After Makoto Naegi and his fellow survivors escaped Hope's Peak Academy to the world beyond, they soon join the Future Foundation, an organization dedicated to combating despair. Just when all seems to be looking up, Naegi is arrested and tried for betrayal due to defending a malicious group of Remnants of Despair. Standing before all of the Future Foundation executives, he finds himself, along with Kyouko Kirigiri and Aoi Asahina, facing an unknown fate.
The matter at hand only escalates when the organization's supposedly impenetrable security is hacked into by a
familiar face: Monokuma. Much to Naegi's horror, the mechanical bear immediately announces the beginning of a new killing game, as moments later, the first victim appears as a signal for despair to resume its brutal conquest.
In the conclusion to Danganronpa's gripping tale of hope and despair, Naegi, the Super High School-Level Lucky Student, must once again unravel the mystery as his colleagues and friends begin falling around him. However, there are no more class trials; among the 16 desperate participants, there is only one killer—and their death means the end of this infernal game.
Danganronpa 3: The End of Kibougamine Gakuen - Mirai-hen Review
Edit: I realize how inaccessible this review may seem to people due to its excessive length, so I have included a tl;dr near the bottom of it.
Disclaimer: I have played both the Danganronpa 1 and 2 games to completion and have been following the series for years. (For reference, I would probably give the games about a 6/10) THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THIS SERIES AND MINOR SPOILERS FOR THE GAMES.
Mystery can be a difficult genre to make interesting. If it is a typical "whodunnit," (as DR3 sort of is) it sometimes relies a
bit too much on the inevitable twist of the reveal of the culprit. However, it only requires a shift in perspective to create a quality story and to not become another entry into the dreaded "mystery box" genre. I have never been the biggest fan of mysteries in general because the mystery alone usually isn't enough to create an engaging narrative, and I feel this is how most genre contemporaries present themselves. Even the ones that don't struggle to make thoroughly enticing mystery-based stories because they usually won't leave much of an impression unless they blow your fucking mind to smithereens. It's a flawed, finicky genre to me because whenever I come across a mystery with decent/good characters, the mysteries always end up lackluster, and vice versa. Basically, the mystery shows I do like have elements that appeal to me other than the feeling of "Oooh, what's gonna happen?? Maybe something interesting in the future!" Historically, Danganronpa is a series that tries not to fall into this trap by having a wide array of characters, cool settings, and exciting court cases. I don't think the games are anything special, but they are competent enough to have some fun with. It's when the adaptation of the first Danganronpa game came out that the problems with the story and characters were enhanced twofold and made incredibly apparent. Plot holes arising from removed dialogue, one-note characters who die without garnering any sympathy and poor characterization for the ones that remain alive, mind-boggling pacing, and it just felt like sitting around waiting for interesting things to happen only to realize that they never will. It really sucked. However, after some time passed, Danganronpa 3 was announced. It was touted as a completely original project designed to end the story of the first two games, meaning they had significantly more creative freedom to work with. Gone are the days of attempting to cram 30+ hours of content into 13 regular-sized episodes. Suffice to say, despite its best efforts, Danganronpa 3 Future Arc fails to impress. It so woefully falls flat in every area that it makes the entire series look like a joke, and if this is how the series is going to end, then I am painfully let down. How this has little in the way of negative reviews at the time of this writing and even held an average score above an 8 on MAL (which is what some of my favorites don't even get) for a long period of time makes no sense to me.
The funny thing about Danganronpa 3 is that, despite all that ranting about mysteries I did at the beginning, this show is such a hackneyed mess that it's a tricky task to figure out what its purpose even was. It tries to balance being action-packed, a suspenseful mystery, a post-apocalyptic survival drama with heavy emphasis on its characters and some thematic elements, a companion series to a show airing at the exact same time, and a sequel/conclusion to two 30 hour long video games. I'm certainly not saying that DR3 is "convoluted," or that doing all of these things in conjunction is impossible, but rather, I'm saying that it never commits fully to one avenue and all of these characteristics end up feeling overly basic and dull because of that. However, if it were that simple, I wouldn't be writing this review. I'm going to get to the bottom of the mystery within a mystery: what happened to Danganronpa?
Let's start by talking about the presentation of DR3, and I don't think even the most die-hard DR fans would call this show "good-looking." Whatever your beliefs about this area of interest and how much it should contribute to the overall score may be, one of my most hated things about this anime is that it is downright ugly. It's something that is immediately apparent on a surface-level basis since the colors, mainly consisting of grey, brown, and THAT FUCKING SHADE OF RED, are drab and not particularly alluring to the eye. One could make the excuse that this is because of the place that all the characters are trapped in, but I believe that this was just an excuse so the art team didn't have to make memorable, cool-looking backgrounds, and would thereby save their budget. They most likely attempted to hand-wave this by stating that this is a "darker" take on the usual Danganronpa, which is evidenced by them finally making the blood red instead of its usual bright pink. However, after discarding the idiotic notion that dark=better, if one were to compare this unremarkable location to DR2's, which was a strikingly beautiful island with unique locales all around, then it makes me all the more convinced that DR3's setting is merely a prop and is not relevant to the story whatsoever. Even DR1's hardly atypical school setting was more standout than this gray mass of boring concrete. This is quite disappointing since, very much unlike the games, in DR3, I did not feel like I "knew" the location the series took place, which was an important part of the experience to me. Of course, it's much easier to evoke this feeling in a game where you have (mostly) free reign on where you want to explore, but this is not to say that it's unheard of for a visual-based medium to use directing tricks and clever camera angles in order to create an engaging setting. DR3 just doesn't do this. The director, Kishi Seiji, is rather hit-or-miss for me. I don't care for Yuuki Yuuna, Persona 4, Seto no Hanayome, or Carnival Phantasm, and nor did I find the directing in any of those shows particularly standout. But I do like Angel Beats, and Humanity has Declined is one of my favorite shows of all time. Even then, the directing in these shows is one of their weaker elements, especially Humanity has Declined, which could have been done better with a more unconventional style. Seiji alone probably doesn't have the means to salvage a show with a terrible script and weak art direction. I'm going to assume that he wasn't able to flex any creative muscles with DR3 because of the dull setting since Humanity has Declined benefited backdrop was beautiful, unique, and memorable. The camera angles and constant uses of bland panning shots and character zoom-ins illustrate that Seiji was constricted by the claustrophobic nature of DR3's setting. While the cinematography is unimaginative and could be entirely blamed on the director, he was merely an accomplice to the main culprit: the badly designed locations. I'm not saying every single shot NEEDS to communicate some deeper message or I won't be satisfied, but it's quite tiring to watch 10 minute long scenes of characters standing in one generic, uninspired room while there's nothing interesting to look at other than the gray and brown tint on everything. And, hell, even when there is a room or hallway with actual scenery, it's always boring and/or illogical. At the very least, I can't say they "didn't try," as much as I would like to. Furthermore (this is more of a problem with the writing), the sense of space between characters is conveyed so poorly it's practically a non-entity, removing any tension and making the murders that happen unbelievably dull. There's no standout scenery or any kind of important landmarks to help alleviate this, further disengaging me as a viewer. There was a clear lack of creative vision with this show, which is made blindingly obvious through the absence of any cohesiveness or suspense in its presentation.
The animation is not impressive, or fluid in the slightest, even during key moments when characters are fighting or whatever, and I really hate how the lighting is occasionally too dark to clearly see what's going on. I, myself, have never been a huge fan of the DR art style, but even I think that the way it is converted into the anime format looks kind of ugly, especially the characters. I just can't stand their odd face shapes and strangely designed eyes, and this is amplified when they're moving. All of the aforementioned issues with the presentation combine to create a tedious viewing experience that only makes me think about how I could be better using my time. Basically, the idea that anyone can look at this series and get invested even the slightest bit is baffling to me, especially since this atrocious presentation is a pretty big reason that I can barely get through an episode without falling asleep.
The dialogue is laughably horrific. It's truly devoid of any creativity or flair, and is never enjoyable. Characters (though mostly Munakata) are given bafflingly stupid lines that often made me do a double-take and burst out laughing. I would go out of my way to provide some specific examples, but I don't exactly have the time, and it was something that was just apparent to me all throughout the series. There is not a single piece of dialogue that sells any of the characters or the themes the show is trying to present, so there's no need for me to cherry-pick lines. All that results from the poor script is the reinforcement of the vacuous, unenjoyable presentation. And, even though I praised it for being unintentionally funny, whenever the show actually attempts comedy, it always comes up painfully flat. Isn't it hilarious that Naegi's sister might have incestuous feelings for him because that's a thing that's popular in anime right now?? Also, Hagakure's character is intended as comedic relief but, surprise, he just fails hard at it. This might seem like a pedantic complaint, but I don't think it's necessarily wrong to ask for some kind of self-awareness in the writing, which it "attempts" to do, but it comes off as a mere wink and a nod to current trends more so than humor derived from the characters or the situations. Maybe this is because all of the characters are so unimaginably flat that it's hard to write any enjoyable scenes with them? Hmm...no way! Anyway, I always appreciate series that go out of their way to acknowledge their own ridiculousness, but DR3 sucks at doing this, resulting in a never-ending spiral of boredom.
Here's a fun drinking game you can do with the script: take a shot every time a character says "hope" or "despair." Actually, to prevent death by alcohol poisoning, you should just pick one of the words and have your buddy take the other.
Oh, and the soundtrack, at least from what I can remember, is comprised of reused or slightly remixed songs from the games, so who gives a shit about that. I'm not saying I dislike Danganronpa music, quite the opposite in fact, but the lack of originality just makes it all the more tiring to sit through.
So if the series isn't nice to look at and nothing is presented in a compelling way, like, 100% of the time, its characters and plot must make up for it, right?! After all, Welcome to the N.H.K is a series that happens to have notoriously horrible and inconsistent visuals, but it still remains a great show because the other aspects hold it up so well. Now here's a revelation that's as predictable as any plot twist in this anime: this is not the case with DR3.
I want to address my most hated plot device before delving into the characters and overarching story: Forbidden Actions. Here's the rundown: all the characters trapped inside the remains of the Future Foundation building have a cuff around their arms that dictates what actions they cannot see or do, and if they perform or witness said action, they die (almost) instantly. If you fail to comprehend why I believe this is so retarded, then let me explain: this is the writers blatantly including deus ex machinas as a functioning component of the story. By the way, the audience is NOT made aware of every characters' Forbidden Actions, and in fact, viewers are intentionally left in the dark on this. Why? If this was an attempt to add tension, it actually has the opposite effect. There's nothing gratifying whatsoever in learning that someone's Forbidden Action happens to correlate to a scene that that character is a part of. They exist as nothing more than a device to conveniently kill characters whenever the writers think it's "best" to do so, which only hurts the anime's endeavor to make me care about what's going on. Every single time Forbidden Actions are important or even mentioned at all, it results in unintentionally hilarious scenes. Like, holy shit, Naegi's Forbidden Action is that he can't run in the hallway, and he has to piggyback on one of the characters if there's anywhere he wants to go. Hahahaha, what the fuck? One character is killed off early on in order to showcase how deadly these Forbidden Actions can be, but his requirement came off as incredibly forced as a result of this. The chances of said Action not occurring were so low that his death was practically unavoidable. In contrast, I was certain, from the second Naegi's was revealed, that it would never become a problem at any point in the story. Enthralling.
Danganronpa 3's characters were doomed to be fucking awful as soon as it was announced the run time for the series would be 12 episodes. Yeah, good luck developing those 15-20 relevant characters and/or making the audience even remotely care about them when they inevitably die. I guess for a lot of people, the fact that "characters die" is enough to make them tear up, but I hate any kind of story that hinges on this because it NEVER works for me. As it stands, DR3's cardboard cutouts masquerading as characters fail to interest or compel me to care. All of them can be boiled down to a single (less than compelling) personality trait, and whenever they try to show depth beyond that, they die without accomplishing anything. All things considered, it's no surprise that they're like this, but I would even take it a step further and argue that most of them are downright unlikable. Thanks to the lack of common sense present in the first couple episodes, most of them were made out to be completely unrelatable assholes from the start, so it makes me wonder how I'm supposed to call out any emotion for them other than irritation. There is so little time dedicated to each character that whenever a scene is focused on one of them, it comes off as jarring and cheap. Just because there's a short backstory or monologue that vaguely explains who a person is doesn't matter to me if I hated their guts and didn't give a single shit about them at any point beforehand. Any character that doesn't immediately come off as an unreasonable or annoying fuckwad leaves literally no impression at all, so pick your poison.
One could make the argument that the characters were intentionally made to be assholes, to which I would reply: "So...why should I care then?" If this is the case, then there needs to be at least one down-to-earth person that doesn't come of as annoying and insane. However, this simply isn't how Danganronpa 3 presents itself. If Naegi is supposed to be the "normal" guy, then how come he seems just as driven by some ridiculous principle as any other character in the show? It would help if he had some recognizable personality to compensate for this, but the truth is that he is as bland as a stale, old piece of bread. You could bring up Kirigiri as a semi-"normal" person, but she doesn't really leave any impression at all and isn't focused on at any point in the show. Ultimately, my point is that making all of the characters unlikable for the sake of it does nothing to make me interested and seems contradictory. If it wanted to have a story where the main theme is maintaining hope in the face of despair, then they would actually take the time to make us feel ANYTHING at all for the people who represent this notion. And, hey, maybe none of the characters are meant to represent this. In this case, congratulations. You guys did an excellent job making sure to emphasize nihilistic beliefs as well as the fact that there's no reason to watch this show because death is inevitable. Seriously though, it's painfully clear that the show wants you to care about these characters due to the number of heavy drama scenes dedicated to them and lack of self-awareness in the writing, and there's no other aspect that can hold it up, anyway. It's a complete disaster in this area, and it seems almost impossible to deny no matter how you look at it.
Since the series knew it was going to completely and utterly fail in fleshing out its characters, it decided to give most of them ~quirky~ personalities. However, this backfires when you eventually realize that the characters with the ~quirkiest~ personalities are the ones most likely to die first. Whoops. Don't worry, though! They'll include a brief, unmemorable, and incredibly forced flashback not too long before a character dies. Or if not, I guess they'll say a few cool lines or something.
Audience: Hmm, I wonder...this character is getting more lines of dialogue and screen time than normal...haha, I'm sure it's just a coincidence!
To add to my frustration even further, I just hate, and can't make sense of, most of the character's actions. To give an example, in episode 1, I found it insurmountably frustrating that Naegi wouldn't tell the Future Foundation why he held the Despairs captive and that he ran an experiment on them. How convenient that there's an overly angry guy there so that Naegi could be punched and have an excuse not to talk! Even worse than this, Munakata is a character that I just cannot understand no matter how hard I try. He seems to kill people at complete random and for no discernible reason, and screams really loudly about hope and despair because of his dead girlfriend (By the way, it's not just Munakata - none of the characters' motivations makes any sense). However, the scene that's the worst offender of complete and utter stupidity, and embodies all of my problems with the way characters act in this anime is the one in which (Spoiler) Ruruka kills Izayoi. The leaps in logic and sheer ridiculousness of this scene combined with the fact that it is taking itself 100% seriously makes me laugh so hard. It has absolutely no impact as an emotional scene, and both of the characters' attitudes and lines of thinking verge on complete insanity, resulting in a strange feeling where I not only feel no sympathy whatsoever, but I CANNOT bring myself to care no matter what. None of this is helped by the fact that not a single character feels like he/she has a life outside of the idiotic lines that they spew, making them painfully shallow and even harder to care for on closer inspection. In general, characters seem to act in ways that are not indicative of their personalities (of what little there is), but instead to drive the plot along by getting other people mad for no reason. And no, "insanity" (or "Despair" as the show occasionally calls it) is not an interesting way of characterizing most of the time since it can serve as justification for any person's actions at any time.
The returning main characters remain stagnant throughout the episodes, making the experience even more dull than it needs to be. Yep, Naegi is still screaming about hope and people around him are still getting killed despite this. I would love to get behind his ideals, (that are practically a repeat of what they were in DR1) but the writers only make Naegi look like more of a dumbass since there are very few limitations to the death game. In DR1, Naegi's ideals of hope had significance since the "death game" actually had RULES and CONSEQUENCES. The characters don't actually want to kill each other, but it is promised that if they do, then they would be able to escape their despairing situation. This, in combination with some blackmailing by Monokuma makes it more believable that they might kill to achieve freedom, thereby creating a scenario where Naegi's "hope" has thematic relevance. In DR3 Future, everyone can just kill without any repercussions, and in fact, the whole event is treated like a free-for-all. Too bad every character is either a fucking insane person who doesn't mind killing people for the flimsiest of reasons, and/or a person who has a horrible gripe with someone else. If this wasn't the case, everyone would have to be human beings with relatable emotions and Naegi's morals might actually help the situation! What a shame. Now look, I'm not advocating for DR3 to have the exact same message that the original game does, but since they just copy-pasted the plot setup and general feel of the game, it only invites this kind of criticism. What the hell kind of message is it even going for if not this? As far as Kirigiri goes, she's basically worthless and gets completely relegated to the sidelines. Possible wasted potential? Eh, I don't care anyway.
So, the only logical conclusion that one can draw from what I've said is that DR3 is not character driven, right? Maybe the characters were only made to serve a narrative purpose in order to create a more compelling mystery plot. This is obviously totally wrong and there's no redeeming this piece of shit at this point, but let's perform an examination anyway....
I think it should be noted that class trials have been removed entirely. The gimmick created to "compensate" for this is as follows: at a certain time, every character except ONE "culprit" is forcefully put to sleep. Aside from making the whole series really boring, I believe this gimmick is even more idiotic than at first glance. How the fuck is anyone supposed to figure out who did these murders? You can argue that the same thing would happen without this gimmick because a culprit would typically make his move after everyone is asleep, but I beg to differ. Every character's sleep is controlled, so I'm assuming that they cannot be woke as well. This removes certain variables that make mysteries interesting. Maybe one character doesn't sleep well, so he overhears something strange in the middle of the night. Maybe a character intentionally stays awake in order to observe whether or not someone does something suspicious. Call these things overly convenient, but they're still possibilities that can shake up a normal mystery and allow the audience to soak in fucking CLUES so they can solve it themselves. In DR3, the murderer and his victims come off as a half-assed attempt at adding some air of intrigue and mystery in the background, instead of being front-and-center like they SHOULD BE. The characters, including Kirigiri, the supposed "Ultimate Detective," just sort of look at the victims and say "Yeah, they're dead all right!" and move on without dwelling on each murder. That's because there's nothing to analyze about them whatsoever. There is one point in episode 8 where Kirigiri actually conducts an investigation that yields results, but this was for the sole purpose of a "riveting" plot twist (involving Forbidden Actions LOL) where the killer was someone besides the "actual" culprit. So, as far as the culprit to each murder goes, no one could have possibly observed who did the murders, and unless the killer is completely stupid, no one will be able to figure it out. Why did they even make this mechanic a thing? It's like they intentionally didn't want there to be interesting investigations or cases. What's stopping the culprit from killing everyone? The rules are so un-specific when they really need to be otherwise plot holes like this will come up. I have honestly hurt my fucking brain trying to think of the logic behind this plot device, so I'll stop here.
Oh, and before anyone mentions the plot twist at the end of the series, it only makes all of this worse because it reeks of a cop-out. I don't only mean this in the sense that a massive deus ex machina was used, but also in that it makes me question the series' existence even more since, apparently, thinking up a halfway decent mystery was not its goal. The twist is very lazily explained with a ridiculously out-of-place exposition dump by Junko, which doesn't help its case. However, for the sake of argument, let's imagine a world where this twist isn't a cop-out. If this were the case, viewers were not given enough clues to go on (in Future Arc specifically) to even think that it was a possibility, thanks in part to the non-existent investigations and amount of time wasted on stupid, pointless characters. What's even more hilarious aside from the show's lack of an attempt at engaging its viewers in the mystery, and considering what I've heard about Despair Arc, is that this is barely even a twist at all, and is actually really predictable if you watch both anime. The mystery shambles and breaks apart no matter how you watch this series, resulting in guaranteed disappointment. In any case, when you get right down to it, the twist and conclusion to the mystery are a jumbled mess, make little to no fucking sense, and fail at having any impact whatsoever. Can anyone honestly say that they were "satisfied" with this solution? Personally, I feel like the whole series was rendered an even bigger waste of time.
There you have it. The characters and mystery (the story, basically) in this series fail to be engaging in the slightest. Not only is this harmful to the series' lasting power, but it emphasizes that both the journey and the destination of this series are complete trash and lack anything of worth, meaning that there is no reason to care at all.
Nothing much left to talk about other than various annoyances I had with the plot.
In order to drag you into my next point, let's just imagine a world where Munakata (the Future Foundation guy with a katana) is the culprit in one of the murders. Since law and order has been completely disposed of, there is no conceivable way anyone would be able to stop that guy from fucking killing everyone. He, along with a few other characters, seem to have incredible super strength the likes of which have never been seen in Danganronpa. No, actually, Sakura from DR1 had a crazy, over-the-top fight with Monokuma, but this could be justified since it was a one time occurrence and could be passed off as some sort of joke, and the fact that Sakura is the ULTIMATE WRESTLER. (Not to mention that this somewhat fits with the tone of the games. Just watch any execution to understand that DR has a bit of craziness to it) Munakata is the Ultimate STUDENT COUNCIL PRESIDENT. Wow, I didn't know that student council presidents were flame katana wielding badasses that have superhuman fighting prowess. These ridiculous fights that happen pretty frequently in DR3 have no real justification for why each character is so damn powerful. There's a character that can demolish a wall with his bare hands, and to justify this, they slapped Sakura's title of wrestler onto him. Wow, good thing he was killed off early or else he would have been a problem! According to the creators, this is supposed to be a "darker" take on Danganronpa, so why are there so many tension-less, over-the-top fights? I dunno, I guess it would be too boring if they all had to be rational, normal human beings, and this is an anime after all! LOL amirite??!!!
All I can say about the narrative of DR3 is that it is dumb. There's no real way to infer that this is going to be the finale of the entire series other than the fact that Monokuma himself says so. Why is this the final killing game? On that note, why did it even need to be a killing game? It's not like the people that are trapped are the only non-Despairs left; there are other branches of the Future Foundation out there with many people working in each of them. The anime does not attempt at setting any kind of stakes, yet the series is making this out like this is the biggest and most epic incident to ever happen to humanity. What about Togami's special military force and access to high-end technology and military weapons? I can't imagine any despairs accomplishing much with those in the way, even if the other Future Foundation branches somehow cease functions. Not to mention, there's a very high chance that multiple people are going to walk away from the death game alive and be able to resume leading the work of their branch of the Future Foundation, so this killing game seems like it has a 100% chance to accomplish....pretty much nothing. Viewers can only assume that the new person controlling Monokuma is a legitimate retard.
The series doesn't even bother having a real ending, either. The last few episodes are just a clusterfuck of random plot contrivances strung together in such a way that barely resembles a story topped off with massive plot holes that contradict the entire series (Junko mind control). There's little to say about the last couple episodes that I haven't already mentioned in this review other than they were incredibly boring and stupid and I hated every second of them (oh wait you could've guessed that). My brain was hazing over during the viewing of these episodes, so I apologize for the lack of an in-depth analysis on how the resolution actually makes no sense whatsoever. I honestly didn't give a fuck at this point.
So...what was the point of this anime? It has horrible characters, a mess of a plot, and is generally boring to watch thanks in part to the garbage presentation. As far as thematic elements go, it's incredibly weak as well. Although I don't particularly care all that much for the games' themes, they at least have purpose in furthering the story as well as giving it a sub-textual point, which is better than not having one. In DR3, the words "hope" and "despair" are spouted off with such reckless abandon that the whole project seems more so an effort to make the anime "feel" like Danganronpa than actually trying to integrate this theme into the story or add anything new to the mix. I got nothing meaningful out of any of the characters or their actions, or any underlying themes that aren't already present in the first two games.
Maybe they just didn't know where to go with the series and decided to quickly shit out a conclusion. This is actually really accurate the more I think about it, especially after watching the ending of the series, Kibou-hen. It's the dream ending that every Danganronpa fan wanted. It ties everything together in such a perfectly neat little bow that many people probably thought it was the best thing ever. However, I believe it is wholly unsatisfying and only served to re-emphasize the weaknesses of the series. Nothing that happens in Kibou-hen feels like a natural course-of-progress. Everything is being pushed toward this one goal point that MUST be reached for some reason. It has no time to stop for a breather and let its audience care about what is going on. Characters are magically resurrected from the dead with a stupid, hand-waved explanation, making me wonder why they died in the first place. Scenes that are made out to be emotionally charged are nothing more than a joke due to the lack of focus and development. Characters do their one "thing" that they're known for, and show no depth beyond that. It all feels so hollow and decidedly not genuine.
I do find it quite funny that the fact this anime exists in this form undermines its own point.
I'm anything but hopeful right now.
I've said most of what I wanted to say about DR3. So here is where I'll place my miscellaneous complaints about the series that I couldn't fit into the review and end it off afterwords.
I severely dislike that Monokuma is given barely any lines in this anime. To me, he was one of the best parts of the games, and to a much smaller extent, the original anime. His dialogue was usually entertaining, and his attempts to stir up despair in each of the characters was neat. The fact that Monokuma barely says anything in DR3 illustrates that the writers were probably very lazy and didn't want to think up any creative things for him to say. Or maybe they felt he wasn't needed because the tone is darker...yeah....that's it.
Why is Hagakure even in this shit? He does literally nothing and is incredibly extraneous(actually I could say this about most characters, SHIT). It could have been interesting to handle a character who wasn't trapped within the building, especially since he was one of my favorites in the game, but they just seem to treat him as a joke since he just shits around doing nothing the whole series. What a masterful use of all available resources, DR3 writers!
I almost completely forgot about Asahina, but I think it should be mentioned that her only role in DR3 is to act as Naegi's legs whenever he needs to run in a hallway. While this is funny, it also makes me believe that she didn't even need to stay alive because she's actually a super boring character. This could either be a fault of the writers generally being incompetent, or her character being too reliant on Sakura for any intrigue, or both. At least she wasn't a fanservice vehicle I guess?
I don't really care about the subplot with Monaka. I didn't play Ultra Despair Girls because I think it looks like a shitty game, but I think her character was entirely unnecessary in the context of this anime. It doesn't help that the episode where she is the focus, episode 7, is probably one of the worst in the series due to the amount of unnecessary fanservice and general pointlessness of its plot. I guess her purpose was to be a misdirect by making you think she was the one who trapped everyone in the building, but this kind of fails to be convincing since they reveal her identity relatively early on. All she manages to do is take up an unneeded amount of screen time that all ends up being for naught in the end. However, I'll admit she is involved with what is probably the most entertaining scene in the whole show, if only for its absurdity.
The bullshit at the end of episode 8 LOL. The writers realized that Togami could just rescue them all so they ass-pulled super hard and made it so this couldn't happen. This made me burst out laughing.
I hate how DR3 Future Arc relies on its companion series "Despair Arc" to develop its dead characters. Not only is it hard to care about them because you know they're dead, but they usually aren't given enough screen time to make an impact, which is somewhat due to their rushed portrayal, but also because there are so many characters to focus on. It's the same problem that Akame ga Kill has, where the increasing number of character deaths is proportional to the amount of "not giving a fuck." To be honest, Despair Arc suffers from many of the same problems that Future Arc does. The only edge it has over Future Arc is that my pre-knowledge of the characters from my play-through of DR2 allows me to enjoy it a tiny bit more. However, this is also a reason why I find it boring since I've already been over these characters once before, and it doesn't seem too keen on adding more to them. I will probably never watch more than the first episode of this series.
I think that this show's most damning sin, though, is how cheap it all feels. I could chalk this up to any aspect that I have criticized so far, but for the perfect example, you need look no further than the ending of each episode. They're ALL cliffhangers in one way or the other. Oh no! What if Asahina is dead?! I don't actually care because she's been given zero meaningful scenes so far, but oh the humanity!!! You probably get the point, but I still believe the worst offender of this is the faked death of Kirigiri, who is the most beloved character in DR (for some reason). She was so fucking worthless before then that I was applauding at how much they made me not care at the prospect of her dying. I'm actually not bashing cliffhangers as a concept necessarily (though I do dislike them) because I can understand the need to occasionally incite some hype on the part of the audience, and I don't really watch shows weekly, so I don't care as much. But is DR3 that desperate for views? I'd even say that including cliffhangers at the frequency that this show does is downright detrimental to its quality. It makes the pacing feel really off, since the inclusion of these cliffhangers is at the expense of entire episodes being total snooze fests. It almost seems like the writers were forcing themselves to construct episodes like this, and this could either be because the content they had to work with is legitimately not that interesting or because they were under a preconceived notion that Danganronpa was ONLY about characters dying, and they wanted to play it up as much as possible. Could also be both, or neither. Needless to say, it's not effective storytelling. It's funny because all of this is practically an emulation of those excellent episodes of Humanity has Declined (sup Seiji), but instead of becoming self-aware of their wrongdoings like the great characters in that show, the DR3 writers charge ahead without any shred of guilt regarding the manipulation of their own audience. Despicable, and definitely not an example to be followed.
By the way, I have been filled in on some of what happens in Despair Arc, so I can confirm that the way the stories intertwine is horribly done and (surprisingly) makes me hate it more. Hurray for hand-waving the entire plot with the most ridiculously boring plot device imaginable!
REVIEW TL;DR: Incredibly weak presentation on all fronts, fails at being visually interesting, has dull and idiotic dialogue, lack of attention to detail (especially in the setting), stupid plot devices that make little sense, unrelentingly boring, poorly done characters that fail at being engaging, mystery falls flat no matter if you watch this series alone or with its companion series, lacks thematic depth, plot holes that contradict the series' lore, overall disappointment in every major plot point, and has so many more details that annoy me to no end.
All in all, what a disappointment. Actually, to be honest, I had low expectations to begin with. Especially when given a 12 episode run time, it's plain to see that the Danganronpa formula has no merit when converted into animated format. They could've gone in many different directions to compensate for this (such as not making it another killing game maybe??), but instead they only opted to do something VERY slightly different while simultaneous stripping the DR formula of its necessary parts, and failed spectacularly as a result.
Is it possible that I've just gotten tired of Danganronpa over the years? Maybe this is true. After all, the games suffer from a few of the problems I've listed in this review and have their fair share of other annoyances. This anime certainly didn't help, with it essentially shitting all over both of the games' stories. I've also grown quite tired of the "death game" format of story, as most of the common plot elements in it bore me to tears now.
Even still, I fondly remember playing Danganronpa on the Vita the day it came out. It was the same for its sequel, too. I remember absolutely loving these games and obsessing over them with my friends. Over time, after playing better games and watching better anime, my enthusiasm towards the series died down. When DR3 was announced, I thought maybe my interest in the series could be re-invigorated. I'm not one to get "hyped" for anything new, but I was ready to hop on board and have a great time. Yeah, I can be optimistic. I would've even been somewhat forgiving if the show was fun to watch.
But it wasn't. Did I possibly miss the sign hanging overhead that read "Fun and wacky times ahead, haha!" before walking through the doorway? Could I possibly hate fun?
Obviously, no. You would be hard-pressed to find someone out there that doesn't love fun, and I would have been having it while watching this show if not for the fact that I don't believe that sign ever existed. I'm not someone that requires all shows to appeal to my higher senses in order for me to like them. Nevertheless, I would prefer my story-driven anime such as this to be BOTH super enjoyable to watch and to make me think about it, but I can still respect the sensation of pure fun that can be elicited out of shows I would never consider putting among my favorites (Little Witch Academia is a perfect example of this). DR3 just sucks at fun. It was a chore to watch, and I honestly salvaged no enjoyment whatsoever out of anything in it. If, while watching a show, I zone out the events that are happening to think about my favorite shows, and I have to rewind because of it, then there might be a problem somewhere. Sorry, but I don't enjoy "turning my brain off" while watching a show. If you do this, then I seriously think you're a complete moron.
I also want to make it clear that I have never thought about why a show bothered me with such painstaking detail before. To be honest, I don't even like writing these kinds of long-form reviews because there's usually an opinion out there that echoes my own (this review was enjoyable to write, though). And, typically, I drop a show when I feel that I won't like it anyway, so I haven't had many opportunities to do this.
Call me overly pessimistic for despising this show so much to give it a 1/10 (a rating I have only given to 4 other shows and always hesitate to use), but I still seriously believe Danganronpa did not deserve this. It did not deserve to get so thoroughly embarrassed by this god-awful excuse of an anime. It has no merits whatsoever, as a standalone anime or a conclusion to the series. It's not nice to look at, it has a bland soundtrack, it's unsatisfying, it's boring, it's annoying, it's stupid.
If I had to describe Danganronpa 3 in one word, it would be "unnecessary". That's ultimately what it all boils down to. DR3 is not a necessary part of Danganronpa canon, nor is it necessary to watch it. It's completely disposable, and altogether just pretty terrible.
It's pretty hard to write an in-depth review of DR3 Future without going into heavy spoiler territory, since exactly where the story goes is a big part of why it's so disappointing, but I'll try my best. Future sets itself up as another killing game, although this time it's more akin to something found in Zero Escape than Danganronpa proper.
It remains a murder mystery, albeit one very different to those found in DR1 and 2. The mystery's solution ends up not only being lame, but also massively predictable. The big reveal towards the end was a total non-event since I'd already figured it out several episodes ago. The mastermind behind the incident is also a letdown, since it was so extensively telegraphed that it seemed almost too obvious to be true. The methods used, the characters involved, the narrative weaved between both this and DR3 Despair... everything is weak.
But it's not the destination, right? If the journey is enjoyable, then the answers we get at the end don't make and break the whole series, right? Sure, but DR3 Future's journey isn't enjoyable in the slightest. Most of the episodes feel like filler, with pointless characters acting out pointless subplots that don't go anywhere, and they end up pointlessly getting killed. They could've easily told this story in half the number of episodes with how completely unnecessary most of them are. Aside from a select few, most of the characters also only exist to get killed. Not to further the plot at all, but simply just because people will expect a lot of deaths from this series. Both new and returning characters are largely one-note, with only Kyosuke Munakata and Juzo Sakakura showing any kind of depth. None of these other people, including the DR1 survivors, are interesting at all. Even Kirigiri, one of DR1's driving forces, is reduced to a glorified extra.
Production value-wise, the animation is slightly better than DR3 Despair's, though not by much. The music and voice acting however are, as always, top notch.
Was DR3 Future a completely miserable experience, though? Sorta, but not quite. The most fun I had was discussing theories and just how stupid the show kept getting every week, and if you can't have that experience then I say skip DR3 entirely. Skip if if you've played the games, absolutely skip it if you haven't played the games, just skip it. It's a waste of time.
Note: Before watching this please play through all three Danganronpa games (1, SDR2, and Another episode). Also you should watch the future arc episode with the despair arc in broadcast order. Watch future arc ep 1 then despair arc ep 1, and so forth and so on. Watching the two series in this order is very important as Despair arc develops some of the characters from the Future arc.
Danganronpa 3: Future arc is a sequel and essentially a finale to the Danganronpa series. Whereas the counterpart Despair arc is a prequel to the entire story, Future arc details the story after the Biggest, Most Awful,
Most Tragic event in human history. It reintroduces the killing game shown in the DR series prior, except this time, in the real world, without any school rules. There are completely fresh batch of characters, some whom we eventually see fall.
Future arc centers around the main survivors of the events in DR1, along with the division leaders of the Future Foundation. The leaders themeselves had thought that they already caught the traitor, but little did they know they had already fallen into the real traitor's trap. To make the matters worse, this time the killings don't end in a class trial as it did in previous games. Instead, they have to find the traitor and kill him to end it once and for all.
The story is basically kill or be killed. Unlike Despair arc which starts off with a more light hearted tone that constantly evolves into a more brooding tone, Future arc starts off with a darker tone straight of the bat. The first couple of seconds of ep 1 essentially shows how the world has become since the Biggest, Most Awful, Most Tragic event in human history. And throughout, the episodes are just constantly filled with tension as the characters try to somehow find a way to survive.
Future arc also manages to weave in characters from all three Danganronpa series. Whether it is a whole episode dedicated to them or if it's just a couple of moments, it is still fun to watch the rest of the other game's cast after their events.
A problem with this kind of a setting though is the pacing, which was noticeable in Future arc. One episode could be filled with new events while the next could be slightly disappointing and rushed. However, the still lingering mysteries about the traitor and the NG codes (the only "rules" in the killing game) kept me hooked throughout. One huge disappointment was the plot twists regarding the DR 1 characters. At first I thought, "this is really happening," but then after a couple of episodes and even in the Hope arc, the plot twist got ruined by playing it safe.
The animation is great and the action scenes are fun to watch. The art itself was also a good point from Future arc. Like the tone, the color schemes of Future arc constantly stays on the darker color, unlike Despair arc which slowly transitions from lighter to darker. Also to emphasize the impact of the killing game, the staff even decided to change the blood from pink to red. At first, I didn't know how to feel about this as the pink blood was a unique part of the danganronpa series, but it was understandable considering this was the finale and they had to really highlight the brutality of the final killing game.
One interesting aspect, like I mentioned, is that Despair arc events has great meaning in the Future arc. Knowing what happens in Despair arc comes in handy for the Future arc.
The opening song is great and the soundtracks are decent. However, being a guy who really pays attention to the OSTs, the ones in Future arc were slightly underwhelming. There is also an awesome cast of new voice actors who did great, alongside the voices we were already accustomed to.
Obviously, the most important part of Danganronpa series are its characters. When I was going through each DR series for the first time, I always wondered if I would get attached to the characters. The same was for the Future arc. Unfortunately, It's safe to say I like some of the characters, but not more than I wanted to. Maybe because the anime was just a 12 episode series and not an entire Visual novel, but it was harder for me to get attached to the characters. Some of them died too quickly, granted it was to showcase the brutality of the killing game but still. Some of them started out just plain annoying, although one certain character did get more fleshed out than the most. In the latter episodes, a lot more characters get fleshed out a bit more, which was nice to see. . We got backgrounds and more personalities: whether interesting or annoying. However, it was still minimal, so I honestly did not care for most of them. One of the characters got more depth than most of any other characters in other DR series even. Anyways, although the new characters do show interesting traits and personalities, it was rather hard to get attached to most of them quickly. It was only after a couple more episodes that I got somewhat attached to more characters.
After 11 episodes, I have to say that the developments of some characters are pretty awesome to see. For example (SPOILER: Juzo), was one character I thought I would never like, but in the end he became the most developed and also became my favorite from the new cast.
As for the original DR1 cast, they were pretty much the same. Kyouko being the smart detective trying to find out the traitor, Hagakure being Hagakure, and Naegi being that typical "not let anyone die" MC. One thing I liked from the original cast was Asahina, whom you could clearly see matured and developed after the killing game in DR1.
Although their are clear flaws in both pacing and early characterization wise, Future arc still is a pretty decent watch. As with the DR games, it is always so stressful for the new episode to come out because you don't know who might die. The mystery of the traitor is not obvious and make you think of all the possibilities. One of the biggest downsides, however, is the underwhelming ending. Character wise, although it startes out in a weak manner, gets better as episodes progress, though it is heavily limited. Although both Despair arc and Future arc are disappointing in many aspects, both are still a decent watch for dangaronpa fans.
With the end of Danganronpa 2, fans couldn’t help but be a tad bit disappointed with its conclusion as it didn’t wrap all the problems present in the franchise. And situations were left unsolved and we needed to know more about the “Future Foundation”. With the third Danganronpa being confirmed to be part of a new universe, the despair for the fans only continued. But with the announcement of a anime sequel to the second Danganronpa game, fans regained all hope for a proper conclusion for this universe, which will leave us satisfying. Whether or not Danganronpa 3 manages to succeed in doing so will
only be decided once Kibou-hen airs, but for now, Mirai-hen is a satisfying continuation of the Danganronpa series; one that feels home with the franchise despite its differences with the previous entries.
Do note that this is called Danganronpa 3 for a reason. It’s meant to be watched after playing the first and second game (though you can watch the anime adaptation of the first game instead of playing it). But not doing so will make you not be aware of many plot points that are important in Danganronpa 3. Anyways, Mirai-hen continues off right from where the second game ended. Our protagonist from the first game who is now a member of the Future Foundation, Naegi Makoto, is held under suspicion for treason due to him saving the Remnants of Despair instead of killing them. Just when his punishment was being decided, Monokuma appear… again, and he announced a killing game… again. Now the members of the Future Foundation are trapped in their own headquarters, forced to play what is supposed to be the final killing game. The premise is basically similar to the previous games, but the main goal of the series is to find the traitor within the group. Overall, the story is handled well and there’s some really big twist and turns along the way. Characters that you thought had plot armor may not. But most of the series is just basically watching the “Number of People Alive” counter decreasing one by one. There isn’t a proper conclusion in this series, since that is left for Kibou-hen. And some of the revelations near the end can seem a little messy. So all we can do now is hope that the final episode is just as good as the rest of the franchise.
There’s one thing you’ll notice from Mirai-hen, and that is how different it is from the first two games. First of all, gone is all the class trials from this killing game. This is more like “Battle Royale” where people have to be killed off one-by-one and the culprit won’t be judged. That also means that you won’t be hearing “sore wa chigau yo” a lot in the series. Instead of six different cases to handle, now the characters have one large case: Who is the mastermind? If anything, Mirai-hen feels a lot like Zero Escape, which isn’t a bad thing. Secondly, characters now have bracelets with NG codes on them. Each player has an NG code that gives them a restriction. If the restriction is crossed, the bracelet will inject them with lethal chemicals that will kill them. This gives the viewers a sense of mystery as you won’t be able to know what are the characters’ NG codes. But it’s fun to guess and see if you’re right! Thirdly, there are characters outside the game that get focus and you get to know what’s going on outside the game, something which you weren’t aware of in the previous games. Fourthly, humor is very rare in Mirai-hen as things are more darker here. This new tone for the series works well, especially since this is supposed to be the conclusion of this universe. Lastly, and most importantly, red blood is used instead of Danganronpa’s trademark pink blood. Unlike Zetsubou-hen, which sticks with the pink blood, Mirai-hen decided to take a darker and more mature approach to the series, and it works really well. Overall, this is a quite different take on Danganronpa, but it’s still really fun and feels like a proper sequel for the series.
Mirai-hen mainly focuses on the Future Foundation characters, which consists of most of the survivng characters from the first Danganronpa game, and new characters we get introduced in this series. The protagonist from Mirai-hen is the same as the first game, Naegi Makoto, a survivor of the first killing game, a member of the Future Foundation, and commonly known as the Ultimate Hope. The series focuses on Naegi and how he has to find out who the mastermind of the killing game is, while making sure that him and his friends survive. Accompanied by him is Asahina and Kirigiri from the first game, and many other new characters like Miratai and Munakata. A lot of the new characters are developed using Zetsubou-hen, and it works pretty well. And that’s why both Mirai-hen and Zetsubou-hen should be watched together. Not all the new characters are likable, but that was the point. But many of the new characters do end up being really well done. Yukizome does play a big enough role in Mirai-hen, but her development from Zetsubou-hen carries on here. Munakata might seem a little irritating at first, but he ended up being one of my favorite characters from Danganronpa. Same goes for Sakakura too. Overall, the new characters end up living up to the Danganronpa name and the recurring characters are just as likable as they were in the first game… except Hagakure, ‘cause no one likes Hagakure! What? Monokuma said so!
As mentioned in my review for Zetsubou-hen, the art style in that series had a more vivid look to it than the games. Mirai-hen is the complete opposite as it has a darker art style that the first two games. This might have been done because Mirai-hen itself has a darker tone compared to the rest of the franchise. Or the art style is like that to represent Mirai-hen being a story that begins with despair, contrary to how Zetsubou-hen begins with hope. But this art style works well with this series. Most of the series takes place inside the headquarters, so most of the backgrounds will be the inside of buildings. But the backgrounds are pretty well detailed and well done. And the character design for the new characters are really good and well done. The characters from the first game also look more mature due to their age growth and their new designs look great as well.
The animations are fairly good in the series, but it isn’t anything extraordinary. However, that is to say that the animation quality is fairly consistent throughout. Generally speaking, the animation is fluid enough and there aren’t any noticeable animation quality drops. Character animations are done fairly well. Lighting is very differently that Zetsubou-hen. Everything looks bleaker and the lighting add to that. However, the animation quality is better than Zetsubou-hen’s but that should be necessary since Mirai-hen is more action-heavy than Zetsubou-hen. As mentioned before Lerche did a good job in animating two seasons during the same time, which they aren’t used too.
The seiyuu cast is really good in Mirai-hen as most seiyuu return back to do their recurring character, and the seiyuu for the new characters are great too. One notable change is that Tarako is now the new voice of Monokuma instead of Ooyama Nobuyo. The reason so is because Ooyama is currently suffering from dementia, which is very sad to hear and hopefully she gets well soon (even if things don’t look good). Though Tarako isn’t as good as Ooyama, she does a decent job as Monokuma, though the character is barely here in Mirai-hen for an obvious reason. Ogata Megumi does a great job again as Naegi and makes him feel very similar to the first game. Hikasa Yoko does a great job with Kirigiri and Saito Chiwa does a good job with Asahina. We also get some pretty well-known people to voice act the new characters, like live-action actor Hongo Kanata as Mitarai, Morikawa Toshiyuki as Munakata, Suwabe Junichi as Sakakura, and many more. And they all do a great job in what they have to do.
Voice Acting: 9.5/10
One of Danganronpa’s strong point is its music and Mirai-hen is no different. The OP, “DEAD OR LIE”, is really good and it grew on me really fast. The vocals are good, but the music for that song is awesome. The lyrics not only matches the series, but the franchise as a whole. It might very well be one of my favorite OP of the year. The ED, “Recall THE END”, creates more of a mystery vibe and it matches well with the series. The ED gets really good near the middle, once the second verse happens. Most of the background music consists of music used in the first two games, which is a good thing since the two games had some amazing music. The background music creates a sense of nostalgia due to its familiarity. Many of the OST that you’ve heard during trials or investigations are used in Mirai-hen, and it works really well.
As a Danganronpa fan, I found Mirai-hen to be a very satisfying continuation of the series and I can’t wait to see how Kibou-hen wraps things up. Seeing the surviving characters of the first Danganronpa game was fun to see and the new characters in Mirai-hen are really interesting and unique. This new take on the killing game with its Zero Escape-ish style is great and it’s new, darker tone works. A lot of unpredictable things happen and it keeps me more and more invested in the series. Every time an episode ended, I would spend the rest of my time waiting for the next episode, while theorizing who can be the mastermind with the given clues I have. Despite it being an anime and not a game, I still feel like I’m using clues to solve this one big case, and that’s what I wanted as a Danganronpa fan.
In the end, Mirai-hen is a proper continuation from the ending of the second Danganronpa game. If you are a fan of the series, you should definitely check Mirai-hen out if you haven’t already. There’s a lot of things that are different in Mirai-hen when compared to the rest of the series and it has a style of its own. But it still feels part of the Danganronpa series, even with these changes. Seeing the Danganronpa 1 characters again was fun and the new characters are nice too. The plot-twists and revelations work well and keep me invested in the series. Mirai-hen doesn’t have a proper conclusion, but that is because Kibou-hen is supposed to be the conclusion for this Danganronpa universe. Hopefully the Mirai-hen arc will get rid of all the despair left in the series.
+ A proper continuation of the Danganronpa series.
+ Killing game is unique and its new style and tone works well for the series.
+ The first game characters are back and most of the new characters are really well handled.
+ Interesting cat-and-mouse story that has a good amount of plot-twist and revelations.
+ Soundtrack from the first two games are used and they are effective and OP/ED are great.
- Revelations near the end raises a lot of questions.