Danganronpa: The Animation – Episode 04

Reconnaissance Report by – Skie
Progress – Episode 4

Danganronpa has some serious star power in its cast of characters, but that doesn’t mean the visuals or story can be ignored.  The episodes following the first are full of melodrama, and while the voice acting is great, the characters themselves are way too over-the-top.  The murder plot spanning episodes two and three has hints of sophistication, but it’s all circumstantial, because the audience is forced to spectate rather than participate—a huge problem for Danganronpa.  I truly believe the game, with its theatrics, detective work, and Phoenix Wright-style court action, is wonderful, but it doesn’t translate to animation very well.  Danganronpa’s charm depends heavily on being able to figure it out on your own, to be the puppet master behind the protagonist, but the anime forces the audience to watch as sketchy logical links, awkward ‘objection!!’-style sequences, and overblown reactions play out on-screen without the benefit of being able to interact with the characters.

Even when the trial is being conducted, Naegi—who was told to figure the puzzle out, and who carries the ‘main character so he gets the action’ card—is lead through the debate by several other characters.  It doesn’t help that the overlaid graphics often have a game-feel, as if expecting interaction that can’t manifest.  The inconsistent art style is a strange choice as well—the first killer’s punishment is rendered in static shots with high-contrast lighting and a gritty style that is totally at odds with the rest of the anime.  Sure, it stands out, but a blatant murder scene that boils down to killing someone in ironic ways is the only gimmick I have to look forward to.

Danganronpa isn’t treading any new territory, and it’s not offering anything thought-provoking.  It’s basically a mash-up of Battle Royale and Phoenix Wright.  Its major draws are limited to a star-studded cast and melodramatic, macabre death scenes.  As of the fourth episode, the series has seen its second murder, and I foresee a cycle of murder/investigation episodes followed by debate/gratuitous-murder episodes that won’t do much to advance Danganronpa’s case.

Score: 5.00/10.00