DANGANRONPA: Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei – The Animation – 12
「超高校級の不運が超高校級の殺人と超高校級の処刑と超高校級の絶望を引き寄せた理由」 (Chou Koukou Kyuu no Fuun ga Chou Koukou Kyuu no Satsujin to Chou Koukou Kyuu no Shokei to chou Koukou kyuu no Zetsubou o Hikiyose Ta riyu )
“Why The Super Duper Duper High School Unluckster Attracted the Super Duper Duper High School Murder, Super Duper Duper High School Execution and Super Duper Duper High School Despair”
What an episode. No, really, this was a level above anything I’ve seen from Danganronpa this entire season. Had the show been so endearingly preposterous…and this intensely satisfying from the start, I would’ve been singing a very different tune.
This penultimate episode and its accompanying final trial is a great payoff the likes of which I’ve been waiting to see in the story. It picks up from where we left off in the last unresolved trial, and starts getting into the truths behind the killing game, giving us the flurry of crazy twists and tongue-in-cheek reveals (Hey, mass amnesia!) that just makes this episode so much fun. The payoff is that we’re getting the answers to some of the big stuff in the show: The profile of Mukuro Ikusaba, who’s revealed to be a super-duper-high-school soldier belonging to the merc outfit Fenrir. The fate of Kirigiri’s dad is shown to be the poor sod that got killed at the very start of the anime. And as the characters dig deeper into the truth of the murder, the mastermind is finally unmasked; Junko Enoshima, who had switched identities with her (surprise!) mostly-identical twin sister Mukuro.
It’s almost unfair to compare this final trial to the previous ones; after all, those previous ones didn’t have the weight of an entire overarching mystery behind them. Having significant build-up to a class trial isn’t something that is very typical because of how Danganronpa‘s been running it’s pop-by-pop trials. With all the anticipated reveals and twists, this final arc was quite assuredly going to have much more draw. But even then, everything about this trial feels like an step up. For what must be one of the few times since the show started, the pacing was agreeable; clues in the investigation were spread out nicely enough for the viewer to give some consideration. The back-and-forth of the students didn’t fall into the usual trap of getting so self-absorbed that I couldn’t be bothered to closely follow what they were talking about. At times, the dialogue also feels more fun and tongue-in-cheek; when the amnesia issue is brought up, there’s a brilliant comeback from Monobear listing the various generic ways they might’ve lost their memories (hypnotism, brain alteration) then retorting that it didn’t matter how they lost it, because they still did. When Junko is later unmasked, she does so in a gloriously hammy reveal, and goes on about the common story twists in her character setting with Mukuro.
You know what? Hell, even the standard contradiction rebuttals from Naegi got replaced with a brand new, impactful CG sequence. What we’ve seen in this episode stands clearly above the rest of the trials. It’s just a shame that we had to wait until now to see such a standard achieved.
I had expected the show to hold on to that mastermind-reveal card until the final episode, but having Junko come out here does set us up very nicely for the final episode. Junko’s personality does seem like a lot of fun, in the Danganronpa loony sorta way, and it does seem like it’s going to be great fun to watch the students pit their wits’ against her’s. And there’s also a few more mysteries left to wrap up, such as the “most despair inducing event”, which gives the final episode some material on which to cap off. Honestly though, if they can match what they’ve done here in the finale, I might just walk away from Danganronpa with a better impression than the one I expected to have.