*MY SCORE IS BASED IN THE VISUAL NOVEL + ANIME*
First of all, don't be an 'animeonlyfag shit poster' if you want to know this show better, clear? Saying the anime is a complete shit without acknowledging the visual novel contents is a big mistake, but it's not your fault rushing to this conclusion.
I'll explain why you should give this a chance.
Why you should play the visual novel and why I think it should be a 26 episodes adaptation:
Like I said, the catch is the visual novel. If you play it, (it requires a PSP or a neat PC to run the emulator. If you don't have any of those or if you're just lazy - watch on YouTube instead, but beware of the spoilers. 2016 EDIT: It's available on Steam! Check it out if you haven't yet.) you'll understand the development of the show and the characters easily, and consequently you're probably going to like the show because if you only deal with the anime, you probably won't like from the beginning. For instance, the story is deep as fuck (mindf*cks everywhere) but they only have 13 episodes to make it understandable for everyone, and that's why the long time fans or even the newcomers, like myself in that time, were pissed off about it.
When I decided to give Danganronpa a second chance, I did some searching first (lies, I did a lot of searching) and I found out there's a visual novel! With some more lurking in the dark places of the internet (/a/ *cough*), I read some people saying to play the whole visual novel first and watch the ongoing animation after finishing it.
So, with that in mind, I did the following: I played the visual novel first, understood the story and finished the game with my point of view, (like which characters I spent my freetime with and which ones I actually bondeded with) just for my first impression. Hell, later I even watched what I didn't make in YouTube just for character and hidden plot knowledge purposes! Then I finally got my eyes into the anime, and I must say all this work just to understand the series was damn worth my time, because the impression I got is that - the anime it's a crappy summary of the visual novel.
But the big question that I got wandering in my mind for a while is - It was supposed to be this rushed? If I'm right, it was a huge mistake agreeing to make this adaptation.
Further explanation, and what's behind of the negative hype:
The first question I got when I found the root of the fanbase was: Why all the anger, frustration and why are a lot of people are saying Dangit Ron Paul is a bad show? The answer came to me pretty clearly. Well, for starters, Dalai Lama: The Animation isn't bad, it's just another case of the animation wasn't good enough to compete with the VN/Manga.
If you want to make a good adaptation of a successful series you MUST gather all the great points of the show, like the investigation scenes, the amazing soundtrack and most importantly, the main character development. You need to put together even the obviously charming downsides, like the pink freaking blood, the funny looking villain and/or some goofy executions - everything that make this show unique. All it needs to make a grateful and enjoyable adaptation.
In the visual novel the entire development is pretty solid. You quickly start to understand most of the characters and their personalities pretty well with the main story and more and more with the free-time events. Take your time and enjoy the ride. Also you can always load the chapters if someone you didn't bonded with dies suddenly if you continue the story (heart attack someone? It would be hella funny). Sadly in the anime everything happens SO DAMN FAST, it's so dynamic that we even can't understand what the hell just happened! Just like that on the middle of the series almost the entire cast is dead with nothing clearly explained. My mind in that time was kinda like this: WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE? THAT GUY DIED? BUT I DIDN'T EVEN KNEW HE WAS THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE! WHY IS THAT TEDDYBEAR KILLING THESE KIDS? AND WHY HE HAVE SUCH A FUNNY VOICE? SERIOUSLY GUYS I NEED HELP AROUND HERE. It's a clusterfuck, seriously.
The animation doesn't have on-screen character bonding too, like Mondo and Ishimaru becoming bros (Fujisaki included, but not that much on the series to be honest, it's more a fanfic thing - the bro trio that I love so much), which the outcome leads people to think about a weird boylove thing (no offense to yaoi fans). Just because it is very nonexplained in the anime. Now, in the visual novel, they frequently appear together, and with all the talking is self explanatory that a man bond is thicker than blood, and you're part of their partnership aswell AND became respected by those two! But where is this in the animation? 5 minutes? That's unacceptable, just a forgetful frickin' beam and that was it? ONE THING I CAN'T STAND IS A RUSHED MOTHERFUCKING ADAPTATION! It was supposed to be there because it IS a important thing to make the story more understandable and enjoyable. Also, Fukawa stalking Togami (it appears on-screen but is poooooorly developed, goddammit), Oogami and Asahina bonding can be a little misleading as well (well, for me it is in a good way. God bless yuri). For instance - in the game you can see them practicing sports together, in the same room and eating donuts (you're alone in this one, Aoi-chan), and there's a lot more stuff they don't show us. It's a shame that all those good natured fillers got swerved big time.
The story is indeed deep and interesting, and may or not have some five or six twists. The hope of humanity are those 15 (*cough* 16 *cough*) kids, and they're trapped in the Hope Academy to grow a new population. Why? Well, that's because they're the best in the world in what they do - seems strange? (even I could be there if they needed some masturba- nevermind) Yeah, it's just because of that. Seriously, at first glance seems shitty, but later on things get spicy... if you want to know more just GO WATCH IT RIGHT NOW.
And why they're trapped? Sorry, you're asking too much now (don't mind my delirium disorder, please), like I aggressively ordered you, you must watch/play the series to know better. Anyways, what I can tell you is something very interesting, this was supposed to be a pacific and a calm place for the new Adam's and Eve's live their lives forever... but because of this fucking bear now they must KILL each other in order to 'graduate', and on top of that - it must be a silent dispatch, nobody can find out who is the murderer! Like, what the fuck? But if they manage to catch the assassin (so many synonyms for killer), and obviously have the proof needed to lockdown the guilty without further doubt - the culprit is executed and everybody moves to the next place of the academy. Yep, that's it thank you New York and good night!!! But seriously, Monokuma make his rules very strict, and plays around to always have something entertaining to watch, like giving the kids 'reasons to kill' or if they accuse and vote to kill an innocent person everybody dies and the former malefactor graduate. Well, you're obviously thinking that is fucking insane, huh? The flow of the show with all the murder mystery plot is actually pretty involving when they start investigating, talking and understanding who they are, their reasons to survive and even their background life. So as threatening every single kid is to each other, they get their facts straight in the end just to make the right decision for the sake of their own lives. Egotistical but that's the vital point of the entire series, all about survival. But, as bad news aren't exactly 'news' for the animation, this is part of a (ANOTHER?) huge flaw in the animation.
In the visual novel, Naegi, who is YOU (yay you're a scared dingus protagonist), need to search for clues and assimilate the whole damn thing. This is what develops the mystery and get you in the mood of the show, even in those cases that you don't need to use your brain too much - the satisfaction to finally close a case is great! I didn't like so much the most of the murder reasons to be honest, but that is just me. Sadly the anime didn't make very well from the point of view of Naegi. Basically what I'm saying is: He doesn't fucking know jackshit, and from the vastly dungeon of nothingness he suffers from a sudden lapse of knowledge and mysteriously knows what happened and who is the culprit! (if he's somewhat wrong, Kirigiri is right. It seems like House M.D all over again) Like, what the hell? Even some clues he and other cast members found in the investigation do NOT get mentioned in the class trial for better understanding just because he is the protagonist. And the stupid thing is, IF YOU FAIL THE TEST, SUDDENLY YOU'RE THE CULPRIT! IT WAS ME ALL ALONG, AUSTIN! And yes, even with the exploration this came of as unexplained. That was their way to insert a Game Over in this VN, and honestly - it's half-assed.
The whole point is apprehending the plot - this is not a senseless battle royale, but inauspiciously it is what the most people who didn't even knew the series before and went straight to the anime thought it was, just because the lack of information on the animation rushed storyline. I know, this is getting repetitive.
Well, I must say the animation did not impress me thaaat much. I like the unique style of the characters (their eyes for example) and I sure loved seing my favorite ones (Mondo Badass Oowada) in action instead of a weird paperboard figure. Each and every character is powered up with a lot of funny, scary, cute and badasses reactions too, (the priceless Celes angry reactions). But, again, another thing I dislike that is still there from the visual novel, because it's one of the charming downsides of the series, is the MOTHERF***ING SHAKING CAMERA! What I mean is: WHEN A BODY IS FOUND THE CAMERA SHAKES MORE THAN FREAKING SHAKIRA IN A HULA HOOP! Seems like even the cameraman got scared and you'll get scared too just because of this (or it's just me... probably just me). But seriously, this is extremely annoying, but I can kinda (not really) understand that is a charm from the series, like the pink blood thing. What bugs me it's the whole OMG I FOUND A CORPSE! LET'S SHAKE WITH TERROR AND PLAY A TERRIFYING SCREAM, HEHOOO. I don't like to be scared outta nowhere!
Now I will beg your pardon, but my fanboyism side is gonna take control for a sec.
OH MY GOD WHAT KIND OF MASTERMIND IS THIS GUY MASAFUMI TAKADA? All the OST is MARVELOUS. I'll just mention that he worked for Killer 7 and the No More Heroes franchise too. I can't get enough of the songs. I listened to this OST a LOT, the entire thing for weeks and weeks, over 4000 executions on my last.fm account I believe, it's just brilliant! At least for me, the entire show is this great because of background instrumental orchestra, it fits perfectly when a song starts with a new scene or change of subject - it can bring you hope or despair (puns, lovely) accordingly with the present scenario. But if you couldn't figure out why the soundtrack is the best thing on this series, I suggest you listen closely when it happens and you'll understand what I'm talking about, it can be on the animation or in the visual novel, doesn't matter to say no less, at least the anime couldn't get any wrong with this OST. You really know when the shit is about to hit the fan just because of the music direction. The change of pace is very friendly if you're lost in the dialogues.
Aside from the extraordinary soundtrack (and my fanboyism), let's talk about the voice acting. First of all there is something that everybody should've already recognized: Naegi's voice actor is the same as Shinji from the Evangelion series (yay he's a scared dingus protagonist too). Pretty good work if you ask me, but not that good compared to the visual novel as the effort was not the same. He seems bored all the time when he yells the classic DING DONG YOU'RE ALL WRONG. Unfortunately the same happens with Monokuma's acting as well - in the visual novel he is a lot funnier, even his iconic laugh is dissatisfactory in the anime. A downside of playing the VN is - you'll grow tired of this if you played the entire game. But the good thing is, that finally we can hear the characters actually talking to each other instead of just being souless paperboard figures just standing there motionless. Also yelling more and shouting a lot more instead of just grunting or repeating the same words all the time, that is the beauty of the animation. Because in the visual novel you don't get that many different sounds. I did loved Hagakure saying more words than dabe all the time. And yes, during the class trials and the outcome of the murders, we can still have the conversation with the characters fearing the worst, accusing each other, losing their sanity and crying rivers (I feel you, Ishimaru). That is indeed a spectacular voice acting! I must say I personally love Fujisaki's and Mondo's voice acting. (no shit sherlock)
On a side note - the OP and the EP of the animation are pretty well done too. OP with a few rap spots that seemed original and lore-friendly for me, and the EP with a good techno jpop with catching lyrics. Japan at the finest! Well done there.
We can't understand the characters that well like we do in the visual novel just because we have the world in our hands there, but fortunately the animation got the entire essence of each one to make a neat adaptation, like Kirigiri's mysterious aura, Togami's jerkface attitude or Fujisaki's scared cat personality.
In the beginning we can't see what the first victims are up to, what they do and who they are. Sadly this happens in the visual novel aswell, even though we can chitchat with everyone. That's a big downside for who tried to bond with some of the soon-to-be-dead characters better, well you can kinda try to, but you cannot save whoever you want and that got me mad. It's a shame the VN was this linear, because I tried my very best to save her (YOU TRIED TOO)... bitch. But, let's just wait for the PSVITA version with the School Mode, shall we? Seems like you can really control the story with the choices you make, and the game doesn't bamboozle you just faking the feeling that you're in control, and I'll finally gonna be bro with Mondo and Ishimaru and get my scheme going with the millitary girl, OOPS.
Overall and my conclusion:
* You can enjoy the anime like any other psychological/mystery one, could be a LOT better if was a 24~26 episode with a few OVAS on the way, but it's fine the way it is, could be a masterpiece (fanboyism), but it's just fine... it could be, but isn't... IT'S STILL REAL TO ME, DAMMIT.
* It's a nice murder mystery, the plot is not forgivable in the anime for the lack of information because it's so linear, if you try to search for infos you might get huge spoilers! Be careful!
* Monokuma is an incredibly funny, love to hate villain at most of the times, but eventually you'll start to understand his true reasons. I can say his theme music helps with the shits 'n gigs atmosphere, but his acting gets kinda boring and predictable too, later on you'll eventually start slooooowly disliking him, and I say slowly getting pretty annoyed at his appearances just because he doesn't seem all that 'super genius mastermind' anymore. The first theatre is actually decent to make you think about the characters safety, but after two or three stories later on it's just a "oh well we got a scene here, again!" To top that - the kids start to get along with the environment, with their colleagues and they turn out to be more confident. They stop getting scared or frustrated about their situation and they actually engage in a quest to get the F out of that academy. For me, he's just an angry teddy bear who fell sideways on black grease and is pissing mad about it.
* There's not so much gore (if any) or bloodshed, and in my humble opinion - they missed an opportunity there, a case that could be much more gruesome. Let me explain my disappointment with this little semi-spoiler - It should have a little more creepy aspects, at least in this specific execution -- because there's nothing remaining of the body, like, it SHOULD be something there if I recall correctly. That wasn't a disappearence... well, this is something that they did not explained to us viewers, and sounded more like a joke than an execution. You'd think this academy is entirely dark and grim but, after that one I was starting to doubt the whole 'despair murdering madness I'll drink your tears in the breakfast yar fucker' show.
* There's not much horror, for the good or for the bad. The Hope Academy 'dark aura' it's there because the horror is tagged with his buddy mystery. But hey, the blood is fucking pink so who cares about horror? (Andy Warhol and your PopArt influences) But the thing that would scare you the most is the camera. Trust me, is the motherfreakin' camera.
Err... enjoy yourselves. Aaaaaaanyways, moving on. The thing is that you MUST understand you won't get all the prestigious information that could possibly make you a big fan of the show if you don't play/watch the visual novel. Again I'll reinforce this with an example: Myself! I got very interested in all the characters (mainly Mondo. Yes it's true, it's true) and the mystery plot. So I spared a considerable amount of time to research the show's world and I did enjoy a LOT when I got things straight. I must say I'm not much a horror/gore lover, I like more when they're together with a mystery plot, oh I love the mystery more than anything else... Actually I'm lying, I love boobs much more, but there isn't much fanservice on this show, which is kinda good because, with a plot like this the fanservice is the least you want it, otherwise it would be a crappy show which ends on a boat [SHOTS FIRED]. Well, actually there is a little from Asahina in the episode 6... god I love her round donuts! And if you want to get nasty... search for fanfics!
Lastly, this show is very easy going on the mystery solving, and offers a BIG AMOUNT OF PERSPECTIVES. In my opinion the whole plot could be a big reality show, and when a person 'die' - him/her starts to help on the next murdering schemes, and yes, only Naegi who doesn't know shit about it. Well, that is my perspective. You'll have your own too. Like I said, the show is very forgiving in this aspect, but I can't spoil more for you. If you got really interested I suggest you do the same as I did - spare a couple hours to acknowledge the awesomeness that is this show, because it is worth it your time.
Now I only need to learn freaking japanese to play Dammit Panga 2 (yes there's a 2, where the story get more and more interesting, or more and more fucked up, your choice).
2015 edit: I wrote this review in 2013, but now the second Danganronpa is already available and in English, iirc.
Forever editting: Grammar mistakes. Like I said, I wrote this in 2013 and my English is a lot better now, so I'm always returning to this review to check if I wrote something wrong... and guess what? I always find a mistake! Learning process, everybody.
~FORGET IT BEAM~
I hope my review was helpful and I hope (it's not a pun with the show, I swear) I didn't spoil some crucial point to you, and I hope (SERIOUSLY IT'S NOT) you'll love it as much as I did! Sorry about any grammar errors, I did this review because I treasure Dragonmarpa a lot and I thought people will get more interested if I shared my *ahem* vast knowledge about it, and of course I tried to not be an annoying fanboy so much. (hey, I didn't even talk much about Mondo anyways, HUH? HUH??? AM I RIGHT GUYS?)
Swig of water for the reviewing man, I'll catch your ass down the road.
Jesus Christ, Ishimaru. Are you for real?
~Hey, what about a drinking game? Read my review again and, everytime I said 'rushed show' you take a shot, be careful to not throw up! hahahah... oh dear.