“Visual Novel” is a term that those outside of Japan may not be too familiar with or they may think of them as how they are commonly perceived in the North American anime fandom; “Those weird Japanese porno games”. While, there are many erotic visual novel games out there, it is true that there are those out there that manage to stay rather clean so, referring to them as “porno games” is a pretty broad statement. I begin like this because I’m talking about Danganronpa, an anime based on a visual novel for the PSP.
Analysis: Let me start off by saying that this show won me over immediately with its opening sequence. I don’t know why I find Japanese people rapping in English so interesting, I just do. This show has also satisfied a craving that I’ve been starved for in my anime for awhile now, and that is my craving for wacky character designs. As the years go by, it seems that repetition is the name of the game in regards to anime character designs and that is truly a shame. I miss the days when “Looking somewhat human” was NOT a requirement for effective character design. The days of Shotaro Ishinomori and Go Nagai. I mean, there are some modern character designs I enjoy but, I’m just getting bored of them. What I’m trying to say is that I want less character designs like this:
And more character designs like THIS:
Plot wise, Danganronpa isn’t totally out of the normal. A group of high-schoolers who are extraordinary in various categories are brought together and trapped inside of boarding school by what appears to be a talking stuffed bear. Their only way to escape is for one in the group to commit a murder and mislead the rest into believing their innocent. Only then, will that one person be free while the rest are murdered. The show succeeds in setting up a solid murder mystery but, kinda loses steam in its execution. This leads us to one of the problems that arises when adapting something like a visual novel game into an anime; time constraints. despite the name, visual novels by nature are extremely wordy endeavors. Often times, 3-4 paragraphs will be used to describe what was essentially 20-30 seconds worth of action or to map out a character’s inner thoughts and motivations or strictly for world-building. That being said, when you transport that over to a medium where you really can’t spare the time for that sort of inner monologue without being accused of “dragging” or being “terribly paced” so, many of these bits are left out in anime adaptions of visual novels. This can often lead to unexplained plot points and unclear character actions that can make the adaption seem poor or misdirected, one of the finer examples of this is the Fate/Stay Night anime produced by Studio Deen back in 2006.
In the case of Danganronpa, things like this can lead to murders being way too easy to solve. part of the excitement of murder mysteries is that even you, as the omnipotent viewer who has all the clues laid out in front of you, are finding it difficult to solve the case. However, in the case of Danganronpa, the clues all seem so obvious that you can point out the killer before the episode is even halfway done, and it doesn’t help the fact that our culprit can’t keep a poker face to save his life, literally.
Verdict: Danganronpa has an interesting premise and characters that I don’t mind seeing each week but, as far as murder mystery anime go, it doesn’t stand up to things like Detective Conan or Neuro. In a slower anime season this would be one of my top shows but, I’ll probably wait until it finishes up to watch it.