Welcome to the School of Despair: #01 – Prologue
Upupu…it’s finally here. The widely popular Dangan Ronpa PSP game has finally received an anime adaptation. Odds are that you’ve already watched it and are here to either view some pics or read about some random dood’s opinion on it, so let’s begin. Well…what do you get when you take such an awesome and popular survival/mystery type VN game and give it a faithful animated adaptation? You’ll obviously get a very promising and exciting anime of course. While extreme fans will always declare the game as the superior experience (and they’re probably right since it was the origin of the series), I still found the first episode of Dangan Ronpa the Animation to be quite a pleasant surprise. As a person who has recently clocked in many hours into the original game thanks to the complete translation by Project Zetsubou, I was astounded by how similar the anime played out compared to its game counterpart. Even with the very first scene of the episode, I really thought I was just starting the game all over again. Thanks to the accurate presentation of the characters, atmosphere, and story, I feel like the anime will definitely be an enjoyable experience.
As for the story, we begin with an odd scene where a creepy bear, named Monokuma, has trapped some poor man and tortured him with some strange space ship. By the end of the scene, the guy is dead and we are tossed straight into the main story. Oh, as a side note, Monokuma has the same voice actor as Doraemon, which I find to be both cool and terrifying. Anyways, the plot revolves around the main protagonist, Makoto Naegi, a normal guy preparing to go to the most prestigious academy in the world. Despite being very average, Naegi has been “lucky” enough to be randomly chosen to be admitted to the institution, but he soon finds himself in a terrible situation. Upon entering the campus, he blacks out and awakens in a strange classroom with security cameras and steel-plated windows. Naegi soon finds a brochure advising him to head towards the gym and runs into a strange cast of 14 other unique students. The first character to have an immediate impact on our MC is Sayaka Maizono, a Super Duper Idol who happened to be his fellow classmate in middle school for 3 years. After Naegi (and us viewers) are rapidly introduced to all of the strange characters, Monokuma jumps straight to introducing himself and setting the rules to his special survival game. The students are trapped in the school campus and are bound to stay there forever, unless they “graduate.” In order to do this, Monokuma requires that the student kills a fellow student in any manner, but without getting caught.
The gang instantly freaks out with the sudden revelations and Naegi is unfortunately knocked out by gang-leader Oowada, who happened to be really on the edge due to the news. Naegi then wakes up with Maizono nearby, and learns that he is in a dorm room assigned to be his living quarters. After a cute scene of bonding between the two, the entire gang is rounded up in the cafeteria to discuss their plans to explore the school and hopefully find a way out. After a few days, the students found no leads and Monokuma then decides to eloquently express his boredom. To spice things up, the bear decided to show each student a DVD showing terrible stuff happening to their family and friends outside the enclosed school. In Naegi’s case, the video shows his family wishing him the best of luck at school, before cutting to a scene with his entire home being destroyed and his family gone. While Naegi and the others are all clearly disturbed, Maizono completely loses her mind and rushes out of the room. Naegi quickly rushes out to comfort her and the gang is left to reflect on how grim their situation is becoming as the episode ends.
Man, it appears I really have a thing for anime adaptations of popular video games (with Devil Survivor 2 last season, and Dangan Ronpa for this season). I suppose the reasoning for that is because I am highly intrigued by the idea of my favorite video game characters being brought to life through animation (as opposed to being static images as they often are in their games). The thing that peaks my interest the most in these adaptations is how they represent their original counterparts. As we saw a while back, the Persona 4 anime series was fairly accurate in the details from the game, but was lacking in many facilities. The Devil Survivor 2 anime from last season improved greatly from the Persona animation, but was less faithful to the game and kind of did its own thing to the plot. Dangan Ronpa the Animation, this time, appears to have nailed the adaptation of the game almost perfectly. This is done by accurately portraying the characters in the way the fans would expect and by directly including many elements of the game (such as the OST) into the anime. The anime possesses art that fits perfectly with the standard style of the game and even goes as far as to include the 2.5D-style animation for the execution scene. As far as the characters and their events go, I was pleasantly surprised by the interactions between Naegi and Maizono. Along with those two, I found the rest of the cast to be quite likable and interesting due to the personalities that were shown off when first introducing them. Overall, I’d say the first episode has left a good impression and suggests that this adaptation will be nearly everything in which I expected. The director of this adaptation, Seiji Kishi, was responsible for directing Angel Beats, the Persona 4 anime, and the Devil Survivor 2 anime. Many of us saw great things being done in Angel Beats, and the notable differences going from the P4 anime to the DS2 anime show that he knows how to change things up, so I can’t help but feel that Dangan Ronpa’s adaptation is going to be good. Well until next week, stay calm (unlike me) and brace yourselves for the epic events that are to come. Man, I am way too excited. XD