Danganronpa: The Animation: Episode 1 – “PROLOGUE: Welcome to Despair High School”

Danganronpa: The Animation is an anime based on the Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc murder mystery video game. The anime is produced by Lerche, and is directed by Seiji Kishi. The series is streaming on FUNimation’s website on Fridays.

An average student named Makoto Naegi has won a special lottery to enroll at the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy for talented students. However, as soon as Makoto enters the school’s gates, he falls unconscious. He awakens in a room with video cameras and steel plates; he finds a note telling him to go to the gym at a certain time.

When Makoto goes to the gym, he finds 14 other students there; he learns that they all went through a similar experience to him. They also discover that everyone’s cell phones have been confiscated. In addition, Makoto discovers a girl named Sakaya Maizono, an idol who went to his middle school, is also a student and remembers him.

A psychotic teddy bear named Monokuma suddenly pops up and announces that he is the principal of the school. Not only that, he says that the 15 students must live the rest of their lives at the school, because there is no way to get out… unless you murder another student.

The students try to find a way out, but to no avail. Monokuma ups the ante by giving each of the students a DVD to watch in order to give them a motive to kill. The DVDs give the impression that something has or will happen to their loved ones if they don’t escape. At the end of the first episode, Makoto tells Sakaya that he will find a way to help her escape.

When I read a description for the series online, the first thing that popped into my head was that the basic idea of kids having to kill each other sounded familiar. And then it hit me… oh, yeah, The Hunger Games. What makes this different is the fact that it takes place in a school instead of on a reality program, and that a weird and psychotic teddy bear thing is in charge instead of the government.

At the beginning of the episode, it’s claimed that Hope’s Peak Academy is a government approved school. Really? How? To me, this just doesn’t seem plausible. I mean, shouldn’t someone from the government have come by the school and seen that things were amiss, such as the steel plates? I have a hard time using my “willing suspension of disbelief” to believe that this school could be government approved.

Because of the large cast of 15 students, a lot of “info dumping” takes place when they all first meet each other in the gym. A character says a line, and then text appears on the screen that gives their name and why they were chosen to attend the school. By the time all of the characters were introduced, I was like, “There’s no way I’m going to remember all of that!” Perhaps if I had some familiarity with the original video game that the series is based on, this might not have been so bad. By the end of the first episode, the only characters’ names I remembered were Makoto and Sakaya; all the rest are a blur.

By the time I finished the first episode, I felt like the cast was too large for the viewer to truly care about anybody, and the setup for the story feels a little too unbelievable at times. However, I will try to watch a second episode of the series to see if perhaps there’s something more here than what the first episode presents.

But it may be a couple of weeks before I can watch the second episode, because I’m not going to have access to streaming anime when the next episode becomes available at FUNimation’s website. However, I will try to catch up as quickly as I can.

Additional post about Danganronpa: The Animation:

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