Hope V.S. Despair One Last Time
WARNING THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE DANGANRONPA SERIES. IF YOU HAVE NOT PLAYED THE GAMES AND WISH TO REMAIN UNSPOILED, THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE. OTHERWISE CARRY ON.
The folks at Spike Chunsoft have partnered up with Studio Lerche to bring us the final chapter of the Hope’s Peak academy storyline. Danganronpa 3: Future Arc is the first of two original anime that conclude the story that began in Trigger Happy Havoc. So how does the Future Arc hold up? Is it better than the last Danganronpa anime? Let’s take a look.
The anime follows the first game’s protagonist Makoto Naegi immediately after the events of Danganronoa 2, where he is called to a meeting by the Future Foundation, an organization mentioned in DR2 and briefly seen in Ultra Despair Girls dedicated to restoring the world to what it once was after it was dragged into despair by Junko and the Remnants of Despair. This meeting goes bad when Naegi, two of his friends from the first game, and the Future Foundation branch heads are knocked out and awaken to find themselves forced into one last killing game by Monokuma, the two tone mascot of the series who informs them that there is a traitor amongst them. Now Naegi and his friends must find the traitor and avoid getting killed in the process.
As usual for the series the characters are well written and well designed. The word likable comes to mind but I personally didn’t like a lot of the cast. Not to say that they are bad characters because none of them are. A bunch of these new characters just happened to be jerks or very shifty, the kind of people who I’d look at and think “I don’t like that guy he’s a jerk.” But this actually works very well in the show’s favor. Most of these characters look suspicious or act suspicious, which makes it difficult to guess who the traitor could be. It kept me guessing who the mastermind would be up until the very end.
Also as usual for the series the story is quite good. There are plenty of twists and turns and everything feels like it fits in with what one would expect from Danganronpa. The biggest difference however was the presentation. Rather than following a series of individual murders each with different culprits, The Future Arc is one big murder mystery with multiple victims. There’s less clue searching and more character drama, which is what the Danganronpa games are essentially between investigations. There’s also alot of focus on the in-fighting within the Future Foundation. The first couple episodes features a power struggle between the head of the Future Foundation and the second in command, butting heads over their ideals and how they believe the foundation should be run. There’s another separate bit of in-fighting in the show’s first half between two characters who blame each other for something that happened in the past that escalates into a full out brawl between a drugged out pharmacist and another character’s ninja boyfriend. We also occasionally get to see returning character Hagakure running around outside Future Foundation HQ having such exciting adventures as running away from a helicopter and looking into the future. There was also one episode that followed Komaru Naegi and Toko Fukawa, the protagonists of the Ultra Despair Girls spinoff that served as a conclusion to the game, tying up most of the loose ends associated with it.
The animation for this series is very good, no noticeable quality drops, no out of place CGI, just smooth animation. I mean sometimes a scene might have been too dark and they tend to reuse the same dark colors for the environment but nothing visually detracts from the show.
A new addition to the series in this entry are Forbidden Actions. Each character is wearing an armband with a single action in it such as running in the halls, using doors, or getting punched. If the wearer performs that action, they are injected with a poison that kills them in a pretty gruesome way. I like the idea of these forbidden actions, they add an extra layer of complexity to the killing game and when used right they lead to some pretty interesting scenarios, but at times the show goes a few episodes without bringing up forbidden actions, only to suddenly bring them up as a plot device. I hope they bring forbidden actions into the games, because it would be interesting to see how those rules can affect a character and their actions.
What the Future arc does best however is drama and suspense. I was on the edge of my seat almost the entire time watching this show, excitedly waiting to see what happens next. I haven’t been this excited while watching an anime since One Punch Man aired last fall. Every episode ends with a cliffhanger, and not a cheap cliffhanger that feels overdone, most episodes end with some sort of minor or major reveal that makes me want to know more before suddenly cutting to the credits as if to tell me “next week pal, next week.” Every episode left me wanting more.
But despite the different medium, this is still Danganronpa at it’s core, so the mystery of who the mastermind is and why they’ve started the killing game is still present and important. And I have to say the motive for this killing game was quite the surprise, mostly because the most crucial piece of evidence for it is introduced after the mastermind is revealed. It’s not a bad reveal it just lacked buildup, which in all honestly all the games did this as well with their final reveal. The reveal honesty would have had more of an impact of they foreshadowed the big mcguffin associated with it more, rather than revealing it right at the start of episode 12.
Normally we’d have to wait about a year for an English dub of the show but thankfully Funimation has been dubbing both of the Danganronpa 3 anime for it’s broadcast dub initiative. It’s just a shame that the dub wasn’t that good in this critic’s humble opinion. While Bryce Papenbrook returns to reprise his role as Makoto Naegi, the returning characters from Danganronpa are reprised by their voice actors from the first game’s anime adaption, which featured a different voice cast from the games. Togami amd Kirigiri’s anime voices are fine but then you have Hagakure, who sounds like some kind of generic surfer in the anime. The new character’s voices are a mixed bag. Theres some good voices like Bandai, Ryouta, Izayoi, and Juzo (who might I add has the best english voice out of all the new characters) but then there’s some characters whose voices just feel strange, like Munkata or Gozu. It’s especially strange since the people who voiced Hagakure and Fukawa in the games play two of the new characters, making me wonder why they couldn’t have just had them reprise their roles. But what really killed the dub for me was Monokuma’s voice, which is reprised by the actor who voiced him in the anime. I loved the game Monokuma’s english voice but this one sounds like Pokemon’s Meowth swallowed the parrot from Aladdin and both are screaming for help whenever they talk. They also changed some of the writing in the dub, one specific scene that stood out for me was at the end of episode 1 when Monokuma was giving his “this is the end for both our stories” speech to Naegi. The dubbed version of this scene alters the dialogue to include cowboy lingo that ruins the moment. As much as I like hearing things in my native language, it might be better to stick with the original japanese audio for this one.
Overall Danganronpa 3 The Future arc was well worth watching. With it’s well executed suspense. Interesting cast of characters, and one of the strongest stories the series has ever told. Despite a few little flaws here and there the Future Arc was an enjoyable ride and I’m glad I stuck around for it.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5