Welcome to my last article ever…for 2016. This brings the year to a close for me, going out in style as I finish Dangancember and my coverage of the Danganronpa series. While there are more games and shows to review, even from this series, this is currently the final end to the vast majority of the Danganronpa content on the site. I got into this series much more than I expected to and I’m glad I did. All of this said though, there is one final special cut to deliver, and it’s one that has left some fans divided in it’s conclusion. So let’s take one last look at this Tokyo Transmission and say goodbye to 2016, good riddance too.
The Danganronpa Series
As this review concludes my Danganronpa Special, it’s only fitting to wrap up with an over view of the Danganronpa universe I’ve been dissecting so far. For those not in the know, Danganronpa started as a visual novel video game series, one which has extended its originally small universe into a rather large and sprawling narrative across multiple games and anime. While the series boasts many unique and wacky characters, each with their own interpretations and ideals, the core theme behind the series boils down to the clash of two ideals, Hope versus Despair. In broad terms this can simply mean good versus evil, but it dives deeper into what hope and despair actually mean to people psychologically, and how vastly people find their own meaning behind those words.
If you want to look past the thematic meaning behind the series however, it’s basically a murder mystery genre. To ignore the story and writing of the universe on a whole would be a disservice to the series, but regardless, the games themselves come down to be character and story drive murder mysteries. Trapped for various reasons, a cast of characters in each of the main games is forced into a situation where they are manipulated into killing someone else in order to escape and survive, while you work with everyone else to investigate the murders, discover the killer during a class trial, and execute the murder to survive, or guess incorrectly and everyone but the killer dies.
Every chapter divides into story and character driven content until someone dies, and the investigation and class trial begins. The format can be restricted by its medium as a visual novel, and while the twists and turns of the story are truly immersive, you know what going to happen in broad strokes. You make friends with characters you like, they probably die horribly, and you seek out the killer. The games work for the mystery and the characters involved, despite a really stone set gameplay format. So if the draw of the series as a whole is the characters and story, does that translate into an anime without the same restrictions? Let’s find out.
Danganronpa 3 Special – Future, Despair and Hope
Genre: Mystery, Drama, Action, Horror
Spoiler Warning: This is a review of the entirety of the Danganronpa 3 anime, including the Future, Desire and Hope arcs, which basically means all the games too. I’m not going to overtly include spoilers that don’t relate, but frankly this review covers the whole series and the show is unwatchable without knowing the events of the main games at a bare minimum. In short, if you’re not completely caught up with the games and care about that, don’t read this or watch the show until you have.
So with three separate arcs and corresponding episodes between them, what exactly is the show about, and how do you even follow it? Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak Academy is both a sequel and prequel to both of the previous games in the series, and is split into three separate story arcs. The show was intended to be watched in corresponding order of one episode of future, then despair, then future and so forth until reaching the final episode, the Hope arc. While sometimes this doesn’t feel very important, there are often times when the two arcs talk off each other and mention events, or foreshadow things to come. It’s an interesting way to fill the gaps both before and after the games take place, and largely I thought it worked well, if maybe not entirely necessary for the setup.
Future side, a direct sequel to Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, continues to follow Makoto directly after he leaves the surviving cast of the second game on Jabberwock Island. After committing treason against the future foundation by putting the remnants of despair into the Neo World Program, Makoto, joined by Kyoko and Hina, is brought into the Future Foundations Headquarters to answer for his actions. Sadly, for some of the more unforgiving members of the committee, it doesn’t take long for the building to be hacked and the situation to turn ugly as once again, Makoto and the others are once again put into one final killing game to end the story of that started all the way back in Trigger Happy Havoc.
Despair side tells a very different story, one we are familiar with, but not one we know the full story off. Set before Makoto and the others even came to Hope’s Peak Academy, the Despair side follows the cast of Goodbye Despair and tells the full tale of The Biggest, most Awful, most Tragic Event in Human History, Hajime and the Reverse Course, and the casts inevitable rise to becoming the Remnants of Despair. This arc largely follows the exploits of Chiaki, Hajime, Junko and their homeroom teacher Chisa Yukizome, as it leads up to exactly how Hope’s Peak fell and how Junko set her plan in motion to cover the world in despair. Even knowing the ending however, there is a lot to this tale that the games haven’t told us, and it fills in all the blanks and any last questions about the events of the game’s leading up to, and connecting with, the future arc. This is the story of the where it all begins, the tale of hope that ends in despair.
Do You Need to Play the Games?
To answer the title, oh god yes. The first minute of the future arc alone spoils the big twist of Goodbye Despair, as scenes show the remnants of despair fight against the new characters involved in the future foundations killing game. Without a doubt, do not watch any of this series if you haven’t played the games. Not only will the point of the backstories and foreshadowing go over your head, but it massively spoils a lot of the missing mystery in the Danganronpa world. Outside of the trials and murders themselves, the games do a very good job of keeping the world itself largely shrouded in mystery. End of Hope’s Peak is not only important in filling in the worlds lore, but is downright crucial to bringing the story full circle and closing off all loose ends.
That said, does the series transition well into an anime, or does it feel out of place? It actually does a great job of feeling different to the games without killing off those ties. Since the games themselves were so story driven in the first place, outside of the trials, there wasn’t really anything that “gamey” to alienate the anime as a show. This also lets certain characters in the future arc actually fight during the new killing game, as there are no longer any trials to speak off, just people killing people in a mad bid of survival and paranoia all the while Kyoko and Makoto try to solve the mystery behind the new game. While the games are certainly necessary to watch the show, it doesn’t suffer at all from being a separate form of media, and in some ways, probably benefits how they wanted to bring this tale to a close.
Characters and Rules, New and Old
While there are plenty of familiar faces in the show, there is also a fairly large new cast to get to know, especially in the case of the future arc. Makoto returns as the protagonist of course, along with the rest of the original surviving cast, although sadly, don’t expect to see too much from Hiro, Byakuya or Toko, who unfortunately turn up as cameo’s more than proper characters. The new killing game needs fodder though, and they provide it in the form of Future Foundation committee members this time around. While the cast is conveniently perfectly sized to match the numbers the games worked with more or less, there weren’t really that many stand out characters in all honesty. Made up mostly of former teachers and students from Hope’s Peak before the fall, there is a new range of ultimate abilities on display, and interesting personalities to match. While there are one or two characters to add to your Danganronpa favourite list, most of the new cast feel either throw away, or are very easy to dislike. While a few do add to both the story and world of the series, even filling in some smaller gaps, few felt like mainstays to the series outside the show.
The most interesting addition to new game however is a very different set of rules, and restrictions. With no more class trial, it’s simple a game of find and kill the traitor before everyone else dies. The catch being, after a set amount of time the bracelet attached to everyone’s wrists causes them to fall asleep, while the traitor is free to kill. Everyone also has a specific action they cannot do, and in the case of poor Makoto, this means he can’t run in hallways, even to save himself. Taka would be proud. Violate the rules however and they get instantly poisoned to death. This creates a scenario were people not only need to find the traitor before nap time, but some people simply cannot act as they wish. This really adds a new element to the killing game, and gives it a sense of excitement outside the same rules the games had to follow, to well…be games. Finding out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses is all part of fun, and the difference in “mechanics” so to speak really does a great job to changing to a new medium without being restricted or forgetting the games of the past.
Speaking of the past though, several new characters from the Future Foundation game are also present in the Despair arc, namely the trio of Munakata, Sakakura and Chisa as they investigate the goings on of Hope’s Peak. Aside from the regular school life of the Goodbye Despair cast, the Despair arc largely focuses on investigating the events that lead to where the Future arc now is, including Junko’s plans to create despair across the globe, and the creation of Izuru Kamukura. The arc itself feels more important than the future one at times, as it’s truly the culmination of everything we’ve been wondering about the world until this point. All the questions from the games get answered, and the delivery between the two arcs and the different information they give feels satisfying after all this time. We also get to see the second cast interact before becoming the remnants of despair, including Hajime and the members of the reserve course before their mass suicide. This is not going to be a happy trip down memory lane, but it’s certainly a rewarding one after playing through the games with so many questions left over.
Future, Past and the End
That said, I haven’t really talked about the Hope arc. Of course there is only so much I can say for the sake of spoilers, but the Hope arc does close the story in a way that left me feeling very divided. On one hand I still enjoyed the show and the series as a whole and was happy it closed well. On the other hand, it made certain decisions I feel uncomfortable with. The games have always provided a tense excitement around the characters and world they inhabit. While I can’t say I’m completely unhappy with what the anime does, it took away something the games did so well, and it felt like an unrealistic development even considering the kind of world this is. It didn’t ruin what I liked from the show, but I still don’t fully agree with everything present in this last chapter.
Both of the arcs deliver something new and special to the world of Danganronpa though, with the past providing much of the humor as the Goodbye Despair cast slowly become involved into the first appearance of Junko, while introducing new characters like Mitarai and the Hope’s Peak staff. The Future delivers a far more action packed killing game that retains the same excitement the games had, without the same wait to death ratio. The shift in tone works too, keeping you invested in both stories as the arcs change without losing their focus on either. Everything feels so much more important with more on than line then before as we know this is drawing the series to an end, and with even main characters on the chopping block you don’t want to stop watching it all until all the mysteries are finally solved, new and old.
This truly is the end a story however, that much is true. So that said, was I happy with the anime? Was it better off as a show than a game? Did the story of Hope’s Peak end well or did it fall short? It was said by the creators that this final arc needed to be an anime to deliver the result they wanted, and for the format of the two stories and their presentation, I do think this was done well. The anime itself not only closed the book on Makoto’s journey from the first game, but answered every mystery about the past and left no loose ends. If you were wondering about whether or not this show should be watched as a fan, it has to be watched to finish the story. While some may not like the change in medium, I thoroughly enjoyed the show and what it did for the series, and I’m not sure a visual novel could have deliver the intended result.
Art and Voice
Despite playing the games in English, I actually watched this in the subtitled Japanese on recommendation. Comparing the two is something I usually don’t do, but I have to agree that the tone of the show does feel shifted across the cast. While performances on both sides are perfectly fine, with some returning voices from the games even, the English version did feel kind of odd in places by comparison. I personally would recommend the Subs myself, but either way the talent in both do bring characters new and old to life just as well.
Music once again comes in strong as they tend to in the Danganronpa series, especially some of the tracks in the Despair arc. Fans will recognize some tracks from the games returning as well, really hitting those nostalgic feels with a great range the tracks from both of the main titles. Good as the old ones are though, new ones to the anime also help deliver the right tone when it’s needed with just as much quality. The animation too is pretty great, keeping in with the same style of the games while shifting between the light-hearted moments of the past, and the grim future that awaits both sides. While the quality isn’t particularly amazing, it still delivers as a great anime, and even has some pretty great action thrown into the mix.
The opening and closing credits of both are equally as good at delivering their own tone for the different stories, with a more emotional and light opening to the past, to a darker action packed look into Makoto’s last killing game. Each deliver the right emphasis on what the arc is about with spoiling anything, for once, I’m looking at you most anime. The closing to both mirrors the same opposites in tone, and all four of the animations are pretty enjoyable to watch, to the point where I wouldn’t skip over them going in, which is a pretty big plus when you want to see what’s next. I have a minor gripe that it does that thing of showing scenes after the credits, often important ones, but a lot of anime do this annoyingly, so I can’t really attach that particular issue just to Danganronpa.
Did I like it?
So we come down to the most important question, was Danganronpa 3: The End of the Hope’s Peak Academy, good? I would say yes, it is, but with certain trepidations. End of Hope’s Peak was many things from entertaining and amusing too dark and thrilling. Mostly importantly however, it was rewarding. Finally watching every piece of the puzzle fit into place and get the full story on the Danganronpa universe was a fantastic way to end Makoto’s and Hajime’s stories. The only thing that holds it back slightly, are certain decisions towards the end that I both enjoy and dislike. While part of me likes the possibility of the future that the series holds with Killing Harmony, the end of the Hope arc felt like it took something from the impact left by the games story. It’s a devise choice that I haven’t fully wrapped myself around either way, but regardless, I truly enjoyed how this saga of killing games was drawn to a close, and with such a great climax to the entire series so far, I look forward to a new start with a new cast. One about truth and lies, and the killing beginning more once.
Well that’s all from me folks, that marks the end of my 2016 content both on the site and on Twitch. It’s been a year since I started writing with the Badly.Network and it’s been an interesting project to delve into to say the least. This wasn’t a great year for what feels like everyone, not especially myself either. Keeping busy and doing this projects has been a great outlet for me though, and I want to give a huge thanks to anyone whose read my work or watched my streams, it keeps me sane. As I wave goodbye to both this year and Dangancember I hope the next year is better for everyone, but despite the lows there were some highs too, and working with everyone has been one of them. I’ll be on a short break but plan to return soon with more content and a better constant stream and writing schedule, so keep an eye on my Facebook and Twitter for updates! What did you all think of the Danganronpa series as a whole, and did you enjoy Makoto and Hajime’s tale to it’s conclusion? Let me know below and i’ll see everyone next year!