“Yōkoso Zetsubō Gakuen” (ようこそ絶望学園)
So I reviewed Danganronpa when it came out on my personal blog all those years ago, with the new series coming out in about 6 days I thought I’d do a major re-watch and review it on here before the new one comes out.
So we’ll have two reviews a day for the next 6 or so days. Aren’t you lucky?! I’ll even review the first game before the new series comes on too!
The ultimate tale of despair. When a bunch of kids walk through the doors of a elite high school they never knew what was in store for them. You get to join the mystery and live through the strange days at Hope Peak Academy.
When I first watched it I remember having goosebumps the whole way through episode 1. After the last season of anime you might have realised I LOVE mysteries, gore, depressing shit like that. Everything about the first episode filled my need for all the above and even more. It introduced ridiculously crazy characters and introduced us to the Ultimate Despair.
I haven’t actually watched it again after watching it the first time, which might surprise you seeing I have nothing but high praise for it. After not having seen it since it aired in 2013 it STILL gave me goosebumps though.
Just everything from the music to the animation style, the characters to the story itself just got you ready for the ride of a lifetime.
It managed in a small amount of time to really introduce us to all the classmates. From hot heads like Mondo, weirdos like Hiro and loners like Byakuya. Their personalities, all which are completely different, shone so well that by the end of the episode you felt like you knew them all. That is obviously such a important thing when you look at the point of their plight.
To “graduate” you have to kill someone and get away with it. The details of all that weren’t explained but that was all you needed to know. Its obvious therefore that a mystery side to the anime is going to show up sooner or later and the most important thing for us is to learn as much as we can about the characters so we ourselves can also work out mysteries presented in the anime.
This time around, like Penguindrum, I am watching it dubbed for the first time and with that there is one thing that disappointed me. The voices for both Celeste and Junko kind of didn’t fit, specially after playing the game. Junko’s was just overly annoying and Celeste is supposed to have a French accent… Well it sounded French in the game. The importance of Celeste’s accent I will go into in a later episode.
So whilst most of the episode is about introducing the characters and what is happening to them, and whilst it isn’t as in depth as the game it does it well, the episode ends with the game becoming real. Monokuma might talk a lot but the class end up finding out just how far he’s willing to go to do whatever it is he wants to do.
Monokuma is great. Instantly I loved him as the antagonist the first time and it just gets better the more I see him. I have a Monokuma hoodie, he’s always been a baddie I just love.
For the first episode you have to take in a lot. All these students are the Ultimate student in their field. Some are stranger then others, for example Hiro is the Ultimate Clairvoyant and the main character Makoto is the Ultimate Lucky Student after winning his place in the school in some sort of raffle. The school, Hope Peak, is meant to be the doorway to guaranteed success after graduation.
As I said Makoto is the main character, you kind of follow him on his journey in the school. He walks into the school for his first day just to black out and find himself in a empty classroom. In that classroom there is a pamphlet crudely made telling him to be in the gym for 8pm. When he gets there that is where he meets the rest of the class and Monokuma who quickly tells them his motives, as much as he gives away at this time anyway, and the name of the game. Kill someone and get away with it and you’ll make it out alive. He also proves that disobeying school rules could be deadly as Mondo attacks him and he blows up.
So the struggle for these characters is this.
If you don’t want to kill people then you can all live in this building for the rest of your natural life.
If the outside world means that much to you then you’ll have to kill someone and not be found out to graduate and leave.
Celeste is the one that points out to the group that right now what they need to do is adapt. To survive they must adapt, if you don’t want to kill then you have to get used to the life that you now live. They won’t run out of food, yet their environment is quite small, therefore you just adapt to survive.
What I love about it though is that right from the off it leaves a bit of a niggle at the back of the characters minds. “Well I wouldn’t ever kill anyone so…. no one else would want to either would they?” Even without any other reason to do so you will have to live on your wits ends hoping that the other students don’t have that killer instinct inside them that could be the end of you.
Now that is all you get in the game for a while (sorry I am going to write these a little retrospectively and with mention of the game) but this hurries it along faster. In the game you have a few days between getting there and what happens next in the anime happening, mainly as one of the parts of the game is to get to know the other students, whereas you don’t need that in the anime.
What happens next is that Monokuma gives them a “motive” a reason to make even a sane person WANT to commit murder.
His motive comes in the form of videos that show something terrible that upsets everyone. Makoto’s is the only one you see as he’s the character you are looking through the eyes of. His is a message from home, a happy family. Suddenly it flashes to his house completely in ruins and no sight of his mother, father or sister. The Motive being if you want to know what happened you have to graduate. If you want to graduate you have to kill someone.
The anime kind of skips over getting to know each other straight to the giving them a motive bit even though I believe the same amount of time has actually passed. Then again in such a short space of time I think the anime did a good job of introducing you to the characters anyway. It was the characters that really made me fall in love with the anime in the first place, they were just expanded beyond my wildest dreams in the game, and coming back to the anime just makes me love them even more now.
If you don’t get excited for this in episode 1 I guess the anime just isn’t for you. As I said two reviews a day till we’re caught up and then we’ll be onto the next series! So lets all get ready to share some despair!