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Dangan Ronpa: The Academy of Hope and the High School Students of Despair is a "high-speed mystery action adventure" released in Japan for the PSP back in 2010. There was no localization for quite a while, but a translated Let's Play of the game was in progress on the Something Awful forums. It combines mystery-solving with elements of shooting and even rhythm gameplay.
The story takes place at Hope's Peak Academy, an illustrious private school that only accepts "super" students: the best of the best of the best. The criteria extends to any niche, so in addition to super-geniuses and super-athletes, they take super-idols, gang leaders, and geeks. Makoto Naegi, the protagonist, is still baffled as to how he got in, as his only outstanding trait seems to be his super "good" luck - and that's only because he was randomly chosen to be accepted by the school. In fact, he hasn't even started his first day of school when he suddenly loses consciousness and wakes up in a creepy alternate version of the academy.
It's soon revealed that Naegi and fourteen other new students have all been abducted by a sadistic teddy bear named Monokuma, who refuses to let them leave. The only way out of the locked-down dark school is to graduate...by killing another student. Once a murder is committed, Monokuma holds a trial so that the class can try to figure out which one of them is the culprit, culminating in a vote. If they make the right choice, the murderer will be messily executed. Make the wrong choice, and not only does the murderer escape, but the rest of them will take the punishment in their place...
As Monokuma, hungry for a spectacle, introduces "motives" for them to kill, tension builds in the school, and it isn't long until the students begin to snap. It's up to Naegi to make sure that the culprit of each murder is found so that the rest of them can try to escape.
This game was subject of an ongoing LP and translation effort (see above). Then it was brought to the West in 2013, released on the Play Station Vita world-wide, and later re-released through Steam and PlayStation 4. As of August 2021, there is news of a Compilation Rerelease of all three mainline entries for Nintendo Switch that will happen in November/December 2021.
The game went on to become a lengthy and profitable franchise, spanning three mainline entries (the original, the 2014 sequel Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, and the 2017 release Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony), a Gaiden Game in Ultra Despair Girls, a Grand Finale anime mini-series, and tons of other side material.
The series as a whole contains examples of:
- Two and a Half D: You can pan around the environment, but the characters and props are all paper cutouts. Some characters are represented as models for certain cutscenes.
- Always Check Behind the Chair: Monokuma Coins, which can be exchanged for gifts for the other students, are often hidden behind objects in the background. Later games have Hidden Monokumas as well.
- Asshole Victim: Everywhere; among both victims and killers. Notably, the third trial in the third game has EVERYONE who died be an Asshole Victim.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Largely averted; outer beauty doesn't seem to correlate much to inner beauty in these halls; the series' main villain, Junko, was the Ultimate Fashionista for one thing, while the likes of Sakura and Ryoma are pleasant despite looking off-putting.
- Beware the Nice Ones: At least one per game; Sayaka in the original, Mikan in the second, and Gonta in the third. Even the protagonists have their moments.
- Beware the Silly Ones: Most notably Tsumugi, but there's also Teruteru and Yasuhiro.
- Big Brother Is Watching: Monokuma has cameras and gun turrets installed throughout the building (except for in the bathrooms, showers, and communal spa). The third game takes it up a notch; Monokuma now uses nanobots to spy on his prey.
- Black Blood: Or pink blood, in this case. Many murder scenes are liberally splattered in Pepto-Bismol, thanks to the intricacies of the Japanese game rating system.
- Bribing Your Way to Victory: In the original game, Monokuma abandons the stick for the third "motive" and instead gives a carrot of ten billion yen to any student who "graduates".
- Chekhov's Gun: If you spend time with Chihiro, the topic of Artificial Intelligence comes up. After Chihiro's death, Aoi discovers that he installed an AI in the school computer to help them escape.
- Most cases have important evidence that's introduced well before the murder actually takes place, or may still seem irrelevant until the trial is underway. An example of this is Mondo and Ishimaru's sauna duel.
- There is an empty seat in the trial room. When asked about it, Monobear says that the room was built with a capacity of sixteen people and that there's no further meaning to it. At the end of Chapter 2, Monobear admits that there is a sixteenth student in his conversation with the mole, but refuses to elaborate further, calling it his ace in the sleeve.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Inverted; our heroes are constantly being backstabbed by other characters.
- Closed Circle: All of the doors and windows in the academy are covered with steel bulkheads.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Oh, oh so many.
- Undignified Death: Methods of death have included being battered and deep fried, killed with a see-saw, churned into butter, and strangled with toilet paper.
- Deadly Game
- Despair Event Horizon: Monobear's stated objective is to bring DESPAIR. If the students don't start killing each other, he'll just keep pressing buttons until someone's pushed past this point and murders someone.
- Dying Like Animals: All over the place; butterflies tend to be common in the series.
- Everyone Went to School Together: There is some evidence that the fifteen students had all known each other before arriving at Hope's Peak Academy. Murky, potentially deceptive evidence, but the possibility is there. The third game, however, is an exception.
- Exact Words: Monokuma's rules all have loopholes in the wording. For instance, students aren't allowed to sleep anywhere but the dorm rooms - but they also don't have to sleep in their room specifically, and a student is no longer counted as a person if they're dead.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Electronic Student ID Card is called... the Electronic Student ID Card.
- Females Are More Innocent: Largely averted; most of the main antagonists in the series are female. However, while female killers vary all over the place morally, most of them seem to be motivated by either The Needs of the Many or for someone they deeply loved; with only Celeste and Miu being truly motivated by their own self-interest. Additionally, the vilest non-Junko killer is a male.
- Fille Fatalons: The real Junko Enoshima has these. Unlike most cases of this trope, which don't indicate anything evil or malicious, they only serve as a way to make her even more scary and intimidating. Celeste also has them.
- Gilded Cage: Hope's Peak Academy isn't half-bad. Nor any of the later locales (with a few exceptions) Unfortunately, nobody's allowed to leave unless they commit murder and get away with it.
- I Have Your Wife: Monokuma's first "motive" - he gives everyone a DVD that implies horrible things will happen to the people they love (Makoto's family is attacked, Sayaka's friends forget about her, Mondo's gang breaks up).
- Ironic Echo: Sayuka likes to say exactly what Makoto is thinking, then claim she can read minds, giving him time to react before saying it's just "good intuition". Later, Makoto makes the exact same joke.
- Logical Fallacies: The "Machine-Gun Talk Battle" sections of a trial occur when a student starts using ad-hominem attacks instead of logical arguments.
- Lone Wolf Boss: The majority of culprits have no connection to the Mastermind, sometimes even being against them.
- The Lost Lenore: At least once per game; pretty much every romantic lead in the series winds up Stuffed Into the Fridge.
- Medium Awareness: This conversation between Celes and Hifumi during a Flash Back in Chapter 3:
"...This is where my flashback ends."
- Medium Blending: The Climax Inferences are manga panels. Live-action screenshots can be seen in the third, and K1B0 turns into a 3D model for his execution.
- Mini Boss: The "rival" characters serve this role in the trials; making them more of a mess, but none are the actual culprit at any point.
- Mundane Made Awesome: The school trials are some of the flashiest debates you'll ever see-- you literally shoot down your opponents' arguments as they fly across the screen in text form.
- Never Trust a Trailer: Promotional material showed Junko and Sayaka in trial scenes, and heavily implied that the latter would be Naegi's Love Interest (even appearing beside him in the start menu). They're actually the first two students to die. However, the real Junko is the Big Bad of the game and series.
- The demo changes the victim of the first case to Yasuhiro.
- New Game+: You can replay chapters after completing them, letting you keep any skills you've gotten from the other characters. This is required to view all the scenes for certain characters who don't make it past the first chapter. Later games added a mode where the killing game does not occur, and scenes can be viewed with impunity. The third game even adds scenes with the characters from the two previous games.
- Non-Standard Character Design: One per game; Hifumi in the original, Teruteru in the second, and Ryoma in the third.
- Ontological Mystery: None of the characters have any idea how the school was locked down (or even if they're still in the school). However, Monokuma explicitly permits the students to investigate what's going on, as long as they abide by his other rules.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Monokuma loves to insist that the students are the real villains: according to his logic, if they just quietly lived out the rest of their lives in their Gilded Cage and didn't try to "graduate", then nobody would get hurt. And when they solve the trials, aren't they only doing so to protect their own measly lives?
Monokuma: "The murder we just had occurred because you bastards want to get out, wasn't it!? It's you bastards, who can't let go of the outside world, who are the bad eyes here!"
- Relationship Values: Makoto can hang out with the other students and give them presents. They'll reward him with skills to be used during trial scenes.
- The Rival: Togami in the original, Nagito in the second, and Kokichi in the third.
- Sadistic Choice: Kill one of your classmates, or spend the rest of your life in captivity - and when it comes down to the trial, fess up and receive a gruesome punishment, or escape with the blood of everyone else on your hands.
- Shout-Out: When Monokuma first breaks out the bear puns, Celes notes that it's been done already.
- Hagakure, while praying to numerous deities for help, invokes King Kai.
- And if Hifumi can get a manga/anime/video game reference in somewhere, he'll probably do it. On that note, his name is written as 1-2-3.
- Genocider Syo at one point uses the phrase "blacker than a moonless night".
- While discussing a dying message left by Sayaka, Kyouko references Ellery Queen.
- Stuffed Into the Fridge: Sayaka in the first set a trend for every subsequent game.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Most murders in the series, though less so in the original game. The series has a tendency to subvert this trope as well, such as with Leon, who went out of his way to kill Sayaka.
- The Mole: At least one in each game. Sakura in the first, Mikan as well as Chiaki in the second, and Tsumugi in the third
- This Is Reality: Spoken in Chapter 3. Monokuma also states this during Chapter 1:
Monokuma: "We aren't living in a Shounen manga story. There is no such thing as dying without dying. This is reality!"
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: School trials can be broken down into Non-Stop Debates (literally shooting down contradictions), Machine-Gun Talk Battles (breaking through ad-hominem arguments in a Rhythm Game), Flashing Anagrams (filling in blanks), and Climax Inferences (assembling how the murder went down by placing events on a comic-style timeline).
- Vasquez Always Dies: Inverted in the original between Kyoko and Sayaka, but subsequently played straight with Mukuro, Sakura, Peko, and Tenko.
- Wham! Episode: Common in the series. From the first game alone...
- Let's start with Chapter 1 where the first victim is Sayaka. Shortly after that, Junko is killed for attacking Monokuma.
- Then at the end of Chapter 2, it's revealed there's a mole among the students and there's also a separate sixteenth student that Monokuma is hiding.
- The end of Chapter 3. After learning about it from Kyoko, Makoto finds a secret room in the boy's restroom. Before he can take a good look around, a mysterious masked man attacks him from behind, knocking him unconscious. When Makoto wakes up, he finds that the room has been cleaned out. Then when he staggers to the gymnasium, he finds Sakura fighting Monokuma and they have a conversation implying Sakura is The Mole.
- You All Meet in a Cell
- literally, Bullet Rebuttal