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Danganronpa Season 1 Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Danganronpa REThere’s little hope to be had at Hope’s Peak High.

What They Say:
Hope’s Peak High School only accepts the best of the best, and these superlative students will have to add slaughter to their schedules if they hope to leave the school in something other than a body bag.

Beat! Stab! Crush!

Just don’t get caught! To the victor goes freedom, but only if no one can figure out whodunnit. Get caught, and suffer a specially ordered punishment to fit the crime! From the oddly ordinary Makoto Naegi, to students that are the best and brightest hope for the future – all are plunged into the depths of ultimate despair! But what’s this? The biggest mystery of all may be the secrets of the school itself. When the sadistic Monokuma starts to leave a trail of mind-bending clues, will there be any hope left for survival for the remaining students trapped in this trigger-happy havoc?

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language in stereo as does the new English language production, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The serie is one that definitely works the whole dialogue angle in a big way as it’s all about interaction and deduction sequences, but it plays it well with various sequences in using the forward soundstage well. The swirling of sound similar to the camera at times hits a good note and in general it’s well placed throughout. The more active areas have a bit more impact as one would expect, notably with the punishment phases of it, but by and large it’s a strong and solid mix that achieves what it sets out to do. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either track.

Video:
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episode series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second, the last of which is an extended length episode. Animated by Lerche, the show has a pretty good look about it when it comes to the mainline animation and what it sets out to do. It’s distinctive and colorful with some good detail that brings to life elements of the game in its own way. When it delves into the punishment phase of the episode, we get something that’s far more CG and from the game in design and it works well to really make it stand out and feel like something different as it gets particularly cruel and violent. Both pieces are well captured by the transfer with the main area showing some good detail and color pop while the punishment side holds the dark colors and its rougher nature quite well so that it doesn’t break up. There’s a strong design in general for the show and what we get here handles it competently and cleanly.

Danganronpa MangaPackaging:
The packaging for this release is done up in a standard edition form as we get a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case that comes with an O-card that replicates the artwork from the case itself. THe front cover gives us a good if stark image and color design that has Naegi and Monokuma together set against a black and white background. The logo is done all in white against this in a stronger layer and with a few bursts of color on it the whole thing definitely stands out well. It also comes with a burst sticker talking about how it comes with the unaired director’s cut of the thirteenth episode, which certainly ups interest. The back cover goes for a black design that looks good while bringing in some blood splatter, albeit in the pink from the show design, with some good scrawled text along the way. The layout is straightforward with a decent summary of the premise in the middle and a clean look at the extras included with the set. The technical grid along the bottom lays out everything for both formats in a clean, clear, and accurate fashion. The reverse side artwork from the case is pretty nice as well as we get a look at the episodes by number and title along the left while the rest is a series of slices of each of the characters from the show – with a little Monokuma along the lower right. Add a little splash of pink blood as well and you get a good looking release here.

Menu:
The menu design for this isn’t quite the standard fare we get from FUNimation and that works in its favor. What we get is a lightly animated main screen that has Monokuma’s spread across it doing a little bit of leg-lifting exercises while the music plays along to it. They’re all set against a white background with a lot of pink blood splatter and the whole combination really does work to be something kind of surreal. The navigation strip is off center from top to bottom with the logo through the middle of it and that block of black helps to give the whole thing a bit more weight and definition. The navigation itself is straightforward and easy to access and it’s amusing to have it come up through the middle like this during playback as well.

Extras:
The extras for this release are fairly standard as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a newly produced commentary track for the first episode from the English language production team.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the visual novel game series from Spike Chunsoft, Danganronpa is a thirteen episode series animated by by studio Lerche that was broadcast in the summer 2013 anime season. The show is one that certainly got attention for what it did, both in the visual design of the villain of it with the bear Monokuma, but also for the fact that the violence side of it was treated in a difficult way for some fans as the bloody nature of it is done up in pink for the blood. There’s copious amounts of it, but in order to lessen the disturbing nature of it for broadcast standards, they went this route in order to keep it bloody. For some, this was a dealbreaker. I don’t particularly mind it and it just adds to the kind of surreal nature of things. I totally get the frustration of it, however, because I can see how this would be even darker if it went with full on violent blood red blood.

A series like Dangranronpa is really difficult to talk about in full unless you’re intent on spoiling each last detail. At the same time, talking about it in detail is something that I think only works when you work it as a simulcast, digging into each new experience as a shared moment with other fans and wondering how it’s going to turn out and what the tricks of it are. The premise of it is familiar enough as we’re introduced to Makoto Naegi, a new high school student that’s attending Hope’s Peak High, an elite school where the best of the best go. He’s got a super high skill himself, though it comes in the form of luck. Or, more specifically, bad luck. The school is one where there’s an array of top tier kids that are in it and he’s surprised that he’s there, but Naegi is intent on doing his best and achieving what he can so he can go against the bad luck that he believes he’s cursed with.

Danganronpa
Danganronpa

And what bad luck he has as he and fifteen other students discover that the whole school is actually a massive murder trap that they’re now a part of. With hazy memories as to how things went down at first, these kids discover that their lives are being broadcast to the world – a world excitedly cheering them on by all appearances – where there are just a few rules. Within a set location within this school, they have to kill someone in order to graduate and escape. The trick is that they have to do it so that nobody sees it and nobody can conclusively prove that they did it. Naturally, it doesn’t take long for a whole lot of bending the rules to come into play nor does it take long for the murders to start as there are those intent on getting out of there as quickly as possible. Particularly interesting is that when three people discover the dead body, a Classroom Trial begins where the students as a whole have to determine who’s guilty. If they pick the right person, the guilty ends up being punished to death in brutal fashion. If they guess wrong, the murderer gets to graduate while the rest of the students are killed off instead. Suffice to say, the pressure is intense.

The series works a range of different types of murders that occur while dealing with a group of very diverse people with high level skills across a range of talents. There are plenty of familiar types here, from the idol to the detective, the jock to the athletic girl. There’s also a split personality psychopath which is interesting to watch as they all interact and play out. Overseeing all of this is Monokuma, a small black and white bear that they believe to be the principal who himself has snapped for some reason. There’s a lot of mystery as to how all of this could happen, and rightly so, but it really works a fascinating end storyline that left me craving so much more to see how far the truth extends and the reality of it all. But, it isn’t the point of the story of the series. The point is to show the way these kids deal with the murders, the despair, and the hope that they try to eke out of it so they can survive from what this crazed bear has created.

Danganronpa
Danganronpa

The look of the show, as mentioned with the pink blood earlier, is certainly distinctive in general. There are some really neat character designs to it with the approach used and I like the way there’s an almost angular and raw look to some of them. The show plays well to the location designs, going for something above average but not trying to be crazy over the top with detail or design. Where the show is definitely different, however, is with part of the Classroom Trials. The swirling in is definitely working the CG camera level a lot, but the punishment aspect of it essentially builds right out of the games themselves with the look and design of it. It’s very off-putting at first, but as it went on and we watched more and more of these kids sentenced to death, I found myself appreciating that it shifted the tone like it did. It doesn’t diminish it, but it provides just enough separation from the main designs that it makes it easier to work through – especially the way some of them are violent. There’s plenty of violence elsewhere – the way some characters are carved up certainly proves that, but I like how they turned this design element into a big positive as it progressed.

In Summary:
I had no idea what to expect going into Dangranronpa, but I came away pretty damn pleased by it. The show works the mysteries well, plays the death cards just right, and really ramps up the pressure and intensity. I don’t think it was able to sustain it well in the last episode with an overly long exposition aspect to bring it all to resolution, but that’s a meager complaint after twelve episodes of solid tension and events playing out that made for really dark times. I liked the design of the show overall, had no problem with the pink blood, and even liked the game designed punishment aspects of it all – things that might be jarring for a lot of others and take them out of it. For me, it just added to the surreal nature in a positive way and made me more invested and afraid of those punishments with what would come. This release is solid across the board, well presented and laid out, and fans of it should be pretty pleased by what they get in the end with it.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Audio Commentary, Clean Openings, Clean Closings

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 10th, 2015
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 335 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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