Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls Volume 1 Review
WARNING: This review contains spoilers to previous Danganronpa titles.
While most of the Danganronpa series of video games are murder mysteries, there is a spin-off shooting game called Another Episode, and this is the manga adaptation of that game.
Set between the first two titles in the main Danganronpa series, Another Episode follows Komaru Nagei, the sister of Makoto, the hero in original game. While Makoto went to Hope’s Peak Academy, Komaru found herself being kidnapped and locked away in a flat for 18 months during “The Biggest, Most Awful, Most Hopeless Event in Human History”. Komaru finally manages to escape, but is chased by Monokumas. She tries to escape via a lift but when the lift arrives, out comes Byakuya Togami, who defeats the Monokumas using a special weapon: a hacking device in the shape of a megaphone, developed by the Future Foundation, which he gives to Komaru.
Byakuya has come to rescue Komaru from the city she is trapped in, which is in the middle of a riot caused by hundreds of Monokumas. The plan is to escape via helicopter, but the Monokumas foil the plan, capture her again and take the megaphone. Two days later, Komaru is helped by someone who describes themselves as, “a lowly servant”, but whom players of the games will recognise as Nagito Komaeda. He returns her megaphone to Komaru and gives her the chance to escape.
When she escapes, she encounters five youngsters, all of whom are elementary students at Hope’s Peak, who call themselves the “Warriors of Hope”. They are the ones in control of the Monokuma army, whose ultimate plan is to turn the city into a utopia for children by killing all the adults. They drop Komaru via a trapdoor into an area full of Monokumas, all of which are about to kill her, but someone comes to her rescue again – Toko Fukawa, who easily fights off the Monokumas when she is in her alternative personality of scissors-wielding serial killer Genocide Jill. Fukawa is an just an intern at the Future Foundation due her split personality, but she is able to control it better by using a stun-gun to change her personality rather than sneezing. She is still hopelessly in love with Byakuya however. Nevertheless, the two decide to team up to escape the city and defeat the Warriors of Hope.
Clearly, it’s best not to read this manga if you’re not already familiar with the series (either the original games, or their various manga and anime adaptations), so it helps to have played or watched the earlier Danganronpa titles first. This series does start very chaotically, which given that it’s set during a riot, feels right, and it can be a tad tricky to get your bearings in terms of time and setting, but eventually it becomes clearer.
As with the previous titles, the characters are the main appeal. The appearance of old favourites like Byakuya, Koto and Nagito are all good to see, and it’s cool to see Komaru being fleshed out as a character in her own right, rather that just being the sister of the main hero. However, the Warriors of Hope are not the greatest antagonists in the series. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re younger that most of the characters in Danganronpa that results in them not gelling as well as other villains in the story. The most interesting of these villains is the boss Monaca, primarily because she is in a wheelchair, making her a rare disabled character in a manga, although as someone who also has a disability it does irk me that the overall baddie is the disabled one.
Hajime Touya’s artwork is good, especially the more action-driven sequences where our heroes fight the Monokuma hordes. Another Episode uses the same English-language team that has translated the other Danganronpa manga released by Dark Horse. There appear to be no real issues with Jackie McClure’s translation, and I am especially fond of John Clark’s differing lettering styles to distinguish between Koto and Genocide Jill. Also, as with Dark Horse’s previous releases from the series, there is an extra “Despair Mail” section at the back of the book, featuring fan art and cosplay from the series.
So, if you haven’t familiarised yourself with the earlier titles, it’s best to do so before reading Another Episode, but this is still a fun edition to the series.