Thanasis is a writer, professional geek, and assistant editor at MANGA.TOKYO. He started watching anime with the mecha shows of the 70s and hasn't stopped since. He loves JRPGs.
Robert Frank, the famous American photographer, once said that the colors of photography are black and white. To him these two opposites symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected.
Many series play with these words in an attempt to bring conflict to their story, but I think that Dangaronpa is the one doing it right. After all, what hope can they be in a plot where we know that despair has already won?
Japanese Title: 雪染ちさは笑わない
Chisa reminds me of Korosensei if just a little. She is not just there to investigate the events leading to the Ultimate Despair, but she’s also a dedicated teacher ready to sacrifice herself for her students. If only all teachers were like her. She confronts Junko who reveals her plan to use the brainwashing technique to bring despair to the world. Junko demonstrates how effective the brainwashing video is by having a blue-face student commit suicide on her command.
Chiaki escapes with Nagito and informs the rest of the class. They decide to go help their teacher who is being forcefully brainwashed by Junko. For some reason, her resolve is so great that the video fails to mess with her mind even after Mukuro lobotomized her.
Junko plants the seed of guilt on Mitarai who flees in shame of his actions, but she is immediately confronted by Juzo who prepares to box the shit out of all the brainwashed blue-face students that are protecting her.
In the end of the episode, the class arrives at Junko’s hideout, and a brainwashed Tsumiki pushed Chiaki through a hidden trapdoor where she is found by Chisa.
SHSL Impostor: I wasn’t sure if the SHSL impostor was ever going to show his face. But the grip of despair is tight, and he must follow his classmates being his real self. He is the same as he was as Mitarai, if you count out the different hair color and length. His disguise reminds me a little of Clark Kent and his glasses. Of course no one can tell Clark is Superman, and the same applies to the SHSL impostor: all the students were dumbfounded after he removed his disguise.
Tanaka’s Roll Call: Tanaka is not the only peculiar character in this show, but he is certainly one of the funniest. His dark-goth demeanor is in direct contrast to his Twelve Zodiac Generals who are as cut as hell (pun intended). His roll call reminded me of henshin sequences, and the final still with the hamster constellation was epic.
Shoujo Manga: Shoujo manga (少女漫画) is aimed at a teenage female readership. The word means ‘young woman’ and the manga that belong to this subcategory don’t have a specific genre. They can be from historical dramas to science fiction stories. What they have in common is a focus on romantic relationships and emotions. When Junko stops the emotional moment between Chiaki and former Hinata, she refers to the heavy emotional context.
Logic vs Emotion: Every action we take is probably guided by either logic or emotion. Sometimes by a bit of both. During the class meeting, Komaeda speaks logic when he says that going after Chisa is a futile act. Junko and Izuru are too powerful even for this talented bunch. On the other hand, the class representative Chiaki responded from her heart. Even if the odds are against them, they have a responsibility to the person that taught them hope. And for that, they must become hope themselves. Komaeda was actually testing the class to see their response to despair, but still, these two voices, logic and emotion, are always lurking behind every decision.
Despair: You know what’s the most tragic thing about the Despair Arc? That no matter how hard the children are trying to bring hope, they are fighting a lost cause. Of course they don’t know that, since we are the viewers who are watching a story that has already happened, but isn’t that making their efforts way more heartbreaking?
Danganronpa is first an anime about choices and then a killing fest. The world is not as black and white as Robert Frank thinks it is, and even in black&white photography it is grey that steals that makes the contrast evident. Junko’s despair, Mitarai’s guilt, Chisa’s determination, these are all actions taken in the same play and the final outcome will come as a result of all those actions. Chisa and Junko are not the quintessential hope and despair. Instead they are just closer to their respective white and black.
Despair is a powerful emotion. Seeing the class walking straight to Junko’s trap hurts me. These children were full of hope, full of determination and of a powerful desire to save their teacher. I haven’t played the Danganronpa games to completion. I don’t know how Enoshima is eventually defeated, but knowing that she is makes me…hopeful.
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