailers.

This is the 2nd time that Funimation has completely let me down on an anime release. Just like Evangelion: 3.33, the release for Danganronpa: The Animation offers very little considering you’re paying for much. The MSRP is over $60; you would THINK that for that money, you would get a few more extras…or at least extras that are somewhat unique that I can’t go on YouTube and watch. Again I have to ask when did we anime fans become okay with the fact that a clean OP/ED theme was a “special feature”?

And before any of you anime company apologists or faux economic and business experts hit up the comments section with your long drawn out explanations, please save it because I’ve heard it all before. I don’t want to hear about how much Japan pays for anime, how things were in the VHS era, or any other excuses. And yes, I’m calling them excuses. At some point, you have to ask “What am I getting for my money?” and “Is it worth investing in the physical copy?”

For this, I’m taking  half a point off the final score. It’s not worth the full point that I took off Evangelion 3.33’s score, but it’s still angers me enough to penalize it. Seriously, Funimation…get your act together.

That being said, here’s where you can find it:

Walmart –

Not currently available in Brick and Mortar stores, but just to be sure, check Walmart’s website. However, it is available for online purchase and you can always do site-to-store.

F.Y.E [For Your Entertainment] –

Affirmative for Brick and Mortar and online purchase, however, if you’re not a Backstage Pass member, prepare to shell out full price which, after tax, can be around 70 bucks.

Target –

Negative for Brick and Mortar stores, but it is available online.

Other Purchasing Sites –

This is a fairly new release, so finding it shouldn’t be a problem. (Insert Standard Warning About Buying Anime Online Here)

Online Streaming –

Funimation is currently streaming the Sub and the Dub on its website as is Hulu. If you wanna go elsewhere, hey, it ain’t my place to judge. Just be careful.

STORY PREMISE: (17.5 OUT OF 25)

Danganronpa: The Animation is a 13 episode series based off the first of a series of video game initially for the PS Vita created by Spike Chunsoft. The anime follows our protagonist, Makoto Naegi; your average high school student who was recently accepted at Hope’s Peak Academy; an illustrious high school that caters to students that display exceptional skills in various skills like sports or intelligence. Graduation from this school pretty much insures that you’re set for life. That being said, only the best and brightest are accepted. However, Makoto was picked to enter Hope’s Peak by lottery and not by a particular skill, earning him the moniker “Ultimate Lucky Student” [or “Super High School Level Good Luck”, but for simplicity sake, I’ll just use “Ultimate”].

UTW_Danganronpa_The_Animation_-_01_h264-720pA15D14F2.mkv_snapshot_08.54_2013.07.07_17.18.16No soon as our male lead steps in the boundary of Hope’s Peak Academy on his first day, Makoto is rendered unconscious, and when he comes to in an empty classroom, he meets the other “Ultimate” students of the academy in the gymnasium. After some rudimentary introductions, and upon discovering that all the doors and the windows facing the outside world are blocked, locked and bolted shut, the group is introduced to Monokuma, a walking, talking monochrome teddy bear with attitude who informs them with great delight, that they are to take part in a KILLER game…or rather, a KILLING game. Pretty much, in order to leave the school, the students must kill each other off and survive a class trial without being found out. If the killer is discovered in the trial, then only the killer is executed. However, if the wrong person is selected, then the killer goes free and everyone ELSE gets executed. And so the story goes on, with our group of students struggling to maintain hope in what is seemingly a hopeless situation, while at the same time, trying to solve the mysteries of Hope’s Peak Academy and bring any potential killers to sick, twisted justice.

Detention-dangan-ronpa-37868635-500-238So what we’re looking at here is an animated version of the board game “Clue” combined with liberal doses of Detective Conan and of course, a large dash of the infamous “Ace Attorney” games. It’s a big “Whodunit” series that follows a set pattern–someone dies, the group investigates, the class trial takes place, the murderer is revealed after long deliberations, and an execution takes place. It doesn’t deviate much from this, which is okay in a video game, but not so much in an anime series. Towards the end, the series does start breaking the mold as questions are answered about Hope’s Peak, and the final class trial is pretty engaging, but by that point, we’ve already gone through several class trials, and for some the final trial might get a little exhausting. While I am glad that this particular game got an anime adaptation, I have to wonder did it really NEED one…or did it even have the structure to support one? Persona 4: The Animation had a long and winding storyline that could go in any direction with characters that had a depth and a back story to them; you honestly didn’t know what was going to happen, even if you had played the game before. Danganronpa: The Animation, for the most part, has a predictable story that, aside from the murders, you can pretty much tell how it’s going to go, even if you never played the game before.

FAVORITE SCENE:

Admittedly, I am a fan of all the execution scenes. Not quite sure what that says about me, but yeah, I like the artistic styling of the individual scenes.

CHARACTERS: (15.3 OUT OF 25)

Monokuma The sadistic bi-colored remote-controlled teddy bear”Headmaster” of Hope’s Peak Academy. He’s crass, rude, sadistic, and a Grade-A Pervert, manipulating the emotions of the student body and providing motivations and motives to push them to kill off each other. He’s the perfect antagonist for our group of students as he is capable of bringing down epic feelings of doom, gloom and hopelessness while also acting as the devil-on-the-shoulder; tempting our more weak-minded students into committing murders out of fear or greed.
Aoi Asahina The “Ultimate Swimming Pro”…or to put it another way “The Ultimate Fanservice Provider” of this series. Asahina is a donut-loving athlete who…admittedly…doesn’t bring that much to the series but fill in a slot–we need an airhead to provide fanservice in this kind of “whodunit” series.
Byakuya Togami The “Ultimate Affluent Progeny”…or as I like to call him, the “Ultimate Douche Canoe”. Byakuya is the kind of guy who believes that just because he is from a well off family, he can treat others not so well off anyway he pleases. Trust and believe, you will hate Byakuya in the beginning and you long for the time when he’s either bumped off or Monokuma drags him off to receive his just rewards. Thankfully, he becomes somewhat more tolerable towards the end of the series.
Celestia Ludenberg The Ultimate Gambler and also the unofficial Goth Loli of the group. Though she appears to be a somewhat refined and controlled person on the surface, underneath is a cool and calculating personality that is always coming up with the next lie, the next cover up.
Chihiro Fujisaki Chihiro is the “Ultimate Programmer” of the group, and our token woobie. Seriously, this is one character that needs a long hug. I can’t say too much about her without dropping a major spoiler, but she actually plays a pretty major role a little later in the series.
Hifumi Yamada The “Ultimate Fanfic Creator”. Yes, this is a thing. Not much to say about Hifumi…he’s an overweight otaku. Not much to say about him…one wonders if he wrote the infamous 16.5 Chapter of that Sword Art Online fic.
Kiyotaka Ishimaru The “Ultimate Moral Compass”. Okay, so imagine Rock Lee from the Naruto series…except with an all white school unifom, a spikey haircut, and less than proper speech patterns, and you got Kiyotaka. Thankfully he undergoes a major transformation later in the series…though sadly we don’t enjoy it for long.
Kyoko Kirigiri Kyoko is our “Ultimate ???” Student. Yup, that’s exactly how she’s initially identified in the show. Not much is known about her except that she has prodigious reasoning skills and possesses a vulcan like sense of logic. Her true talent is revealed towards the end of the series, and it really comes as no surprise. Kyoko is the perfect partner for Makoto–bringing him back down to Earth and refocusing his mind when needed. Next to Sakura, she’s my favorite female character.
Leon Kuwata Leon is the “Ultimate Baseball Star” of the group, yet he’s not your typical jock. He’s rebellious and cocky and rejects most of the stereotypes of being a ball player–he doesn’t shave his head, he has multiple piercings, and he actually wants to quit the game and become a rock star. He’s an interesting guy, and I only wish we had gotten to know him more.
Makoto Naegi Makoto is our main character with the title of “Ultimate Lucky Student”. While he doesn’t have any clear talents like the other students in the school, he won his position by winning a lottery. Compared to all the others students, Makoto is pretty ordinary, except for his strong belief that no matter what the situation is, the team will be able to get through it and they will eventually be able to get out of Hope’s Peak alive. Makoto in the anime is exactly the same as he is in the video game. He’s your typical “Come on guys! We can get through this if we all stick together” male lead, and that’s okay…it’s boring, but it’s not as bad as it could be.
Mondo Owada Mondo is the “Ultimate Bike Gang Leader”…because you TOTALLY want a Bike Gang Leader in your school. He’s your stereotypical tough guy with a soft spot for protecting those who are weaker. Nothing much here.
Sakura Ogami The Ultimate Martial Artist of the group. Before you ask, yes, Sakura is a girl…she’s just extremely, extremely, EXTREMELY muscular. But underneath those muscles is the heart of a true warrior and a loyal friend, especially to Asahina. Unlike her friend, Sakura actually has a bit of depth to her character and she harbors a secret that can turn the entire school on its head.
Sayaka Maizono Sayaka is the “Ultimate Pop Star”. Apparently her and Makoto have some history off camera as they once attended the same middle school, but sadly, we don’t get to know much more about her other than she was part of a pop group before attending Hope’s Peak.
Toko Fukawa The “Ultimate Writing Prodigy”. Toko comes off as being extremely paranoid, distrusting, and carries a secret that will throw the entire story on it’s head…at least for a couple of episodes. She’s also head over heels for Byakuya…Lord only knows why.
Yasuhiro Hagakure Yasuhiro is the “Ultimate Clairvoyant” of the group…which is another way of saying he’s a fortune-teller. Yasuhiro is an interesting character, and a guy you just wanna hang out with on a daily basis…

So, yeah, the characters for Danganronpa: The Animation are pretty much standard character tropes that you can find in any story of this nature. It’s both a blessing and a curse that these characters stay true to their video game counterparts. On the plus side, for those who have played the game, it’s prodigious to see these guys have more dialogue giving them an opportunity to expand their characters beyond their video game personas. However, it’s a curse because the creators didn’t take that opportunity to make the development.

ANIMATION: (9.5 OUT OF 12.5)

maxresdefault (7)The animation for Danganronpa: The Animation is really well done. Character designs are well done, and the whole thing pays homage to its video game predecessor very well…almost too well. Apparently the creators decided to take the “Truth Bullets” animation from the game and institute that into the class trial debate scenes. I get what they were trying to do, and I appreciate the call back to the game, but this looks so awkward and it takes me out of the moment. Especially when you consider that the text is all in Japanese characters. However, the execution scenes, which are pretty much ripped directly from the video game, look amazing in high-definition and still have the air of twisted insanity So, yeah, animation wise, this show looks awesome, but it tries a little too hard to stay true to the game.

MUSIC: (11.5 OUT OF 12.5)

The opening theme for Danganronpa: The Animation episode 1 is the appropriately named “Danganronpa” by Masafumi Takada. For all other episodes except 4, the OP is “Never Say Never” by TKDz2b [Reminds me of a temporary password or something…] with rapping by Jas Mace and Marchitect. Episode 4’s OP is “Monokuma Ondo” by Sachiko Kobayasha featuring Monokuma. Honestly, all the OP’s are amazing to listen to and play off their respective animation sequences perfectly. Monokuma really knows how to shake his shimmy. The ending theme is “Zetsubōsei: Hero Chiryōyaku” by Suzumu featuring Soraru. The song itself is pretty cool, but the ending animation is kinda boring, either featuring either 8-Bit animated scrolling credits, or a slow zoom out over a class picture of our characters, changing with each episode as students are killed off. It does the job, however, so I’ll be nice and only take off one point.

PERFORMANCES AND PRODUCTION: (23 OUT OF 25)

Danganronpa: The Animation was created by Studio Lerche with Director Seiji Kishi at the helm. Kishi-san has been in command of several video game turned anime creations including Persona 4: The Animation and Devil Survivor 2: The Animation, so to say he has experience in this is an understatement. He’s also had his hand in other notable projects including Hamatora: The Animation, My Bride is a Mermaid, Magikano and Angel Beats.

Here in the US, Funimation Entertainment handled the dub with director Christopher Bevins at the helm. Christopher has been at the helm of (and voiced in) several successful Funimation dubs including Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, Case Closed [Detective Conan], Michiko & Hatchin, DragonBall Z and several episodes of One Piece, to say the very least. He also plays our resident psychic Yasuhiro Hagakure in this very show.

Now it should be noted that, with two exceptions, all the V/A’s in the anime are different from the ones used in the video game. For the sake of fairness in my grading, I’ll grade the performances of the anime V/A’s on their own merits without comparing them to the video game V/A’s. Oh, and in case you were curious, the characters with (*) next to their names were featured in both the video game and in the anime.

Character Japanese Voice Actor/Actress English Voice Actor/Actress
Monokuma Tarako Greg Ayres
Makoto Naegi Megumi Ogata Bryce Papenbrook*
Kyoko Kirigiri Yoko Hikasa Caitlin Glass
Byakuya Togami Akira Ishida Josh Grelle
Toko Fukawa Miyuki Sawashiro Carli Mosier
Aoi Asahina Chiwa Saito Felecia Angelle
Yasuhiro Hagakure Masaya Matsukaze Christopher Bevins
Sayaka Maizono Makiko Omoto Monica Rial
Leon Kuwata Takahiro Sakurai Justin Cook
Chihiro Fujisaki Koki Miyata Kara Edwards
Mondo Owada Kazuya Nakai Christopher Sabat
Kiyotaka Ishimaru Kosuke Toriumi Austin Tindle
Hifumi Yamada Kappei Yamaguchi Tyson Rinehart
Celestia Ludenberg Hekiru Shiina Lindsay Seidel
Sakura Ogami Kujira Rachel Robinson*
Junko Enoshima Megumi Toyoguchi Jamie Marchi
Mukuro Ikusaba Megumi Toyoguchi Amanda Celine Miller
Alter Ego Koki Miyata Kara Edwards
Jin Kirigiri Kappei Yamaguchi J. Michael Tatum 

2laan8kSo, yeah, as you can see, the English dub cast did a really good job with the material given. The script is very well written and moves the story along well while adding liberal dashes of humor. If you were wondering why I’m a Greg Ayres fanboy, then look no further than his performance as Monokuma. He is HILARIOUS from beginning to end, and he gives Monokuma the kind of sick, twisted, sadistic tone that the character requires. Bryce Papenbrook as Naegi is just as good if not better than his performance in the video game, and it’s amazing how much more personality he gives to our Lucky friend. All the other actors fit in perfectly, playing their stereotypical roles expertly.

As you can see, only two V/A’s got the yellow flag; and ironically it’s the two Chris’ in the show and it’s for the same thing. Both of them give really good performances, but in both cases, sometimes it comes off as being too forced…too exaggerated. Maybe that’s what they were going for, seeing as how these characters are supposed to be hyper-stereotypical, but for me, it’s a little much. Other than that, this is an awesome dub production that does justice to the existing material while having a life all its own.

SCORING SUMMARY:

STORY BREAKDOWN – 17.5/25
CHARACTERS – 15.3/25
ANIMATION – 9.5/12.5
MUSIC – 12.5/12.5
PERFORMANCE AND PRODUCTION – 23/25

INITIAL FINAL SCORE – 76.8/100 = 76.8% – (C)

Subtract 0.50 Point for Lack of Extras…

OFFICIAL FINAL SCORE – 76.3/100 = 76.3 – (C)

Lagniappe –

  • The title sequence for Episode 4 is based on a mini-game the player has to complete during the class trial in the video game.
  • The English dub of Danganronpa: The Animation features numerous subtle pop culture references, mostly spouted off by Monokuma.
  • According to the Director’s Commentary, at the same time he was casting for the dub of Danganronpa: The Animation, Bryce Papenbrook was recording lines for Attack on Titan at Funimation HQ, and was thus available to reprise his role.
  • Also according to the Commentary track, the voice for Mondo was influenced heavily by Kuwabara from Yu Yu Hakusho, as the two characters share both physical and personality appearances.

 

So where does that leave us? Well, Danganronpa: The Animation is…okay. The story is okay, the characters are okay, the animation is okay, the music is okay, the dub is REALLY good, but at the end of the day, I don’t think this game translated over to anime as well as other games turned anime I’ve come across. It’s not a bad show, but it’s not that stellar either. If you’ve played “Trigger Happy Havoc: Danganronpa” through to completion, then you’ve pretty much watched the anime. I would only recommend this series if you never played the game, if you enjoy murder mysteries, or if you like funny dubs. Other than that, I wouldn’t blame you for passing on this one.

And so, that’s it for my side-trip into the world of Danganronpa: The Animation! Yes, I know I was SUPPOSED to review Yamada-Kun and the Seven Witches, but my fingers had other plans. As for my next review…well…after all the murder and mental anguish of Danganronpa: The Animation, I think I am overdue for a vacation…a short yet sweet vacation back to one of my favorite places…Neo-Venezia. That’s right, boys and girls; we’re going to take a look at the newest member of the Aria series…

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Aria the Avvenire 

 

pirenh9v9yy662ifdbhkAlso, I would be severely remiss if I didn’t mention the sad news from last week. As you may have heard already, Yuko Mizutani, the voice actress for, among other characters, Sora Takenouchi from Digimon Adventuredied on May 17th, succumbing to breast cancer at the young age of 51. Mizutani-san’s list of credits also include among other characters, Mihoshi from several Tenchi Muyo series, Marie from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, Ikuko Tsukino from Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal and Chocolate Misu from Sorcerer Hunters, among many others. Outside of anime, she’s also dubbed over several american actresses in movies including Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Home Alone, Short Circuit 2, and Last Action Hero. Her talent will be greatly missed in the anime community.

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May you rest in peace, ma’am. And please say hello to Wada-san for us when you see him in Heaven.

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