What is it about Dangan Ronpa that could be considered so successful?
It could have to do with the unique, courtroom style “battles” mixed in with the bizarre attempt at a normal school life. It could be the story known for its twists and turns that continue to keeps the characters on their toes as they desperately try to solve the case of Hope’s Peak. Maybe it’s the characters themselves, each with their own quirky nature and dynamic personalities.
Unfortunately, if you’ve only seen the anime, you will miss out on almost all of this.
Here’s the thing. The show is only thirteen episodes while the game is several hours long. That’s a very narrow amount of time to try and cover all the different aspects of the game while condensing the important parts of the story. But because of that short amount of time, some of the most important aspects of the game are not even included in the show.
For one, the investigation section. This is just pathetically shown in the anime. It can’t even be called an investigation. There are a few small things that are hinted at when Makoto is exploring the crime scenes, but they are so briefly talked about that it’s so easy to miss. Several of these clues are meant to slowly build the case against the potential killer, which works in terms of the game and using these clues against whoever the accused is. But, in the show, some of the clues they point out aren’t even referred to when the trial happens.
The investigations are not the only thing stripped down to its bare bones.
The characters are so flat. To be fair to the anime, the characters in the game are intentionally tropes. That’s part of the fact that they’re the Ultimate/Super Duper High School “insert title here”. This is the charm of the characters though. They have a distinct quirk or trait about them, however as Makoto interacts with them, the player starts to realize these characters are a little more than what they seem and it’s charming to get to know each of them. This doesn’t happen in the show. Makoto doesn’t spend personal time with any of them unless the plot calls for it, so viewers never learn about the characters past their one note personalities.
So what exactly does the anime have going for it?
What the animation does do is capture the spirit of the game. The humor, mostly driven from Monokuma, is still very present and is fun to watch. The perspective of being an outsider through Makoto’s narrative filter is still well done, even if it’s from a more overarching view instead of the first person voice like in the game. Even the art style is replicated and portrayed beautifully, which is such a great thing to see since the art and character designs is one of the most defining features of the game.
Finally, the culmination of the conflict between hope and despair is presented fantastically. There are some very strong moments with some of the characters that were used in the game to really drive a point of either complete and total defeat or the perfect comeback. To see these in animated form and not just text against sprites is exciting to see. It really pushes the energy of the show, especially when the final conflict arises. There’s so much intensity when the show reaches its climax that it’s hard not to be excited as a fan of the series.
But, that’s the key phrase: Fan of the series.
Dangan Ronpa struggled a bit as a title. Fans were torn on if they liked it or not while those who had never seen the series may have been underwhelmed, unable to see the hype that surrounds this franchise. The animation is a rather lack luster representation of a great game. There are so many aspects that are left out because of the shortened episode list. However, what is in the series is the charm of the game as well as the intensity of the final show down. The show is certainly worth a look.