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An Anime Review: Danganronpa: The Animation
"Danganronpa:Trigger Happy Havoc" is a PlayStation game recently turned into an anime, which is running now in fall 2013, the finale coming out the 26th of September. A mix of mystery and thriller, the game portrayed a group of teens being forced to kill each other, almost bringing to mind Battle Royale. Considering that the game often had more plot than gameplay, an anime based on Danganronpa seemed to have great potential, but it turned out to have several faults, and in some parts lacked compared to its game counterpart. But before listing them, what is the story?
The story senters around a group of teenagers gathering in the modestly named Hope's Peak Academy. All of them have in their teenage years become stars in some area, being a top idol, a famous author or simply the inheritor of a vast economic empire. And then there is our main character, the only regular guy. One of the new students is chosen by lottery, and has no special talent, because it is easier to identify with out avatar Naegi this way, I suppose.
But all rapidly changes, as a teddy bear named Monokuma introduces himself as principal. It becomes clear that he has taken over the school, and taken the students captive. Any teen can only be set free one way: by killing another student and then not being judged by the remaining captives to have been the murderer. There is, a certain time after a murder, a Class Trial, where the students can discuss evidence and alibis, before voting for who they think is the murderer. If they are right, the murderer gets killed. If not, everyone but the murderer is killed.
And so we get our detective plot. People, after becoming desperate to escape, start killing left and right, and it is up to Naegi and the others to determine the murderer. The murders are often interesting, and the game had more than enough twists to make each case interesting. The murders made sense, but working your way through all of the evidence to get to the truth was a challenge, but loads of fun.
Naegi himself is the classical anime hero without much deviation, he is decently smart, easily trusts others and believe in friendship, doubts himself and is generally average. Everyone else are pretty eccentric, usually playing straight into stereotypes, from the cold but brilliant detective to the honorable fighter. The villain, Monokuma, is often played for comedy, contrasting his lust for blood and destruction. In the games I did actually start to like some of these people, they could be amusing and interesting. I genuinely want to see more of them. With the anime, less so, Monokuma being the only character I truly feel is as good as in the game.
Comparing to the Game
Sadly, the anime only gets 13 episodes, which simply is too little. It does as well as it can, but it makes the mystery part a mess. The episodes soon go into this schedule: one episode building up the murder, then one episode of Class Trial. Rinse and repeat. At the beginning of a Class Trial episode we quickly scroll through all of the evidence, being given no context of where they were found or such. And while the twists are there, they come and go so fast that they almost do not register, and the characters themselves do not react much to them. This happens more and more as the series progresses, as the later crimes are more complex and takes more time to explain, which forces things to speed up even more.
And the same happens to happens to the characters and their development. There is not much time for interaction or understanding them, compared to the games. And while I understand that things have to be cut, there is a rushed feel to the entire thing. We never linger or stop to look at anything, there are no breaks.
The music is largely the same as from the game, which I like. The animation is nothing spectacular, but good enough. They often try to use the style from the game, like presenting Naegi's arguments as bullets piercing the opponents arguments, which made more sense in the game, where it was tied to how you play it. Still, it gives the anime a slightly more unique look.
I am really looking forward to how they handle the ending of the show, which I like, even though the plot twist is so out of nowhere that it just seems plain odd, not to mention that certain things were left unanswered in the game as well. I doubt the anime will do a better job of explaining, but maybe they will have some time to show some emotion of the final test of the game, which I enjoyed, and maybe what happened after the ending of the game, just a couple of minutes.
This is an anime severely limited by the time it was given, and the result is slightly messy. 26 episodes might have made everything better, but as it is, it is okay. I would say give it a try if you are interested in murder mysteries and intrigues and mysterious games, as I am. But as it often is with adaptions, it may be just as well to go and get the game or just look up a walkthrough on YouTube.