First Impressions – Danganronpa: the Animation

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Ah, Kishi-san, Uezu-san – somehow it feels as if we’ve met here before.

Well, that had some of the best WTF factor of any series I’ve seen for a while.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tried to get into a game adaptation by this director/writer team – given that I haven’t liked a single one so far, however many is too many.  There was really no reason to expect Danganronpa to be different – apart perhaps from a mild intuition that it might be – but I like these guys so much when they’re on that I really wanted to give it a chance.

The funny thing is, as incredibly stupid as I find this premise, I actually did like this first episode quite a bit.  It’s not as if we haven’t seen this survival game thing done to death (no pun intended) and rarely with very interesting results.  Not only is the notion behind Danganronpa utterly pointless and arbitrary even by the standards of its medium, but there’s a kind of gleeful sadism to these kinds of games/series that grosses me out a little.  I think they’re meant on some level to enjoy seeing people suffer for no reason apart from the fact that it’s fun to do so.

Given all that, I think the only chance a show like this has with me is if it doesn’t take itself even remotely seriously, and it seems quite obvious that Danganronpa doesn’t.  In the first place, the villan of the piece is a stuffed bear called Monokuma, who’s played by Doraemon (Ooyama Nobuyo). Then we have a schoolgirl played by Miyata Kouki, and something that looks like a JoJo reject wearing a girls school uniform.  Scattered among the cast of oddballs are Sakurai Takahiro, Sawashiro Miyuki, Yamaguchi Kappei (as always, a delight) and Ishida Akira, among others.  And the main character, Naegi Makoto, is played by none other than Ikari Shinji herself, Oogata Megumi.  I confess there’s a fun kind of nostalgia in hearing her play a male lead again – I think this might be the first time since Tantei Gakuen Q – and while she doesn’t stretch much from her stock male voice, she’s very, very good at it.

As much fun as it is to hear that cast wildly overacting their way through this preposterous trifle, another element of Danganronpa I find appealing as compared to other Kishi/Uezu game adaptations is its simplicity.  15 kids, one locked building, one way to live – kill somebody (I know it gets a bit more complicated than that, but the principle holds).  Japan has a fascination with watching adolescents kill each other so you’re not going to find much unplanted soil, but this seems like an iteration that’s not going to make the audience think too much.  The bewildering complexity and bloated self-importance of some other game adaptations seems absent here – those series are just as dumb as this one, but they think they’re smart and this ones knows it’s dumb.  Which one do you think is going to make the better show? 

Frankly, I still wish Kishi and Uezu would spend more time adapting seinen manga and LN like Kamisama Dolls or Jinrui and less time adapting video games.  But Danganronpa at least seems like a vehicle that’s going to allow their very peculiar sensibility and sense of humor to yield some entertaining results.  As a a pure thrill ride/snuff film and comedy I think this has some potential, and I like the little style touches like the clever character introductions – but I’m sure as hell not expecting anything profound or meaningful from the experience.  Nothing wrong with that as long as it’s entertaining – but that’s a pretty stiff test in its own right.  So far, so good.

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  1. i

    Except for the Idol character, I find it all quite funny and interesting. I just hate Idols like I hate imoutos, they're annoying and pointless and I hope she dies first (though of course she won't being the MC's love interest). Not bad for a wacky premiere, worthy of the three episode test.

    Also I began reading A Game of Thrones and something that I think they never showed in the TV series is how much the children (especially Arya) loved Jon and how all the characters feel so human, each of their flaws as people defining their traits as people. Perfect heroes like Harry Potter are not welcome in the 7 kingdoms and its a welcome change.

  2. G

    Haha, man you're loving Danganronpa now probably, what with Episode 2's hijinks.

  3. A

    This might be the only show of Summer 2013 worth watching. :-/

  4. H

    Question, I heard a report on twitter that the show borrows a lot of game footage, since you haven't played the game you wouldn't be able to tell me if that was true but I also heard you can even see some playstation logo on the footage at times, did you notice anything like that?

  5. c

    The anime carefully reconstructs a number of CG cutscenes from the game, most notably the intro with the rocket and the part where Monobear first appears (panning through the gymnasium). It's not borrowing footage though, it's actually slightly higher quality than the game footage. They just… reanimated the exact same scene from the same camera angles with the same music.

    The fact that they're borrowing music is actually kind of notable too. The apparent opening theme in the middle of the episode is essentially the main theme of the game, and even the background music comes from the game. I don't think it's laziness so much as honoring the source material, but it's a thing they did.

  6. H

    Ahhh, that makes more sense, erm, sorta that they at least reanimated everything. And now to just wait for Funimation to remember the meaning of the word simulcast and actually put this up ><

  7. g

    Idk but im getting the "something is wrong" feeling with the idol girl.
    If i had to guess, I would say the main heroine role will shift to Kyoko and Maizono will either break or turn psycho and then die.

  8. E

    Ah. Kamisama Dolls. I wonder why did it stop abruptly at one cour just like that. The anime never has conclusion. >_>

    @grm: I don't remember the character's name, but I expect the girl with ??? ability to be the main heroine.

  9. Why do they ever? Money of course. The first season bombed on Blu-ray. Brains Base is fine with second seasons generally (Yahari is sure to get one) but ¥¥ trumps quality every time in this industry.

  10. E

    Psst, Enzo, you wrote "Dangenronpa" a bunch of times throughout this post when it should be "Danganronpa". Also, about that character who "looks like a JoJo reject wearing a girls school uniform" – that's Sakura, and she's wearing a girl's uniform because she IS a girl.

  11. Did I say she wasn't? She still looks like a JoJo reject.

  12. a

    You did, in fact. You called her a something. It was pretty jarring.

  13. You're obviously taking this a lot more seriously than I am.

  14. A

    When will the second episode for this anime air WITH the English sub?

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