Reconnaissance Report by – Skie
Progress – Episode 1
Danganronpa: The Animation has finally hit the summer season, and this much-anticipated anime has a lot of hype to live up to. The episode begins with a stylized short depicting a boy being forced into an iron-maiden-style container, shot up into space, and then allowed to plummet back down, where he is shown as a skeleton. Then we’re introduced to the actual story: Naegi beginning his life at super-elite high school Hope’s Peak Academy in Tokyo. Shortly thereafter, things take a decidedly nasty turn as the students are told by Principal Monokuma that they are to spend the rest of their lives in the academy, and the only way out is to kill someone. The rest of the episode is a rather boring search of the school with repeated remarks about how trapped they are or how the various students can’t punch or kick their way through metal bulkheads. To kickstart the killing, Monokuma provides motivation for each of the students that causes the Super Idol to freak out.
Thus far Danganronpa has been…mediocre. I already know some of the plotline for Danganronpa, and while that knowledge is intriguing, this first episode isn’t great at selling its story to me. For one, the introduction very strongly evokes themes and circumstances established in the classic Battle Royale (BR) and more recent Hunger Games. Dangan even goes so far as to lampshade BR in one of the characters’ lines as they shout a challenge to the principal, and I wonder if this is an inspirational nod or a poorly-executed attempt to distance itself from Battle Royale.
The super-lucky protagonist character is a much-used and tired trope in super-elite-school anime. The student body is full of the standard mix of heirs, idols, and miscellaneous sports stars whose introductions were so rapid-fire that I had trouble catching names, let alone talents. What personalities have had a chance to shine are, well, standard for their archetypes. The principal is a disturbingly-animated stuffed bear whose professed motivation for the entire dilemma is fostering despair in the student body. This is nothing new, sadly, and doesn’t do much to help Danganronpa’s case.
Dialogue and interactions between characters are boring and mediocre. The conversations are shallow, repetitive, and lacking in substance. In all honesty, I was bored. There’s nothing new or interesting introduced in the first episode, and the only thing going for it is the style…which I find mildly irritating. The animation is decent, though stiff, and the character designs are hugely exaggerated (giant dreadlock afro?), but the voice acting is great— and with such a high-caliber cast, it had better be! Monokuma is voiced by the famous Nobuyo Ooyama, the voice of Doraemon, and Naegi is voiced by Megumi Ogata, the voice of Shinji of Evangelion fame, just to name a couple. With so much of the series’ budget blown on voice actors, it makes me wonder if it’s relying on the names of its talent to sell the anime when the premise clearly falls short.
I am disappointed by Danganronpa. Unless it picks up its game immediately, it may turn out to be the Leviathan of the season.