Imagine this: You’ve been invited to a school made for the best of the best. It’s an invitation only event, and only a select few can enter the school grounds. You have been selected, but upon arrival, you black out and wake up in a strange bedroom filled with iron panels and locked doors. There’s no escape, and only fourteen other students and one stuffed bear leading the entire school. The bear tells you that you will be spending the rest of your life at the school, but if you want to leave, you must kill another classmate and must not be caught by the others. Welcome to Hope’s Peak Academy, a school of despair.
Danganronpa: The Animation could probably be best described as a psychological mystery thriller. Plenty of twists and turns are laid out along the story, but one good rule is this: if it seems like the culprit is obvious, you’re probably wrong. The anime itself is based off of the PSP game Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, though you’d be forgiven if you’ve never heard of it, as it was only released in Japan.
As stated before, in order to escape from the school, a student must kill a classmate and remain innocent in the eyes of the other students. The latter part is determined through a class trial in which all remaining classmates gather together to determine the killer’s identity. If the killer is caught, the killer will be executed and the remaining students continue to live within the school, but if the students get the culprit wrong, the innocent people get executed and the killer wins. No matter which route the students take, only one student can remain victorious.
The story itself is centered around the 15 individuals that had been accepted into Hope’s Peak Academy, but if there was any “main character” in the story, it would be Makoto Naegi, a boy who, out of sheer luck, was accepted into the academy by winning a special lottery. Naegi plays a special role in the story as a prosecutor/defender during class trials, analyzing the evidence given to each student prior to the trial. There will be times in which the events within the story will be used to purposely throw the viewer off from the main points, but with some good ol’ fashioned critical thinking skills, one can see right through the deceptions and figure out the real culprit.
The anime is essentially a kill-or-be-killed type in which individuals are placed in a tournament for their lives. The stuffed bear, Monokuma, is a devilish creature whose appearance is an obvious sign of pure evil. Anything from past demons to desires are used to tempt the students into killing one another, and it believably works. Monokuma is also a character that seeks to make the students’ lives miserable, and does so with a Joker-esque facade.
As of right now, Danganronpa: The Animation has six episodes, though this could be finished up in as little as 12 or 13 episodes. Story development is quite fast paced, and the art style is definitely rather unique, combining various forms together. Each execution feels like a classic Mortal Kombat finisher move with a graphic style different from the main anime style. The characters are rather fleshed out and interesting almost from the start, and character development only continues to flourish with each episode. So, do we recommend it? Why yes, of course, but be warned that there are some majorly disturbing scenes scattered throughout the anime.