Inside the Real Life Danganronpa Murder Mystery Trial

Danganronpa was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2014, offering up not just one amazing game, but two. Coming out of seemingly nowhere, the franchise has taken both the anime and anime gaming world by storm, with multiple devotees cosplaying as their favorite characters in practically every otaku convention of the past year. As great as the games are, however, there’s always been something lacking in the franchise: the nefarious game of murder occurring in real life. NIS America finally realized this and set out to change it by inviting Mikan, Kazuichi, Ibuki, Akane and of course Monokuma himself to San Diego at Anime Conji 2015 in the hopes that somebody would be murdered. Luckily, that indeed happened and the fun began.

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A centerpiece of Anime Conji, the rules of the event were simple. At the beginning of the day, a short introductory video announced the murder and that it was up to the con attendees to gather clues and find out who did it (the blackened). Six clues were scattered through the Sheraton (the location of the convention), identified by blood splatters placed near the clue. Each clue gave insight into how the murdered was carried out, although it was never guaranteed all were legitimate.

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The clues were commendably hidden, with one even being down a random hallway under a table across from a few elevators. I admittedly even missed it until I noticed somebody crouching under it. As well as they were hidden, however, that didn’t seem to stop participants from finding them in no time. Every time I found a clue, there were quickly a dozen more people that followed suit, with some con goers even teaming up to find them quicker.

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The nice thing about how the clues were presented was that it could basically be done in the background of the convention — as attendees walked around they could simply keep their eyes peeled throughout the day to locate all of the clues. Once every clue were found (via cell phone evidence), they could be turned in for a cute Monokuma voting paddle to participate in a class trial to close out the day. Seemingly everybody who set out to find them all did indeed do so and by the end of the day nearly 300 people (so many, in fact, that it was moved to a bigger hall) gathered to participate in the class trial.

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The class trial lasted about half an hour and featured cosplayers dressed as Mikan, Kazuichi, Ibuki and Akane going toe to toe in an effort to identify the blackened with a gigantic Monokuma overseeing the trial. There was plenty of humorous back and forth banter during the proceedings and enough twists and turned to keep even the most assured con goer guessing. Throughout the trial, small breaks allowed the audience to vote for who they thought was the blackened. This, unsurprisingly, continued to shift, but the majority had it right by the end: it was Kazuichi.

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A day full of thrills, chills and spills, the Danganronpa Murder Mystery was a great extension of the game and a very personal fan outreach from NISA. It’s too rare we see something of this nature and it’s great to see publishers literally putting on a show for their fans. Hopefully more murders happen soon so more mysteries can be carried out.

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We compiled dozens of photos and even a few videos from the event that can be seen below. As a bonus, we followed Monokuma around all day (including in a full scale Nerf war) and got some great shots to take you through a day of the life of a gigantic robotic stuffed bear: