Danganronpa 3: Losing Focus

It’s been three years since I looked at the first Danganronpa anime. While it wasn’t one of the best anime I’ve seen, I did rather like it. Now we’re skipping ahead to Danganronpa 3, because there wasn’t a Danganronpa 2 anime. Maybe they thought the game wouldn’t translate well. Maybe they didn’t consider it good enough. Maybe a new Dragon Quest game came out. Maybe they got distracted reading Voyages of the Cerberus and missed their window of opportunity. The first two are more likely by far but a man can daydream. The odd thing about Danganronpa 3 is that it’s split into two settings, both of which were running at roughly the same time. This week, we’ll be looking at the Mirai-hen & Kibou-hen setting this week. Although I may take a look at the Zetsubou-hen setting later this month. So, let’s take a look and see how it holds up compared to the first series.

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Story:

We open with our protagonist from the first series, Naegi Makoto, being taken to the headquarters of the Future Foundation to answer charges of being a traitor. Supposedly, he safeguarded a bunch of remnants of despair. Maybe that’s what happened in the second game. While attending the meeting with all the foundation’s higher ups, along with Kirigiri & Asahina, the building gets attacked. They wake up to a Monokuma video telling them that they’ve been brought into a game of despair. He claims that one of them is a traitor and, in order to end the game, they have to either kill the traitor or wake up with all of them alive. To put them to sleep at regular intervals, they’re also given wristbands that inject them with sleeping drugs after a set amount of time. The wristbands are also programmed with forbidden actions. Should any of them do their forbidden action, they’ll be injected with a lethal amount of poison. Naturally, Naegi is instantly viewed as the most suspicious by several people. Can he survive their attacks and solve the mystery around him?

There are two major flaws with the series. The first is that it spends a lot of time following the characters who are outside of the game. A lot of the stuff they do is really over the top action fare and it hugely undermines any suspense or horror atmosphere that’s happening on the inside. Not only that, but the events on the outside don’t do that much. They reveal some information that the audience could have gotten from the characters on the inside and it would have worked better. The other big problem with the series are the speeches. In the first Danganronpa anime, the ending had a big speech and it was cheesy and kind of stupid, but it didn’t hurt the series over-much since the bulk of it focused on the mysteries, which were pretty solid. In this series, there are a lot of really cheesy speeches about hope and despair. A lot of the discussion is less about the mystery and more about hope. These are speeches that could kind of work, if they were in a Precure series or something else for small children, but that are really absurd and ridiculous in this context. By the way, the Kibou-hen special is mostly cheesy speeches to wrap everything up and the series retconning what could have been a strong tragic moment thereby ruining it.

That being said, this was a solid premise. The idea of all these characters being trapped in a claustrophobic setting and uncertain of who they can trust is a compelling one. If they’d focused more on that facet and less on over the top action and speeches, this series could have been really good. I also do like the ultimate reveal. The twist is also genuinely clever.

Characters:

In the first series, the characters were largely kind of shallow archetypes, but passable for what the series was doing. In this one, not so much. While the characters are still shallow, they’re also a bit annoying. Particularly Naegi and Munakata with their long speeches. We get it, you guys have a serious hope fetish, leave it in the bedroom. The only character who gets to keep their dignity is Kirigiri. She’s the only character who actually seems interested in solving the mystery. The rest spend their time chasing after each other, hiding, or following her lead.

On the outside, we have our action squad, Naegi’s sister & Touko from the first series doing the bulk of it. We also have Tagami who gives some exposition and orders people around. We also get to see Hagakure hang about outside the Future Foundation building being completely ineffectual. I seriously have no idea why he’s here. He contributes nothing to the story. They just cut to him doing random things on occasion. In one scene he’s fortune telling. In another he’s fishing and, in another he’s fleeing a helicopter. None of which affects the plot in the slightest. You could seriously replace him with a black Labrador and nothing would change. Except that the Labrador wouldn’t be as annoying and would be cute.

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Art:

I’ve mentioned the overblown action scenes already. They aren’t good. The absurd, overblown character designs continue to be a weakness for the series. I’m sorry, but it’s distracting when your horror mystery has characters who look like they should be challenging children to a trading card game in order to steal Egyptian artefacts. The unique, game aesthetic the first game had with its visual style aren’t present in this one. Which is kind of a shame since those did give the series a unique identity. Which is something this one could use. We’ve got dark visuals mixed with goofy character designs. Neither of which is really unique.

Sound:

Hikasa Yoko is really good in this. I’ll also give credit to Ogata Megumi, in spite of Naegi’s annoying qualities, she does give a strong performance as him. Saito Chiwa and Ishida Akira are also quite good. As are Suwabe Junichi & Morikawa Toshiyuki. Most of these performances, in all fairness, are perfectly passable. There are a few exceptions. Minase Inori doesn’t do well when her character gets in any kind of emotional moment. Neither does Eguchi Takuya. I don’t know if it’s the direction or just that they aren’t good at serious moments. I’ve heard them both give strong performances in comedic works, but never in anything serious. Hirano Aya’s character is just an annoyance.

Ho-yay:

There’s a bit. Naegi’s sister and Touko seem to get really close in their scenes together. Which culminates in a really homo-erotic speech from the sister while they’re clinging to a rocket. Although, it does seem to be one-sided with all indications being that Touko still has a thing for Tagami.

Final Thoughts:

This was a series with a promising premise. Unfortunately, it’s held back by a lacklustre execution that largely fails to take advantage of it. Instead, we’re given cheesy hope speeches, ridiculous action scenes and characters who mostly can’t be bothered with the mystery. In the end, it’s a weak follow up. My final rating is going to be a 4/10. Next week I’ll continue horror anime month with a look at Ajin.

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