Danganronpa (Season 1): Murder Mysteries At School

Video Games?

I have been thinking about how to write about this for a while. How does one talk about Danganronpa when you are not as deep into the video game franchise as a lot of people that I know. Especially when my thoughts aren’t as expressive as those people right now. But in general, this anime based on the first Danganronpa game was an enjoyable watch. Though, you can tell that it is from a video game from a lot of the interfaces and the movements and expressions that come from one character judging people. I think this is the first anime that I’ve seen that does so much with a video game interface. 

That perspective of seeing all of these video game screens and interfaces into a show kind of colors some of my experiences. I wish that I could have held a controller or something when watching it. Or dig more into the school more then the selected time that anime is limited too. Perhaps it is like Shenmue in some ways because it also had characters walking from places to places searching and investigating certain places for objects. There is a missing sort of flexibility to the anime that you just can’t have. It is like watching clips of a game you haven’t watched before, but it’s still understandable if that makes sense. 

The Start of Danganronpa

Locked away in the highest level of Hope’s Peak High School in a world of despair. Children are locked away in the school. Students from all sorts of clubs and walks of life meet together and are forced to live together at the whim of the mysterious Monokuma bear. A bear that will only let characters out if they murdered another character without getting caught into the trial. So you know what the main idea behind the series is like. One student murders another, investigation time, trial time, execution time, and then it continues. The show has a format and I enjoy it.

Which isn’t a massive ding considering that the characters are well designed and pretty well characterized for the time the show allows them to have their particular screen time. Our main protagonist, Makoto Naegi, is a character who is there through luck. He is the normal sort of high school student compared to everyone else who has their niche or thing they enjoy. He carries a lot of that hope and intrigue with him that allows the show to function. Or/and he is smarter than anyone else. If Naegi wasn’t there to be who he is, the rest of the characters probably would have suffered greatly.

Investigations and Momentum

Despite the formula that Dangronpa has found and established for itself, there is a real sense of progress. Mainly because there are payoffs to everything. Not just characters who died having their portrait in the trial room. Oh no. Different rooms and areas of the school open up. That means that there is a slight sense of exploration to new areas that none of these characters were in before either. Well, as far as we know the mysteries show themselves. It’s really arc based storytelling because a little bit of everything, including characters, are revealed here. 

The grand prevailing mystery of the entire show is just a lot of fun to me. Especially since we don’t know what is happening outside the world or possibly who is really causing this conflict to happen anyway. There are a lot of details that are either hidden in the background or are shown from certain rooms that appear after they have been opened. The last sort of mystery element where it is all revealed really does make a lot of sense and I really dig that too. No real big major pulls or pushes, just characters discovering more. 

Hope in Despair

I suppose that I hinted about some things in regards to Naegi, but he is the hope that Hope’s Peak High School needs. It is a bit of a cliche sort of thing to have a slightly more boring character then the rest of the cast guiding the show or anything forward. There is a reason for that though. It works. It helps to centralize a lot of the silly and funny characters to actually do something together and possibly discover something about themselves. I really like shows that do that sort of movement. 

So yeah, Naegi is a hard character to write home about, but he is a good character to have seen all of these things sort of happen around him or even to him. Especially since him uniting the other people against the main villain and defeating their more doomed fate of just being stuck in that school for who knows how long. The hope for the future is something that really is exuded on so many levels for them here too. Great ideas and pushes for all of them here too. I suppose that is why there are sequels after all. 

A Closed Case

This is another case where Studio Lerche shows how minimal, but good their production levels are. There aren’t a lot of great animated bits, because it’s mainly just characters in stills in different and exciting places. Or the trial room where the camera does have some fun with its more flatter moments. I can dig that. The directional style is good and it allows the characters to really push their personality a bit. The more cg execution scenes were obviously supposed to be minimal, but I really like the effect and feeling put into each of them.

So yeah, I had a lot of fun watching Danganronpa. A really simple idea executed amazingly well. What else do I have to say about it? The serious moments and silly moments never were pushed too far for any particular reason at all. I do think that the things I mentioned about the video game aspect and how it can feel like a clipped edition of a let’s play, but that doesn’t hold back how much I enjoyed it. It’s a good show. Not amazing, but I would watch more of it. I guess there is more of it to watch and try out. Maybe soon.


  1. In case you didn’t know, there aren’t any continuations for this anime. Apparently, the second game was supposed to receive an adaptation, but it was cancelled due to this one being so badly received (by fans at least). One of these days, I’m gonna get around to actually watching this show. Mostly just out of curiosity on how they condensed 20+ hours of story into a 5-hour anime.


      1. That’s actually a common point of confusion. The Danganronpa 3 anime isn’t an adaptation of the third game. It’s actually an original anime set between the second and third games. They definitely could have named it better.

        Liked by 1 person

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