The final chapter begins
The decision to end the story of Hope’s Peak Academy with an anime series instead of a new game was one that I don’t think we ever would’ve expected. It seemed like an odd change, even when series creator Kazutaka Kodaka stated that it will feature content that can only be expressed with the anime medium. But, as the fans can probably tell you, regardless of how the story is being told, it’s still worth getting excited because… well, it’s the end. Of this story-line, at least. So with the first episode of Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak Academy already out, is it worth getting our hopes up?
The story begins after the events of Danganronpa 2 (and spoils the crap out of it right from the get-go – seriously, don’t watch it if you haven’t played the second game yet. In fact, don’t read the rest of this article if you don’t want it spoiled for you). Makoto Naegi, the first game’s protagonist, has been arrested by the very organisation he and his friends work for, Future Foundation, for hiding the fact that he was protecting the Remnants of Despair, the heads of the terrorists that are responsible for plummeting the world into chaos.
Makoto, along with his friends Kyoko Kirigiri, Aoi Asahina and Yasuhiro Hagakure, are joined by the highest ranking members of Future Foundation to discuss his fate when their building is attacked. The group find themselves trapped and at the mercy of the murderous mascot himself, Monokuma, who once again forces them into a killing game.
Right from the get-go, the anime has a very different feel to the games. Without the HUD elements or anime cut-ins that the games boasted, it feels less stylised. Even the blood is actually coloured red instead of pink (yes, the games had pink blood, don’t ask me why). While this may sound like a criticism, it’s actually oddly refreshing and suitable. This is meant to be the grand finale and, what’s more, the stakes are arguably at their highest. Future Foundation is the only thing that can combat the rampant despair and, now, their top members are dragged into the same killing game that we’ve seen twice now. And much like the last two times, we know that at some point, even though they’re all allies and on the same side, the paranoia will seep in and they will turn one each other. It’s a tragic inevitability, not helped by the fact that the episode ends with a main character already dead. I won’t say who but it’s deliciously brutal and unpredictable (just like the games).
Admittedly, the whole thing feels a tad rushed. Whereas the games had very long prologues that allowed the player to interact with the rest of the cast, learning the basics of who they are and what they’re like, the anime just introduces the new characters with little fanfare. We’re giving their names and title and that’s about it. Granted, this is still the first episode so we’re bound to learn more as the series goes on, and some of the characters get enough screen-time to give us some level of understanding of who they are. I’m particularly fond of Great Gozu, a wrestler who wears a bull mask who’s built like a brick house and seems to be one of the nicest members of the cast (can’t wait to see him tragically die!)
It’s great to see the returning characters as well. Again, they weren’t given much screen-time but you still get the sense that their friendship is still as tight as it was since the first game’s ending. It’s also cool seeing Makoto back as the main character. Since the first game, he had developed into something of a messiah figure (which makes sense since everyone refers to him as the Ultimate Hope) and was only ever briefly seen or referred to, so it’s great to see him taking charge once more, even if the situation is incredibly dire. It’s going to be interesting seeing how/if he changes throughout the course of the show. He’s been forced to endure this killing game once before, so he’s no doubt doing to do his damnedest to save as many people as he can. The question is, though, can his hope keep him through it all? He is very much humanity’s last hope so Monokuma’s going to go all out in terms of despair-inducing events. Almost makes you worry that Makoto’s usual brand of optimism won’t be enough to save him.
I also want to take a moment to give credit to Monokuma’s new voice actress, Tarako Isono (who is credited as just Tarako). While she doesn’t sound exactly like the previous voice actress, it’s still suitable to the character and her actual performance is spot-on and perfectly captures the bear’s personality.
While maybe not as stylish and over-the-top as the games, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for future episodes, even if it’ll be handled much differently compared to the games due to the lack of Class Trials (though they did keep that creepy/awesome sting that plays when a dead body’s found). Some may be put off by the slightly more “down-to-earth” tone that it has but there’s still plenty of oddness on hand in terms of some of the characters (and it’s still early days so who knows what’s going to happen next). Somehow, it feels like its earned a more serious nature. When that episode ended with a stare-down between Makoto and Monokuma, with the latter even saying “This battle is the conclusion to your story and mine,” I got chills because I actually believe it. The question is “how?” How will this final battle conclude? I’m almost afraid of how it will all end, but if there’s one thing this series has taught me, I just need to have hope.
Final Verdict 4.5/5