Fourteen elite students and a normal bloke are thrown into a game of survival and psychological torment in the first episode of this series. The story beings with the protagonist Makoto entering into an elite school only for it to turn into something else entirely when the principle Monokuma shows up and tells them people can only leave when they kill someone else in their group. Unable to escape, Monokuma tries to get the students to turn on each other through various means.
I was having a conversation over the weekend with a couple of individuals about the game Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward since I recently started playing that. The setup of Danganronpa is quite similar in that they both feature groups of people trapped in an environment that through game mechanics the players trapped can get out. The other thing was that it just happened to be ridiculously contrived in its setup and once you sat down and thought about it the scenario became ridiculous. The reason given at the time was simply “because anime.”
So that should provide you an idea of where I lie on this visual novel adaptation because this setup is just a complete mess. The concept begins by forcing 15 people to be locked up in an elite school that children across the country to aspire to be in. So to try to take care of the kids getting killed in the school angle and no one talking about it, they kill their families as well. You’d have to believe that each family lives in complete social isolation in order for that hurdle to be overcome. Then there’s the main character, someone who may well become the King of the Yuuji Everyleads. He’s positive about everything, that’s it. That’s all he contributes to this story by being the exact opposite of Monokuma.
That whole positivity thing means that the girl he knows in there, Sayaka, is probably going to be the first to die. Then after that, all the entertainment will just come from the shock value and seeing if Makoto will break at all. He can’t and he won’t. In addition to making everyone else elite, it takes away from any sort of emotional attachment the viewer could have for any of them. That leaves poor generic lead as the source of empathy for the plight of the cast.
For production quality, I don’t really have much in the way of complaints. That a wildly successful visual novel gets money for an anime should be expected. Unfortunately for my eyes, there seemed to be way too much visual flare going on in certain scenes. Trying to be Shaft-lite when everything else looks good feels like a really poor idea.
Reasons to Continue Watching
- There will most certainly be blood
- Fear, Desperation and Death
- High quality visuals and animation should make the death scenes stand out
Reasons to Drop
- Ridiculously contrived scenario
- Main protagonist as interesting as paste
- 14 other unrelatable characters that will lose nothing of value when they die grizzly deaths.
My Verdict: Apparently the visual novel is good enough for a Western release now. I can’t understand the popularity of this since it is so contrived, but then again those Saw movies kept coming out year after year and made tons of money. I won’t be sticking around for the inevitable bloodbath.