Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair Vol 1 Review

danganronpaMonokuma is back and up to his old tricks in this sequel to the first Danganronpa manga. Danronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, drawn by Kuroki Q, adapts the second game in the Danganronpa franchise and is actually the second manga adaptation of said game that has been released in English, the first being Danganronpa 2: Ultimate Luck and Hope and Despair. How does this newest take on the material stack up against its predecessor? And will parents ever learn their lesson and stop sending their kids to the ironically named Hope’s Peak Academy? Read on to find out!

Synopsis:

Hajime Hinata was overjoyed when he was given the opportunity to enroll at Hope’s Peak Academy, an elite school that exclusively recruits students who are at the top of a given field or group. These students are said to represent the hope for the future of society and graduating from Hope’s Peak Academy essentially guarantees you a bright and successful future. But, on his first day of school, Hajime and his classmates are all knocked unconscious and wake up at an empty island resort, only to be told that this is a school trip that’s designed to allow them to build up their bonds of friendship. This is suspicious enough, but their memories also seem to have been tampered with and Hajime finds that he can’t remember what talent or quality he possesses that caused him to be recruited in the first place. Still, hanging out with his peers on a beautiful island doesn’t seem like it will be too bad, that is, until Monokuma shows up and hijacks the trip! Now Hajime and his classmates are trapped on the island with a psychopathic, robot bear that insists that the only way for any of them to return home is for one of them to commit a murder and then get away with it. If the other students can’t figure out who the murderer is during a “class trial” then the murderer gets to go home while the other students are killed. But if they do manage to identify the true killer, then only the murderer is punished with death and the rest of the class gets to live… for the time being, at least. Faced with this insane situation, tensions start to run high amongst Hajime’s classmates. But, surely, none of them would ever resort to murder in order to save themselves…Right?

hope's academy

Review:

As I mentioned in the intro, Goodbye Despair is the second manga adaptation of the Danganronpa 2 video game that’s been released in English and it appears to be a more straightforward retelling of the story of the game, whereas Ultimate Luck and Hope and Despair features the same events, but from the point of view of Nagito Komaeda, Hajime’s unhinged and, possibly, villainess classmate. I actually read Ultimate Luck and Hope and Despair first, without realizing that it wasn’t a conventional adaptation of the source material, and I was very confused, particularly by the ending, which left me with a whole lot of unanswered questions. It was only when I read the postscript in the final volume that I realized that Ultimate Luck and Hope and Despair was essentially a supplemental story. So, does this mean that, if you just want to experience the main storyline of Danganronpa 2, you can skip over Ultimate Luck and Hope and Despair and just pick up Goodbye Despair instead? Probably, but I don’t think I’d recommend it.

Goodbye Despair is structured in a very odd way that seems to be taking for granted that readers will also be reading Ultimate Luck and Hope and Despair. The manga speeds through some of the significant events at the start of the story and then skips over other parts altogether and just shows you the important bits via flashbacks. This is nice for readers who are reading both series, as it keeps things from feeling redundant, but I think that this would be disconcerting for readers who are only reading Goodbye Despair. I also think the overall story is weakened by omitting certain scenes, as some of the things that get skipped over are very important, such as the introduction of Monokuma, our main antamonokumagonist (though some of that is shown in flashbacks), and the entire investigation segment for the first murder (yeah, things take a dark turn for our heroes very quickly). While the trial scene was engaging, and some of the clues Hajime and the other students present were revealed to the reader earlier in other ways, I feel that the mystery elements don’t come together quite as well when we don’t see Hajime collecting all of the evidence. Also, a line where Hajime says that he wants to be able to trust in Nagito seems to come out of nowhere because we didn’t see Hajime and Nagito investigating the crime together and are just told that that happened instead.

While certain scenes are drained of their impact due to the manga’s strange structural choices, I was happy to see that this version of events did manage to give some of the side characters more background and development then they had received in Ultimate Luck and Hope and Despair. In particular I liked learning a bit more about the first murder victim, whose identity I won’t spoil for new readers. As we don’t get to spend as much time with this character as the rest of the cast, it’s nice that the manga took the time to give us a bit more insight into their motivations, especially since I actually liked this character a lot.

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair feels rushed during the early chapters, but is still a fun addition to the franchise that contains a lot of the same elements that were enjoyable about the original manga: weird and over-the-top characters and extremely high-stakes. That said, if you’re interested in reading this manga, I’d recommend also picking up the companion series, Danganronpa 2: Ultimate Luck and Hope and Despair, as they seem to be designed to be enjoyed together and I don’t think this series will stand very well on its own.

Final Score: 6.5 out of 10

For more information on this series, visit Dark Horse Comic’s website: https://www.darkhorse.com/Books/3002-701/Danganronpa-2-Goodbye-Despair-Volume-1-TPB

What did you think of this manga? Did anyone read Goodbye Despair without also reading Ultimate Luck and Hope and Despair and, if so, how do you feel it stood on its own merits?

Also, be sure to check out my review of another entry in the Danganronpa franchise:

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