Welcome to the last week of this year’s horror anime month. In order to wrap things up, let’s look at the other instalment of Danganronpa 3, Zetsubou-hen. Is it an improvement over the other half of Danganronpa 3, just as weak or worse? I suppose the only way to find out is to watch and determine for ourselves. So, let’s take a look.
Zetsubou-hen opens with Yukizome taking a teacher’s role at Hope’s Peak Academy as part of an investigation into the Academy’s more shady pursuits. She’s assigned to the 77th class and begins her work in earnest, both as a teacher and an investigator. All while events are moving towards the great world-changing event of ultimate despair.
Therein lies the biggest flaw with the series. If you saw the first Danganronpa, you know how it’s going to end. Even if you haven’t, the series itself calls it a tale of hope that ends in despair. Which could work, if they built up some tension in another way. But the series never bothers. About half of it is spent on vaguely slice of life school life with very minor references to Yukizome’s investigation. Then we get a bunch of episodes setting up Junko’s machinations. Most of the series is just build up to a pretty disappointing climax. To make matters worse, if you happen to have watched Mirai-hen first, like I did, then you’ll know the exact plot points to expect. The series also shares Mirai-hen’s weakness of having a lot of bad, over-blown speeches. The only difference is that the ones in Zetsubou-hen are mostly about despair instead of hope.
That being said, I do appreciate what the series was trying to do. When it comes right down to it, it’s trying to humanise the group that Naegi got called a traitor for protecting. It’s trying to get you to connect with and understand them. There’s just one problem with that. Let’s talk about the characters.
The Danganronpa series in general isn’t good at providing compelling characters. The first anime got around that by providing good mysteries. The Mirai-hen part of Danganronpa 3 tried to do the same, but ended up spending too much time with strangely absurd action sequences and puerile hope speeches. This series doesn’t even have that to fall back on. We know that Junko’s the villain as soon as she shows up. We see what Hope’s Peak is up to before there’s much investigation into it. We know that things are going to end in despair. So, what we’re left with are shallow archetypical characters who spend the bulk of the series doing nothing interesting.
The character designs continue to be a weakness. Although this may be the part of the series that’s least effected by it since a good half of it is about the students just being students. The series does have a strange habit of making the non-important characters just look like blue humanoid blobs. Maybe they didn’t want normal looking people and they didn’t want to bother coming up with stupid looking designs for background characters. I will credit this series for having bloody sequences that are fairly competent. Although they do use bizarre neon colouring for it. Maybe they were on a time slot where they couldn’t show much blood so they worked around it by making the blood not look like blood.
This is one area where I have to give every instalment of this franchise credit. They are good at casting. Ogata Megumi, Hanazawa Kana, Toyoguchi Megumi, Takayama Minami & Nakahara Mai are all good in this. In spite of their characters lacking any real complexity. Really, none of the actors do a bad job. They’re all basically competent. The music is also decent enough.
There’s a bit. Junko’s sister seems to have a thing for her. I have no idea why they included that, but it’s there. The photographer has a girl that she seems to have a thing with. The chef is openly bisexual and it’s revealed that a certain gent is in love with another man. That being said, this stuff barely comes up and is, mostly, not important to the plot.
And that’s Danganronpa 3: Zetsubou-hen. Ultimately, its big failing is that its whole raison d’etre is to get you invested in bland characters. In the interest of doing so, it lacks mystery and has very little that could be charitably called horror. If you’re a big fan of the franchise and you really want to see the events that built up to the grand hyper worst despair-inducing situation, you might find it interesting. Maybe. For myself, I’m going to give it a 3/10. While it is pretty bad, there’s nothing truly terrible about it. Next week I’ll open November with a review of 91 Days. Have a happy Halloween and retain your fabulousity.