DANGANRONPA: Kibo no Gakuen to Zetsubo no Kokosei – The Animation – 02
OP2: 「Never Say Never」 by TKDzZB
「イキキル ／ (非)日常編」 (Iki Kiru / (Hi)nichijou Hen)
“LIVES CUT / (Ab)normal Days”
It won’t be much of a survival-thriller-murder-mystery if there’s no corpse, so lo and behold, Danganronpa gives us our first victim. Now the big question; how much did Danganronpa surprise you with its choice of victims? Because honestly speaking, I think that’s going to be the scale upon which you’ll measure how well you enjoyed this episode. There’s always going to be that sadistic tendency with survival thrillers to play around with the lives of its characters. And speculating who’s next to bite the dust has always been a particular charm (however sadistic it is) with these type of killing games.
I think giving the characters such distinctive archetypes have certainly helped for this reason. We’ve already been placed into the mindset of assigning the likelihood of death to each character based on a combination of gut feelings for their associated stereotype and knowledge of mystery-genre tropes. So I don’t think many people saw that Maizono would be the first to be offed, given the relatively important role she held in the first episode; maybe as a constant threat to the balance of peace, given her yandere vibes, but certainly not the first victim. And before it even had time to sink in, what followed immediately after was the sudden death of Junko by Monokuma’s hands. But hey, in the off-chance that you did see this coming, feel free to refute my assertions about whether you enjoyed this episode.
I mean, we pretty much knew this was how Danganronpa was going to play out from its introduction; a thrill-ride of a killing-game that banks heavily on the sensationalism inherent to survival thrillers, and the involving romp of solving the mysteries in the show. All wrapped up in its gleefully demented and silly context. With episode two in the bag, Danganronpa has been playing it incredibly straight; there’s nothing particularly deep about the killing games except to have fun in seeing how it unfolds. And Danganronpa constantly revels in itself for being silly, pulp entertainment; Monokuma’s every arbitrary action is a constant recognition of this, and in this episode’s case, Junko death is played for laughs with Fukawa fainting on sight. (And yes, I did chuckle. And then wondered if I was right in the head.)
Otherwise, this episode was in many ways a continuation of the exposition dump in episode 1. With Maizono’s death, we finally learn the specifics of the killing game: Once someone is killed, a class trial will be begin to unmask the killer. Success means the killer is punished. Failure means the same for everyone else. And of course, this is a killing game; punishments are delivered in the form of executions. This trial for survival forms the basis for Danganronpa’s murder-mystery.
In fairness of the game Danganronpa seems to want to play, I won’t be speculating much on the events behind Maizono’s death. The biggest takeaway I should note is the way it basically blitzed through the “build-up” of the murder case, and I’m already seeing discussions on how it completely eschews the viewer involvement in the mystery, none a more sacrilegious taboo for the genre. And I confess, I’m no mystery aficionado; I can’t tell you how a murder-mystery narrative needs to be executed to be considered good. That said, I’m not quick to condemn the the anime; the class trials are purported to be the key events of the murder cases, and I’d rather refrain from judging how well this plays out until after I’ve actually seen the trials. What I think I can tell you is that it boils down to is how you like your mysteries served: With the anime only giving us a cursory glance at some points of interest, it’s clear that these murders cases are not the kind to slowly build and establish themselves. Danganronpa’s narrative has been repeatedly compared to Phoenix Wright for the way its trials play out; and to be frank, the legal-drama game didn’t play out like your traditional mystery stories either, if you could even call them mysteries in the first place. That said, they were enjoyable for what they were; brilliantly entertaining pulp fiction, and if that’s what Danganronpa can bring to its animated class trials, well now, that there’s something for me to look forward to.
-You might notice two things about this post: the half screencap length and that it’s a snapshots. I haven’t yet decided on whether I want to pick it up; Danganronpa is fun, but I’m still unsure on how well it can fit into my schedule. So I’ll be covering up until next week before coming to a decision on this.
If you’d remember from the schedule, Stilts also mentioned that certain shows will be featuring half-caps length starting this season, and Danganronpa will be one of them. This is mainly for me see how well it’ll fit into my schedule, but I’d also appreciate any feedback you might have on this.
-On a side note, NIS America recently announced a localisation of the PSVITA port for Danganronpa 1. Good news for those who want to try their hands at the game.