Interrogating the Investigators in Dangan Ronpa
A trial for life, and a judgement of death.
Deception in life, and treachery in death.
Betrayal for life, and betrayal for death.
The riddles of life, and the mystery of death.
Justification for life, and the rationalization of death.
Faith in life, and trust in death.
The Class Trial to live…
or the Class Trial to die…
In Dangan Ronpa, fifteen high school students, with respective skills of top tier level each, were locked up in an elite high school called Hope’s Peak Academy. In order to “graduate” from the school, they need to commit a taboo students like them would normally never do: murder – a word most high school students rarely even associated with. Whoever managed to commit a “perfect” murder without anyone noticing, he or she will be allowed to leave the school premises. A Class Trial will be held after substantial amount of investigations had been carried out. The main purpose of the trial is to expose the real culprit, and if success, the culprit will be executed, if not, the culprit will be given permission to leave the school while the rest of the students will be the ones taking the punishment in his stead.
The skills and abilities that each of the students possess is of great variety – one is a Super Duper High School Fighter, another is a Super Duper High School Programmer, and another is a Super Duper High School Idol. I find it ironic that in most cases, it was the main character, Naegi Makoto, an average high school student without any particular skills, a Super Duper High School Luckster, was one of the fifteen students that contributed to the trial a lot more – he was usually the one who progresses along the trial’s discussions, seeks contradictions in statements and discover the truth using evidences he found during his investigations.
Naegi is the main character, so that much is to be expected of cause, but it is indeed interesting how an average individual like him doing better than others who had various skills at their disposal. A portion of them, say Oowada for example, rarely contributed to the trials at all and the only thing he did was demanding explanations of deductions and reasoning from other characters. When forced into a psychological battle with specified rules, even world-class skills of a fighter or gangster failed to provide a helping hand.
As the group was starting to thin out, one would notice that a bulk of the trials were mainly proceeded by Naegi Makoto, Togami Byakuya and Kirigiri Kyouko – for me, the three most engrossing characters of the bunch. Different morality, ideals and personality splashed out from the three contrasting characters – the different ways they carried out the trial is one of the most interesting context of the game.
“I will not give up, and I will not give in. I will not become weary of myself, or the world. I will not abandon the things and people I care about. And I will not succumb to despair! I mean, my optimism is my one redeeming quality!”
Naegi was invited to Hope’s Peak Academy through winning a lottery, earning him the title “Super Duper High School Luckster.” He is the one of the most “human” character in the game – not used to seeing deaths and possessed a naive, innocent mindset. He is trustful of others, and also doesn’t mind lending a helping hand if anyone requires one. As a protagonist, he is an incredibly relatable character. Kind, friendly and down-to-heart, he managed to interact socially on almost all the other students in the school. He is also optimistic, a trait extremely crucial in such times of despair, and indeed because of such optimism, he is very tenacious shown evidently during the class trials, despite his soft and passive appearance.
Such positivity can never mean a good thing however, especially considering the nature of the bizarre chain of events he had gotten himself involved in. Although being officially described as “typical”, Naegi is shown having keen senses and deductive skills, a useful ability to have during his investigations. Sadly at times, his skills was effected by his naive and sentiment outlooks. Every time he pointed his finger and accused someone, he always hoped that his assumption was wrong, that the suspect will deny his claim so that a life will be spared, despite the clear evidences he himself garnered. He knew that the person his finger was pointing at will lead him or her to death, although indirectly, Naegi “killed” them and he understood full well the significance of such act. As such, he was always in a great deal of stress – his judgement clouded by confusing his logic with sentiments.
It tormented him when his friends betrayed him and ended up killing, and it tormented him when his friends die. Perhaps it’s because he bonded with them – with bonds, one would feel connected with his friends, but sudden deaths of his friends he bonded with would no doubt be retaliated with extraordinary emotional turmoil. Indeed, deaths and betrayals of Naegi’s own “friends” and “allies” brought hysterical screams, forlorn tears and unbearable pain to himself. Whether or not it be the culprit nor the victim, both sides were always dying, corpses of his own comrades kept piling up in front of his eyes. For Naegi, his affection to others and his positive behaviors may be his greatest strength, but is also his greatest weakness at the same time. No doubt that the despair he felt was unimaginable, but like two sides of a coin, a hope can be found within such darkness, and fortunately, Naegi is strong enough to move forward with his optimism nonetheless.
“God, don’t tell me you’ve bought into this whole “she wouldn’t kill her friend” nonsense, too? Have you still not gotten it through your thick skulls? This game does not operate on your “ideals.” Naive dogmas like friendship hold no ground here. This is a game of wits-of securing the spot atop the hill. There’s not one person who would sacrifice himself for another. In the end, every man thinks only of himself.”
A heir to Togami Conglomerate, a highly successful fiance corporation by his family. At a young age, Togami already obtained a sizable amount of fortune all on his own.
He is known as the “Super Duper High School Scion”, which is more of an affirmation of his social status rather than a specialized skill. However aforementioned, skills, and especially ones irrelevant to such a predicament is pointless. Togami became one of the main investigators later on in the game, and through a rational approach, he could easily pieced together evidences and drew conclusions which no one would easily arrive at. Furthermore, because of his status and authority, he was well informed of the state of affairs of certain incidents – information maintained in secrecy which was never even revealed to the public.
Unlike Naegi, Togami is a skeptic. He does not trust people easily and rejected companionship by making antagonistic remarks. Most of his time alone was spent reading in the library. As a character, Togami is a distinct reflection to most of the other individuals, and more prominently, a contrasting disposition to Naegi. Togami is cold and merciless, and treats the trials as a game. Most evidently, such mischievous and wicked nature was shown in a certain case where he “modified” the crime scene just for his entertainment purposes. Under the playful facade however, he is extremely logical, and always thinks several steps ahead against his adversaries. Due to his status, he is also extremely arrogant and is always confident that his own logic and reasoning is correct. Last but not least, he is prideful, holding himself in high self-esteem, thinking to himself that he is superior to everyone else. As a result, he always looked down and offended other people – his ego resulting in countless discords.
In class trials, Togami’s logical approach and his lack of empathy is his greatest boon, and also his bane at the same time. His apathetic nature helps reinforced his mental capability of finding faults, conjuring up possibilities, tying together evidences and testimonies and making decisive decisions, while being ignorant of how his actions might hurt the people around him. His over-confidence in his own logic however, can easily lead to him getting flabbergasted when that very same logic gets overthrown. For example, he was completely perplexed during a certain case where self-sacrificing tactics were employed. The act of self-sacrifice was pretty much foreign to Togami, since he only viewed humans in such a callous and cynical scale – his reasoning itself was drawn from such limited perspectives.
“I don’t want to push too many preconceptions into your head before the school trial begins. You should come up with satisfying answers by yourself…”
Kirigiri Kyouko. Both her background and specialized skill was unknown at first, initially titled as “Super Duper High School ???” Her whole existence is a mystery, but from what we can gather, the girl is calm and collected. Her stoic expression however, was shown to break down into a scowl during some rare moments where certain sensitive topics were brought up, that change in expression occurred in just the briefest of moment, before switching back to her usual emotionless expression.
Kirigiri is in my opinion, one of the best, if not, the best investigator in the school. She always seems to run off doing solo investigations on her own, and what she came back with was extremely valuable information that doesn’t only just help them on their current case but possible future cases as well. She is remarkably observational as well, given just half a time, or even a quarter of time the rest were given, she could investigate and discover as many details as the rest, or perhaps even more. She almost never lose her cool, and is able to touch corpses as if it were the most normal thing to do for her.
Kirigiri can relate to the importance of human empathy but she never lets her biased emotions to effect her during trials – she thinks objectively and does not abruptly jump to conclusions, thus prolonging the trials whenever necessary. Unlike Togami, she can see the positive side of people’s motives. For Kirigiri, it’s like she possessed both the passive side of Naegi, and the decisive side of Togami, an almost perfect investigator, and an individual.
While both Naegi and Togami are both excellent individuals contributing a lot for the class trials, they are in the end, flawed. Naegi easily panicked and gets too emotional, and while Togami personally claimed that “ideals” should not even be brought into the cases, in the end, his own ego was his greatest enemy. Kirigiri has her flaws too but she strikes me as a stoic but excellent individual, an almost perfect character, and is no doubt, my favorite character of Dangan Ronpa.
Note: All of these were taken from the game. I didn’t watch the anime, and not planning to.