Have you ever found yourself in a situation where it seemed impossible to get out of? A situation that just sucks all the life out of you? Well, allow me to introduce you to the world of Danganronpa. In quick summary, Danganronpa (ダンガンロンパ produced by Spike Chunsoft) is a Japanese murder mystery/fantasy visual novel game that takes place at the elite school, Hope’s Peak Academy. Here, a group of talented students known as ultimates are supposedly trapped within its walls with no way out. Truly insane right? When it seems like things can’t get any worse, the ultimate students are forced into a death game by a malicious robot bear named Monokuma (モノクマ). To put it this way, in order for the students to escape the horrors of this situation is to commit a horror themselves, without getting caught. Moreover, things mainly start to get interesting during the start of the class trials which are the highlights of the Danganronpa trilogy. During these class trials, the students face each other off and debate to try and identify who they believe to be the culprit of the murder. If they can correctly identify them, only the blackened will be punished. If they guess wrong however, all the remaining students except the blackened will be punished and they will have the honor of graduating or in this case, the only path of escape. Yes, the stakes are unbelievably high and in a battle of life and death, the players witness how far these students are willing to play their luck into the hands of fate. Danganronpa toys with the emotions of the cast and players alike as challenging the themes of hope and despair is what the game is all about.
Hope and Despair
First of all, how do death games correspond to the real world? In addition, What makes this franchise different yet so powerful among players? I am a very avid fan of the mystery genre and what caught my eye when discovering this game was the playstyle and depth of the story. Sure, the concept of a death game has played out many times. Hunger Games, Battle Royale, As the God’s Will, and Squid Games are all primary examples of such. People are intrigued by the unpredictable, the things you can’t exactly grasp in real life like those in The Mojave Phone Booth, where the idea of a working telephone booth being in the middle of nowhere was an unbelievable concept. The amount of unexpected twists as you play along will simply have your jaw drop in shock with how incredibly detailed and well-done it is, making them feel more involved in the story. Everything from the eerie setting to the music is made to create a lack of security within the player. To create that despair Monokuma oh so loves. This is why Danganronpa is so brilliant and is able to stand out amongst other games of the same genre. You just never know what will happen next and the game does an excellent job at keeping players near the edge of their seats every single chapter. It is rare to find a game that accomplishes this successfully. Despite it’s dark and heavy elements, it manages to twist itself with colorful, fun pop themes similar to the short film “Scavengers”. This is prevalent throughout the class trials and most certainly present in the soundtrack (the music is truly great and absolutely unique). For a game created in 2010, it was simply way ahead of its time. The characters featured in each of the games are all also very unique in their own special way and contribute a great majority to the enjoyment factor of Danganronpa. The creator even states how each character is written as if they were a main character. By interacting with them as the story progresses, you create strong connections with them almost as if you were experiencing Danganronpa yourself. Which is what makes their passing even more painful. All of that, is what makes up the excellence of Danganronpa.
From fiction to reality
In conclusion, it is obvious that the overall premise of Danganronpa revolves around the common theme of hope vs. despair. From what I can gather is that in many ways, this connects to the overall nature of humans. Monokuma’s main goal and purpose for setting up this killing game is to create a feeling of despair so strong that the cast would be forced to surrender their lives to him. The students in the killing game experience such despair-inducing heartbreak that they almost gave into the mastermind’s schemes while doing so. However, by finding a sense of security in each other, they are able to overcome this despair by generating all their courage and hope to finally step forward towards a future not determined by destiny. Looking at our current world, we always face challenges in our modern society that make us feel strong emotions, hope and despair included. People tend to lose confidence when facing obstacles of high difficulty. We all fall into the dark sometimes where it seems like there is no other solution than following a path that can not be changed. It is simply inevitable. Danganronpa teaches us that you can’t truly have hope without despair and vice versa. Both are constantly intermingling with each other. In my opinion, “The effect, for all I know, has lasted a lifetime.” After taking all the little things into deep consideration, I have an even deeper appreciation for the series. My love for the story and the characters will see no end. In a world where we are forced to face challenges everyday, it is fine to feel lost. Because sooner or later at the end of the road, a glorious hope will shine through it all.
One thought on “Danganronpa: Facing Hope In the Name of Despair”
How is this anime different than Assassination Classroom? Have you watched both or is it more like Battle Royale. These types of movies really depress me because they seem very plausible based on various historical events. I just can’t watch them. Even SQUID game I avoided.