Don’t Care Bear: Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc

Danganronpa is one of the most bizarre anime games I’ve ever played. The art style for the cutscenes is unique and adds to the surrealness of the experience. The story is intriguing. Right from the start of the game, it goes from 0 to 100 real quick. There are a ton of “what the heck” moments caused by both confusion and horror. Even for an anime game, it is weird. The best part of the game is the characters. They aren’t exactly realistic characters, but they are dynamic and memorable. The player gets invested so easily because of how engaging these characters are. This is what makes Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc such an unforgettable experience.   

Verdict

Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc (PS4): ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

I highly recommend this game. The story and the characters create a truly phenomenal experience. 

Dangonronpa is rated M, so while it may look like a happy school-life visual novel, it is not. There are a lot of gruesome moments. You have been warned. 

It’s hard to capture the vibrant weirdness of this game in a review. Several factors mesh together to create a vibe of ridiculous anime awesomeness. The music is intense, immediately recognizable, and creates the perfect emotional background to what’s occurring. The character design is fantastic. All of the characters have unique personalities, designs, and reactions. When cutscenes begin art styles shift abruptly. This adds even more drama. The gameplay is most definitely dated and at times frustrating, but this adds to the experience. Danganronpa is a great game because of its weirdness, insane story, and memorable characters.

You would like this game if

  • Like watching anime
  • Own a PSP or PS Vita and want to actually use them 
  • Enjoy wacky characters
  • Want a visual novel that’s not about the romance
  • Think murder mysteries are fun 

Plotline

There is a school called Hope’s Peak Academy. At this school only the very best are admitted. It doesn’t matter what skill it is, so long as you are the best. There is one exception, every year a lottery is held. The winner can attend Hope’s Peak Academy as the Ultimate Lucky Student. 

The protagonist of this game is Makoto Naegi, the Ultimate Lucky Student of the 78th class of Hope’s Peak Academy. He goes to school early on his first day. The next thing he is aware of is waking up in a classroom without remembering how he got there. He soon realizes something is wrong when he sees giant, heavy metal plates bolted to the wall covering up windows. Once he leaves the classroom he finds a group of fourteen people standing in front of a sealed entrance. After talking to them, it becomes apparent that these people are Makoto’s new classmates. They are in the same position as him, they don’t remember how they got there or why. 

This is when a strange talking bear named Monokuma shows up. He claims to be the headmaster of the school. Monokuma tells them that this place is, in fact, Hope’s Peak Academy and that they are to spend the rest of their lives here. Naturally, everyone is upset at this news. Which causes Monokuma to elaborate on the rules. There is a way to “graduate” and earn the right to leave the school. If someone murders someone else they will no longer be allowed to stay. Once this happens, an investigation and a class trial will commence determining who the murderer (the “blackened”) is. During the class trial, if the correct person is identified as the “blackened” then they will be executed. Then the rest of the students can return to their communal life at the academy. If they convict the wrong person, then the “blackened” gets to go free while all of the other students are executed.  

Now Makoto must try to survive while attempting to solve the many mysteries of Hope’s Peak Academy. 

Gameplay

Danganronpa, for the most part, operates as a visual novel. It’s always in first-person view. You explore rooms by panning the camera and selecting items to examine and people to talk to. When you leave rooms you can freely roam the halls to navigate to different areas of Hope’s Peak Academy. You have an electronic handbook that serves as the menu system. The most important thing to remember is to use the map. The map can be used to fast-travel and to see where all of the other students are. 

There are story sections where you can only scroll through dialog and can’t control what’s happening. However, you will have several days in between events called “Free Time”. During this time you can choose to hang out with the other characters. You can even give them a present after hanging out with them. The dialog options you choose can increase or decrease their opinion of you. As you become better friends with your classmates you unlock more of their information in the handbook and it will unlock abilities that make class trials easier. 

Spoiler alert, I guess. Class trials do happen, meaning characters are going to die. That’s all the non-gameplay details you’ll get from me. The story and characters are the best part of the game and I don’t want to spoil it. 

Once a body is found an investigation is started to collect evidence. During the investigation, you interview classmates to figure out their alibis and what other information they may know. You also scan through multiple rooms to find evidence. The handbook is very helpful during the investigation because rooms that need to be investigated will be marked with an exclamation point. 

The class trials function as a giant group debate. People present evidence and make statements, assumptions, and ultimately conclusions based on the evidence found during the investigation. This happens as a mini-game. Everyone’s dialog will be moving across the screen. The evidence you gathered during the investigation becomes “truth bullets” that you use to shoot down the incorrect statements made by the others. You have to use the correct evidence with the correct statement to continue the trial. If you get it wrong too many times, game over and you will have to do the trial again from the beginning. 

There are also other minigames as a part of the class trials. They will be added in as time goes and the rules will always be explained before you start. One is a spelling game where you shoot the letters to fill in the missing blanks. I don’t know why it’s important to know how to spell “knife” to present it as evidence. Best not to question it. Then there is a rhythm game. My best guess, the purpose is to make people shut up by throwing off their groove. At the end of the trial, you will build your “closing argument” by placing the missing pictures in the comic book that sums up the events. It’s trickier than it sounds because there are more pictures than there are empty panels, and which picture is the right picture is unclear at times.  

Worst Parts

  • I like the minigames of the class trials and all, but they could get annoying sometimes. 
  • Getting the perfect present for someone only for them to die off. What am I supposed to do with this now? The perfect person is dead now. 
  • The game treats you like an idiot by repeating information multiple times. I am not a child, I am paying attention, you don’t have to tell me the same thing five times within ten minutes. 
  • I wish there had been more voice acting. I get that they had limitations when the game was first released and couldn’t have voice acting for every line. It still would have been nice as when the voice actors did a fantastic job. 

Best Parts

  • Telling people they’re wrong in the class trials. It’s just so much fun to dramatically destroy their arguments. 
  • The story is intriguing right from the start and it’s easy to get invested in figuring out why things are happening. 
  • All of the characters had so much personality to them. Admittedly, they were somewhat exaggerated and trope-heavy at times. Instead of breaking the immersion by being unrealistic, it made them fit in with the over the top, anime weirdness. They also got further character development throughout the events of the game. The Danganronpa characters are all unique and memorable. 
  • Hot pink blood. I know the developers did this to prevent the game rating from going higher than “M” but it adds to the surrealness of the art. 
  • The big plot twist at the end. I won’t spoil anything, but the mastermind is one of my all-time favorite video game villains. 
  • There’s a lot of shocking moments throughout the game. I appreciate that as it’s not easy to surprise me multiple times in a story.
  • When the dialog was good, it was fantastic! 
  • I really like the music in the game. It’s especially cool to see the audio equalizer in the corner. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the creators of Danganronpa.

Top 5 Feel-Good Anime

Life is stressful. I could rant about that but I’d rather not be sad today. Instead, allow me to present my Top 5 Feel-Good Anime. These are shows I’ve already seen before and enjoyed so much that I will watch them again. Sometimes I watch anime to distract myself from my problems. When I do get into one of those moods, I hardly ever watch new shows. I want to relax with something I know I like rather than chance a new anime. These are the top five I go to when I’m in a mental “ugggggghhhhh… I don’t want to anything” state.

5. One-Punch Man (season 1)

One-Punch Man is basically a shonen parody or satire. One-Punch Man Saitama is so overpowered no enemy is a challenge for him. Hence his title, because one punch is all it takes to defeat his opponents. He’s so overpowered that the show’s plot and conflicts are mainly driven by all of the other characters surrounding Saitama. It works well. The show has a ton of humorous moments. It doesn’t take itself too seriously by poking fun at tropes through Saitama, while still telling an engaging story with the other characters and the world. 

I saw the second season of the anime but I don’t like it as much as the first. The second season was good anime, but the first season was outstanding. 

Epic action scenes, funny moments, ridiculous characters (in the best way). 

I dare you to not scream  “ONE PUNCH!!!” with the intro.  

4. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K

If you think of a psychic when you hear the name Saiki, then you’re correct! Saiki, the main character, is psychic. In fact, he has soooooo many psychic powers he could have beaten Thanos easily. Funny enough, he doesn’t care about them much. He just wants to go to school and have a relatively normal life. Which is hard to do when all of his classmates and parents are ridiculous versions of various anime tropes. This anime is an episodic, slice-of-life comedy. What makes this anime so good is the deadpan internal monologue of Saiki. It is a surprisingly good form of exposition and humor.

Characters so exaggerated they can only occur in anime, sarcasm, a guy who just wants to be left alone in peace, a new take on psychic abilities. 

Where can I get some coffee jelly? I want to try it!

3. Ouran Highschool Host Club

I don’t often watch romantic comedies, but when I do it’s anime. Ouran Highschool Host Club is a classic romantic comedy anime. What makes this one so good is a combination of wacky slice-of-life humor, culture class between social statuses, and the main character Haruhi. She got a scholarship to a prestigious school of the ludicrously wealthy. Haruhi only wants to study and work towards her goal of becoming a lawyer. She’s very honest, genuine, and completely dense when it comes to romance. (I feel that) Shenanigans happen once she accidentally becomes indebted to the Host Club and is forced to join. As the show progresses you better understand the characters and their relationships progress naturally. 

Shojo tropes (and parodies of them) done right, expressive characters, humor, drama. 

I would absolutely go to the Host Club. 

2. Persona 4: The Animation

If you took anime and combined it with Scooby-Doo, Persona 4: The Animation would be the result. It’s based on the video game, but it is a good enough anime to stand alone without playing the game. Yu Narukami moves out to live with his relatives for a year while his parents are working overseas. He is hot stuff as the new kid, coming from Tokyo to the tiny town of Inaba. Yu makes new friends, accidentally discovers another world by falling into a big flatscreen tv, and tries to solve the case of a local serial killer committing mysterious murders. Clearly, just a typical Japanese high school life according to anime. What makes this anime fun is how it focuses on the character interactions. The best part of this anime is watching the friendships develop. 

Lovable characters, the cliche power of protagonist and friendship, hilarious dialog. 

Every day’s great at your Junes!Please help me, I can’t get that catchy jingle out of my head.

1. Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense

Here it is. This is my number one. I’ve watched the entire anime at least four times. Bofuri is my ultimate happy place anime. 

Bofuri stars Kaede as she decides to try an online virtual reality game called New World Online. Now, going by the username Maple, she begins exploring the new video game world and figuring out how to play. Maple doesn’t know the first thing about video games, so she comes across as naive and friendly. As she plays the game, Maple unintentionally becomes an overpowered character due to her whimsically chaotic energy. Maple is so lovable! Most of the other characters think so too. As Maple plays the game and competes in various competitions she meets several new friends. This is the only anime that I would describe as wholesome. The whole show is about the characters having fun and engaging in healthy rivalries with competitors. I love this show. 

Adorable, pseudo-fantasy setting, funny dialog, reactions to Maple. 

I volunteer to join Maple Tree!! 

There you have it. My definitive Top 5 list of Feel-Good anime. Do you agree with me? Disagree? Tell me about the anime that should have been included. Feel free to voice your opinions in the comments! 

*Image does not belong to me. It is an uwu meme off of Imgflip.com

How to Introduce Your Friends to Anime

Do you like anime? Don’t be silly of course you do! What’s not to like? Good animation, stories you would have a hard time finding in Western media, good music, a wide variety of categories to choose from, that special brand of humor and quirkiness that only comes from Japan, dramatic action… Anime is fantastic! 

Yet there’s that one friend of yours who thinks it’s lame for some reason or who hasn’t tried it yet. I know anime is awesome, you know anime is awesome, but they don’t know anime is awesome (yet). There are just so many options, what do you choose? What’s the easiest for someone completely new to understand and appreciate? Well here are my tips and tricks for introducing others to anime. 

The most important first step is to know your audience. What do they like to watch? What don’t they like to watch? There’s a whole lot of genres available in anime. If you can narrow down what genres they prefer you can select some of the best options they might enjoy. Does your friend love comedy? Then don’t start with Attack on Titan. Are they impatient and rarely wait for slow-build plots? Don’t start with Steins Gate. Let’s say your friend hypothetically likes sci-fi/fantasy, action with a dash of humor. You would work around those categories and pick something that lines up with those interests. In this instance series like Trigun, Sword Art Online, One Punch Man, My Hero Academia, Space Dandy, and Overly Cautious Hero would be good options. 

Another thing you want to determine ahead of time is whether a movie or a series would better suit the situation. A series may have episodes that are only a half-hour long, but to get the full experience you have to watch the whole thing. Not everyone has the time or is willing to commit to watching a series. One time I was visiting my hometown and stopped by to see a friend who lives nearby. We only had one day to hang out. Since she hadn’t seen any anime before I wanted to show her one of my favorite media genres. She agreed and we watched The Cat’s Return. I know she likes light-hearted shows so I thought she would like that movie. She did, said she thought it was cute and fun. The time you have available with someone and what they have time for is important to consider. 

Let’s address this honestly. Anime can be… weird. Anime has vibes unlike any other form of tv. The term I like to use is Japany. I use Japany as a catch-all term for all those moments that feel unique and completely alien to western media. Sometimes it’s harmless cultural quirks that we don’t understand. Other times it leans more to the fan service side or bizarre side. It’s something to keep in mind when introducing people to an anime. How weird is it? What type of weird it is? If you know your friend well enough then you should have an idea of what they are willing to tolerate. You can always give them a warning ahead of time if you aren’t sure. Who knows, they might end up enjoying the weirdness of anime. 

Pick anime that you enjoy. Friends like hanging around each other. They usually have at least a few shared interests. Good friends are willing to try stuff that they might not necessarily like but want to participate in because you like it. Don’t choose something based on their preferences alone, consider yours as well. They are trying anime because they want to make you happy and spend time with you. This means when introducing someone to anime pick an anime that you have already seen before and know you like it. 

Choose easily available anime. Most people don’t have Crunchyroll or Funimation subscriptions. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and possibly HBO Max are going to be some of the subscriptions they most likely have. For people just starting with anime, it’s better to use what they already have available. Unless you let them borrow your DVDs. Then you can skip bothering with streaming services altogether. If you don’t trust your friends to return them, bring your DVDs with you every watch session. 

When in doubt, watch a Studio Ghibli movie. They are the most well-known Japanese animation studio in the western world. Their movies are amazing! The art is fantastic with incredible details. The music in the films is memorable and beautiful. Stories and characters are done so well, always engaging. This is a safe bet for a good time for anyone and everyone.  

What not to do: Do not kidnap your friend, tie them to a chair, sit them in front of a tv playing anime, and say “You’re gonna watch it and you’re gonna like it”. Consent is important.  

To sum up:

  1. Know your audience
  2. Choose something that fits in the time available
  3. Be aware of the “weird levels” of the animes you’re considering 
  4. Pick something you like
  5. Choose an anime easily accessible by streaming or DVDs you already own
  6. Studio Ghibli is good

Now go, go and indoctrinate everyone! Uh… I mean… Go have fun sharing the glories of anime with friends and family!  

* The original screenshot it from an anime called “The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird.” I made this version of the pigeon meme.

Petty Review: Persona 5 the Animation

Persona 5 is one of my favorite video games of all time. I pretty much love everything about the game. I played through the entire game twice. This isn’t a short game either, I’m talking about over a hundred hours devoted to a playthrough. I loved this game enough to look into the previous games in the Persona series, the other games made by Atlus, and the anime recreations of these games. I’ve already watched the Persona 4 anime series and Persona 3 anime series. I’m working on playing through Persona 3 and 4 on the PS2. Hopefully, I have established that these atmospheric, weird, story-heavy JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Game) are my gaming niche. 

Naturally, when Persona 5: The Animation was released on Hulu I had to watch it. I had high hopes for this anime. It had the perfect source material to work with; high school life, dramatic fight scenes, and righting the wrongs of society by fighting in a supernatural world based on human cognition. All in all, this seems like it should be the perfect foundation for a good anime.  

Sadly that isn’t what happened. The story that had been so engaging in the video game became badly compressed in the anime. I would have been confused as to what the heck was going on if I didn’t have previous knowledge of the story. The show moved through the events so fast there wasn’t time to feel any connection to the characters or get invested in the plot of the episodes. All the little details that added to the experience were lost because there wasn’t enough time for them. 

Even the quality of the animation was just a pale reflection of the original anime cutscenes in the game. How ridiculous is that? The video game had better animation than the anime! That’s how good the game is, which is how bad the anime looked by comparison. 

There was one scene that felt like such a slap in the face with how laughably bad the animation was. In the game, there is a move called “All Out Attack”. This happens when you knock all enemies down and a flashy, stylized beat-em-up scene plays ending with a unique character graphic. Instead of fleshing out combat scenes that are limited by gameplay, Persona 5: The Animation put in a pathetic attempt at the same “All Out Attack”. They would have been better off just taking recorded video game footage. Words can only convey so much of this travesty so I have a link to a short comparison video here

I didn’t even finish watching the anime. I only made it to episode three or four before I gave up on watching. The whole anime felt unnecessary. It didn’t add anything to the Persona 5 experience. Don’t waste your time with this anime. Go buy Persona 5, start up your PS4 and start playing for the real Persona 5 experience. 

*The YouTube video belongs to Woozy Vids. The image used does not belong to me. Persona 5 belongs to Atlus and CloverWorks who produced the anime.

The Eternal Anime Argument: Subs or Dubs

There are two ways to watch anime, subtitled or dubbed. To this day, all anime fans still contest which is the best way to watch anime. It is a heated debate within the community. Today we will discuss the benefits of each. Afterward, it will be up to you to decide. 

Subbed 

The subbed version of anime is the original production. Usually, it is available to watch first. It takes time for anime to be released with an English dub. If it even gets a dub in the first place. Not all anime produced gets cleared for an English script. If a person only watches dubbed anime they will be missing out on the ones that don’t get dubbed. 

Then there is the translation process. All of the little cultural details are displayed in the original subbed anime. In the dubbed version, those can be lost in the translation and localization process. Not only that but jokes in the original dialog can be lost or misrepresented in translation. This happens frequently as it’s no easy feat to translate cultural context and humor. There’s a scene that has been immortalized in memes for this very reason. In a subbed pokemon episode, they are eating onigiri (rice balls) and Brock offers them to Ash. In the dubbed version they called them donuts, without changing their appearance. It caused confusion but never changed the story.

The dub doesn’t significantly change the show if it is a good dub. Sadly not all dubbed scripts are made equally. Sometimes drastic changes are made which completely alter the audience’s experience. One of the most notorious examples of this is in the original Sailor Moon anime. In the subbed version two female characters were a lesbian couple but in the dubbed version they were changed to cousins. Clearly, there’s a big difference in how we view these two characters depending on which version you see. 

Some people just like to read what the characters are saying. If something is said that is hard to understand it’s nice to have subtitles to read what is occurring. A plus for me is having subs makes it easier to eat loud food like chips without missing anything. On a serious note though, if someone wants to watch anime and they have a hearing disability then they might as well watch subbed. If you have to read the dialog regardless might as well read the original. 

Dubbed

When you watch dubbed anime it is just nice to have the dialog in your native language without having to constantly read. With subtitles, if you look away from the screen for too long you’ll miss dialog. Naturally, many people don’t like having to read subtitles while watching tv or movies for this reason. Kids would probably have an easier time watching the dubbed version. I can’t imagine many kids with the patience to read while trying to watch tv. Those who have vision disabilities or disabilities that affect reading skills have an accessible way to watch anime with dubs. 

Sometimes you watch shows just to have something playing in the background. You can watch dubbed anime without paying complete attention to it and still understand what’s going on in the show. You can’t do that with subs unless you want to hear Japanese you can’t understand in the background.

People who don’t watch anime may find it easier to start with dubbed anime. Anime is far more popular than it used to be but it is still a niche interest. It does have its oddities so having anime in your native language makes it feel a little less strange. When watching a dubbed anime you won’t have as many Japanese cultural references that you won’t understand. Dubbed versions may be less confusing to those new to the genre. 

Another thing I have noticed in dubbed versions of the dialog is that it may be edited to be more “appropriate” to an English speaking audience. This doesn’t usually work out that well but typically doesn’t have much of an effect on the overall story. It might mean there are just a few lines that don’t make sense. There might also be a few jokes that fall flat or just feel awkward because it wasn’t translated well. It’s more of a minor annoyance than anything. 

My Thoughts

If someone asked me point-blank to choose subs or dubs I would pick subs. I like having the cultural context and the voice actors of the original. Not only that subbed anime typically is released sooner. Why wait for the dubbed when subbed is right there? I’m not a very patient person so I’ll watch things as soon as they are available. There are some anime series that never get an English dubbed version. If I watched dubbed anime exclusively then I’d be missing out. Plus I like seeing the Japanese cultural details that don’t always translate, the ones I understand at least. 

Honestly, I prefer to have both options. I enjoy watching both and will choose based on circumstances. Sometimes I like having something playing in the background. So I’ll put on a dubbed anime that I’ve already watched. Then I’ll tune in now and then while doing other things. My husband prefers dubbed anime. If I want to watch an anime movie or series with him we almost always pick dubbed when the option is available. When I am in the mood to watch anime and want to devote all my attention to the show I’ll pick subbed. With the animes I really like I’ll watch the subbed version first and then the dubbed when it’s released. In certain cases, I just prefer whatever version of the anime I saw first. There are a few animes I watched with friends in the English dub so that’s what I prefer for those particular animes. 

Luckily, now subbed and dubbed anime is widely available with streaming services. There’s no answer as to which is better, as it all a matter of preference. The important part

is being willing to compromise if you’re watching with other people and not being obnoxiously insistent that your way is best. No matter the activity it is never fun when you have someone who will only accept their method of how it should be done without being flexible to considering other opinions. Watch whatever way makes you happy. Subs and dubs are equally valid ways to watch anime.

Do you watch anime? Let me know in the comments about your thoughts on subs v. dubs. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to Studio Ghibli