12 Days of Anime 2017 [Day 6]: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc – How Our Own Desires Can Change Ourselves

Not all changes in someone’s perspective are necessarily beneficial to us; sometimes those changes cause us to experience more despair and pain. Unlike many of my previous 12 Days of Anime posts have shown and also contrary to the title of the game, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (Danganronpa: THH) isn’t exactly a story brimming with positive moments from people undergoing changes within their lives. That’s not to say the game is nothing but unhappy events, but as expected from a narrative that’s mainly about high-schoolers trapped in a death game scenario, there’s definitely a lot of negative events that transpire and occur to the characters within it.

It’s no surprise that a video game about a death game has no lack to display the lesser qualities of the scenario with aspects like people betraying each other even though they’re friends, trying to play the game for their own reasons disregarding any concern for others, and enabling themselves to lose themselves within their own reasoning to find a justification to kill.

Surprisingly though, most of the game isn’t even about the deaths themselves, although saying that they aren’t the focus of the story would be inaccurate. A good portion of the game is actually spent in a few different sorts of ways that don’t have to deal with the actual acts of killing, creating a sort of cyclical nature that most interactive games in a visual novel style sort of do. One of these ways is just interacting with the different sorts of characters trapped within the school.

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One interesting aspect about this is even though there are murders and all these other horrible acts happening in this environment, a vast majority of the students don’t really want to kill anyone, as they just want to escape with their lives in tact as does anyone else. They don’t really have any motivation or lack of trust in order to kill anyone; they would rather find a peaceful solution by working together with everyone in order to escape from this scenario with as few casualties as possible.

It’s not like the game itself promotes unstoppable killing with its rules, as actually killing someone with the rules of the death game is pretty risky in its own regard. With regards to being able to gather a bunch of evidence almost unlimited by the school’s “ruling body” Monokuma and also with your life being put directly on the line if you’re found out, it’s unsurprising that killings in this scenario aren’t exactly something that appeals to anyone, especially with all the political and social consequences that come with being potentially accused.

The game itself tends to lean itself towards this narrative as well, while the murders themselves are pictured in a very unique non-realistic style, when someone is found out to be a killer, while still sharing the same sort of art style, is a lot more grotesque and brutal than the initial murder is displayed as. This seems to lend towards the idea that a “death game” is just that, a game for whoever’s in charge of it. There’s also the idea that this game has a strong sense of “justice” to it, as the brutality of the executions are only portrayed when the correctly identified party that committed the heinous act has to pay the price for their decisions.

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Some could say that this is perhaps still a bit too overbearing, but it doesn’t seem the point of Danganronpa: THH is to watch people get tortured for what they’ve done; it’s more about living through those painful incidents and memories, being able to deal with them, and using those memories to help make better experiences for them. This is something that the game handles really well in its latter acts, really driving home the point about using these incidents to be able to deal with the harsh realities of the outside world, whether you want to apply that physically to the way the narrative went, or metaphorically as using a school setting to prepare teenagers for the real world before them.

In this way, this can be similar to the last 12 Days of Anime article I wrote about Grimgar, except that instead of using death as a way to motivate ourselves to not live in the past and motivate ourselves to do better, Danganronpa: THH uses death as a more of a tool of preparation, showing that there will be many events that will tough to deal with within our lives, and the only way to adequately prepare someone for those is to build up motivating factors through these incidents that won’t allow them to give up in changing themselves or the world around them. This is also one of the key points of the entire final act of the Little Busters! visual novel as well, revolving around a similar sort of idea yet an entirely different scenario and is one of the many reasons why I also love that story so much.

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These sorts of stories becoming uplifting through the acts of despair that the characters experience and also are great motivating factors for them. It’s no different within our lives either, and while I’m sure that for some, this narrative doesn’t seem to actively portray the longevity of the grief experienced in the sort of scenario that it called for, it also wouldn’t necessarily make for a consistently interesting narrative. I think Danganronpa: THH does an excellent job of balancing out its more thrilling moments of playing detective to find out “whodunnit” with its moments of downtime, giving us time to learn about these characters and how they think, along with just taking the focus away from the darker aspects of the game with some meaningful interactions, and sometimes quirky comedy, allowed with those characters.

Sometimes the greatest hope within ourselves can come from the greatest despair, and that’s ultimately what this death game is all about.

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