Anime: Danganronpa 3 - The Animation (Despair Arc)
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Retail Price: $64.98
If you are familiar with the videogame or anime series Danganronpa, you know death is imminent. From the first season we became privy to the twisted world where those at a “special” high school were forced to kill each other or driven to insanity where they would eventually try if they didn’t think they had the ability to do it themselves. In the first season, the ending left it ambiguous in terms of what would come next, but when the second season was made it was divided into two separate arcs, the Despair Arc (that’s what this review will focus on) and the Future Arc, a follow up to the original anime that will also crossover into the Despair storyline too. The one thing both have in common? Death, Hope’s Peak High School and major trust issues that develop from a series of betrayals and murders.
As the series is described, Hope’s Peak High School is one that “nurtures” those students with unique talents or attributes but despite it being an elite school that only accepts the best of the best - anyone is given the chance to join if you are willing to lose your life (that part is left out of the pamphlet.) A young man name Hinata truly wants to become a part of the highly coveted school but what he wasn’t aware of was that his devotion to joining would take him down a very dark, twisted path filled with nothing but despair as the title of the series promised. Though Hinata may be a prominent figure, I will say that there is a twist that changes things for the character that will unfold into a major aspect of the Danganronpa world.
The consistent theme throughout the series is despar as they repeatedly say throughout the series. While it’s constantly said during the anime, the events of the series are what solidifies the truth and impact of that statement. The first five episodes of the Despair Arc include new characters that all are crucial to making it a series that attempts to go through a spectrum of emotion. They all begin as a group of friends (mostly) who have a love and appreciation for the school and each other, but after using half of the arc to get to know the characters - it becomes a true tragedy in the making. What makes this somewhat different from the others, is that the first season of the anime had characters worth enjoying but they all missed the spark that made you feel connected to or invested in. These lovable characters (students, teachers, etc) went from an almost slice-of-life ambiance to a horror series filled with immense bloodshed.
Another nice difference was the storyline that included brainwashing, which sounds strange but in fact made it darker than you could anticipate. Seeing the deterioration of them as opposed to just turning against each other brought manipulation to the forefront of Danganronpa that deviated from the initial story (thankfully avoiding a repeat.) By the time episode seven of the despair arc arrived, things took a grisly turn out of nowhere, which was a promising nod to the series ability to still surprise viewers after two seasons. From that moment forward, things continually get grimmer for the students and more emotional - with episode 10 being another game changer that was one of the most gut-wrenching moments the series has offered in all its episodes. (you’ll see what I mean if you haven’t already.)
The animation in Danganronpa The Despair Arc felt as if it was even better than the first by toning down on some of the over-the-top qualities it originally had. The character designs were tamer but still had that trademark look that was important in making it improve upon source material. The animation exceeds just your high school setting of the first anime, taking things to a global level eventually (I’ll stop there before I spoil anything too major.) The English dub cast filled the series excellently with a large amount of characters, none taking away from one another or distracting from the narrative whatsoever. All in all, if you enjoy Danganronpa or might want something of a bloody horror-inspired series, the Despair Arc is a potential standalone or prequel tale with a lot of chaos and quality creativity.
Overall Score: 8/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
- They may have killed off a few characters with potential (same mistake in season 1) but the process of storytelling makes it worth the follow through
- The deaths felt much more emotionally gripping than it’s predecessor.
- I’m diving into the Future Arc next so stay tuned for more discussion on Danganronpa!