Welcome to the first installment of The Current, where we get plugged in and talk about the latest in video games and anime! This week, Super High School Level Game Blogger Power Surge is taking a look at the popular game Danganronpa and its anime counterpart Danganronpa: The Animation. Let us take a whirlwind journey into despair!
Caution: Possible Spoilers Ahead
In a nutshell, Danganronpa is a murder mystery visual-novel game for the PSP made in 2010 which has recently gained a huge swell in popularity. In the game, you take control of Mokoto Naegi, who has been accepted into the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy under the title Super High School Level Good Luck. Hope’s Peak is a place that supposedly gathers the best and brightest students in all of Japan in various fields of interest, in other words, “Super High School Level (SHSL)” students. One student is chosen randomly from all high school students across the county and is given entry to the academy and the title of “Good Luck”. However, when Naegi takes one step onto the campus and suddenly blacks out, he awakens to find that Hope’s Peak Academy is not what it seems. After meeting the eccentric bunch of students that have also been granted SHSL status and Monokuma, a strange mechanical teddy bear who claims to be their principal, Naegi must overcome the despair thrust upon them in the form of a strange rule; in order to “graduate”, someone must kill another student and get away with it.
The gameplay for Danganronpa is pretty similar to the Ace Attorney games, where you must investigate areas and search for clues while trying to piece together the events. However, there are some interesting new gameplay mechanics when the game changes pace in the student trials. Here you must utilize many different methods in order to bring out the truth and eliminate any doubt. During these “Nonstop Debates” you must use your evidence as “bullets” in order to shoot down the lies and contradictions that come up during discussion. Sometimes an “Epiphany Anagram” occurs where you must shoot down parts of a word in order to complete your thought and move the trial forward in the right direction. Sometimes a student will refuse to accept the evidence presented and will try to grind the trial to a halt. A “Machinegun Talk Battle” will occur where you must match the rhythm of the music in order to shoot down their argument. Finally when all is said and done, the “Climax Logic” puzzle will take place and it is up to you to put the pieces in their place and reveal the entire story. Before the investigations occur, you talk with the other students and learn more about them as the story progresses. During your free time between investigations, you can choose who you want to speak to, offer someone a gift in order to learn more about them, and earn skills to help you during trials. Much of the characterization occurs during these segments.
Danganronpa: The Animation follows the game’s plot nearly to the letter; however, with only 13 episodes confirmed, the story moves along very quickly. It has only aired for four episodes and has only finished the 2nd investigation. In terms of the game’s chapters, we have only gotten through half of Chapter 2. Much of the character interaction in the game is sacrificed for the sake of moving the story along quickly. The voice actors are the same as those in the game and they do a really great job of sounding like people from different walks of life. The trial and investigation scenes are pretty fast, and they really capture the sense of urgency and fear from the game. What’s more, the anime gives numerous nods to the game through using various transitions such as displaying “Investigation Start,” and using the same opening for Classroom Trials as is used in-game.
The game and the anime take opposite approaches in pacing and development. The game allows you to take your time and get to know the characters and situation, whereas the anime grabs your hand and races you through only the most important parts. For fans of the game (and those who have read any of the Let’s Plays), the anime is much more of a treat. It’s a lot of fun to see the tension and quick pace of the Class Trials animated, as well as seeing our favorite characters interacting with movements rather than a few set images. The references made by the anime truly make it a great companion to the video game. However, if someone were to be watching this alone with no prior knowledge of the game, they may see the anime as far too quick to really enjoy. Furthermore, the anime rushes through characters, and you hardly get to know them. As a viewer, your connection to the characters is pretty weak compared to someone who’s experienced the game. Interactions seen in the game are reduced quite a bit in order to fit as much as possible. Finally, the 13 episode season worries me. After 4 episodes, we have only just reached the end of the 2nd investigation. It is safe to assume that episode 5 will take care of the trial and end Chapter 2, but with 8 episodes left and an enormous amount of game still left to go, what will happen next? Will the anime have to sacrifice even larger chunks of the game to get through the story? Will there be a second season to allow more room for the characters to interact and more detail to be shown? Or could it even be possible that something we all never would imagine to happen occurs and the story goes off into a totally different direction? These questions worry me even as I continue to enjoy the animation and the game.
Danganronpa: The Animation is a fairly fun experience for the fans of the game. Despite the very fast pacing, the animation is solid and entertaining. Fans of the game should consider the anime to be more of a companion to the game and not something that can stand on its own. I highly recommend experiencing the game before watching the anime as you’ll have a much better experience this way. A fun way to read and watch (and it’s also how I’m doing it) is to read the Prologue and the first chapter, watch the first three episodes, read the next chapter, and watch the latest episode (Episode 4). A new episode of Danganronpa is released each week on Funimation’s website with subtitles arriving towards the end of each week. I’m a fan of both the game and the anime, and I do believe everyone here should be one too! That’s it for this first installment! This is Power Surge shutting down!