DANGANRONPA: Kibo no Gakuen to Zetsubo no Kokosei – The Animation – 05, 06
「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 (Abnormal Arc)”
I’ve made it pretty clear that the first class trial left me less than thrilled. The problems of the series, mainly one of a diminishing novelty, is still looming over the show, and on entering this second arc this already seem to have struck a good portion of the initial viewers. But even with that said, this second class trial left a far better impression on me than the first one.
On the positive side of things, after having to watch it a second time around, the visual mimicking of the game hadn’t bothered me as much as it initially did in the first trial. By this point, you’ve probably have gotten used to those visual cues or appeals; the loading of the bullet evidence, the shooting of the contradictions and Naegi’s many moments of epiphany. For a mystery narrative going at a blitz the way Danganronpa is doing, it does help to bring your attention to the key points of ongoing discussion, the slight errs in logic that might’ve otherwise been missed at the fast pace Danganronpa carries its exposition. Otherwise, the proceedings are much like the first; you’ll still need that good amount of buy-in into the actual mystery, which tends to assume far too much in the context of its setting and characters. Having said so, this second trial did feel more enjoyable than the first by taking a number of twists and turns before arriving at quite the unexpected culprit. The initial clues pointing towards Fukawa and Togami were eventually revealed to be red herrings, as some might have suspected, but neither were the assertions entirely inaccurate. Fukawa did turn out to be Genocider Sho thanks to a multiple-personality disorder. And Togami did make a mess of the crime scene, forging his own evidence to shift the blame onto Fukawa in what seems to be his own version of a dry-run test. Those who were paying attention to the seiyuu list might’ve had their suspicions validated when the male-voiced Fujisaki indeed turn out to be a trap. And few would’ve guessed (I certainly didn’t) that it was Mondo Oowada who was the killer had it not been for the slip of his tongue. (even if its one of the cheapest of the mystery clichés)
Admittedly it’s not perfect in how they went about the reveal; Mondo gave himself up all too easily the moment Naegi and Kirigiri were on his tail, and they weren’t even pushing with much in the way of concrete evidence. It was also hard to sympathize with Oowada’s supposedly tragic secret: he accidentally caused his brother’s death, which led him to murder Fujisaki in a moment of blind rage at his own weakness. Fujisaki’s gender complex was the bit of silliness you’d expect from Danganronpa, but feels regrettably underplayed in the very basic way it only served as Oowada’s motive.
But then, the emotional appeal of the show never felt like it was Danganronpa’s strong suit; rather, the reason why this second trial felt like it edged over the first is chiefly due to the way it completely indulged in its sadistic tendencies. By the end of the trial, we’ve seen Fukawa’s dirty secret dragged out kicking and screaming by Togami. When Ishimaru’s convictions are betrayed by Oowada, Monobear gleefully tortures him with the fact until he completely breaks down. And boy did that trial punishment left a one hell of a disturbing taste in my mouth. I think butter toast is going to be off my breakfast menu for quite a while. There’s a sadism appeal to the way Danganronpa puts its characters through the grinder and completely breaks their psyches, with the characters helpless to do anything except to play along. And as basal as it seems, it does gives a show a good bit of kick to it.
The end of the episode left us with two clues about this killing game; there’s a possible collaborator amidst the remaining students shown to be discussing plans with Monobear. And sharp-eyed viewers might have already noticed the empty stand during the class trials, presumably for the “16th student” that Monobear brings up. I imagine these will come into play in the later murder arcs, though for now we’re left to our guesses.
「新世紀銀河伝説再び！装甲勇者よ大地に立て！」 (Shin Seiki Ginga Densetsu Futatabi! Soko Yusha yo Daichi ni Tate!)
“Return of the New Century Galaxy legend! O Armored Hero, Stand upon the Earth!”
I previously saw comparisons made to the Survivor game show, and I found the comparision rather apt; here’s a narrative that has settled into its very comfortable game-show-esque cycle, where we get the build-up episodes (the murder, as it happened here) and the climax for each arc (the class trials). Admittingly, the predictability of the episodes has diminished quite a bit of the show’s appeal for me. Still, Danganronpa manages to keep the momentum going in each episode by consistently introducing a bevy of new elements to mull over.
Unsurprisingly the episode brings us to the start of the next murder, but the key focus of this episode was undoubtedly on the laptop restored by Fujisaki and the file decrypting A.I. he left as a keepsake, Alter Ego. It’s a clue left to the remaining students to learn more about the killing game they are trapped in, and what’s been revealed so far is surprising: an impossible photo of the deceased Fujisaki, Oowada and Leon together in what seems to be a normal classroom. There’s a number of things this could imply, and with the show being this cartoony anything would seem like fair game at this point, but some kind of trap by the mastermind seems most likely. While it was noted that the dressing room was completely free of surveillance, I highly doubt the person overseeing the game would be completely unaware of Alter Ego’s existance. Furthermore, the possibility of a traitor was raised in last episode’s ambiguous closing. With Togami raising the possibility again in this episode, it seems all the more likely that the mastermind behind Monobear might’ve already learned of the students’ secret activities through this person.
In fact given its focus, I wouldn’t be surprised if Alter Ego turned out to be the true catalyst for the murder this time around, rather than the 10 billion yen monetary incentive that Monobear brought out; Not to mention it feels less impactful an incentive than the ones he presented in the previous cases. In the case of Alter Ego, both Yamada and Ishimaru were particularly attached to the A.I. program; Yamada found an outlet for his otaku interests, while a simulated Oowada broke Ishimaru out his stupor and bringing him into his hilarious Super-Saiyen mode. And interestingly enough, both of them are the ones to end up on the chopping block this time around. Seems like one hell of a coincidence to make.
That the murdering were happening concurrently to the corpse discoveries also brings another new, real-time element to this arc; as the characters moved between rooms trying to follow the trail of the suspicious character, the bodies were disappearing and reappearing seemingly at random. Yamada’s case was an odd one as well, as going from injured, to dead, to not-so-dead, and then back to dead again, and I’ve few ideas on what to make of it. I’m do already have some inkling on the possible suspects; Hagakure was conspicuously missing throughout the proceedings of the episode, Asahina is bringing her drama to an all-new high in the show, and Celes for whatever reasons was the only one spared by the rampaging suspicious character. But like the previous cases, I’m more interested in seeing how the murder was actually carried out, especially since it all happened right under the characters’ noses.
So alright Danganronpa, keep on with your cycle. In any case, you’ve got my interest again for another episode.
-Seems like the problems just keep cropping up the moment I came back to my home country, but this should be the last of the delays you’ll see with Danganronpa, so sorry for the past few weeks’ erratic posting. Coverage on the show should return to normal next week on.
-I was pretty amused by the Dragonball shoutouts in this episode; Fukawa changing personalities by sneezing, and Ishhimaru’s super-saiyen mode. Too bad his new power levels didn’t save him from his fate.