DANGANRONPA: Kibo no Gakuen to Zetsubo no Kokosei – The Animation – 03, 04
「イキキル ／ 非日常編」 (Iki Kiru / Hinichijou Hen)
“Kill Free or Live Hard / Abnormal Days”
The fairly obvious conclusions aside, watching the class trial unfold was something of a mixed bag for me. This is Danganronpa’s highlight, so to speak: the class trials where we see the characters try to hash out the mystery of the murder and the identity of the killer. Whether or not you were familiar with the proceedings of the game, the anime’s been doing its own bit to hype these critical moments up. It’s fair to say that your enjoyment of Danganronpa will probably be made or broken by how the trials are executed. For something with so much riding on it, I don’t know if I should take it as a worrying sign that I’m coming off the first one with this much ambivalence.
That said, I liked the way the murder unfurled in the trial; the fairly obvious identity of the killer aside, it was enjoyable to see the characters piece together the bits and pieces of the story together and have the anime present this in a fairly sleek manga sequence- taken from the game no less, but it still looks good. As it usually is with murder mysteries, the proceedings do take a fair amount of buy-in from the viewers (there are a lot of questionable parts to Maizono’s plan to frame Naegi for the kill) but these more easily forgiven in Danganronpa’s case. Credit it to the silly, b-flick demeanor the show puts on and its parodic nature of stereotypes, that I could easily accept something like Leon’s “disposal” of the evidence with his ball-throwing skills. When laid out on the table, there’s nothing about Maizono’s murder that seemed particularly amiss. Neither was there anything flawed about the way the characters eventual arrived at the answer; par the course for a mystery, there was that typical back-and-forth bouncing of hypotheses, and if heavy dialogue was never your thing, you won’t change your mind here. What Danganronpa does, it does competently, if not proficiently. In spite of the rather vocal complains from game-players about the loss of detail, it never becomes an incoherent or tedious watch. Just don’t hold any ideas of anime grandeur, and you’ll find it enjoyable enough.
My beef lies elsewhere, and to some might not even register as a proper one, but this is a familiar peeve I have with Kishi Seiji and his game adaptations. I’ve always had something of a distaste for the way he incorporates or give references to the source material by jamming elements of the game into the narrative. I can only assume he believe it’s a sort of fanservice, but stylistic cue like the evidence bullet being loaded and shot (elements that were lifted directly from the game) doesn’t mesh well with the context of the anime, and often come off jarring.
And here my main concern, the reason I’m being this ambivalent; how long can the novelty last? Right now, as it’s typical of most survival thrillers, Danganronpa is riding pretty heavily on the novelty and sensationalism of its premise; I’m finding it enjoyable for now, but if the show doesn’t introduce anything new, this has a pretty high chance of the show weaning off on its viewers.
「週刊少年ゼツボウマガジン ／ (非)日常編」 (Shukan Shounen Zetsubou Magajin / (hi) Nichijou Hen)
“Weekly Shounen Despair Magazine / (Not) Normal Arc”
We’re fresh off the first trial, but the show’s wasting no time to get the games moving on. I’m feeling a bit of what poor Naegi is feeling here; just as he doesn’t have the time nor opportunity to mourn Maizono’s death, I too feel the show isn’t letting the aftermath of the first trial sink in enough for me. There’s no denying at this point that the episodes all feel cramped; this episode had the new discoveries in the newly opened locations, the Genocider Sho case, and a whole new murder on top of those. Danganronpa chugs along regardless of what happens, and leaves little time to mull over what we’ve just seen or learned.
It’s not to say that I’m worried for the pace, or the content, or the general execution of Danganronpa. However cramped it feels, there’s nothing particularly flawed about how Danganronpa doles out the exposition. There isn’t so much complexity thrown at you that it becomes impossible or exhausting to follow. The main problem I can see here is that the show doesn’t allow itself time for the audience to form much of an attachment to anything -hence the cramped feeling- which also seems to be the one of the major complaints I see of those coming from the game. It’s no doubt a valid complain; one can imagine how much more affecting these murders would be if we had more of an emotional attachment to these characters, but in a quasi-slasher where anyone could die at the drop of a hat (and we still got 11 tweens to work our way through) I wonder if the trite characterization is really a critical flaw at all. More importantly for the show, the murders still feel pretty fresh (pun not intended) and there’s still that appealing, self-aware silliness– what with that random festive opening, Fukawa stalking Togami, as well as Ishida and Oowada finding the time to bond over sauna battle in this situation. Just these alone might make Danganronpa a simple watch, but it’s nonetheless still an enjoyable one. Well, if you’d minus those lamentations from game-players about the loss of context. (Lamentations which no game adaptation seem to ever be able to escape from.)
Though I wonder how long this simplistic enjoyment can last; the minute cases are sufficiently fun for now, but can the novelty of the death of the bi-week last for another 8 more episodes? Beyond stopgaps like a more encompassing mystery or the show pulling out all the stops in the silliness quota, this looks to be heavily dependent on the creativity of these murders, tough as it is to show originality in the crime mystery genre. There’s also that overarching mystery in the cards: the main mystery behind Kibogame Academy, Monobear, and the purpose of the killing game. But as it is with these survival thrillers, it is just as likely the show would never directly address the questions up front.
As usual, I’d rather not speculate on the crime mystery; if it’s anything like the first case, there seems to be more fun to be had in just letting the show do its thing and hash out the mystery of Fujisaki’s murder during the class trial. If there’s anything to alleviate my worries, this one at least looks to be a more creative and smarter murder than the first one. The killer definitely planned things out to larger degree; there’s a mess of clues here, with cues that definitely point to some obvious suspects, but also others that suggest red herrings.
-At this point, I’m discussing with Cherrie on who might continue on with Danganronpa coverage. As to who, you’ll know once there’s an update to the schedule.
-If you saw the notice in my Uchouten Kazoku post, episode 03′s post was delayed due to my flying/packing/settling down in the past week, hence the double post here. Same deal with Gatchaman if you’re wondering, the double post for 02 and 03 will be out soonish within the next day or so.