Tag Archives: Danganronpa

Danganronpa 3: Zetsubou-hen,Whatever will happen to these characters no one cares about?

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.

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Story:

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.

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.

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Art:

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.

Sound:

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.

Ho-yay:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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.

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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.

Danganronpa

Danganronpa is a series based on a PSP game from Spike, a company best known for their work on various DBZ games. They also worked with Capcom on a very under-rated game called Crimson Tears. This game, I never heard of until the anime came out. So I’m going to be judging the series entirely on its own merits and I’m not going to notice if they screw up something from the game. The adaptation was handled by Lerche, a company that, according to ANN, has only been involved with seven anime productions. None of which I’ve seen. So let’s take a look at the recently finished Danganronpa anime and see what it’s about. 

Our story begins with our protagonist, Naegi, walking to his new High School. No sooner does he cross the threshold when he finds himself waking up in a classroom that’s been bolted shut. An announcement plays requesting all students assemble in the gymnasium. He finds himself with fourteen other students and a stuffed bear apparently belonging to Harvey Dent appears claiming to be the Principal. They’re told that they won’t be allowed to leave until they graduate. And the only way to graduate is to kill someone and get away with it. Now, Naegi has to solve the mystery of just what is going on at Hope’s Peak Academy, figure out how to escape, avoid getting killed and solve any death that happens or he, and all of the other innocent students, will be killed. This anime is very silly, but in a good way. It’s like a very macabre parody combining murder mystery with the whole “students being forced/ strongly encouraged to kill each other” genre that was popularised by Battle Royale (which happens to be on one of my book shelves between the Handmaid’s Tale and Suzuki Koji’s Dark Watch.) Now, I don’t just refer to it as a parody because the antagonist you spend most of your time with is a teddy bear. The character designs are also goofy, the tone stays rather macabre but avoids getting too dark by showing execution scenes in very muted colours and leaving the gorey bits to your imagination. There are also some rather silly scenes. To give one example, Kirigiri finds a clue in the underwear of one of the corpses. When asked why she would check there she shrugs it off as no big deal. It’s not like she checked their socks or something. Let’s move on to the mystery elements. This is an area where the series excels. The investigations go by very quickly, but they manage to give you all the information you need to either solve the case or figure out where the discussion should begin in the classroom trial. The only exception is the trial before the last one, in which they disclose very little but I’ll let that one go since there is a good story reason for it. One thing that I really liked is that they managed to make the discussions interesting, even when the solution was obvious. So you never feel like you’re watching a bunch of idiots flounder around to figure out something that should be obvious. This isn’t Hyouka. My biggest criticisms of the series are that they leave a lot of unanswered questions , which I unfortunately can’t ask since most of them involve spoilers, and the ending is pretty cheesy. Now, a lot of the series is cheesy, in a good way. The ending, however, gravitates more towards the facepalm inducing end of the cheesiness spectrum.

Most of the characters in this are pretty typical. Naegi is a lot like many other shounen protagonists, he’s young and naïve but he’s got a lot of heart and great potential. Many of the other students are also representative of rather flat archetypes. Maizono, Ishimaru, Hagakure, Yamada and Oowada to name few. Now, in all fairness, most of these characters are passable even if they aren’t particularly deep. There are some very problematic elements to the way a few of the characters are handled. Particularly Fujisaki and Sakura. There are some characters with really interesting concepts behind them, but they never get fully developed.

The art is interesting. I already mentioned the goofy character designs and the execution scenes, but there are other facets worth discussing. A second way they tone down the gore is by having blood be some bizarre colour like bright neon purple or green. The evidence is also presented in such a way that it feels like a game. It gets brought up in boxes or contradictions will be illustrated by the image of a bullet shattering into a person when Naegi raises an objection. Which does give it a unique aesthetic.

They got some really stellar voice actors for this. Including Ogata Megumi, Ishida Akira, Hikasa Yoko and Sawashiro Miyuki. All of whom give great performances. The biggest issues are with Kujira and Yamada Kappei. Kujira plays a female character but gives a heavily masculine performance, which is one of those problematic elements with Sakura’s character. Yamada just gives a very flat and kind of annoying performance. The music is good. It’s used to accentuate the action pretty nicely.

The Ho-yay factor is a 1/10. This has no Ho-yay. I kept expecting there to be some, just because it is starring Ogata Megumi and I’m used to seeing her play characters with either a same sex love interest or at least a one-sided crush on someone of the same sex like Haruka, Yukito, Kurama, and Ayato. But no, she doesn’t this time. 

So, how is Danganronpa? As a horror piece, it doesn’t really work. But if you have a dark sense of humour and you enjoy a good mystery you will likely enjoy it quite a bit in spite of its problems. If macabre elements creep you out or mysteries make your head hurt, it’s not going to be for you. For myself, I give it a 7/10. It’s a good anime and I did enjoy watching it. Next week, horror anime month ends with a look at some cute little animals… from the Petshop of Horrors.