Warning This review will contain spoilers read at your own risk
Welcome to my review of Dangan Ronpa The Animation. First off I'd like to say I'm one of those people who played the Visual Novel first before watching this anime so I will be making comparisons between the two. Well let's get started.
Dangan Ronpa starts off with a high school student named Makoto Naegi entering Hope's Peak Acadamy. A school where only the most talented of students can enter. Naegi got in by winning a lottery ticket and was named Super High School Level Luckster, as each student holds a title to represent their talent, Naegi getting his because he's lucky. Anyway Naegi then goes to walk into the school, only for his mind to go hazy and fall unconscious.
He then wakes up to find out he is trapped inside the school along with 14 other students with a sadistic bear known as Monokuma, who proclaims himself as the headmaster. The 15 students are then told they are to live here for the rest of their lives and the only way to "graduate" is to kill another student. Naegi then states this isn't a school of Hope but a school of despair.
That sums up the prologue of Dangan Ronpa and from this introduction you can tell this has a survival game vibe to it and its a psychological mystery. If you dislike these kind of settings then you know this anime is not for you.
Continuing on from here the entire story of Dangan Ronpa is told from a first-person perspective, that person being Naegi Makoto, as he ventures around the school, trying to figure out what is really going on with some assitance from the other characters. The main person being Kirigiri Kyoko who can be considered the main heroine of Dangan Ronpa.
This is done In the Visual Novel which isn't a problem, however with only 13 episodes to cover the entire game, this doesn't work out as well because there isn't enough time to cover it all and by keeping true to the game and sticking with Naegi's view all the time, you never get to know how the other students feel about the current situation or more about them as a person. With only 13 episodes to cover the game, they should of told the story from multiple characters' point of view, as that way Visual Novel players like myself could of seen something new and for anime-only viewers the characters wouldn't of felt left out as much as alot of them did.
And there comes the main problem with this adaptation, 13 episodes is just not enough time to cover everything properly. With 24 episodes keeping the first-person perspective wouldn't of been as problematic as there will be enough time for Naegi to socialize with the other students.
After a murder occurs the remaining students have to figure out who the culprit is in a class trial if they fail to catch the culprit, all students except the culprit are executed and if they suceed, only the culprit is executed. This is where the mystery aspect of Dangan Ronpa comes in, trying to figure out who killed who with the current evidence you have found at the crime scene with the anime being formulaic with one episode "murder" next episode "trial" etc. I'm sure most people are watching Dangan Ronpa for this very purpose but here's the problem again, the investigation part is rushed through so quickly they not only don't show you all the evidence that the Visual Novel does but it also only shows you pictures of the evidence without explaining its purpose so you'll have to guess what it means which again isn't so in the game. This takes some of the mystery aspect out from the game whereas you can tie pieces of evidence together to come up with your own theories, however in the anime it seems more like guessing who it is just based on how they react with the biggest example being the third case.
Moving on to the actual trials now, this is the best done part in the anime adaptation as you can still feel some tension in the courtroom and even though i've seen it before hand I still got some emotional impact particulary from the 4th case. However it still does not live up to its Visual Novel version where I always felt at the edge of my seat wondering what's going to happen next, the shock I received when finding out the truth and the sadness I felt as they went through a life-or death situation only to see one of their fellow students executed right in front of them.
In the Visual Novel Naegi has to figure the case out from the evidence he finds at the crime scene and find contradictions in what the other students claim. As you take on the role of Neagi in the game its as if you the player is figuring it out which is fine. Again in the anime it is more of an issue as it seems like the only students in the courtroom with a decent level of IQ are Naegi, Kirigiri and Togami with the rest being fodder. In the anime version they should of changed things around and gotten the other characters more involved in the trials. For example instead of Naegi noticing something wrong and using evidence to support his claim they should of gotten someone else to do it instead.
Overall I give the story a 7/10 mainly out of respect for the game as well as keeping to the overall plot. My main concern for this is I think the studio should of taken a different approach to the story with only 13 episodes to cover it. I guess they wanted to keep to the game as much as possible to please people like myself which would of worked if they had more episodes, unfortunately they didn't and therefore didn't work out.
The main issue anime viewers will have when it comes to the animation will be the blood being pink, now why is that? And to answer your question they censored the blood in the game to pink to prevent it from receiving a Cero D rating which in America is the equivalent to a Mature rating (17+) afterwards it became popular amongst Danga Ronpa fans and is now a tradition in the Dangan Ronpa franchise.
The animation compared to other anime recently is not good, a lot of still shots are used frequently and unless the character is focused on, they look pretty bad particulary the faces. On the good side of things they animated certain characters well when focused on and the executions are well animated.
Overall 4/10, some viewers may not also like some of the designs of the characters but personally I like them as it makes them stand out more.
Not much for me to say about this, most of the soundtracks were copy and pasted from the game but since I enjoyed the OST from the game its a nice treat to get to listen to them. Most of them fit in with the curret mood in the episode with my favourite OST being the executions. The Opening was excellent not only did it not show any spoilers but the lyrics of the song go really well with the theme of Dangan Ronpa. I can also say the same with the ending.
Overall 7/10 My only negative was they did not play the Hope-VS-Despair OST in the final trial.
Be Warned, This Section Will Contain Spoilers.
Now this is where the main problem lies with the anime adaptation, the lack of development really made alot of them seem cannon fodder, waiting in a queue for the next person to walk the plank, which is a real shame as it ruins any chance of you trying to get attached to them.
Naegi Makoto : This is the protagonist of the story, he is your typical generic average student with the only thing going for him is his optimism. As he is the main character it goes without saying that he is protected by plot-armour and will not die no matter the situation he is currently in. In the visual novel you see everything from his perspective as I said earlier in my review and unfortunately in both the game and the anime you really know nothing about him, apart from his optimistic personality enables him to interact with all the other students, despite all of them being vastly different. Which is why no one attempts to murder him despite him appearing to be like Shelock Holmes during the trials (especially when he reveals the mastermind) making him a threat. At the end of the show it is revealed he is actually SHSL HOPE. One of the parts I didn't like in the game and they didn't really improve on was how easily the remaining students were convinced with Hope after falling into despair.
Leon Kuwata : Personally my most disliked character in Dangan Ronpa and along with Maizono Sayaka, I really didn't care about his death at all. I even felt he deserved it. Using the excuse of self-defensive when Celes points out it was clearly intentional. He has no role at all in the anime he says a few lines, has a breakdown when he is accused of being the culprit, then two minutes later dies. I would honestly be suprised if any anime-only viewers actually cared about him.
Sayaka Maizone : At first she appears to be the main heroine of the series and a damsel-in-distress. Subverted as she ends up being the first one to die and is revealed it was all an act to frame Naegi for murder. Apart from a few things, the anime didn't leave much out of her character as she dies so early on. I enjoyed this twist as I was not expecting it at the time and for her to even frame Naegi when she seemed so pleasant. I was shocked that she died but I didn't really care enough to feel sad about her death.
Chihiro Fujisaki : Similar to Leon he doesn't really do much in the anime either, says his occasional lines then kicks the bucket. Even though they tried to make his story from the second trial upsetting its impact was nothing compared to the game. I don't usually like trap type characters but even I felt bad on what happened to him,. He strengthens his resolve only for his dreams to be shattered a moment later. Despite his early death he still plays a big role with his Alter Ego program he created. In the anime he's more of a character you appreciate after his death.
Kiyotaka Ishimaru : The anime portrayed his sadness at losing his bro well as a Visual Novel player I felt it, as it took me back to their relationship. However for those who haven't you know its there but I doubt many people will care so much about it. Even in the game I felt he was too naive when he was supposed to be a prefect, he should of been more intelligent. Overall in the anime they definately showed some development in him with his Ishida transformation but is killed shortly after which would make people think he was a waste of potential.
Celestia Ludenberg : I'm not surprised that she is one of the anime fans favourites, as even though she dies just over halfway through, she played a prominent role during the time she was around. Though she has an active role, she didn't have development until moments before her death and as they never showed her other side of her in the anime it comes out badly. I never particulary liked how she behaved in the 3rd case, considering she's SHSL gambler she should be a professional at lying and the anime made the 3rd case horrendous.
Kyoko Kirigiri : The most popular character in the Dangan Ronpa anime which is not surprising in the slightest as she actually has good development to her and plays such a major role in the series. They still missed out parts of her character as personally I think she was made too emotionless in the anime, as she rarely shows any emotion making her seem like a robot. The reason why she appears stoic to begin with, is because she puts her emotional feelings aside when playing detective, as she believes emotions can interfere with finding out the truth. In the game you find out she is just as affected and as scared as everyone else and she shows this when interacting with Naegi alone. The anime doesn't fully portray why she hates her father so much either. She is one of the few decent characters in this anime and would of been an excellent one if they showed everything about her.
Byakura Togami : Despite his dicky and jerkass attitude, it is essential to have someone like him in this kind of setting. This character you will either like or hate him and just after Kirigiri has the next most development in the anime. Personally I like him, having somone with an arrogant personality and never trusting others around him, always looking for any suspicious activity from any student. At first he considers the "school life of mutual killing" as nothing more than a game to him and has no chance of losing, until he learns his place in the 4th case and afterwards starts opening up to the others. He also plays a major role in the class trials so its nice to see that he also has a good level of intelligence. He is also one of the few characters in the anime that you would somewhat care about but again like Kirigiri would of been great if they showed all his interactions.
Touko Fukawa/ Genocider Syo : To be honest I never expected her to be one of the survivors at the end, considering she's a serial killer. This character is someone I like and hate, yes that meaning I hate Touko as I just found her irritating and creepy in a disturbing way but I liked Genocider as her craziness is hilarious and she always lightens up the atmosphere whenever she's around. In the anime she doesn't get the development on Byakura and Kirigiri's level, she still recieves some but she's mainly been givin the role of the crazy yandere for Byakura who will do crazy shit to creep the other students out. She has small development but she's an entertaining character nonetheless.
Mondo Oowada : This character in the anime is similar to Chihiro, in that he says a few lines then walks the plank. In the game I liked this character and his story in the second case was upsetting. He truly regretted what he did and felt he deserved his punishment and I could really sympathise and respect his character. Not at all so in the anime as it never showed his interactions with Chihiro and it seems like a sob story to give him an excuse for what he did. In the anime he's another character you don't really care about as I only did as I've played the Visual Novel.
Hifumi Yamada : Unfortunately all the parts I liked about this character were never even shown in the anime as despite his fatass size his interactions in the game were quite funny and interesting. However it doesn't change the fact that he was completly tricked like an idiot into following Celes' plan. In the anime he would be treated as a weirdo and viewers would be cheering when he finally becomes a corpse.
Aoi Asahina : The interactions between her and Sakura were definately shown in the anime. It wasn't as deep as in the game but you know these two have a relationship with each other, so when it comes to the 4th case even anime viewers would feel some emotion poured out of Asahina as she weeps at the loss of her best friend. For Visual Novel players I felt they delievered the emotional side of this case really well in the anime as those two really were close friends and her determination to get revenge at the cost of her own life is praiseworthy. From the 4th case onwards in the anime however she takes a back seat and doesn't do much afterwards. Her only development in the anime in the end was in the 4th case.
Sakura Oogami : Truly badass what she did, truly badass despite being found out as the mole she went down like a boss. To prevent anymore murders from occuring she sacrificed her own life believing in the other students as her friends until the very end. I have so much respect for this character as she managed to unite all the remaining students as one to fight off the mastermind. Despite her vicious looks she is actually a kind person, with the anime she's the character who does not play much of a role at first but when the focus comes to her you realise how badass she was too late.
Yasuhiro Hagakure : He is the comic relief of the entire cast, he is a complete joke and his stupidiy is taken to the extreme point of being unrealistically stupid. Best example being in the 5th case where you debate on weather Kirigiri is a ghost or not. He's not a character to be taken seriously, especially in the anime he is there just for laughs and you will either enjoy his ridiculous moments or wish he had died earlier on.
Mukuro Ikusaba : Despite being present in the setting, I can't really say anything about her without spoiling from other Dangan Ronpa sources other than she is the twin sister of Junko and follows her orders no matter what. Which is why she was dressed up and acted like Junko, as she was told to.
Monokuma/ Junko Enoshima : Personally my favourite character in the entire cast as I adore her insane, crazy personalities and it was thanks to her that I still enjoyed this adaptation despite being inferior to the game. Monokuma always cracked me up whenever he was around and would often say ridiculous things with his troll logic and pissing off the other students. Junko Enoshima has the ultimate fetish for despair, all she wants to see is despair including her own which is why throughout Dangan Ronpa she is giving the students hints on the mysteries behind the school, to either bring their hopes up and crush it back into despair or their hope overcoming the situation giving her despair which is a win-win case for her. That's why she does it to prevent getting bored.
Overall 5/10 whew that took some time to write all that up, alot of these marks go to Monokuma for being just as entertaining as he was in the game. Despite having 16 characters only 4 of them are actually decent in the anime (Monokuma, Kyoko, Byakura, Genocider) with all of them being so much better in the game.
Overall As An Adaptation 8/10
As A Stand-Alone 6/10
Despite all its flaws and crticism I have givin to Dangan Ronpa The Animation it is still an entertaining and enjoyable show to watch as you try to solve the mysteries behind Hope's Peak as well as trying to figure out who the culprit is. For Visual Novel players we get a nice treat of seeing the Dangan Ronpa characters animated as well as all lines being fully voiced.
However If you can I would strongly reccomend playing the Visual Novel first over this adaptation anyday as it is vastly superior.