Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dropped: Dangan Ronpa: The Animation--SHSL Bad Adaptation

Dangan Ronpa: The Animation Screenshot 1

I apologize in advance. I'm going to be *that* kind of fan. (A/N: This post is spoiler free!)

Dangan Ronpa: The Animation Screenshot 2 Dangan Ronpa: The Animation Screenshot 3

This was one of the titles that I was most excited to see this season, but in my personal hype I forgot that I've yet to watch a good anime adaptation of a video game. I also should've paid more attention to the staff, since the director is also responsible for the Devil Survivor 2 anime, which was derided by fans of the source material across the board. I watched that show on a whim, and even without having played the game I could see why fans were upset. Unfortunately, Dangan Ronpa falls victim to the same strange adaptation decisions.

Dangan Ronpa: The Animation Screenshot 4 Dangan Ronpa: The Animation Screenshot 5

Most of the problems seem to come from the assumption that everyone watching this show knows that it's based on a game, and therefore are already familiar with the game's setup and characters. To this end, the anime recreates aspects of the game mechanics that are unnecessary in anime format, such as the "Investigation Start" that flashes across the screen and the memory minigame during the trials. However, that's all they are: game mechanics. They have little purpose in a medium that uses different visual cues and methods to get information across.

Dangan Ronpa: The Animation Screenshot 6 Dangan Ronpa: The Animation Screenshot 7

One of the strangest instances was how they rendered the trials from which the game gets its name, where the main character metaphorically "shoots" a weak point in an argument to pieces with a "bullet" that represents a clue. I was curious to see how they would handle this, but now I think it might've been better if they left it out entirely. In an exact replica of the screen from the game, "verbal bullets" are loaded in the corner (apparently putting in the actual clue names would take too much time and money for this production), but it's only relevant maybe once or twice in a trial episode. Naegi's "You've Got That Wrong!" has more than enough of a visual impact to get the point across, so this strange halfway effort sticks out.

Dangan Ronpa: The Animation Screenshot 8 Dangan Ronpa: The Animation Screenshot 9

But where certain aspects of the show are oddly specific recreations of the game, the rest of it seems to miss the point. I wasn't interested in watching this show to see if the minigames would make it in; I wanted to see how it would handle the characters and the story, and it fails on both ends. The clue-gathering in the lead-up to the trials are mostly glossed over in favor of a clip show listing the most important clues with little explanation. Earlier trials rely on knowledge of the rules of the school, but the majority of them are not mentioned until they come up in trial, making them appear like convenient excuses when the opposite was true in the game. Recently, even before the investigation begins, the show would randomly spotlight what was important, making the solutions obvious before the trial. There is no pondering, let alone the chance for the audience to try to solve it along with the characters; there's a murder, a checklist, and a resolution pulled from thin air. The anime feels like a someone's badly edited Let's Play video, with someone taking out the "boring bits" when they're actually pretty vital to understanding what's going on.

Dangan Ronpa: The Animation Screenshot 10 Dangan Ronpa: The Animation Screenshot 11

Similarly, most of the character development seems to have been thrown out the window. When the novelty of the crazy stereotypes wears off (and there's only so much "wacky" you can get away with when your premise involves high school students killing each other), what's left over? This was the main thing that sold me on the game series, since there is ample time to get to know these characters outside of the overblown tropes that they inhabit. There are tons of little quirks and insights into their pasts that make the characters much more human than they first appear. However, all of that has been thrown to the side for the sake of pacing, and the story is all the weaker for it. What were emotional punches to the gut in the game are dismissible in the anime.

Dangan Ronpa: The Animation Screenshot 12 Dangan Ronpa: The Animation Screenshot 13

In a way, I can understand why these choices were made. The staff has a lot of game to cover in just twelve episodes. However, there had to be a better way than this. There are moments of brilliance in here; they got Monobear down to a T, and I loved that they used him for additional fourth-wall jokes, like eating out of Winnie the Pooh's honey pot. I also love the ED, which nails the "video game" feeling far better than the actual show. It also has a red herring that isn't obvious unless you know how this all turns out. Why couldn't the same amount of thought be put into the rest of the show?

Dangan Ronpa: The Animation Screenshot 14

However, I can't completely knock this show as a bad method of exposure, since I've seen people on Twitter and Tumblr engaging with the anime in the same way that I initially did with the Something Awful Let's Play. To those people, and to others who liked the premise but dropped it because of the bad execution (har har), if you liked the story and the characters here but felt that they were lacking something, I encourage you to pick up the game and get the full experience. A localization was announced not to long ago for the US and Europe, and I hope that the anime's misguided direction doesn't impact that.

TL;DR: The game is better, so don't bother with the show.

Images from and


  1. Hmm. For some reason I expected moar rage xD

    You are right: I want to actually check out the games now (except it's coming on a system I don't have) thanks to the anime. But I kind of want to forget I watched the anime now. Just so disappointing. I mean it's clear you want to try to be as faithful to the source as possible...but sometimes moving away from the source is not a bad thing. Maybe they'll get it when these types of anime stop selling.

    ...Or maybe not >_>

  2. Well, now that you're aware of certain plot twists, it'll make the build up more interesting. But yeah, I think that they picked the wrong thing to be faithful to. Game mechanics are only interesting when you're playing a game, not when you're watching a TV show. I remember reading some reactions (I think it was on Tumblr, but I'm not sure) from people who were watching the show not knowing that it was based on a game, and they were really confused. They didn't understand why a "mystery" show wouldn't show the clues or explain the characters. And honestly, I don't either! ;^^

    The only way to stop it is to hit them in the wallet... But we're not in Japan, so oh well.

  3. A fan translated version of the game has been out for about 2 months now and its excellent. I watched the first arc of the show and decided to just play the game instead and boy am I glad, the game is all the parts I loved about Phoenix Wright with a lot less tedium. The persona esque free time events are also a really fun element. I'm glad the anime exists because it introduced me to the game but as a show its basically just a cashgrab. There's minimal animation and even the music is truncated for time's sake.

  4. I was about to start playing the fan translation when the official localization was announced, so now I'm waiting for that. All of the screenshots I've seen look amazing though. And I agree, the show is a good way to get the name out there, but so much of what made the game and story fun to play is completely missing here.

  5. It's a good thing I decided not to watch the anime, and instead, opted for the game. Think I managed to finish the game when the anime was still in the middle of the third case.. xD Last I checked in a random Youtube clip, I see they adapted the MTB and "ammunitions" almost similarly. But now I see they even did stuffs like the flashing anagrams.. xD It's like I'm "watching a game".. lol xD

  6. I just checked back in to see a bit if episode 11 for Naegi/Kirigiri OTP feels, and it struck me how condensed everything is. It's not inaccurate, but it's speeding through things so quickly it's hard to understand why it dwells on the things it does.

  7. It's a very good post about the animated games. I really want check out this games in future. Thank you for sharing this information.


  8. Pedro Marcelo González BoveSeptember 21, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    I actually decided to pick up the game before i finished watching the anime (noticed the 2nd case was way too unpredictable and i had read about the game mechanics, so i figured there were more clues that they weren't explaining or were hiding, so I decided to pick up the game), and i loved it, and also noticed the things they did wrong and realized it wasn't that good of an adaptation (in most aspects, at least they could translate monokuma perfectly xD), also, you're right about the game mechanics, in the game you feel the impact of Naegi's bullet, but since the art during the class trial isn't the same art used in the game, in the anime the impact isn't that big, so it'd have been better if they left it out, also, i think it goes away from the purpose of the game, the game gives you a mystery you can actually solve because you are presented with all the clues you need, but the anime hiding clues or not explaining them (or hiding stuff like Oowada not saying his brother was dead[which makes you think there'd be nothing he'd have to hide from others]) makes it pretty unpredictable, i don't like how they rush through the investigation (where in the game it can take you up to one hour in the latter cases, they could have at least given the investigation 20 mins), i also think they should somehow show the climax scenes (once Naegs discovers everything and you tie it all up, and the scene plays) so people have a better grasp of what actually happened, and not make the reveal of the crime so fast it's hard to get everything down, but yeah xD i think they could have done it better too, i think they didn't want the audience to be able to figure out the crimes so they hided the clues to make it unexpected, they should have stayed faithful in the investigation instead of the game mechanics, i didn't drop the series XD but haven't felt like watching it, but i'm gonna watch the episodes i haven't soon to see how they did it (i'm curious about how they adapted the last 2 chapters), btw, i also love the ED XD one of my faves this season

  9. Sounds like we're in complete agreement then! XD

    I heard that they even cut down the final trials to just one-half of an episode, which is really disappointing to hear since there's a lot of interesting stuff in there revolving around the reveal of the mastermind and what's really going on. *sigh*

    At least we still have the games!

  10. Pedro Marcelo González BoveSeptember 23, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    Yeah XD and really? I don't see how they could do that, the last 2 trials are the longest ones o.o and the 1st and 2nd not being as long took 1 whole episode each, damn, i think i'm gonna watch the last few episodes today to see what they messed up (i remember my friend telling me that for the 5th investigation they only pointed out 2 or 3 clues) and yep! xD i hope the fan translation for the 2nd one finishes soon, since i don't have a ps vita TwT (i heard the localization was going to be 2 games in 1 for the ps vita)

  11. Pedro Marcelo González BoveSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    Ok XD as i said in the other comments started watching where i left the anime, i got to episode 9, and from the start it was bad, you know how in Oogami's trial you have to prove that Hagakure went to the meeting, and Fukawa also denied going? The trial starts by confessing she did go .-.

  12. It's funny that you mention that, since that was the exact moment that I decides that I was dropping the anime. Sakura is one of my favorite characters, and it got me really upset that they'd cut down on the trial so much!

    And the bit about Togami is also interesting, since something about him felt off the entire time I was watching. I think you nailed it though!

  13. Pedro Marcelo González BoveSeptember 23, 2013 at 9:04 PM

    I know right! That was my favorite trial overall, double assassination and suicide! i loved trying to reason it as i did the investigation, and yeah XD i mean, he smiled, and he sounded like he was dropping the game because he wanted to do something nice, but he's not supposed to sound like that until the last case, but oh well, by the way, i still remember yesterday when i came to read the review (i tried finding others that said the same and was starting to think i was the only one who thought like that XD in other places there are almost no rants or people who complained), and when i the anime's director was the same as Devil Survivor 2 (that was something i didn't know til i came here XP) i was like oh, now it makes sense xD now i'll make sure to not watch any game adaptations from this director from now on, i'm just gonna finish danganronpa to see how bad it gets near the end (Oogami's trial was one of the longest and one of the most challenging, they rushed through it in about 13 mins (taking off the 2 mins the opening lasts), by the way, are you a fan of the Shin Megami tensei games? O: (the origin games of devil survivor XP which is one of the sagas, to be more specific, do you also like the persona saga? O: [seeing how the persona 3 movie is coming soon *-* i had to ask])

  14. Yeah, I'm also going to avoid this guy's game adaptations from now on.

    I haven't played any of the Devil Survivor games, but I am a Persona fan! I'm really excited about the Persona 3 movie, and I hope it's done well!

  15. Pedro Marcelo González BoveSeptember 24, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    Yeah, 2 shots at it and he earned a really bad reputation, and ohhh awesome!! same here, i heard complaints about the Persona 3 anime because it was actually a sequel and not an adaptation of the game itself, but the movie is gonna be an adaptation of the game, and xD when i watched the trailer and saw Yuka with the gun, i was like, i remember that! xD, persona 3 is the only one i've played, i have the 1 and 2 ports for the psp though, i started them a while ago, and i'll watch Persona 4 the animation when i get the time, i'll also play the game when i get a good computer, since i heard besides the main game there's a part in which you play as a detective XD and i'm a fan of mysteries (i'll look up where in the anime the part of the mystery in the game starts to make sure not to watch it XD)