Danganronpanote is a series of "high-speed mystery action adventure" visual novels created by Kazutaka Kodaka, and released by Spike (now Spike Chunsoft) for the PSP, PS Vita, PS4, and Steam. The games combine mystery-solving with elements of shooting and even rhythm gameplay.
The premise of the three titles in the series thus far take the same formula; the player takes the role of a new student at Hope's Peak Academy, a prestigious high school in Japan which only accepts the cream of the crop for its classes. This mentality extends towards any sort of niche, including unconventional ones like otaku and gamers. Students with these extraordinary talents are given an "Ultimate X" titlenote .
Unfortunately, things start to go awry once the new kid steps inside the school itself, as they lose consciousness and wake up elsewhere, with no memory of the interim. They soon find that all the exits and windows are locked to prevent escape, and meet several other students in the same predicament. Before long, the thing who put them there reveals himselfMonokuma, a sadistic, sapient teddy bear.
He quickly reveals that the students will be forced into a "school life of mutual killing". If a person murders a classmate, the rest of the student body will have a class trial to determine the killer's identity. If they get it right, the culprit is executed in a showy display tailor-made to their personality traits. If they get it wrong, however, the killer "graduates" and gets to leave the school, while the rest die in their place.
Of course, the students swear against something as extreme as killing each other. And yet, horrifyingly, the bodies begin to pile up. Throughout the game, Monokuma continues to give them all new motives to kill each other, and the player must find the killer in each chapter to make sure the survivors all have a shot of escaping together.
The series is rather complicated, consisting of a series of stringing plotlines over several mediums. It also has has a number of translations (official and unofficial) varying in consistency, so that context may affect how certain examples are written.
Works in the series in release order:
- Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc note : The original game, starring Makoto Naegi in Hope's Peak Academy. (Japanese release: 2010, English release: 2014)
- Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair note : The official sequel to the first game, starring Hajime Hinata on the Jabberwock Island Resort. (Japanese release: 2012, English release: 2014)
- Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School - Original anime airing in Summer 2016, split into two concurrently-airing arcs, Future Arc and Despair Arc. Acts as the Grand Finale to the Hope's Peak Academy Saga.
- Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony note - the third main series game, announced for both the Play Station Vita and PlayStation 4 and the beginning of the Gifted Inmates Academy Saga. Despite its name, it is confirmed by Word of God to be the fourth main entry. (Japanese Release: 2017)
- Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girlsnote - a Third-Person Shooter starring Makoto Naegi's sister Komaru; set in between the first two games and functioning as a Gaiden Game.
- Danganronpa: Unlimited Battle - A Japan-only free-to-play iOS game similar to Monster Strike.
- Cyber Danganronpa VR: The Class Trial - A tech demo utilizing the PlayStation 4's Virtual Reality headset, the PlayStation VR.
- Kirigiri Sou: A sound novel based around the gameplay of Chunsoft's Otogirisou, centered on Kyoko Kirigiri, a character from the first game. It was released as a pack-in with the third special edition Blu-ray box set of Danganronpa 3 in Japan.
- Danganronpa Zero: A two part light novel prequel to the first game.
- Danganronpa IF - a short story about a What If? scenario for the first game, unlocked by beating the second one.
- Danganronpa Kirigiri - a prequel novel series about Kyoko Kirigiri, a character from the first game; the first book was released September 2013, and there are now currently five.
- Makoto Naegi's Worst Day Ever - a short story released with the Danganronpa anime DVD/BD.
- Ultra Despair Hagakure - A novel included in Ultra Despair Girls that can be unlocked after completing the game.
- Danganronpa 1 ・2 Beautiful Days - A series of non-canon short stories written by multiple authors, based around the daily lives of both main installments' respective casts.
- Danganronpa Togami - a prequel novel about Byakuya Togami, written by Yuya Sato.
- Super Danganronpa 2: Kazuichi Soda in Desperate Causality - a spin-off centered on Kazuichi Soda, a character from the second game.
- There is also a collection of supplementary manga series for both the first and the second games, complementing and even expanding the events depicted in the Visual Novels by adding missing details and different points of view.
- Danganronpa Gaiden: Killer Killer: Manga spinoff written by Yuichirou Koizumi and illustrated by Sasako Mitomo. Was initially published and advertised as a standalone work, but was revealed and subsequently rebranded as a side-story to Danganronpa 3 in the third chapter.
- Danganronpa: The Animation - An Anime of the Game adapting the first installment.
- Danganronpa: Kibō no Gakuen to Zetsubō no Kōkōsei The Stage - a stage play adapting the first installment.
- Super Danganronpa 2: Sayonara Zetsubō Gakuen The Stage - a stage play adapting the second installment.
- Danganronpa 3: The End of Kibōgamine Gakuen The Stage - a stage play adapting the anime Danganronpa 3: Future Arc.
- Super Danganronpa 2.5: Nagito Komaeda and the Destroyer of the World: an OVA that comes with the limited edition of Danganronpa V 3 in Japan. It's set after the events of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair and before Danganronpa 3: Hope Arc.
Tropes for the series as a wholenote include:
- The Ace: The only way to be accepted into Hope's Peak Academy or the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles is to be scouted because they are absolutely the best at what they do.
- After the End: Courtesy of the Ultimate Despair and The Tragedy, the world has apparently been caught up in a state of social unrest, war, widespread terrorism, coup d'etats, mass suicides, and general anarchy for at least two years. This is the real reason nobody could rescue the students trapped in Hope's Peak, despite their killing game being broadcast worldwide. Of course, this is all revealed by an Unreliable Narrator. By the second game, we learn that they were telling the truth about the Tragedy, but that things are starting to calm down thanks to the efforts of the Future Foundation and the capture of the Remnants of Despair. Killer Killer even implies that society is recovering fairly quickly, with the idol industry, hospitals, and the manga industry back up and running.
- Always Murder: Most of the deaths in the series are murders, although there are a few stray subversions.note
- The manga interpretation of the first game's first case turns out to be a manslaughter in self-defense, and the biggest crime committed by the killer was covering it up.
- The first game's fourth case turns out to be a suicide.
- The second game's fifth case was set up entirely by the victim to the point where the killer was duped into delivering the finishing blow. No one in their right mind (i.e. Monokuma) would hold the killer criminally liable for the victim's death in this case.
- In the Side: Future arc of the anime, all of the serial murders that occur turn out to be suicides.
- Anyone Can Die: The first game plays this very straight. Afterwards this trope is played with quite heavily, as in Danganronpa 2 almost all of the "dead" characters are revealed to be comatose and eventually wake up in Danganronpa 3 - Hope Arc and in Ultra Despair Girls all but two minor characters' deaths are revealed as fakeouts. However, Danganronpa 3 and Danganronpa V 3 play this straight again, with the former ending with only two newly introduced characters alive and the latter ending with three survivors, the lowest amount in the main-series games.
- Arc Number: 11037. It appears as the first victim's dying message in the first game, as a password in the second, and as part of a very long password in the third.
- Artifact Title: Due to the series title relating to the class trials (literally translating as "bullet rebuttal"), any installment that doesn't have them falls under this.
- Artistic Age: Most of the students in the first two games are supposed around the same age, but sure don't look it. Adults, however, have it much, much worse whenever they appear.
- Author Appeal: The creators are admitted fans of punk rock, which would explain why there's a character who's an open fan in both the first and second games.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: While the intent behind them is just as gruesome, the female executions can usually be counted on to pull the camera away (Peko), darken the screen (Kyoko), happen quickly enough that nothing explicit is seen (Chiaki) or keep the eventual state of the victim's body ambiguous or hidden from view (Celestia, Mikan). By comparison, the male executions will almost always show the executed as they're dying or show the gory results of their death. This makes it all the more shocking when female characters are graphically killed on-screen, such as Mukuro and her sister. This is mostly averted in Danganronpa V 3, where Kaede's and Kirumi's executions can be considered even more brutal than Leon's execution.
- Big Bad: Monokuma, true name Junko Enoshima as the end of the first game reveals, is the host of the Deadly Game in each main installment, and every other villain in the series has at least a connection to them.
- Black and Gray Morality: The ongoing battle of Hope vs. Despair. Despair, represented by Monokuma and the Ultimate Despair, is completely dedicated to bringing chaos, death, and destruction to the world For the Evulz, while Hope, represented by Makoto and the Future Foundation, is the better side- to a certain extent. Makoto is a Messianic Archetype and Incorruptible Pure Pureness, but is often shown as naive, and his allies are good people but have their own share of problems. Meanwhile, the Future Foundation wants to restore hope to the world, but it often has people of questionable moralities doing what they feel is best to stop despair and make the world a better place, no matter how many people die in the process. From Nagito Komaeda inflicting despair in the belief that it will build a greater hope, to Haiji Towa and Kyousuke Munakata wanting to kill everyone associated with despair even if theyre children brainwashed against their will, and especially Chairman Kazuo Tengan who wants to brainwash the entire world into feeling nothing but hope 24/7. And they all spend as much time fighting each other as they do fighting despair.
- Black Blood: The blood in the series is pink, used as a stylistic choice. This is however not the case in Danganronpa 3 and text descriptions in story make it clear the blood is red In-Universe.
- The Hope's Peak saga both begins and ends the same way: Makoto Naegi, alone in a classroom in Hope's Peak itself. The first time, he's there as a captive in the Killing School Life, the second he's headmaster of the newly remade school.
- The first person to be executed by the mastermind in the timeline was Chiaki Nanami, as depicted in Side:Despair. The last person in the timeline to be executed by the mastermind was the Chiaki Nanami AI, as seen in Danganronpa 2.
- Cast of Snowflakes: In all three main-series games, the students participating in the killing games all physically stand out from one another in some way, despite the casts in general following certain traditions. It's stated by the creators that they envision the character as coming from different series and genres (such as Sakura from an Martial Arts Manga and Asahina and Leon from a Sports Manga) to make them so different.
- Complexity Addiction: The downfall of most murderers: coming up with insanely complicated and boderline nonsensical killing methods, which end up leaving plenty of evidence behind.
- Crippling Overspecialization: Practically EVERY character has ONE talent, one thing they're experts in their field at, like Chiaki Nanami, who is an expert gamer, but verges on being a shut-in, having no real social skills.
- Darker and Edgier: In the first game, Hope's Peak Academy was portrayed as a good and noble institution, where students lived together in harmony and got a quality education, before being perverted into something horrible by the machinations of Junko Enoshima. By the second game, Hope's Peak Academy was actively defrauding hundreds of average-joe students of their parents' money just to keep financially afloat, was riddled with bullying and dysfunction that they swept under the rug to keep up their reputation, and used mad science to create the horrifically transhuman nihilist that was Izuru Kamakura. Junko only had to give it the least push to get it all to come crumbling down. Ultra Despair Girls more-or-less reveals that huge sections of the school, including the "Elementary" branch, were horribly abusive towards their students, with one kid's parents who were also teachers at the school treating him more like a lab rat than a son with the institution's apparent approval. The finale anime shows that the main course students don't even have to attend class, and are there to be studied rather than get an education. The retool first outright puts the whole human race into a Fantastic Caste System, renders the Earth uninhabitable, then cuts out the middle man and turns the whole thing into a sick lie and an In-Universe Excuse Plot for a popular Blood Sport television program in which volunteers are implanted with false "backstories", then let loose to kill each other.
- Deuteragonist: Every entry in the franchise has more than one protagonist besides the Player Character. The protagonist trios for the first and second games even have a nickname used in official material, the Trial Point Getters.
- Disc-One Final Dungeon: Chapter 5 in each of the main games, as the last murder in the game is committed, Monokuma claims the last trial will be held, and the investigation theme even receives a remix to heighten the effect. However, each main game has six chapters, with the true last chapter being about the characters solving the Ontological Mystery behind their imprisonment.
- Dysfunction Junction: No matter which installment it is the majority of the cast will have Hidden Depths and a Dark and Troubled Past, giving most of the "villain"s a sympathetic motive or backstory, bar Junko Enoshima herself. Monokuma will do anything he can to try and drive them to their Despair Event Horizon and as a result anyone who survives a killing game will be forced to endure a Trauma Conga Line as they watch those around them be forced to kill or be killed in return, with the characters who aren't forced into playing rarely being any better off with the murders mysteries that still surround them.
- Early Installment Weirdness: While the characters themselves serve as interesting deconstructions of the archetypes they represent, the first game is jarringly lacking in the plot-particular Deconstructor Fleet elements the series is known for afterwards.
- The first couple major installments usually tends to have a few main/playable characters in the story with being responsible for the events that went on in the story. Starting around Danganronpa 3, there has multiple main/playable characters with Danganronpa 3 having Makoto, Kyoko, Chisa, Ryota, Munakata, Chiaki, Junko, and Hajime/Izuru and Danganronpa V 3 having Kaede, Shuichi, Himiko, Maki, Kiibo, Kaito, and Kokichi.
- It should be noted that the first couple of installments lack of any direct romance and they mostly rely on Ship Tease. Starting around Danganronpa 3, a lot of characters ended up being involved in an Official Couple and they actually were involved in a direct romance.
- The executions in later installments were much more brutal in comparison to the executions in the first two major installments.
- The first game is the only one with the Re:Action feature.
- Everyone Went to School Together: 99% of the cast can be traced back to Hope's Peak Academy.
- Faceless Masses: Most extras are depicted as faceless blue (or pink for females in Another Episode) silhouettes, even if they do have distinct voice actors.
- Fantastic Caste System:
- How Hope's Peak worked: students without talents were seen as cash cows, subjected to education of lesser quality while paying enormous sums of money, all that money was used to invest on the students of the main course, who had a habit of burning money away like there was no tomorrow and the school's secret experiments on talent, this eventually led to The Parade.
- The Gifted Inmates Saga, which starts with Danganronpa V 3 is implied to have the same situation, but expanded through the country, instead of just a school. The government has the "Gifted System", which gives privileges to those who prove their talents.
- Foreshadowing: Starting with 2, the series begins Leaning on the Fourth Wall in ways that aren't Played for Laughs, often with twists that involve the story being manufactured as a 'game' by some character. In Danganronpa V 3, this is taken to its logical conclusion, with the franchise of Danganronpa being fictional and the cast, real people who have been turned into characters in the new, live-action entry, having to confront the fact that their world is fictional.
- Gambit Roulette: In nearly every instance, the Big Bad's Evil Plan will usually be extremely risky and complicated, with a good chance of utterly collapsing from only the tiniest of random chance events going wrong. This gets lampshaded in the first game, Danganronpa Zero and Danganronpa IF: by her very nature, Junko can't stand to see a plan go perfectly and would rather insert a chance of her own failure just for the chance to feel despair. In spite of all that, The Plan almost always goes off without a hitch.
- Genre-Busting: Many of the characters were designed with different genres in mind according to Word of God, and the series changes its genre on the drop of a hat.
- Geodesic Cast: The casts of the two main installments in the Hope's Peak Academy saga share a number of reflective traits, with the primary difference being that one represents hope while the other represents despair, with a traitor who goes against this (Junko and Chiaki).
- Giving Someone the Pointer Finger: Hardly a single character in the series doesn't have a sprite that involves them pointing at someone. The only type that's more common is the thinking/concentration sprite.
- Hijacked by Ganon: Junko Enoshima tends to show up near the end of most works in the franchise eventually.
- Humans Are Bastards: Averted. For all its focus on high school students committing murder and gruesome executions, the series is filled with genuinely good, moral people. Those who do kill are only driven to do so thanks to Monokuma's manipulations and are often remorseful about their actions. Even the remnants of despair, who've committed some of the worst crimes in the series, are given a second chance through rehabilitation.
Ultimately played straight, and hard, with V3, though. The reason the franchise is even going on? Every single entry in the series is part of a twisted Reality Show where the contestants are all brainwashed and refitted with a new personality, and all of the contestants, save one, was in it for fame and glory. No one even minds the fact that we're seeing hundreds of people die (enough to go on for 53 seasons) because it's all so exciting. Then again, it's not clear how much of it is real.
- Idiot Hair: A trademark of the series protagonists. No less than six main characters have one, two of whom did not receive it until being Promoted to Playable.
- Irony: The first game reveals in Chapter 4 that the Killing Game is being broadcast to the world at large like a TV Show with many people tuning in. It's supposed to lead us to believe that the World and Society outside of the school is very messed up for allowing this kind of game to be held in the first place, but it all makes sense when it's revealed that the World fell to Despair and any semblance of normal life and society has been destroyed in the ensuing apocalypse, there's no order anymore. Fast forward to Danganronpa V3 when it turns out this Killing Game actually IS being held in a normal world where the Fall to Despair never happened, it's just a society who loves watching people killing each other in a reality show, and even has people begging to sign up to join in the next installment, this game marking the 53rd installment of Danganronpa in-universe.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Each entry in the franchise creates new plot threads for the next entries to pick up. It can get a bit complicated to follow everything, not to mention requires a lot of reading.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: Taken Up to Eleven.
- The first sentence in Danganronpa Zero gives away The Reveal of the first game.
- The character roster of Danganronpa 2 (seen on the game's front cover) gives away the fate of one character from the first game.
- By Ultra Despair Girls, the series is clearly expecting people to know everything about the previous games before even trying to look up anything about the new instalments.
- Danganronpa Kirigiri does this to itself. The cover to the fourth volume depicts three characters who were introduced in a case in the previous book, a case of which had four people, one of whom was the culprit. While no direct visual image of the characters is shown there, enough information is given that the reader can match them to the fourth cover and the identity of the culprit (Korisu Kakitsubata) becomes obvious through exclusion.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Each game is pretty manageable cast wise, but putting them together the cast is enormous. With at least a dozen new characters introduced each game, the series has well over 50 characters, most of them very fleshed out.
- Love Hurts: While the first game doesn't have much romance to do this, starting with Danganronpa Zero, this trope is in full effect. Needless to say, if two have some kind of romantic relationship, implied or otherwise, it is near guaranteed to end in tragedy.
- The Many Deaths of You: Each game has many executions and methods of murder for each of the characters.
- Meta Fiction: The entire franchise is this to some degree, and it gets more obvious with each installment in the franchise, especially starting with the second game onwards.
- Mood Whiplash: The tone can swing wildly between highs and lows. It's common for silly asides or pop culture references to appear in the middle of tragic reveals.
- Nebulous Evil Organisation: The Ultimate Despair.
- One Steve Limit: Averted in the first game as a plot point with Taeko Yasuhiro and Yasuhiro Hagakure. The spinoffs avert this ruthlessly, with lesser characters often sharing common names with more important ones (though sometimes the writing is different), to the point that there are no less than three unrelated characters with the first name Rei; Rei Mikagami, Rei Naruko and Rei Shimizu.
- The Only One: The Trial Point Getters are often the only ones capable of making any major breakthroughs in the trial, while everyone else follows along.
- Orgy of Evidence: The game's framejobs almost always turn out like this, with the 3rd case in the first game looking so damning that one character starts calling it a setup before the trial has begun. The second case in the the second game meanwhile ends up making the patsy an impossibility as far as suspects go because of all the inconsistencies in her characterization with the evidence left behind.
- Recurring Element: The franchise is known by having several:
- There's always a Big Guy among the cast of each installment, respectively, they were Sakura Oogami, Nekomaru Nidai, Daisaku Bandai, The Great Gozu, Tomohiko Gōryoku and Gonta Gokuhara. In addition, the Big Guy of the cast always dies during the fourth case, with the exception of Daisaku Bandai and the Great Gozu who are the second and third main characters to die in DR3, and Tomohiko Gōryoku who dies early on in the Student Council's killing game.
- There's always a short boy and/or girl among the cast, respectively, Chihiro Fujisaki in DR1, Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu, Hiyoko Saionji and Teruteru Hanamura in DR2, all of the kids in UDG, Miaya Gekkogahara and Ryota Mitarai in DR3, and Himiko Yumeno and Kokichi Oma in V3.
- Additionally, there's usually a twist regarding the lolita girl. Chihiro turns out to be a short boy, not a girl. Hiyoko turns out to have grown up during her time in Hope's Peak Academy. Only Miaya and Himiko remain short girls for the entire time.
- There's always a dark-skinned girl (usually a survivor with huge boobs). DR1 and Future Arc have Aoi Asahina. DR2 and Despair Arc have Akane Owari. Student Council has Suzuko Kashiki, and V3 has Angie Yonaga.
- There's always a girl with Moe design. DR1 has Chihiro Fujisaki who turns out to be a boy, DR2 has Chiaki Nanami, DR3 has Miaya Gekkogahara, Student Council has Aiko Umesawa, and V3 has Himiko Yumeno.
- There's always a character with red hair who usually dies early on. DR1 has Leon, who's the fist culprit. DR2 has Mahiru, who's the second victim. UDG has Masaru Daimon, who's the first Warrior of Hope to "die." Student Council has Kotomi Ikuta, who's killed off first by Mukuro as an example. V3 has Himiko Yumeno, who's the only one to avert this trope and survive the killing game in its entirety, even without fake deaths.
- There's always an "Ultimate ???" in each game, Kyouko Kirigiri, Hajime Hinata and Rantaro Amami.
- In each game, there is a character with an obsessive, unrequited crush on another character, who finds their overly strong feelings bothersome. DR1 has Toko Fukawa crushing on Byakuya Togami, DR2 has Kazuichi Soda crushing on Sonia Nevermind, and V3 has Tenko Chabashira crushing on Himiko Yumeno.
- There's always this "Prologue death." It also always involves someone who's in some way a staff member at Hope's Peak/Ultimate Academy. DR1 features the execution of Jin Kirigiri, the headmaster. Monokuma, the new headmaster of Hope's Peak, also self-explodes when Mondo attempts to destroy him. DR2 features the execution of Monomi, the "teacher" of the Remnants of Despair in the Neo World Program. UDG's Prologue doesn't feature a death of the school's staff member, but it still features countless deaths of background characters. Future Arc has Chisa Yukizome, the actual teacher of Class 77-B, commit suicide even before the game was announced by Monokuma, thus making her the anime's counterpart of the Prologue death. Student Council has Mukuro kill Kotomi as an example for not playing along with the game, although Kotomi is just a member of the Student Council and not a part of the school's staff. V3 has Monokuma, the headmaster of the Ultimate Academy, self-destruct again, this time while attempting to punish Kaito.
- The first case's victim will always be someone who seems important: Sayaka Maizono, Byakuya Togami (actually the Ultimate Imposter), Chisa Yukizome, and Rantaro Amami.
- There's always an unfortunate incident with the first case's killer. In DR1, Leon would've probably never done what he did if he hadn't been targeted by Sayaka. The manga adaptation goes even further, portraying his murder as an unfortunate accident while trying to comfort her. In DR2, Teruteru fails to kill his target, Nagito, unknowingly killing "Byakuya" instead. In DR3, all of the attacker's victims are actually suicides committed by people who were sitting the closest to a monitor. In V3, Kaede's trick actually failed, not only to kill the mastermind, but also to kill Rantaro. Thus, Tsumugi framed her for being the culprit in her place.
- The first execution of each main game starts similarly (the culprit looking nervous while surrounded by the other students before being grabbed around the neck by a metal claw and dragged away) and ends similarly (with the surviving students looking on in horror at the culprit's gruesome remains).
- The second case always revolves around someone's dark past. It also always involves people with polar opposite characteristics. In DR1, Chihiro dealt with being bullied for his feminine appearance while Mondo dealt with guilt over his brother's death. Chihiro was phycially weak but mentally strong while Mondo, his killer, was physically strong but mentally weak. In DR2, the second motive was about Twilight Syndrome Murder Case and the deaths of Fuyuhiko's sister and Mahiru's friend. Mahiru was on Sato's side, while Peko (and Fuyuhiko) were on Natsumi's side of the conflict. In UDG, all of the kids have dark past and there's ongoing theme of Adults vs. Kids. In DR3, Seiko, the second victim of the attacker, has her backstory revealed and a conflict with Ruruka Andou and Sonosuke Izayoi. In V3, Ryoma had especially dark where the mafia killed his family and he killed the mafia in return, resulting in him becoming a death row inmate. Kirumi was actually the de facto Prime Minister and learned that the tragedy may befall her people. As Angie put it, Ryoma had no reason to live while Kirumi had too many reasons to live.
- There's always a case with two victims and it's always the third. Connected to it, a character crosses the Despair Event Horizon and commits an unsympathetic murder, those being Celestia Ludenberg, Mikan Tsumiki, Ruruka Andou and Korekiyo Shinguji.
- There will always be a character who obsesses over one half of the main theme of the game, such as Junko Enoshima (Despair), Tengan, Ryouta, and Nagito (Hope), and Kokichi (Lies).
- In V3's case, this is also goes for the secondary themes, as Tsumugi obsesses over fiction theme.
- The person that takes the death the hardest is always among the survivors, respectively, they were Aoi Asahina, Sonia Nevermind, Ryota Mitarai and Himiko Yumeno.
- There will always be a character in disguise or impersonating another person, such as Mukuro Ikusaba professing as Junko Enoshima, the Ultimate Imposter as Byakuya Togami, Monaca Towa as a handicapped assailant, and Tsumugi Shirogane as a facade character.
- The most antagonistic character tends to stick around for a while, such as Byakuya Togami, Nagito Komaeda, and Kokichi Ouma.
- Furthermore, the antagonist character is usually the last victim for the fifth case, which they also orchestrated. The deuterogonist will be suspected of, or turn out to be, their killer. The only exception is Byakuya Togami, although the "victim" of DR1's Chapter 5 is Mukuro Ikusaba, another antagonist, and the fake case was orchestrated by Junko Enoshima, the true main antagonist.
- Additionally, the antagonistic character always ranks 7th in the killing game, with Junko Enoshima replacing Byakuya Togami in DR1's case.
- There will always be a Nonstandard Character Design, such as Hifumi, Teruteru, Bandai and Ryoma. Also, there's a scary or gloomy looking character like Celeste, Gundham, Seiko or Great Gozu and Korekiyo.
- Almost always there's a traitor among the group. DR1 has Sakura Ogami, who was blackmailed to become one by Monokuma after he threatened kill her family and destroy her family's dojo. DR2 has Chiaki Nanami, the only non-Remnant of Despair and actually just an AI. UDG has Nagisa Shingetsu, who wants Komaru to leave Towa City so that the kids can finish their Children's Paradise. By doing so he takes off her wristband, being a traitor to the Warriors' Demon Hunting game. In Future Arc, Monokuma claims that a traitor wakes up during sleeping period and kills someone. Finding their identity is necessary to end the game. However, it turns out that the deaths were suicides and there was no traitor (unless counting Chisa and Tengan being Remnants of Despair as such). V3 is the only game to avert this and have no traitor at all. Although, Tsumugi is the mastermind and Keebo was unknowingly used as a sort of cameraman and the audience's surrogate.
- Each Killing Game is ceased by someone performing a Heroic Sacrifice for the sake of someone else, respectively, those were Sakura Oogami, Chiaki Nanami, Juzo Sakakura and Ki-Bo.
- The soundtrack for the final battle will always involve "Discussion - HOPE VS DESPAIR-", even in Absolute Despair Girls where no discussion is involved.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: If Monokuma (and most of his fellow mascots) sporting one wasn't a clue the presence of at least one red eyed character in every installment of a murder mystery based series is bound to cause either some examples or subversions of this. As an added bonus every single red-eyed character seen so far has continued the trend set up by Monokuma by continuing his "dangerous duo persona" motif to varying extents.
- Reed Richards Is Useless: Hope's Peak Academy actually exists to avert this, collecting high schoolers with exceptional talents for the decades (the first games cast belonging to the 78th year) and helping guarantee them a successful future. Hajime even says that many leaders of various industries are alumni of the school. The effects this has had on society are noticeable, with things like advanced robotics and AIs being somewhat commonplace.
- Religion of Evil: While merely implied in the first game by the Monokuma masks worn by the rioters, the lines drawn between the Ultimate Despair get more explicitly compared to a cult in the sequel when Monokuma is describing their mantra of having no purpose behind the despair they cause, only spreading despair as an offering to "their god." By Another Episode, someone even outright tells a member of the Warriors of Hope that they were all swayed into joining a cult by Junko's honeyed words delivered in their most vulnerable hour.
- School for Scheming: Hope's Peak Academy is outed as a rather realistic example, being horrifically corrupt and damaging to everyone involved. By Danganronpa 3, it's practically the Greater-Scope Villain of the series.
- Series Mascot: Monokuma for the franchise and the first game in particular. Each game also has its own specific 'mascot' character.
- Signature Style: The fusion of bright colors, wild and wacky character designs inside uncanny environments with realistic and brutal imagery, or as the creators call it, "Psycho Pop." However, for Danganronpa V 3 the style becomes a variation of it called "Psycho Cool".
- Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: The series as a whole slides back and forth between both sides, though how much depends on the installment. Things like murders, class trials, and executions are counterbalanced by funny dialogue, cartoonish sound effects, and the sheer absurdity of some of the situations. Not to mention the main villain is a sadistic robot teddy bear.
- Strictly Formula:
- As the franchise goes on, a lot of patterns keep popping up per chapter:Chapter 1: A heavily advertised character, one presented as important to the plot or who seems to have ties to previous casts, is killed/executed (Sayaka, Imposter, Kaede, Yuuta). The first attempt at murder doesn't kill the intended target (Sayaka was trying to kill Leon but got killed herself, Teruteru was aiming for Nagito, Kaede tried to kill the mastermind). The first execution is usually one of the most brutal to set the tone.
Chapter 2: A murder occurs because someone flew off the handle due to something in their past (Mondo/Chihiro, Peko/Mahiru, Kirumi/Ryouma). Usually tragic.
Chapter 3: Double murder (Kiyotaka/Hifumi, Ibuki/Hiyoko, Angie/Tenko), with one of the victims being a comic relief character getting shooed out. The murderer also does it for a completely unsympathetic reason (for money, for "love", and because he wanted to send 100 girls into the afterlife).
Chapter 4: Big Guy Fatality Syndrome is in full effect (Sakura, Nekomaru, Gonta). The trial ends in a Tear Jerker and the death was committed for a noble cause (end the internal conflict of the group, get the group out of the funhouse, attempting to Mercy Kill everybody from what seems to be a horrible state of the world)
Chapter 5: One of the main characters is in danger, pretty much sought out by the mastermind (Kyouko and Makoto, Nagito and Chiaki, Maki and Kokichi). The murder is part of a trap/larger plan rather than an end in itself (stop Kyouko's investigation, kill the Despair members, fool the mastermind). The class trial is blatantly unfair (Monokuma himself is the culprit, and he forces a premature voting time; the blackened "culprit" is randomized and unidentifiable; the victim is unidentifiable and the primary suspect is allowed to remain anonymous in the class trial). The last death is especially brutal, but it sets the stage for the Killing Game ending once and for all (Mukuro is stabbed by multiple spears, her corpse is then combusted. The identity of the mastermind is found out through this act, however, and is defeated at the end of the game; Nagito mutilates himself to have his prompted murder appear as a torture act, is forced to inhale poison and is stabbed in the abdomen with a spear, accidentally done by the traitor assigned by the Future Foundation, Chiaki Nanami; Kokichi has a duo of poisonous arrows shot at him for Maki's interrogation as she wants a clear explanation for 'his role' as a 'Remnant of Despair' to be his dying words, and has to crush himself under a hydraulic press before the poison infects the flow of his blood entirely as to save Maki from execution). The trial ends in the execution for a character among the main group (Makoto (though he survives), Chiaki (despite being an AI), Kaito) and the last victim is always an antagonistic character (Mukuro, Nagito, Kokichi).
Chapter 6: The Mastermind is revealed, the truth of their situation comes out. It's usually a person that no one expected (Junko, Izuru Kamukura and Junko again, Tengan, Monaca, Shirogane).
- Danganronpa 3 - Side:Future doesn't have Chapters like its parent games did, but it still follows the formula: Chisa is killed off early, Bandai is killed because of Juuzo furiously hitting someone, Gozu dies, Ruruka gets one of the gorier deaths, Kyouko's rule is rigged in the Mastermind's favor either way and almost dies, Juuzo's death sets the endgame in motion (and in some fashion succumbs to Big Guy Fatality Syndrome as well) and the Mastermind wasn't exactly expected.
- In a grimly amusing example, even the very first killing game runs through the above plot points in the 5 minutes that it lasted. Ikuta, the most outspoken member, gets shot point blank by Mukuro to get the other kids to play along. Karen goes off the handle once when she figures out her mom's been kidnapped. Tsubasa and Taro get killed by a very bitter Kurosaki. Hino actively antagonized Kamukura, and had the grimmest death out of the cast through getting his head torn up by falling on his own chainsaw. The mastermind was Junko, a girl who wasn't involved with the student council at all, and it's revealed afterward to Kamukura that the whole thing was being used to brainwash people into despair through an altered video of their deaths. They even have a missing member; when it was all over, Murasame managed to escape without anyone noticing.
- One franchise staple is an Advertised Extra who gets promoted as a main character and then wasted in the first chapter:
- On the first game pre-release, Sayaka Maizono is presented as Makoto's love interest. She is the first victim, and the real Deuteragonist ends up being Kyoko Kirigiri.note
- In Danganronpa 2, Both Nagito and Byakuya are played up as important during the pre-release stage, especially since Byakuya is one of the characters from Danganronpa 1. The fat Byakuya is an imposter who got killed in Chapter 1, while you are playing as Hajime with Nagito as his foil.
- In Danganronpa 3, Chisa Yukizome is presented as one of the few reasonable Future Foundation members and is the narrator in the trailer. She dies in the first episode of Side:Future; she is still important in Side:Despair, but as we found out eventually she is an Ultimate Despair.
- In Danganronpa V3's early advertisement, it was hinted that the protagonist would be the robotic Makoto Expy that was later named Ki-bo. The second PV reveals that the protagonist would actually be Kaede Akamatsu, a character not revealed in the early material, and she became heavily promoted. Then it turns out she is a Decoy Protagonist, being the culprit in Chapter 1 and thus executed, leading to Shuichi becoming the real protagonist. However it was followed by Ki-bo temporarily, when Shuichi suffers a Heroic BSoD in Chapter 6.
- Something related to the medium an installment is done in will play an important role.Games/Programming: Chihiro's self-learning AI in 1, the Neo World Program in 2, Komaru and Touko being railroaded right where the Warriors of Hope want them in Absolute Despair Girls.
Books: Otonashi's journal in Zero, the Despair Book in the Togami novels.
Manga: The Mad Artist author in Killer Killer.
Anime: Ryouta's "hope anime" in 3.
Series-wide: Monokuma's constant gestures to the audience in all the installments he appears, and the very concept of a successful killing game franchise in V3.
- By the time V3 was announced this trope had been played so common that there are quite enough fans to guess the above points, although V3 made a habit of playing with the formula while still sticking to it, creating a mind game effect.
- As the franchise goes on, a lot of patterns keep popping up per chapter:
- Speech-Centric Work: Another Episode aside. Even the "action" segments largely involve talking aggressively in dramatic debates.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Danganronpa or Dangan Ronpa? Both spelling have been officially used, though you can usually tell how long someone's been a fan of the series by how they spell it. Fans who got into the series through the NISA translations spell it as one word, while fans who have played the unofficial fan-translation that came out years before spell it as two words.
- Stylistic Suck: The game completely fails to hide that the vast majority of the world is largely flat planes, which rolls straight into Narm Charm when even the characters themselves were depicted as flat and one-dimensional, completely unrelated to the fact everyone IS a one-dimensional flat character.note Part of this joke even extends to the occasional Monokuma Copy you find in the game, which, more often than not, are basically a flat cut-out of Monokuma.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Nearly every killer in the series is this due to legitimately having a duress defense for their actions or having their moral agency compromised in some other way. The only clear-cut aversion is series Big Bad Junko Enoshima.
- Two Guys and a Girl: So far, it has been some sort of trend with tritagonists, Another Episode excluded, i.e. Makoto, Byakuya, Kyoko in the first game, Hajime, Nagito and Chiaki in the second, and Shuichi, Kaito, and Maki in the third. In Danganronpa 3 the dynamic belongs to Munakata, Juuzo, and Chisa though they're not exactly the main characters, and the dynamic is inverted with Makoto, Kirigiri, and Aoi. V3 has an inversion as well, given that the sole survivors of the game are Shuuichi, Maki, and Himiko.
- Villain-Based Franchise: Monokuma is a very murderous bear.
- Widget Series: Not always, but it certainty has its moments when Monokuma is involved.