34 CommentsFirst Impressions / By Scamp /

Danganronpa episode 1: Hee hee hee hoo hoo hoo hah hah hah

Danganronpa The Animation - 01 - Large 15

Boy I sure can’t wait for all the people saying how much this adaptation sucks in comparison to the source material and how they are clearly an expert on how good the source material is because they read a fan-translated Let’s Play of the game released sporadically on an internet forum. Because that’s clearly the sort of person I should be listening to for quality judgements on the game.

(Yes yes I know, there was recently an English patch released for the game, but you can’t seriously tell me all you guys actually bought a PSP back when it was in stock)

Danganronpa The Animation - 01 - Large 01

Before I get into the meat of the episode, let me just say that the opening scene is fucking great. Weird 2D monobear giggles silently to itself and it locks a kid tied to a chair into a rocket, blasts it up into space alongside cardboard cut-outs of the moon and the stars, crashes down again to reveal a cartoony pile of bones as the bear continues to shake with glee. Sets the tone perfectly for what’s about to come: A ridiculous cartoony version of Saw.

What I dig most about the show is how much they boil character traits down to the purest form. It’s a great example of how design fits the narrative. They essentially built the entire story around bringing in the biggest stereotypes in every division, then exaggerating their stereotypes even further in every way they could think of. I really love how silly the character designs are, and not just because it makes them easy to tell apart for once. One look at the biker dude and you’ll never forget who he is or what his shtick is. Same with the man who looks like he swallowed a hot air balloon, or the girl who wouldn’t look out of place in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. It’s weirdly fascinating on an intellectual level to build these purified forms of stereotypes and then pit them against each other.

Danganronpa The Animation - 01 - Large 20The actual plot is cliche’d as hell, but it serves the purpose of pitting the characters against each other in a way that involves their personalities clashing. It’s a clever format that suits what they’re going for. Stick them on an island, Battle Royale style, and it wouldn’t force them into the close confines their current situation does. From reading people’s impressions of the game fan-translated Let’s Play posted on a forum, I find it bizarre that folks apparently get genuinely attached to these characters. They’re not even people, they’re just representations of archetypes and single personality traits. It isn’t designed like a traditional story at all, and I’m struggling to see how you could get attached to anyone. But eh, we’ll see on that front. I’m pretty stoked by this first episode.

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34 Comments

  1. Kiraly
    Posted July 5, 2013 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Err, it was released two weeks ago and it runs just fine on an emulator. There’s a custom build of PPSSPP for it that fixes the issues and glitches that made it unplayable, and even runs on AMD cards (after checking an option).

    You should play it, it’s pretty awesome. And the translation is fantastic – the only difference between it and what a professional release would be like is that they didn’t translate the post-game credits (which nobody reads anyway).

    The opening scene was lifted and upscaled from the game. I assume they’ll do the same for every other game cutscene….

    • Scamp
      Posted July 6, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      But why would I play the game when there’s this perfectly good anime adaptation!!!

      You know, I wonder if blogging this show and taunting those who go on about the game would be worth it?

      • Kiraly
        Posted July 6, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        Suit yourself. I’ll certainly enjoy your posts more if you don’t play it.

  2. Ana
    Posted July 5, 2013 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    I wasn’t going to bring up the Let’s Play, but since you asked…

    They removed everyone’s character introductions which establishes their personalities and background in greater detail. Those are incredibly concise and compact compared to what you’d typically think of VNs, but I guess the adaptation doesn’t have time to elaborate on the characters beyond what they can smoothly blend into the main narrative. Which is fine because you need to condense things somehow for the anime medium, but like you said, it leaves you no room to get attached to any of the people. (Not that you DO necessarily get attached to them in the game, they’re still very much exaggerated cartoony over-the-top characters and I love it, it’s just that they’re fleshed out a little more there – if you take the time to talk to them, that is.)

    And since we’re on game/anime comparisons, let me also say that that amazing opening scene is pretty much lifted straight out of the game.

    But yes, we’ll see how Seiji Kishi treats the characters in future episodes…

  3. Posted July 6, 2013 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    Wow, was the main character bland and unlikable. Like seriously, wow.

    • Clinton
      Posted July 6, 2013 at 12:48 am | Permalink

      Most people don’t consider Naegi to be unlikable. They do consider him to be bland however. (The sequels main character is much better personality wise.)

    • Gan_HOPE326
      Posted July 6, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      Guess it makes sense, what with him being (I suppose) the playable one. The “player” is basically an empty container in this kind of situations. I expected him to not be even remotely as specifically characterized as the other guys.

  4. Posted July 6, 2013 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    (in response to the last paragraph)

    Oh, this isn’t so surprising, Scamp. This fan-translated Let’s Play posted on a forum ultimately reads just like a visual novel, and considering we spent like 50-100 hours reading such a novel it’s not hard at all to grasp our growing attached to a group of very memorable characters, many of whom subvert their stereotypes in a number of clever ways. Give them more than one single episode to show what more there is to their characterization, especially when there’s *sixteen* of them to introduce all at once. XD

    Now that said, the character development is definitely going to have to be streamlined quite a bit for the anime, because there’s just way too much that happens in this story to fit everything into 13 episodes. With this first episode I was pleased; I thought they did a good job. It will remain to be seen how it manages to handle the actual mysteries though–newcomers to the series will probably feel the characters are being handed everything they need very conveniently, since they’ll have to solve a ton of things very quickly. But perhaps the anime will find itself most effective for newcomers if it just focuses on the crazy atmosphere inherent to the premise.

    • Kiraly
      Posted July 6, 2013 at 1:01 am | Permalink

      Oy, you can finish the game in way under 30 hours. How did you end up with 50-100 hours of LP?

      • Clinton
        Posted July 6, 2013 at 1:13 am | Permalink

        with hyperbole.

    • Posted July 6, 2013 at 1:23 am | Permalink

      It was a very rough guesstimate! So it’s 30 hours then? Maybe I’m just a slow reader. =P It took me a couple weeks to read through at any rate.

      • Kiraly
        Posted July 6, 2013 at 1:45 am | Permalink

        That’s a guesstimate too, tbh. Some people said they finished it in 10 hours, while I took closer to 20-something because I never used the teleport and always examined everything.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 6, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure how I feel about hearing the character’s archetypes are subverted. What draws me to this so far is how much they are exactly stereotypes in their purest form. Eh, we’ll see

      • Gan_HOPE326
        Posted July 6, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        Well, subversion can produce some funny comedy. As long as they don’t think it adds depth to something as preposterous as this. Aka: Danganronpa, don’t make the same mistakes Valvrave did.

  5. Taka
    Posted July 6, 2013 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    I too dug the incredibly diverse character designs but aside from that, on first glance, didn’t see too much to really distinguish itself.

    So what is it gonna be? Bakatest with more murder or Mirai Nikki with shittier character motivations?

    • Posted July 6, 2013 at 3:29 am | Permalink

      Seems more Bokurano except it’s not taking itself the least bit seriously and no real complexity within the characters. Not an inherently bad thing, but the combination isn’t jiving with me and yeah I’m not getting much of a “special” vibe from this either.

      • gedata
        Posted July 6, 2013 at 4:08 am | Permalink

        I just checked out some of the gameplay, Danganronpa is pretty much like Bokurano + Ace Attorney

    • Taka
      Posted July 6, 2013 at 5:47 am | Permalink

      Also directed by Seiji Kishi whom has a penchant for being kind of inconsistent in my opinion. Often does humor really well and serious bits…not so well.

      • Scamp
        Posted July 6, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        The first episode weirdly didn’t have any straight up gags. Just the amusement from the premise and ridiculousness inherent from the style they’ve chosen to portray the characters. Although I suppose some of the lines Monobear says counts

  6. A
    Posted July 6, 2013 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    That opening scene is taken straight from the game.

  7. Posted July 6, 2013 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    As someone who read the Let’s Play on some Internet forum, I just thought it was a bit stiff but I really liked they added the sprites among other things.

  8. Pusswookie
    Posted July 6, 2013 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    Man, this looks great. It’s like the protagonist from Naughty Bear (PS3 and 360) got bored so he spray painted himself monochrome, bought a school that doubles as an arena, and started doing meth somewhere along the way.
    Really, it’s refreshing to have a nice anime that doesn’t take itself too seriously once in a while and considering the character designs, one student looking like he came out of Street Fighter, you can tell this one definitely doesn’t.
    While I think a lot of things about this first episode, I must say, I don’t trust the blue haired girl. She seems a little too nice. I know that what’s his face is only thinking of going balls-deep, but he needs to watch out. He’s not in the right anime for pretty young things to be falling for bland leads.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 6, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      See, I think it kinda does take itself seriously. At least, as in it never points to itself and winks at the audience or pulls any dumb gags. Which I kinda dig, because it doesn’t need any gags with the characters it has created

      • Pusswookie
        Posted July 6, 2013 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

        I just kind of view the characters as the gags themselves.

  9. RandomGoodJobGuy
    Posted July 6, 2013 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Incoming mild spoiler:

    I would have to say, as someone who has played the game with the English translation patch, if the story and setting was as simple as it was portrayed to be, the franchise probably wouldn’t be as popular as it is right now.
    The franchise is in steady competition with the Ace Attorney series, after all.

    =End of spoiler=

    Personally, I liked what the anime has showed me so far. I am probably still under the influence from playing the game, so my judgement of it is rather loopy at the moment. I’m just happy to see all the characters moving.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 6, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      Sword Art Online is also popular and has a similar premise with more video game shtuff. Popularity doesn’t mean it has more to it, especially given how much people seem to like these death game scenarios

      • RandomGoodJobGuy
        Posted July 6, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        My apologies, I didn’t realise I accidentally used that fallacy until much after I’ve posted the message.

        If it means anything, I personally disliked Sword Art Online for that very same reason I liked Dangan Ronpa – I’m referring to the genre switch they both pulled.

        Do know that I look forward to seeing your impressions of the anime as a stand-alone, but I would also like to see your impressions of it as an anime-of-the-game adaption, too, if that is even possible.

  10. Cheshire
    Posted July 6, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    While you’re on the right track with some of the appeal being how straight the absurd character archetypes are played, a huge amount of what made the game great is how incredibly unpredictable the plot is while still being consistent by its own rules. Some characters fully fulfill their archetype, others subvert it in varying degrees, but for the most part, everybody is a wild card, and everybody is very human. It’s an effective mix of the “psychopop” archetypal excess, and actual good plot and characterization that makes for an eclectic mix and a very fun game. You can try to make rough guesses on who will do what based on their basic role, but until their personalities are fleshed out better you can’t place any good bets, which is really refreshing and keeps you on your toes.

    That being said, yes, these silly over the top characters do get a lot of fleshing out over the course of a longer game, and it’s going to be hard to fit the plot at all into a 1cour show, let alone any effective character development. Something felt fairly off from this episode just because Naegi didn’t get a chance to hit pause on things and tell us everything he knew about each character in turn, I can’t imagine how they’ll handle us getting to know everyone as this progresses. I’m not griping, just wary.

  11. Posted July 6, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    I was reminded of Deadman Wonderland, and how that show’s potential got squandered by being miserably stupid. Also, I like how Monobear was played by Doraemon’s voice actor. Having a malevolent death dealer voiced by a beloved icon just adds that creepiness to it. Like if Kyubey was played by Pikachu’s voice actress.

  12. Erif
    Posted July 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Why am I not surprised that you liked this?

    Guess I’ll have to give it a watch now.

  13. Kamui
    Posted July 6, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    …Is the Jojo-esque girl you’re referring to that character with white hair in the third picture? If it is, then O___O.

    • Leah
      Posted July 6, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      Don’t insult my waifu like that.

  14. Leah
    Posted July 6, 2013 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    There’s some characters that are going to have some depth, mainly the people who have terrible things happening to them, and others that are going to stay as bland as they are. Anyways, the game is solid, I’m just worried the anime will be too rushed with only thirteen episodes. I’m very excited for the trials, I hope they have literal word bullets.

  15. luffyluffy
    Posted July 9, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    togami is my waifu

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