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Anime: Danganronpa: The Animation
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Age Rating: Teen+
Music: So many composers...
Game: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Dub/Sub: Dub (No subs available)
Ecchi Level: Conservative
So, yes, this is based on a video game. If you've played the game, then you know that this game is a spoiler minefield, and I will try to navigate around that in regards to the story, but I'll be going all out in the spoilers section. That being said, I'm not going to express my criticisms with the game, and will solely focus on the animation.
So, Danganronpa: The Animation is based on the video game of the same name. It's a murder mystery game akin to Phoenix Wright. The protagonist is one of many students just arriving at a very prestigious school known as Hope's Peak Academy. This student, named Makoto Naegi, only got into the school through a raffle, so he seems to be the average commoner compared to every other student who got in for their amazingly unique talents and skills.
As soon as he gets into the school, Makoto passes out and wakes up in an empty classroom. Being led to the main hall by the directions of a pamphlet, he meets the cast of fellow students in the school that he's a part of now. And, my god, is there a cast. I adore them all, if you couldn't tell.
After introducing himself, he and the others are led to the gym where they are told where they are and what they're doing by a psychotic teddy bear known as Monokuma. Basically, the students are trapped inside the school for the rest of their lives — unless, that is, one of them gets away with killing another student.
So, yes, the game is based on investigation and trials, where you collect evidence, talk to the students for more information, and take apart inconsistencies in arguments. Now, that's all fine and dandy in the video game, but does it work in the animation? Sadly, not really. The story of the game was pretty crazy as it was, but it fit really well with the gameplay dynamic. In animation, however, it doesn't go nearly as smoothly.
Unlike other murder-mystery anime series like Case Closed, the animation rips its script straight from the game, which means all that time you'd normally have in the game to wander around and talk to people are absent, and the investigation in the show goes on for maybe 30 seconds before they're already at the trial. In other anime of the genre, or even TV shows like Sherlock, it shows us the clues and why the character looked at them, and we're left with enough time to put the evidence together ourselves before the conclusion. But that's missing here. When a character sees a piece of evidence, it's not pointed out why it's relevant, nor what particular interest the character had in it. Makoto basically just catalogs a bunch of stuff away in his mind to use at the trial later.
On top of the lack of a personal take in the mysteries themselves, the animation also lacks the intimacy with the other characters that you get from the game. In the game, you can go around and talk to each character, get to know them, and have fun and increase your friendship level with them while hearing more about their back story. Where the game pulls at your heartstrings when something happens to one of the characters, you don't really feel any kind of personal investment in the animation. Let's just say that someone who solely watched the anime wouldn't likely miss the characters as much as someone who played the game.
And lastly, the clues that Makoto ends up finding in game are passed around to other characters, further stealing most of the ability for the watcher to be involved in the mystery themselves. This anime could have taken the high road and put in longer intervals where the characters get to know one another, and where the thoughts of the protagonist about different clues were portrayed in thought format, but it didn't do that, leaving the whole premise behind the series feeling rather empty.
Besides those issues, the music is solid (considering it's ripped from the game, as well). And the animation is really awesome for what it is. There isn't much animation thrill to be had in a series like this, and most of the best animated moments were done very artistically, but again, were taken straight from the game. So, there's no bonus there. either. The voice acting was awesome, though. The main character, Makoto, is voiced by none other than Bryce Papenbrook, who is also responsible for the voices of Vash the Stampede, Eren Jaeger, and Kirito. So, the added voices where there would normally be crawling text was pretty nice, though... some of them were... off — the voice of Monokuma, for example. In the animation, he sounds entirely different from the game version, which can throw off fans of the game quite a bit. That being said, Greg Ayres does a pretty good job of portraying the maniacal, cackling bear.
TL;DR: The game is better, obviously, because it pays more attention to detail and tries to immerse you more into the world. If you're really into murder-mystery stuff, and want to try solving the puzzles for yourself, then get the game, and don't bother with the anime. If you want to just enjoy the story without work, then the anime will be fine for you. That being said, the best part of this anime was Mondo (voiced by Chris Sabat) making a Dragonball Z reference. And if that's really all the animation could offer me after playing the game already, then it really isn't worth the watch.
Overall Rating: 6/10
SPOILER TALK BELOW!!! IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO HAVE ANYTHING SPOILED, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER!!! NO, SERIOUSLY, I WILL BE TALKING ABOUT THE DEATHS OF CHARACTERS HERE, SO PLAY THE DAMN GAME!!!
Best Girl: Sakura Ogami. Her story arc is really sad, and she shows her care for the others through her actions. I don't care if she's the most ungirly girl. She's still a highschool girl and deserves better. Chihiro would have this spot, buuuut...
Chihiro. My poor, sweet Chihiro. You were too good for this world of misery. Honestly, Chihiro was my favorite, and the game did a good job of shoving the adorable guy (yes, I said guy) into my heart, and then ruthlessly tearing him back out. I was seriously pissed — like Game of Thrones: "Red Wedding" pissed — when I saw he was one of the victims. Seriously, if I was in the world, I'd probably have unleashed hell on that bear.
As for the rest of the characters, I love them all, including the psychotic queen behind the whole thing, and her constantly changing demeanor. What I didn't like, however, were most of the death animations for those chosen guilty. In the beginning, Leon's death set the bar. After the first trial, he was brutally executed with a Gatling baseball machine (considering he was a baseball champ), and it was bruuuutal. That kind of death made me hopeful that the rest of the game could leave me just as slack-jawed as this one did. However, that wasn't the case.
Instead, we get Mondo dying in a motorcycle cage, which should be fucking awesome. But instead of some intense, sickening crash, he got electrocuted and, somehow, turned into butter. Honestly, that would have been the perfect time to put him on a motorcycle and crash him into an oncoming truck, considering that's how he accidentally killed his brother.
And Celeste's execution was almost just as bad. She, as a queen gambler who wanted riches and money, was all set to burn at the stake in a horrifying fashion... then the fucking bear crashes a goddamn firetruck into her. Whoever was in charge of the writing for these later executions gave us disappointing conclusions, in my personal opinion.
As for Chihiro... well... there's always fanfiction. ;-;