What They Say:
Hope’s Peak High School is a special school that nurtures those with exceptional talents and abilities. While only top students are a part of the main course, anyone can join the preparatory course, like Hajime Hinata has. Hinata wants nothing more than to be part of the talented elite, but his desires lead him to a fateful encounter that drives the future of the school into despair.
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 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.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episode series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. 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. The character artwork and more violent sections 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.
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 uses different artwork from the case itself. The o-card has just two of the characters standing against a black and white background that’s distinctive but I’m hard pressed to call them as the ones to use for it. The case artwork itself goes for a full class breakout of the cast and that’s much more detailed and appealing. The back cover goes for a pink design that looks good while bringing in some blood splatter in black 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 two-panel spread of the cast in a police stye lineup.
The menu for this release is pretty simple but it works well as it utilizes the lineup artwork from the reverse side cover to spread the cast across it. It gives it a busy and full feeling in the right way while bringing in the logo clearly and the touches of color with the pink, black, and blue to accent it. Combined with strong and distinctive character designs, it’s an eye-catching piece that works well as a still image. 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.
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 video commentary track for the tenth episode from the English language production team.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first Danganronpa anime season was something that I found curiously interesting with what it did in basically presenting a new round of torture porn with kids at the center of it. These kinds of projects can be done well, particularly if they’re set up in the right way to be more about pure horror and mood like When They Cry. The first season of this was a pretty oppressive piece that brought out the fear and chaos well of the situation. But, quite frankly, it didn’t leave me wanting more. It took a couple of years but more Dangaronpa arrived with an adaptation involving the third game and was done in a weird way as a two-cour show running in the same cour, one being the Future Arc and the other this, the Despair Arc. Keeping in mind that I haven’t played the games nor have any interest in them, and there was no adaptation of the second game, this show proved a tough nut to crack.
This arc serves as a prequel to the Trigger Happy Havoc game of the franchise, which means that it’s even more meaningless in a way I guess. It focuses on the 77th Class of the Hope Peak Academy as the specialized students get together and we get some time with the Reserve Course students as well. The kids aren’t really all the engaging because there’s a lot working against investing in them. The first is the idea that you know that at some point most, if not all, are going to die. So why invest? There are some light stories for some of them that helps to flesh them out a touch, showing a life outside of the school or some other interactions, but they’re just a hair above the background characters that are all done in blue since they’re not “worth” animating in full. The second is that with this as a prequel and it tying into the other arc at the end (making it hard/impossible to watch this in any sense of parallel order), it just feels out of sync in general.
What you can latch onto with it, and even this is hard, is the character of Chisa Yukizome. She’s a relatively recent graduate herself and is working as an assistant homeroom teacher for the 77th class. It’s fun to watch her drawing the diverse group together in a comical way at first since the class doesn’t have much in the way of rules and demands because of how special they are, but she’s intent on putting them together and giving them a good school experience. What makes it interesting, however, is that she’s actually working as a spy for Kyosuke, which is part of its own sprawling thing that includes the Future Foundation and… yeah, it just becomes complicated in a way that I can’t quite grok simply because of the broken nature of how the anime is going. This is a property that is true multimedia in that you need to play and see it all for it to work, unless you want to invest a lot of time in wikis to figure it all out. And, quite honestly, the series doesn’t feel like it warrants that kind of attention because you get the sense that most everyone is killed anyway and nobody who does stick around has a good future ahead of them – Yukizome included. That just becomes far too depressing.
Where the show can find something you can latch onto is the surreal aspect of the Class’ abilities and specialties with how they utilize them at times and how some of that factors in about halfway through the season when it shifts into the combat phase. Putting the kids to the task of killing each other so their despair level rises and can then be sent into the world to draw out more despair is what delivers what I think most viewers are looking for. The violence is pretty intense, there’s some really strong sequences that make you cringe, and even with not caring a whit about any of the characters you can find some emotional beats that resonate as they kill or get killed. The only downside is that they have to undercut it because of ratings within the game side that forced them into pink blood, which is thematically carried across here. I get it, I understand it, but it just removes what little impact it should really have.
Danganronpa as a franchise is a tough one in general and one that in the current climate I’m admittedly feeling even more uneasy about. I can totally separate fiction from reality and have no problem with it existing and there being fans of it, but it proved hard to watch what happens here amid the reality of the world in the here and now. Funimation’s release is well put together with a good package overall, a solid encode and dub, and I’m always glad to see a new video commentary. The show itself is simply one that requires more knowledge from non-anime sources to watch it and I don’t think it sets things up well nor operates as something that non-fans can get into very easily, making it a frustrating experience.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Audio Commentary, Clean Openings, Clean Closings
Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: October 3rd, 2017
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.