This was, first and foremost, a great Monokuma episode. His cosplay acting was a level up from normal, that back-and-forth between him and Naegi about the lack of cameras in the baths was solid banter, and the way he laughed when he found the kids snooping around the hidden room was spot-on. His character is probably one of the show’s 3 biggest achievements, unlike many villains who start to feel tired or experience character dilution, he still exudes the same threatening yet fun poise he’s had since day 1. And his declaration at the end shows two different kinds of astute villainy (depending on whether you see it as a bluff or not).
When Naegi was entrusted with the very deadly-looking (but really no more deadly than a kitchen tool) knife, I had a fair degree of suspicion it was getting taken. What I wasn’t expecting was the multiple video commenters who made the very pregnant “Knife ga naifu!” pun.
Reason #517 to get excited for Hajime no Ippo: The Rising. More Itagaki means lots more lame puns. Thankfull, it won’t be bullshit speed king Itagaki, but spunky rookie with something to prove Itagaki who’ll be showing up in Rising. But back to Dangan Ronpa…
What was less expected was the “death” of a Monokuma model and the chance to examine it in detail, an unexpected and, dare I say, explosive wealth of information.* But seriously, the group panicking over the ostensibly live bomb while Togami messed with Yasuhiro was fun stuff. More so because this might be the first attempt at humor Togami’s made to date.
This episode was busily dropping mysteries all over the place, truth be told. The dead Monokuma, which had apparently been there all night, also raised immediate questions about who gave Naegi his wakeup call minutes earlier (assuming it wasn’t recorded). Those were answered within the episode, but the corpse in the Arboretum floated a ton of plot threads. Who got the knife to stab her? Why did she have the missing key? Why did she explode on contact? This is what a mystery climax looks like; it tosses questions in your head like dice in a cup and lets those potential answers rattle around your skull before coming to rest. How strong the climax ends up being depends on that, the presentation, and the cleverness of solutions. So far, the show is 2 for 3, and it’s got 3 more episodes to stick that last point.
At present, I have no solid grasp on who the murder could be. Kirigiri seems way too obvious, and they just did the suicide trial. Asahina, Togami, and Yasuhiro are fairly innocuous and have a collaborated alibi. My best guesses are that a) Naegi has some sort of second personality like Genocider, and ended up doing the killing himself, b) Monokuma did it himself, or c) Fukawa killed Mukuro in the incredibly short span of time she was offscreen, and Genocider not remembering will make the trial harder. These are all shots in the dark at this point, though. Which makes the upcoming trial something to look forward to indeed.
*See Reason #517 above. I’m getting into the spirit of things.