「疾走する青春の絶望ジャンクフード 非日常編」 (Shissou Suru Seishun no Zetsubou Janku Fudo Hi Nichijou Hen )
“Despair Soup for the Teenage Soul (Ab) Normal Days”
The show’s having a bit of fun with the layered mystery of this particular trial; there’s the confusion surrounding the identity of the victim on top of the usual finger-pointing to smoke out the culprit. Least of all is that the two characters under heavy fire this time are the two most of us are heavily invested into; Naegi and Kirigiri. I really liked the dynamic between the two, or what little there was of it anyway; there’s been a terse, unstated trust between the two of them, and this trial was the point where it was being put to the test. And honestly, that tension would’ve made for a really fun trial, if it wasn’t squeezed to make fit half an episode’s length.
Going into the trial, my prime suspect of the case of Kirigiri; from the start of the episode, she consistently made suspicious remarks about a “do-or-die” moment for her and that if they executed her, they wouldn’t be able to solve the school’s mysteries. With the going-ons it did seem that she was somehow implicit in the murder, but was denying her guilt with the reasoning of being the only one capable of opposing the mastermind. There’s the typical conumdrum at this point, if it was necessary to sacrifice people in order for Kirigiri to continue on opposing the mastermind.
I should’ve seen the red herrings for what they were; when Monobear starting pushing for the votes to be counted, that’s when things took a turn for the interesting. It’s not like the mastermind to personally intervene in the proceedings, but as the previous case showed there seems to be a growing desperation to the mastermind’s actions. All of these incongruences in circumstance and evidence eventually came to point towards the trial being rigged, and was pretty much the point where my woefully mistaken theories from last episode all fell so gloriously apart. It became not a question of who the culprit really was, but who is going to end up the victim; but you wouldn’t actually have gotten a sense of that until the latter half of the trial, which I thought was a pretty clever narrative turn. At the very end of the trial, there comes a point where Naegi decides not to call out a contradiction in Kirigiri’s statement, choosing to believe in their bond of trust…only to be betrayed by Kirigiri’s own accusation: That a sleigh of hand by Naegi had shifted suspicion away from himself. It’s a twisted situation after Naegi had been betrayed by Maizono once before, and Monobear promptly calls an end to the trial for Naegi to be voted and punished.
It’s all well and good; I wanted to see the characters placed in more of these ambiguous, twisted situations from the show, and boy did this trial deliver. But at the same time, it is also in episodes like this where the pacing and narrative issues of Danganronpa seems to hit the hardest. I already mentioned before how detriment the shotgun approach to the trials are especially when it feels as rushed as this one; the explanations of Kirigiri and Naegi’s supposed guilt flies over one’s head more often than not. It’s a shame that the trial was shortened to half an episode; the end of the trial came incredibly abruptly, and there wasn’t enough a time to build the case sufficiently for Kirigiri’s betrayal of Naegi’s trust in her, whether that had always been the plan, or was an unavoidable decision brought about by the circumstance of the rigged trial. It’s fair to assume that she did so knowing he’ll die; Alter Ego’s unplanned appearance in saving Naegi was as surprising to Monobear as it was to the students.
Obviously, since this the endgame, this trial seems intrinsically tied to the rest of the mystery of the killing game; something that Monobear more or less confirms by the end of the episode as well, where he issues an ultimatum to Naegi and Kirigiri to unravel the remaining mysteries of the school. The second half of the episodes seems to be all setting up for one last trial that will pit the students against Monobear, and starts by answering one question everyone’s had since the start of the show; Kirigiri’s power is, predictably, that of a super duper high school detective. It’s also revealed that the principal of the school is her father, hence the belief that he was not responsible for the killing game.
Honestly speaking, I don’t see how holding back these bits of information had a thing to do with the ultimate mystery of the school; they seem rather inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, especially with many viewers more or less figuring out Kirigiri’s student classification within the first few episodes. With two episode left, I suppose we’ll find out how significant it is soon enough.