The Danganronpa franchise is known for how thrilling it is, and for how amazing and unpredictable its plot twists can be. However underneath all of that, the characters are what makes it the really enjoyable experience it ends up being. Indeed, the Danganronpa character cast is one of my favorite casts in fiction due to the sheer variety and unique personalities that you can find in this franchise. Today I’ll talk a bit about my top 10 characters from these amazing games, explaining exactly why I like them so much. Take into account at this point in time the Danganronpa 3 animes are still airing, so I won’t include unique characters from those, and I haven’t read or played any spin-off game.
#10 – Hinata Hajime, the Reserve Course Student
Hajime is the protagonist of the second game, and a great one at that. What makes Hajime so interesting is the fact that he has no talent whatsoever and that he entered the Hope’s Peak Academy via the Reserve Course, which means he had to pay a lot of money to get in, but it was his dream to graduate there even without a talent. Now this lack of a talent made him develop an inferiority complex that eventually led him to choose to submit himself to experiments which resulted in the near destruction of his Hajime persona and turned him into an ultra-talented individual: Kamakura Izuru. This version of him is ruthless and can analyze other people just by looking at them, besides having many other talents. He’s also the opposite of Hajime since he despises all those without talent and calls them inferior. Hajime’s struggle with this other self at the end of game is amazing and does wonders to his character, which is how I justify his character being in his list and not Naegi, the first game’s protagonist. His relationship with Chiaki, which starts to become apparent in Chapter 4, also adds a lot to his character since a lot of hints were given that he was romantically interested in her, and it seemed mutual. A very interesting protagonist to play as, he’s one of the factors that made the second game so amazing, and a worthy character to kick off this list.
#9 – Togami Byakuya, the Ultimate Affluent Progeny
Byakuya is definitely one of those characters that’s bound to being hated due to his arrogance towards the other characters and overall behavior during the first game. However I see him as one of the very few arrogant fictional characters who I think has EVERY single right of being arrogant. Having read his free-time events, I could see just how much he went through to get all of his wealth and power, and he didn’t rely on his family’s name at all to accomplish all of that, instead using his own talent. He gets extremely angry when someone says he was “born to be successful” since that implies he didn’t have to work hard for his accomplishments, something he most definitely did. He looks down on everyone else which in turn makes nearly everyone hate him, however he does show human emotions like fear and anger, and despite of his tsun-like behavior he did end up getting quite close to the rest of the survivors of the first game, which is shown by his dialogues with Kyouko and Naegi in the second game’s epilogue. He constantly feels a need to prove himself, so much so that he was the only one who seemed to be enjoying the killing game despite his life also being at stake. He’s used to that kind of battlefield where he puts everything on the line, and that’s how he managed to become the heir of the Togami family: by defeating all of his siblings on what he considers to be a battlefield. He’s also very observant and as far as his detective work goes, he seems to be second only to Kyouko, which is rightfully so since she’s the Ultimate Detective. A very easy to hate yet humane character, he takes his rightful place on my list.
#8 – Tanaka Gundham, the Ultimate Breeder
I love animals in real life, and Gundham is the Ultimate Breeder… well that most certainly has something to do with why he’s on the list, but other than that, it’s just how enjoyable he was during his comic relief scenes, specifically when they involved his rivalry with Souda for Sonia’s attention. His chuunibyou behavior might be annoying to some people, but it only makes him more lovable for others, like for me. Other than his really likable personality, his actions in the second game are what really makes me love him as a character. Unlike most other characters who did murder someone, his motive was actually quite selfless. Gundham thinks its nonsense to just wait to die, and claims that living is constantly moving forward. The situation in Chapter 4 was everything that went against this ideal of his, since everyone was just waiting to die, not wanting to kill anyone else, but Gundham realized someone had to do it, and eventually he ended up killing Nidai, who was no longer human by then. He did it so that everyone else could move on, and that’s why he didn’t resist too much once Hajime and the others concluded that he was the only one who could have been the murderer. He seems to also be romantically interested in Sonia, a feeling that’s obviously mutual as Sonia gives a lot of her attention to him, probably because she loves anime and the occult and Gundham kinda looks like some sort of shounen character who also loves the occult. An animal lover who murdered for such a selfless reason and has a really likable personality, Gundham most certainly deserves his spot on my list.
#7 – Enoshima Junko,the Ultimate Fashionista/Despair
I love antagonists in fiction, and Junko is not an exception. She’s not as well written as some of the antagonists I really came to love, like Kotomine Kirei from the Fate franchise, however the few times that she did appear on screen, she was AMAZING. For starters while her motivation seems a bit bland at first, once she starts talking about herself and how despair is basically everything to her, you start understanding that she’s someone who has no hope at all, and can only live for despair. She’s not someone who’s unfair towards the people she puts in killing games, as she subjects herself to her own rules as well. She believes in giving people hope before sending them into despair, as that produces the most pure form of despair. One would think she just likes inflicting despair to others but she actually loves to inflict it upon herself the most, which is shown when she explains how she murdered her own sister and that put her in a state of despair, which for Junko seems to be similar to… actually mourning her sister, in a really twisted way. She also had no qualms with executing herself once Naegi and the others defeated her, heck she even seemed excited to experience her own execution, as that would bring her despair. Her personality, or lack thereof, is another one of the characteristics I love about her. She gets bored of the same personality very quickly so she constantly changes between a handful of pre-established personalities, like a melancholic one, an arrogant one and a smart-ass one. Her personality changes being explained and so random make her the most fun antagonist I’ve seen for sure and she fits the half serious half goofy mood of the franchise SO well. Without her the franchise wouldn’t be what it is, that’s for sure. An individual obsessed with despair, she’s most fitting for my list.
#6 – Oogami Sakura, the Ultimate Martial Artist
This must be one of the most selfless characters I’ve ever seen in fiction. Sakura’s overwhelming and overly muscular build might give you the impression that she snaps easily and can endanger other people, but that’s not at all how she works. Right from the bat, her death is what really makes me like her. She committed suicide because she knew that, as the one cooperating with the mastermind (despite being forced to) she was the root of the distrust going on in the group, and that distrust was starting to endanger her friend, Asahina, who got into fights with other people to defend Sakura’s honor. Her death was completely selfless and really meaningful, and was what gave hope to the group after so many disasters happening at once. She did it all to atone for her sin of letting herself be forced to cooperate with the mastermind, as she decided to resist her by all means when she started knowing her classmates better, making her incapable of working for her. By committing suicide she avoided murdering anyone else, like the mastermind wanted, and at the same time she DID murder someone – herself – like the mastermind demanded which means the dojo wouldn’t be endangered and she wouldn’t have to kill her friends. Her death is also what unites the group in the end, as Byakuya and Toko, who were previously antagonistic towards the others, finally came to terms with them in order to defeat the mastermind. Even after she died, she left a present to Kirigiri in the form of breaking the lock to a really important room, which provided a lot of relevant answers necessary to solve the mystery. Other than this amazing display of courage, her personality is also very appealing, as it’s the opposite of what her physical looks suggest. She’s actually quite gentle and caring for others, and always puts her friends before herself. She’s especially fond of Asahina, as they are both athletes and train together, and their friendship is so deep that it leads Asahina to discard her life and everyone else’s when she reads the fake suicide note that makes her think that Sakura committed suicide in despair, when in reality hope was all there was to it. The effect she had on Asahina was long-lasting, as she asked for Sakura’s strength several several times even after her death, and is what allowed her to face reality in the end. A character that defies the stereotype that her looks might bring, she’s most deserving of being in my list.
#5 – Celestia Ludenberg, the Ultimate Gambler
Adaptation is what defines the living beings who survive in the end… that’s an ironclad rule of nature. Celeste (I like this name better for her) knows this better than anyone else, as everything she says and does seems to be based on that single creed. Celeste is seen as a bit of a bitch due to how she essentially causes the death of two people for the sake of money… to buy an European-style castle where she can live as a princess and have a lot of butlers dressed as vampires… yeah she’s a bit crazy. And guess what: that craziness is part of why I like her so much. As the Ultimate Gambler, she knows exactly how and when to lie perfectly, and her poker face is very difficult to break, even when she’s harshly insulting someone. She seems to smile a lot but her smiles are very rarely honest, and most of the time are nothing but a facade to hide her true emotions. She seems like a very calm individual… until she snaps. Once she does snap, oh boy. Her voice, style of speech and face immediately change and she seems like a completely different individual. Usually it happens when she’s cornered, like during the third trial, or really displeased, like when Yamada failed to make the tea that she liked. Celeste is the one who constantly says that they need to settle down and learn how to live in that school because they’re most likely not going to leave, but in reality she’s the one who wants to leave the most, due to her dream that I described earlier, since she can’t exactly fight for her dream while stuck in there. The fact that her behavior towards the school life of mutual killing is fake is hinted at in one of her free time events once she snaps at Naegi for saying he wants to leave, as her snapping always means that there’s more to her emotions than what she’s letting out, and that’s most certainly one of those cases. She rose from the ground to become a really wealthy person and she always staked her life for it, much like Byakuya, as most of the games she participated in involved life-or-death situations, like the Russian roulette, and that’s what makes her value luck so much, considering it a necessary tool for survival. I really like how subtle of a character she can be (and how straightforward she is when she snaps), how manipulative and determined she can be to accomplish her goals, and just how well she planned out her crime in the third chapter. Had it not been for the incompetence of the one she chose as an accomplice, she might have succeeded. While not as important as her personality and mentality, I have to say that her character design appeals to me A LOT and she has my favorite design from the franchise without any sort of competition. As the Queen of Liars, a title well earned, Celeste and her bitchiness definitely belong in my list.
#4 – Kuzuryu Fuyuhiko, the Ultimate Yakuza
Have you ever had a 180º change on a fictional character before? When you hate a character so much you just want to see them die but then after a certain event you start loving that character more and more until you finally think of them as amazingly well written? Well, Fuyuhiko is that character for me. He starts off as this arrogant asshole who refuses to be part of the group and wanders all alone, constantly insulting everyone he sees and being really annoying. That is, until the second trial. Once that happens and his relationship with Peko is revealed, he changes completely in terms of his behavior towards others (though fortunately his personality stays the same, since otherwise it would have felt unrealistic). Losing Peko, who he loved despite her considering herself just a tool for Fuyuhiko to use and then discard, made him reconsider his attitudes, to the point where, to apologize for playing a part in Mahiru’s murder, he re-opened his own stomach wound in front of Hiyoko to show how sorry he was, almost bleeding out in the process. It shows both determination and pride, two characteristics I love to see in characters. From there on out, his character keeps getting better and better as the story goes on, and he references Peko a lot, and it was her memory that allowed him to recover hope when Junko sent him into despair in the last chapter. He feels this need of showing toughness like nobody else due to his baby face and how short he is, which makes people judge him as weak. Granted he exaggerates that toughness to the point where it becomes pure arrogance and he does act like an asshole at first, but at least there’s a reason – a good one at that – for all of that to happen. To maintain this facade, he even states that he’s willing to kill someone in order to escape, even though he dislikes killing a lot. When this facade is lifted, it shows a guy who is very adamant in enforcing rules, like not drinking due to being a minor, and he does have quite the pure heart in the end, especially for a Yakuza since those are used to committing crimes and getting away with them, which sometimes makes him question his ability to succeed as one. After Chapter 2 he becomes a really dear character and each chapter after that only made my impression of him better. His development is the main selling point of his character, as well as his relationship with Peko and how much that affected his behavior after she was gone. As one of the few characters that managed to get a 180º change for the better in my book, Fuyuhiko takes his rightful place in the high tier of my list.
#3 – Komaeda Nagito, the Ultimate Lucky Student
Insanity is a trait used for shock factor in many fiction works, and Danganronpa is no exception. However Nagito’s insanity… is a bit different in that regard. His character is the result of taking all the obsession with hope of the first game’s protagonist, Naegi, and giving it a darker twist. Heck their talents are even the same (luck) and if you rearrange Nagito’s entire name, it becomes “Makoto Naegi da”, meaning “I’m Naegi Makoto”. Nagito at first seems like the best friend type of character, someone who seems to befriend Hajime really easily and keeps calling him similar to himself… until the first he is suspected of murder in the first trial. That’s when he completely snaps and reveals his true nature, that of someone who sees hope as the absolute good and everything that defies it as evil, but acknowledges the necessity of despair existing because without despair, hope can’t shine. To him, sacrificing people as simple stepping stones is fine as long as it leads to hope, and he does it without a second thought. He’s willing to murder, deceive and even collaborate with the mastermind as long as that results in hope shining brighter, and this mentality of his is explored in a really neat and deep way. It’s not just some insane guy spouting out nonsense, but someone who truly does believe every single word he says, and even sees it as something mundane. Due to him thinking that people with talent are the ones who can bring hope to the world, he sees all of the people without any talents as inferior, including himself since his talent is just luck. He develops this weird inferiority complex, much like Hajime, and calls himself trash many times to prove how little he thinks of himself. To further show this, in the despair arc anime, he’s even willing to blow up the school in order to delay the exams, as the class is still depressed due to what happened during the Twilight Syndrome Murder. His obsession with hope and disregard for human life has led everyone else to hate him and see him as a dangerous threat in the school trip of mutual killing. and it’s precisely because of this obsession with hope that, when he finds out he and all the others, except the ‘traitor’ (Chiaki), are actually the Remnants of Despair, he starts treating them all coldly and no longer calls himself trash nor praises them like he used to, instead insulting them very harshly as he has nothing to praise about people who are actually the representation of despair. His final plan was so ingenious that I was completely stunned when I actually saw it. A murder that could not be solved and took full advantage of his talent – luck – to pull it off. He trusts that luck above everything else and it always works to his advantage, even though he seems to experience some bad luck before the actual good results happen. This man killed himself in quite the brutal fashion and tried to get rid of everyone but Chiaki once he realized they were all the Remnants of Despair. If that’s not determination to uphold his ultimate ideal about hope, I don’t know what is. His extremely well developed mentality is what keeps the players from hating him despite his very questionable actions throughout the game, and the fact that he adds a lot of thrill to the experience, as you constantly wonder what the heck he’s going to do next, is undeniable. He’s a rare example of insanity done well, and I like how he has this comparison going on with Naegi, even Monokuma references that similarity quite a few times. A very easy character to hate, but just as easy to love, Nagito made the experience of the second game really thrilling, and is a crucial part of my list.
#2 – Kirigiri Kyouko, the Ultimate Detective
This is an example of a character that seems like a complete Mary Sue at the start and eventually becomes much, much more than that. Kyouko is the only student who doesn’t remember her talent at the start of the game, which makes her the target of suspicion sometimes. At first she seems like she’s a nearly perfect, though emotionless, girl. That’s right, she never shows her emotions and claims that showing them can get her into trouble, and seems to be speaking from experience. Her whole character is surrounded in mysteries and other than revealing more about her mentality, her choice of not showing emotions and foreshadowing her detective capabilities, her free-time events don’t shed any light on her character. From the start we see that she has amazing observation and analytical capabilities, which are justified by her talent, and is not afraid of touching a dead body at all. The first time we see some sort of emotion in her character is actually anger, when Naegi refuses to tell her what he saw the day before, as she trusted him with extremely important information and he was refusing to do the same. Her whole emotionless facade is shown to be just that – a facade – once she shows how much her father actually meant to her. She came to Hope’s Peak Academy in order to meet him and “cut all of her ties with him in order to be free”, though she seems a little insecure about that, and fully admits that she might even thank him, as not taking her with him allowed her to become a detective. Yes, her father did leave her with the rest of her family from a young age, but she still meant a lot to him in the end, as evidenced by using her name as a password and having a picture of her as a little girl in his office, which made her reveal her emotions for the first time when she found out, even asking Naegi to leave her alone for a while in that room, something she never asked before: the first and only display of her true emotions. While she is determined enough to sacrifice even Naegi, someone she trusts, if the situation demands for it, she doesn’t do it without a second thought, and fully understand how evil of an act it is regardless of the reasoning used, not even asking to be forgiven for what she did because she knows she has no right of asking for forgiveness. She’s actually as insecure as all the other people stuck in that school, but she’s used to hiding her emotions so that nobody can catch on, much like Celeste, only Kyouko never really snaps. She’s very proud of being a detective, one from a long line of detectives at that, and does her work in a very professional way. In the end, what really sells her character for me is how determined and insightful she is. Everything she does, she does for a reason, she can always justify her behaviors in a logical manner, and yet she’s most certainly not devoid of emotions at all, in fact she does get very emotional at times but it can be hard to see through her facade. As an overall very well rounded character, Kyouko is the well deserving of being the runner-up of my list.
#1 – Nanami Chiaki, the Ultimate Gamer
Like many people say, Chiaki is a character that was written to be likable: she’s a gamer, she’s nice to people once she gets to know them, she’s cute, she’s smart… one could argue she seems like the perfect girl. That + the fact that she’s an AI is what’s used to criticize her character, however I strongly disagree with that criticism because that’s not all that she has going on her character. While all of the above is true, what really makes me like Chiaki is actually her development. Look at her in chapter 1: she’s extremely anti-social and barely speaks to people, preferring to focus on gaming for the most part, but never really acting against the group either. However as time goes by and she gets to know and talk with the other characters, she starts opening up to them, and her impact on everyone else in the second game is undeniable in Chapter 5 when you see the reactions on everyone’s face, especially Hajime’s who was closer to her than anyone else, when they find out that she’s the ‘traitor’ and will be executed for being set-up to murder Nagito. Chiaki being an AI means nothing in the Danganronpa universe because as Alter Ego proved in the first game, AIs do have emotions, feelings and motivations, and Chiaki is no different, she acts like a human being would despite not being one, and the fact that she chose to sacrifice herself, as she felt like her friends were priceless (which went against her programming) clearly shows how much she changed. Her relationship with Hajime, as I have previously mentioned, also plays a huge role on her character, as he’s the one she chooses to get really close to, becoming his partner in the later investigations and trusting him a lot. She’s also the one that seems to get the most upset whenever a murder happens, as she sees everyone else as friends and doesn’t want to suspect them, which is why she admits to being the ‘traitor’ in chapter 5 – so that everyone can succeed not by doubting her, but by believing in her. I really like characters that rarely show their emotions because when they actually do, it feels extremely satisfying to see, and you can feel they are real. Chiaki’s constant references to games are also pretty sweet and if you can understand them well, you might get a laugh or two out of them. Overall while Chiaki’s core character was written as a likable character from the start, that’s most definitely NOT everything she has going for her, as her development, relationships with the other characters (especially Hajime) and role in the story are far more relevant, and she doesn’t feel like just another “dream girl” once you actually get to know her well, and reading her free time events can most definitely improve your perception on her since she shows how bad she is at interacting with other living beings, whether it’s animals or humans. A very well-written and important character, Chiaki lives on as my favorite Danganronpa character and my favorite female character in fiction.
Thanks for reading!