Anime: Danganronpa - The Future Arc
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: October 03, 2017
Retail Price: $64.98
Every few years, an anime series flourishes and finds itself earning a sequel -- but sometimes they are able to broaden their horizons and become a franchise. The series Danganronpa (a popular video game series) was turned into an anime that ended up garnering the adoration of countless fans for its pull-no-punches attitude and overt brutality, so the fact that it would continue didn’t quite come as a major surprise. What did manage to change the general method of a sequel was the fact that Danganronpa earned two installments as a follow-up which included the Despair Arc (a highly recommended prequel that is very necessary to the plot) and a second titled The Future Arc that continues where the first left off but additionally follows the prequel.
In the first of the series, Hope's Peak High School was the primary focus, where several new students hoping to gain entrance to an “elite” academy began to kill each other with an unknown element to what came of the survivors. The prequel showed the beginning of despair and hopelessness that the academy eventually perfects and sets the stage for both factions to need resolve. The third addition of Danganronpa follows original protagonist Makoto Naegi who has found himself under investigation from his allies of The Future Foundation (a group hoping to end the terror of Despairs) for the act of seemingly aiding the Despairs. As if things couldn’t differ more from the premise, some familiarity comes into play as Monokuma (everyone's favorite murderous teddy bear) returns to abduct the crew and begin another game that could result in more death, carnage and despair if hope isn’t able to prevail.
The interesting thing about the Future Arc is the fact that it comes off the heels of two polarizing series. With the first Danganronpa being mostly enjoyable, the second became even more powerful, and then the third is left to deal with the progression of both -- which isn’t always met successfully. Some of the secondary characters (or “Despairs”) were the most captivating roles but they have since been tarnished, killed or are mostly on the peripheral of what we experience in this third act of the franchise. By choosing to follow Naegi, it almost diminishes the well written attributes of others in favor of him. With that being said, they do manage to jump around and showcase others from time to time in an attempt to meet in the middle which is a strong suit granted there is two entirely separate stories to address, something other series accidentally take on not realizing the difficulty of the task.
Some of the side characters such as Monaca Towa blurred lines between good and bad, making her commitment to Junko remind us of the mental state of the Despairs or any brainwashed individual like they had become a mass murdering cult. Her role wasn’t particularly large in the grand scheme but Towa provided a great reason to appreciate the side characters of a series with so many others involved. It also managed to add a dose of humanity to an otherwise perceived group of ruthless individuals, making Danganronpa as morally complex as it was intended to be from its conception. For other characters you may feel for (such as Despairs) they have a bit of a rougher go at things when many are rendered comatose for the duration -- a fate better than what others experience. One other character who in particular stood out as a positive product of the anime was Chisa Yukizome, a teacher filled with a light of hope that seems to go through complete highs and lows. A final moment for the character offers us a glimpse at what comes of those who have been through the utter turmoil or despair, leaving some hope as the series attempts -- while feeling completely bittersweet, which is the word that would best describe the series entirely.
As usual, the animation in Danganronpa is true to their material with an amplified visual upgrade. The characters this time around are thrown into a dark, grim feeling world with a tendency to lead towards a heavier atmosphere. I applaud the effort to make it follow the energy it began with, while visually shifting the series into something more than its usual. Bringing both English dub casts together for Future Arc brought this anime experience full circle, creating a unique viewing experience that only enhances the world of Danganronpa for those who love it -- which after experiencing on my own accord, I can understand.
Overall Score: 7/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
- I wished there was more focus on the Despairs as they truly became my favorite characters the series introduced.
- A few truly human moments made me realize the series wants to be deeper intellectually, it just takes a little extra effort to get those successful moments.
- I wouldn’t be opposed to more danganronpa in the future, I just don’t know what the next logical step would be in the progression of the narrative.