Tribe Nine Reveals a Connection to One of Danganronpa’s Most Powerful Themes

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Tribe Nine Episode 10, now streaming on Funimation, as well as significant ending spoilers for Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony.

Tribe Nine is a dystopian sci-fi sports anime about the government-mandated sport of Extreme Baseball, which is used to settle disputes between various “tribes.” In Episode 10, the murderous Ojiro Otori has taken over the city of Neo-Tokyo and rewritten the already dangerous rules of XB so that anything goes, and anyone can die. Tribes can no longer turn down a challenge, there are no longer any penalties for death or injury, and there are no limits on what winning tribes can demand from the losers. Ojiro challenged the protagonists' Minato Tribe to a game of XB, and they knew it was their only chance to demand a return to the old rules of the game they loved.

Tribe Nine was co-created by Kazutaka Kodaka, who also masterminded the similarly bloodthirsty Danganronpa series of video games. As the new, more violent XB became more popular than the classic version ever was, Tribe Nine’s social commentary reinforced a point from one of Danganronpa’s most controversial twists: what happens when people’s desire for violent entertainment goes too far?

The episode began with Ojiro Otori sitting at the throne of his murdered predecessor Tenshin. What followed was a montage of citizens reacting to Ojiro’s rule changes, which seemed designed to make each game as deadly as possible. Other tribe members reveled in how they could take advantage of the new rules to turn their losing opponents into unwilling assassins. One woman hid her worry with a smirk and commented, “Isn't this really bad?" -- a reminder that no matter how popular the more deadly version of the game would become, there would always be voices tentatively opposing it.

Taiga sees discussion of Extreme Baseball on television in Tribe Nine.

A scene in Minato Tribe’s diner headquarters captured the burgeoning popularity of the new XB. The irrepressible Taiga flipped through the channels, seeing nothing but XB coverage. Minato’s Santaro Mita noted the irony that his beloved game of XB was finally getting the appreciation he felt it deserved, but only after being twisted into something unrecognizable. A further irony was that the XB Law was initially implemented to reduce violence, but Ojiro had made the sport even more violent than the tribe warfare that had come before.

Kodaka has explored a similarly dystopian premise before. Danganronpa is a video game series in which groups of teenagers are forced to get away with murder in order to win their freedom. In a staggeringly meta twist, the final chapter of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony revealed that the events of that game had been a televised spectacle broadcast to a bloodthirsty global audience. Not only this, but its characters were killing game super fans who had volunteered to have their memories erased.


One interpretation of this finale is that it invites creators and their audiences to share responsibility in potentially becoming so obsessed with gratuitously dark content that they risk losing empathy with the characters. This could be symbolized by the way the killing game's fans lost sight of the humanity of its memory-wiped participants. Alternatively, it could simply be a dystopian assessment of the human condition, proposing that such an absurd form of entertainment would be popular if it existed.

When Ojiro's fellow Chiyoda Tribe member Yui Kamiki informed him that Neo-Tokyo's citizens were advocating for the construction of more XB arenas, Ojiro glibly commented, "Bread and circuses, huh?" The expression “bread and circuses,” coined by Roman poet Juvenal, is often used to refer to subjects of a tyrannical regime being less likely to rebel if they are well-fed and entertained. The fact that this is how Ojiro sees his subjects could hint that on some level, he recognizes how tyrannical and dystopian his own rule has become, although whether he cares is another question. Minato Tribe's Kazuki Aoyama reiterated his desire to reform Ojiro in the episode, describing him as “family.”

A closeup of Ojiro Otori from Tribe Nine.

Danganronpa V3’s unassuming mastermind Tsumugi Shirogane declared that “It’s because the world is so peaceful that this killing game is necessary,” implying that humanity would find another violent pastime if it didn’t exist. This would make her killing game a circus that doesn't purport to protect the government from its people, but rather protects the people from themselves. The instant popularity of the more fatal version of XB could be read as a similarly cynical appraisal of the violence of human nature, but the episode’s inspirational climax might present a more positive message.

At the end of the episode, Minato Tribe resolved to comply with Ojiro’s challenge in a bid to restore the original but still dangerous rules of XB, as Taiga described themselves as "the world's greatest at loving XB." If XB is a metaphor for violent television, perhaps the tribe’s celebration of the original version of the game while rejecting Ojiro's excessively violent evolution of it is a reminder that consciously engaging with violent shows can still be a positive thing. If Danganronpa deconstructed its own violent themes, maybe Tribe Nine is reconstructing them.

Both Tribe Nine and Danganronpa depict dystopian worlds in which people enjoy watching death games, and both stories feature characters who speak up against them. Whereas the meta nature of Danganronpa V3's ending encouraged players to think critically about violent games and television, Episode 10 of Tribe Nine was an important metaphorical reminder that this doesn't mean people shouldn't enjoy them -- so long as nobody actually dies.

Daki and Gyutaro in Demon Slayer anime
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