OK, I admit I have been slow on choosing what horror anime to review around Halloween and my choices of what I didn’t already cover were pretty slim (at least to how I watch the show) and then I stumbled upon this one. Yes, this is an anime based on a video game and you can say this counts as a horror anime…….one that has mystery and is a thriller with comedic elements thrown in with some action in there, too.
Well, folks, let’s have a little fun with this……and try not to kill each other. Shall we?
And yes, I’m going to judge this anime on its own merits and no, before you ask, I know jack shit about the games so yeah….let’s begin the session.
Being just a normal student without a special talent, Makoto Naegi wins a lottery to attend the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy where only the top prodigies attend. However, instead of this being the beginning of a wonderful high school life, it’s a ticket to despair, because the only way to graduate from Hope’s Peak Academy is to kill one of your fellow students or be one of their victims.
Story-wise, this is what I get when combining elements of Clue, Ace Attorney, any horror movie involving a high school and whatever horror anime you can think of at this moment. It’s an all-in-one mystery whodunit comedic horror show that has all the fixings, even the unusual ones to make an enriching experience of a show and it did the job well, albeit it does seem a bit rushed.
Yeah, the anime is up to 13 episodes and while I have heard the game is up to 20-25 hours of game play and on the anime…… it’s 5 and a half hours of episodes although I rather them get some things cleared out right away. However, the expected deaths of the students and the trials of those deaths do get repetitive and predictable episode by episode at first as it goes on. Example being, “This student died!! Trail begin!! YOU DID IT! NO, THAT GUY DID IT! ACTUALLY, THAT GUY DID IT! You’re guilty! Sentenced to strange punishment and death!! HORRIFIED FACES!!” but near the tail end of the series, it does changes for a bit.
There is also the spiel of despair and hope and all that stuff about surviving their terrible ordeal. Yeah, that’s all good and very expected but hey, they needed something to make sure they don’t die (and there are survivors in the end. I’m not saying who survives in the end although I’m sure most of you know already).
I get to those that played the games that it might be an issue to them and I do get that from their point of view but for casual watchers that prefer something that is more in-and-out with their premise will be entertained with this show.
One thing about the characters in the show… don’t try to get too attached to them although it divides into either characters you either don’t really care about, some you wanted to die, some you predicted were going to die anyway, the neutrals and those you actually like and give a damn about. Oh, and there’s a lot of characters here but as expected, some do get killed off early into the series, like 2 people got killed off episode 2 and another one the next one and the next and the ne… yeah, PEOPLE DIE WHEN THEY ARE KILLED! That’s what the hell I’m saying with this.
However, I will say the main villain of the series, Monokuma definitely stole the show. The sick, twisted monochromatic-ish psycho teddy bear was the most entertaining aspect of the show from his unique and chaotic character design to his mad nature when it comes to his judgment.
If I had to say what character I liked in here, despite if they lived or died, it would be both Aoi Asahina and Sakura Ogami. Yes, the cute well-meaning but air-headed swimmer student and the fearsome muscular female student are my favorite characters in here and I also liked their friendship throughout the series. Maybe not that fully developed but I didn’t mind their moments with each other. For those I found to be interesting, it would be Kyoko Kirigiri, the mysterious cool-headed detective girl and Toko Fukawa aka Genocider Sho, the gloomy girl with dissociative identity disorder and as she sneezes, she turns into this homicidal maniac at the bat of the eye.
Animation for the series has been provided by Lerche, the animation studio who has been a lot of notice for their recent works such as Assassination Classroom, Monster Musume, School-Live, etc. and you can tell right off the bat…..yeah, I’m getting AC flashbacks because I don’t know if they got the same character designer or some coincidences since I watched AC before getting into Danganronpa but yeah, some of the character designs are eerily identical or at least their eyes…..you know what, their eyes. It’s the eyes. Animation quality overall here is good, especially during the punishment scenes with the CG Game-like animation in there and art. I will comment the way they opt for pink blood instead of the usual red and gory scheme. Unique, it is but looks like instead of blood, they got neon pink glow in their bodies.
Musically, it never has a dull moment as the score goes its moments suspenseful tense piano and on the other side, its laid-back jazzy flavor during the lighter scenes. The opening theme “Never Say Never”, a rap opening theme done entirely in English is an OK song. At first, it sounds a bit weird going into it but listening to it a few more times, the song is pretty good. However, that’s the opposite for the ED song, “Zetsubōsei: Hero Chiryōyaku” as I thought this song was just awful. Nothing but a cacophony of clumsy 8-bit rock that think it sounds like something musical but more of unwarranted noise.
Onto my thoughts on the controversial English dub because so many people got something to say about this upon watching it (and those that just decides to bitch about it instead of actually watching the whole damn thing). On one hand, Christopher Bevins is directing this dub and I’m somewhat like the shows he does ADR direction for (Michiko & Hatchin, Terror in Resonance, Gangsta.) and then we got J. Michael Tatum, who writes the ADR script for this series and yeah, I heard many people bemoan that name since Tatum does make a few liberal changes in the script with some added in pop-culture references that might seem dated and hacky. Oh, and of course, the fact the cast from the original game has been replaced since FUNi decided to go all in-house this time, even though they got some of the game cast back for HyperDimension Neptunia (a show I’ve enjoyed in the past) and BlazBlue (Yeah……no.)
With that said, despite some flaws in the script and some awkward performances here, this dub is fine. Yes, while I admit a few jokes and catchphrases used in here were corny (The 9000 Joke, for example. Seriously, that joke is still alive?) and hacking, the rest of the writing is OK. Maybe not the good shit but we’re fine. It’s not as bad as oh…..Future Diary‘s dub but then again that show was shit to begin with.
Now onto performances and the replacements did a fine job, too, but I will say that I was not feeling 2 performances: Tyson Rinehart (Hifumi Yamada) and Christopher Bevins (Yasuhiro Hagakure) as Rinehart’s nerdy voice mostly got on my nerves and Bevins sounds a bit off as a laid-back psychic student. For voices that were….just OK in here are Monica Rial (Sayaka Maizono) and Christopher Sabat (Mondo Owada) as it’s them in their comfort zone and the ones I do like….yeah, I dig Felecia Angelle’s Asahina, Caitlin Glass as Kyoko, Josh Grelle as Togami, despite that being my least favorite character, Carli Mosier putting a hell of a performance as Toko / Genocider Sho and Rachel Robinson as Sakura was also one voice I dig, too.
And of course, the only returning voice actor from the games, Bryce Papenbrook as Makoto Naegi and…..it’s very Bryce Papenbrook-y. It falls into his other roles he’s done in the past and his performance was serviceable. But I got to give it up for Greg Ayres as Monokuma. He went full on HAM and his performance was the most lively out of everyone in the cast and a definite favorite from myself.
FINAL VERDICT: All-in-all, Danganronpa The Animation is a flawed yet serviceable series that is a rushed version of what you’ll get from the video game but on its own, it makes a very enjoyable mystery-horror series that you can binge through if you got the time. While I do give it a solid recommendation, it is more of a stream before you buy.
So, what’s the result of this verdict?
7/10 – OK.
DANGANRONPA THE ANIMATION is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from FUNimation Entertainment. Streaming options are available on FUNimation.com via its EVS Service or on Hulu (or Yahoo! View).
The video games are licensed in the US from NIS America, available on the Playstation Vita, PC, and coming soon on PS4.
And of course, there’s Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School that just finished its simulcast run this summer and it’s on FUNimation.com EVS, Hulu and Yahoo as well…….wait……there’s more episodes? Alright. Improvement.
Wait….Future Arc takes place after Danganronpa 2……the videogame.
And Despair Arc…..prior to the first game (or anime)……..
*sighs* So research this before watching the anime then…….well, damn.
This is MAK2.0 aka The Blue Hybrid and y’all really should check on what schools you sent your kids to.
Oh, and HAPPY HALLOWEEN.
DANGANRONPA THE ANIMATION – animated by LERCHE / licensed by FUNIMATION ENTERTAINMENT