Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

4After the success of their initial two games, Spike Chunsoft released another game that was a little different than their first two, but equally important to the Danganronpa lore. This game, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, is centered around Makoto Naegi‘s sister, Komaru Naegi, instead of the first game’s protagonist.

The gameplay is vastly different as well, being more action-based than visual novel style like the first two. Instead of walking around an environment and talking to NPCs, the player must guide Komaru and her companion through dangerous Monokuma-infested environments, shooting them with a special hacking gun. Who is Komaru’s companion? None other than Touko Fukawa, the notorious bookworm-slash-serial killer from the first game!

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Now, if you’re a fan of the series, you’re probably scratching your head right about now, asking yourself how in the world can such a neurotic and slightly crazy character actually help our heroine. Well, I’m pleased to say that both of the girls do a whole lot of growing in this game. This is part of the reason it’s so enjoyable.

The story starts out with Byakuya Togami, now a member of the Future Foundation, coming to find Komaru a prisoner in an apartment building. As it turns out, the people used in the first motive scenario in Trigger Happy Havoc were all kept in this city where the apartment building is located. After two years of captivity, she’s released, but by a dangerous Monokuma robot. She encounters Byakuya, who gives her the special hacking gun and tells her to run.

1Confused and afraid, Komaru rushes across the street to a restaurant, only to be chased in by additional Monokuma bots. The patrons are slaughtered, and a broadcast comes on TV. There are five strange children advertising their victory and saying all adults will be eradicated. She soon finds herself abducted by the very same children, who actually release her as part of their “demon-hunting” game. Komaru soon meets up with the strange Touko and the two team up to stop the five children. The best part is actually learning not only more about Komaru and Touko, but also about these five children.

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Even Nagito Komaeda has a hand in this story. This time, he’s simply called “Servant,” as he’d been captured by the Warriors of Hope early on. He acts as a sort of guide at one point, making sure Komaru doesn’t leave before she’s completed her mission. While the two have no idea who he is (this takes place before the events of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair), they thank him for his help, in a way.

It’s also important to note that this game is sort of an introduction to the concept of AI for this world. While Nekomaru Nidai was a cyborg, it’s difficult to say whether he was a true AI. In Another Episode, two AI characters are introduced: Shirokuma and Kurokuma. Their names indicating their alignment (Shiro being “white” and Kuro being “black”) play an important role, as Shirokuma helps the girls through the game. Kurokuma acts as an adviser to the Warriors of Hope, thinking of ways to improve their “game.” This is later continued with an AI character-student in the newest game.

When the game starts out, Touko becomes easily annoyed with Komaru, who seems to always be making excuses about how she “can’t do anything” because she’s “just a normal girl.” Touko, while being an Ultimate, still has constant doubts about her own abilities and also deals with her other personality (which was changed from “Genocider Shou” to “Genocide Jack” for localization purposes). She pushes Komaru to be better and take control of the situation.

Despite being kicked out of the safe haven, the two know they have to save everyone. This forces both of them to grow as people, which is a major draw to this story. Komaru becomes fierce and determined, deciding to stand up for what’s right. She even decides to sacrifice her freedom to make sure the Future Foundation can do their work. Even Touko, the squirrely and fearful woman she is, does the same. She finally has a friend who she can trust, and she refuses to lose that, no matter what.

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Even better is the truth behind the mysterious Warriors of Hope. Each child has faced abuse in some form in the past, and they have valid reasons to hate adults. At first, I was angry about their behavior. But after learning their reasons, I couldn’t not love them. They all deserved better than what life handed them. I plan to go into further detail on them in a future article.

The character development of this game is superb – even better than the other two games. It really shows how even a “normal person” can make a difference in the world, and that your past trauma doesn’t have to define you. I highly reccomend it for anyone, especially those fans of the franchise. Also, once you’ve played this game, be sure to catch the follow-up anime called Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School.

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Danganronpa’s Junko Enoshima is one of the most terrifying villains.

1Every villain has their own motivations and reasons for why they became a villain. Cruella DeVille sought diverse and exotic furs, Darth Vader wanted to save someone he cared about and make the universe safer, and Nurser Ratched simply seeks to control people. But it’s hard to really pin down why someone like Junko Enoshima is a villain. This is also what makes her such a mesmerizing character.

What makes her a villain, though, is almost as confusing as her rapidly switching personalities. She thrives on despair: forcing people to kill others, suffering setbacks in her own plans, or even brainwashing people. It actually causes her joy to suffer pain and see others suffer as well. She claims that even being born was a despair, saying “No, I’ve felt despair as long as I can remember, like I never should have been born at all. When I was born, I cried tears of total despair.”

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If she were anyone else, one might claim she suffers depression, but it’s actually the opposite. She seems to gain energy from this despair, and even after her death, those that followed her still continued her work to bring the despair she always loved. These brainwashed Remnants of Despair, who actually consisted of the cast of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, worked to cause despair to themselves and the world.

Even in her death, she celebrates, saying “This once-in-a-lifetime experience… It is my first and last colossal despair, here at the moment of death! To have the chance to taste of the highest grade despair–the utter failure of my dreams!” She actually gives herself all of the punishments she’d already administered to the other students that had been proven guilty.

3It could also be argued that it’s not the pursuit of despair that motivates her, but actual boredom. Junko is extremely intelligent; both her and her twin sister, Makuro Ikusaba, are. This also comes with a downside – Junko becomes bored very easily. For this reason, she is shown changing personalities even within the same conversation or sentence. She claims that she gets bored with one personality and changes it as quickly as a sentence can be said.

She also reveals just before her death that she “was so hopelessly desperate! [she] was bored of the world the moment [she] was born!” However, seeking to cure this boredom by means of causing despair throws this motivation into question, as she very much seems to be excited by causing it.

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It is because of all of these things that she is so unpredictable, and one of the most terrifying villains of all time. Whether her true motivation is causing despair or just pure boredom, there’s no way to know what she’ll actually do next. Even when her plans we set back, she felt joyful because she felt her own despair. She’s incredibly well-written to this end, and it’s easy to see why, despite her horrible actions, that she has so many fans.

What do you think? Is Junko motivated by despair or boredom? Is there anyone that’s more terrifying?
Let me know in the comments below!

“Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc” – Chihiro Fujisaki and Sakura Oogami shread gender norms.

1319406_Japanese_KeyArt-OfficialVideoImage_1f7ec87c-7a78-e711-8175-020165574d09Danganronpa is full of colorful characters of all types. There’s creative characters, mysterious characters, passionate characters; but most important is the excellent representation the franchise displays for non-traditional roles. Two of these types of characters appear in the first game, and they are presented in a very tasteful way as to show how those roles should be looked at – as something that isn’t “weird” or unnatural.

As the “Ultimate Programmer,” Chihiro Fujisaki appears as a very shy and withdrawn. He cries at the slightest thing, but only for the reason that he worries he’s impeded everyone else. This is a result of being bullied for his small size, which in turn made him sensitive, and resulted in further bullying. He was always told he was weak, and hisDanganronpa_1_Chihiro_Fujisaki_English_Game_Introduction negative self-talk turned into a complex relating to his physical weakness.

He discovered that girls were allowed to appear weak and not be made fun of, so out of defense for his own mental health, he “became” a girl. It’s important to note here that Chihiro does not identify as a girl. He still considers himself a boy, rather he changed for self-preservation. Instead of making him feel safer, this actually exacerbated his complex of feeling weak.

When Makoto Naegi asks him in a Free Time event how he had originally gotten interested in programming, Chihiro explains that his father allowed him to play with some programs when he was younger. He’s incredibly intelligent, and seems to even want to reveal his secret to Makoto when he points out that it’s unusual for girls to be interested in programming. But, he stops, thinking it not the right time.

In the end, Chihiro revealed his truth to Mondo Oowada, who he saw as the ideal man: strong, tough, and straight forward. Monokuma’s threat to reveal Chihiro’s truth didn’t weaken him, rather pushed him to be stronger. Even if he knew he might not be accepted, Chihiro wanted to become a person he’d be proud to be.

Sakura Oogami is almost the complete opposite of delicate Chihiro. She is so muscular that a few characters actually confuse her for a man. During the first class trial, Kiyotaka actually says that it’s bad for a man and a woman to sleep in the same room after Aoi admits she’d asked Sakura to stay over the night since she was scared. Sakura calmly Danganronpa_1_Sakura_Ogami_English_Game_Introductioncorrects him and he quickly apologizes.

Even though she is nicknamed “The Ogre,” she is not ashamed of her stature. She seeks to surpass the “strongest man in the world.” Originally, she claimed that this person was her father, but then later explains that she’d surpassed him long ago. She expresses slight concern for him, saying that his dreams are affected by her growing stronger, but she also explains that this won’t stop her from her dreams.

Despite seeming rough on the outside, Sakura actually has a heart of gold. She is kind to everyone, patient, and seeks to always protect her friends. Even when it’s revealed she’s a traitor, she seeks to make up for her wrongs. She calls Touko Fukawa and Yasuhiro Hagakure just before her death to try and speak to them about doing to. Instead of listening, they attack her, thinking she means them harm. But even after this, her suicide note shows how much she really cares and wants everyone to be safe.

When talking to Makoto during Free Time events, it takes quite a while for her to gather the courage to even tell him about Kenshiro, who she also calls the Strongest Person in the World. She reveals that he is her first love, and is very embarassed due to her stature. She says that “even someone like me” can fall in love, because she “is still a girl.” This reveals a bit of self-consciousness on Sakura’s part where it’s least expected.

These two characters are excellent examples of the diversity the Danganronpa universe displays. It’s a step in the right direction for representation in anime, but there’s still a long way to go. The franchise continues to display more and more diversity in characters, and hopefully will always do so.

How about you? Are there any characters that “shred gender norms” like Chihiro and Sakura?
Tell me below in the comments!

“Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair” – Does Hajime Hinata have generalized anxiety disorder?

h2Being stuck on a tropical island might not be so bad if there wasn’t the constant threat of being killed at any moment. That alone is enough to give anyone anxiety. However, there are clues that point to Hajime Hinata, the protagonist of “Danganronpa 2,” possibly having generalized anxiety disorder aside from the situational anxiety.

As someone who has suffered from anxiety disorders all my life, I can identify with Hajime. He often mentions how tired he is, and how little he can sleep. This is common among people with anxiety, and while a lot of it has to do with the situation he’sh3 in, it appears most of the other students don’t seem to have any sleeping problems.

He also tends to get tired easily, as can be seen after almost any event; both after stressful events and seemingly normal activities. His communication with people seems especially draining to him after Free Time events, and he tends to stutters during these interactions, further pointing to a difficulty in communication. Anxiety sufferers often deal with this, as just being awake can drain you sometimes.

Despite his possible mental issues, Hajime is intelligent. He’s able to pick up on a lot of clues that other people miss. During the class trials, however, he mentions quite a lot about not wanting to look like a fool in front of the others. When advancing through the trial, he seems to think very carefully about his words, making sure to always have the h1facts before saying anything. Though these character traits might seem to hurt him, they actually make him a more careful thinker and able to solve problems in a more effective way.

Additionally, anxiety sufferers tend to display over-concern about the people they care about. When confronted with the awkward situation involving Mikan falling asleep on him, he’s more concerned for her well-being than his own. He carries worry with him for days as well, as seen after Fuyuhiko appears to be fully healed from his stomach wound. He still is concerned for the boy’s injuries, asking him to be careful.

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He is also easily swayed by stressful situations. At the beginning of the game, he expresses his concerns about getting off the island and doubts his own abilities, suggesting he may kill someone to escape. In the fun-house, he tries to enter the Final Dead Room, convinced that it’s a way out. In his desperate state, he;s nearly delusional, but thankfully Chiaki manages to help him both times, reminding him of a better path.

I’m filled with joy to see the depiction of a character with a mental illness like myself. The writers show that his anxiety does not disable him, and helps distinguish his character from the others, and even making him stronger. Additionally, it shows others that he is not just his condition, and that it does not override other characteristics of his personality. I’m glad Spike Chunsoft and Nippon Ichi decided to display these aspects as part of his character.

Do you think Hajime has an anxiety disorder? Is there a character you identify with? Let me know in the comments!

“Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair” – Nagito Komaeda is probably the worst ever.

ebcb5a8a6d1866fc078d69a65e77aa03a429bef7_hqThere’s a very small list of characters that I actually, genuinely hate. This list includes Delores Umbridge, Joffrey Baratheon, Alois Trancy, and now, Nagito Komaeda. A lot of people seem to really like him; there’s art of him everywhere depicting friendships with Hajime. Despite this, he is a severely deranged character, even if his actions are required to drive the story forward.

Not only is he the first person to try to commit murder (despite failing miserably), but Event_50_(1)after failing to do so, he sort of awakens as a level one antagonist. He continually berates himself, and uses this as an excuse to hide information from others.

He also seems to have some sort of obsession with hope. He’s convinced that murdering people will bring hope to the rest of them. He continually expressed his desire to be a “stepping stone” for this hope, and is always somehow dissappointed when the end of a trial shows a severe lack hope.

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Right before the fourth Class Trial, he seems to do a complete turn around, basically acting as if he’s superior to everyone. The cause of this is simply because he’d found out additional truths about Hajime, and what exactly the Future Foundation is. But, instead of celebrating the hope he’d always talked about, this time he berates his classmates and acts as if there is no hope. This is ironic, considering he was ready to die for his cause just moments before in the Final Dead Room.

The real truth is that he’d found out that all of them are actually Remnants of Despair.Event_147 These former followers of Junko Enoshima thrive on despair, and when Nagito finds this out, he seeks to rid the world of all of them. He now knows that hope is non-existent for them, and his entire goal is compromised. He ends of killing himself while trying to create an unsolvable crime to fool the other students into guessing the killer wrong.

Even after his death, his animosity for despair is obvious. His hatred for it explodes after learning the truth, seeing as his real self is so full of it. His real body, outside the game world, even lacks an arm; he voluntarily cut it off and replaced it with Junko Enoshima’s after she died. As much as he is deranged, confused, and probably insane, he should at least be given credit for revealing the truth. This still doesn’t change my disdain for him, even if he’s important for the story.

“Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair” expands on it’s predecessor’s theme of falseness and absurdity.

dang1Beneath the themes of hope and despair fighting each other, there’s one more important part to the world of Danganronpa, and it’s obvious to see within this second installment “Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.” Even from the very beginning, there’s a number of themes that foreshadow the falseness of this installment’s world.

Although it’s difficult to tell if you’re not fluent in Japanese, the names are slightly fake-sounding. Most characters might be named Minami, Hikaru, Yui, and Touma, but “Dangaronpa” characters often have much longer and complicated names, sometimes with hidden meanings. Take Fuyhiko Kuzuryu, for example. Instead of just being a name like Tarō Yamada (the Japanese equivalent to “John Smith”), he has a name that basically means “The Winter Prince of the Nine-headed dragon.”

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Not all of them are as complicated or deep; some are somewhat ridiculous. Consider Nekomaru Nidai, which simply means “two big, round cats,” and Peko Pekoyama, which doesn’t actually have a meaning. In fact, “pekopeko” is the sound of a bowling ball rolling down the lane. The strangeness of the names is obvious with Sonia Nevermind, since it’s English, but there’s a trivia section on her fandom wiki that points out her last name is a reference to the band Nirvana. Her home country of “Novoselic” is even the last name of the band’s bassist.

Something that was carried over from the first game – it’s important to pay attention to even the transitions when the player moves from one location to another as well. The way the scene forms sort of folds out like a pop-up book, even windows falling into place as everything finalizes. This is true even in outdoor scenes such as the beach or park locations.

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Also, when a player taps an NPC to communicate with them, the sprite on the main screen can either perform a spin, flip, or wiggle. These are things often associated with what a standee of a person would do if disturbed, further playing up the artificial vibe. Though, the characters speak like a normal human would in a visual novel or anime, its almost as if the game is shouting “here, look – these people are not real, and neither is this story.”

All of this seems to be a nod toward the fact that the story is fabricated all for Monokuma’s enjoyment, and all of the students are merely pawns for his amusement. Maybe even the characters names were made up by the psychopathic bear so he can giggle every time they are said.

A clue to this is in the name of Gundham, making a clear reference to the anime Screenshot_51and manga series he seems to be named after. There’s no way any parent in their right mind would name their child after a giant robot. Though he named them himself, his pets — San-D, Jum-P, Maga-Z and Cham-P — are a nod to the four weekly manga publications in Japan — Sunday, Jump, Magazine, and Champion. This could even be part of Monokuma’s amusement.

The evil bear even states during the second trial that the “killing game is just for killing time.” While he quickly corrects himself, saying that it’s actually “to break away from [his] purpose” and “That alone is my purpose!” it leaves the player wondering not only what he means, but what his true purpose really is.

Screenshot_59Everything becomes clear during the finale when it’s revealed that the entire situation is a “game” of sorts. Though it was not originally intended as such, since Junko’s interference caused so much change. However, it’s made clear when she treats it as a fun activity for her, even after the true purpose of her actions are revealed. Her attitude toward treating the students as pawns and play things reveals how far she will go to get what she wants. She also becomes excited about revealing the truth in an attempt to spread her Ultimate Despair.

“Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair” – Why Mikan Tsukimi is important in more than just plot.

1At first glance, Mikan Tsukimi is an insufferable crybaby. In fact, most people might find her the most annoying character in the whole game. But, there’s much more to her than meets the eye, and having been in a similar situation as what has caused her to be the way she is myself, I can very much relate to her.

Mikan is identified as the “Ultimate Nurse,” in Danganronpa 2. She is skilled at caring for wounds and injuries, and it’s made clear that she enjoys doing so. If the player asks her what her favorite kind of bandages are, she beings to get very excited and talk about the qualities of a few. She even carries out an autopsy on the first victim at the resort.2013-10-12-205953

Her personality is that of someone who has been severely abused, both emotionally and physically. She even hints at being sexually abused, as when she thinks the player is upset at her, she offers to take off her clothes. She’s very nervous and accident prone, always apologizing profusely when she thinks she’s done something wrong, which most of the time, she hasn’t.

This type of character is very important not only within the story, but also within anime in general. You’d be hard-pressed to find a character that has been abused, even slightly; most characters, especially girls, and moving towards a sort of “perfect girl” archetype where everything they do is immaculate. They tend to hide their bad feelings for the audience, but Mikan lets everything display.

tumblr_nbpfj1ONq61tngdxko6_500You might think her personality is exaggerated, but having been like her to some degree, I can tell you that it’s not. Abuse is a horrible thing, and can take many forms, as Mikan’s reactions tend to point out. It appears she’s also been severely gaslighted, being trained to think her problems mean nothing. She even admits that she’s never recieved gifts of even been greeted properly before. It would be safe to say she probably gained her healing expertise while in the care of an abusive guardian or parent.

When she eventually does commit a murder, it’s not even for herself. She claims that she did it for her “beloved.” She’s easily manipulated and taken advantage of because of her abuse, so this “beloved” might simply be her abuser. This is common for someone as tortured as Mikan; the abuser creates a cycle of abuse and reward, where the rewardScreenshot_60 seems to make up for the abuse to the abused.

Her personality takes a complete turn-around when the Despair Disease takes hold of her and she remembers this person. While she never says the name of the person or reveals their gender, it’s possible she’s referring to Junko Enoshima, as being a Remnant of Despair would point to that.

Characters like Mikan are often treated as tokens, but in this day and age, they should be looked at seriously. She can be used to raise awareness of abuse of all kinds, and while she ends up not being the best of people, I think more characters like her should be represented in anime.

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