“Hope’s Peak Academy is an elite high school that accepts only the most talented students. Individuals who successfully enroll receive their own unique titles, suitably reflective of their skills and traits. Of the fifteen candidates admitted to the peculiar school that year, Makoto Naegi is a completely ordinary individual who has been accepted by sheer chance, with the title of “Super High School-Level Luck.”
Naegi and his fellow classmates are initially ecstatic to be chosen to study at this prestigious institution, but these feelings of happiness are short-lived. They are soon confronted by Monokuma, the principal and resident bear, who traps them inside the school. The pupils’ hopes of escape and graduation hinge on one of them successfully murdering one of their peers without being discovered. However, if the killer is caught, he or she will be executed, and the remaining survivors will be left to continue the deathmatch until only a single victor remains.” – MAL
I honestly don’t know how I came across this show but I’m pretty glad I did. 12 to 13 episodes are usually the sweet spot for anime. Most of the series that I’ve watched pace themselves and use those episodes well. It’s good for a nice binge and that definitely goes for Danganronpa. A whacky murder mystery is one of my favorite genres to watch. I haven’t watched one in a while so I kind of had an itch for one. Danganronpa scratched that itch and even surprised me in some aspects.
The premise of this show is pretty neat. A forced murder mystery with a bunch of special high schoolers. It was fun no matter how nonsensical it was. The series structure was very formulaic but the formula worked. In one episode the cast unlocks a floor in the school. They explore, we learn more about the characters and their situation. Then boom, someone comes up with a dead-end episode. The first half of the next episode is an investigation then the second half is the trial to figure out the who and how about the murder. Rinse and repeat up until the last episode. It works for multiple reasons. One, the show is short. So 13 episodes of this don’t start to wear you down or get annoying. Two, the characters and the setting are so weird. I always wanted to know more about them. And finally, this show respects the viewer’s intelligence. We follow Naegi, we see everything he does. Every clue that he presents during the trials to come to his conclusion is shown on screen. Even some stuff that he doesn’t notice during the investigation the viewer can pick up on and end up coming to a conclusion. That’s the hallmark of a good mystery to me and it adds to the show a lot. Even the overall plot and how things in the school came to be can eventually be deciphered by an attentive viewer. I love that. Speaking of the overall plot. It was interesting but kind of underwhelming. The last episode feels like an eternity of exposition and it explained things well. But I couldn’t but feel like “that was it?” Overall a good story with great mystery elements.
The characters are so ridiculous. Like, look at that picture with all of them. There’s no way that half of them are even high schoolers. They don’t look the part and they sure as hell don’t act the part. You have super high school detectives, a biker gang member, a teen idol, and a few traditional high schoolers among them. It all just adds to the weirdness of the show. I liked all of these characters and they had their moments. The real standout being Monokuma the bear that runs this whole show. The dude is hilarious. He’s constantly taunting the students with a barrage of insults ranging from personal attacks to pop culture references. He’s a straight-up hilarious character and it was fun whenever he was on screen. Among the bunch, he stood out the most but there wasn’t anybody I disliked.
The animation is solid. I’m pretty sure this series was a visual novel first, then a video game, then it got an adaptation. The animation definitely reminds me of a video game and it leans into that a lot during the investigation and trial scenes. When clues pop up or when evidence is presented the whole presentation feels like a video with text boxes showing up detailing stuff. I love the stylistic choices this show makes. All the blood in this show is this hot pink color which adds to the ridiculousness of the show. When characters are sentenced to death, their death scenes are so cool. I don’t even know how to describe that sort of animation but it feels like something I’d see on Adult Swim at 3 in the morning. It was very unique. I watched the dub and the voice acting was really good. Monokuma, once again, was the stand-out. But I’d like to also give Bryce Papenbrook his flowers. He voices Naegi in this show and he sounded familiar so I looked up his other roles and man dude has serious range and talent. From the clips I’ve seen of the dub of Attack on Titan the Final Season, he killed it, and even in all the other dubs that I didn’t even know he was the voice actor he was great. Shout out to Bryce.
So yeah, short and sweet review but that’s what this show is. It’s a fun 13 episode murder mystery with whacky characters and some cool animation scenes. Honestly, I can’t wait to dive deeper into this world with the prequel series that came out a few years after this and maybe even the vns. For 13 episodes it’s definitely worth a watch.
Danganronpa: The Animation – 7/10