Monokuma in Danganronpa
Even with three games and an anime adaptation, Danganronpa will always keep you guessing. (Image via Google Images)

Danganronpa Uses Its Gameplay To Deconstruct Mental Illness

This game isn’t just fun puzzles and a psychotic teddy bear. Its relevant mental health metaphors make it the perfect game to get you through a lonely quarantine.

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Monokuma in Danganronpa

This game isn’t just fun puzzles and a psychotic teddy bear. Its relevant mental health metaphors make it the perfect game to get you through a lonely quarantine.

Have you ever played a game that is entertaining, keeps you on your feet and still teaches a good lesson? Well, those words describe the anime-style game Danganronpa.

I first heard of Danganronpa when I was playing Town of Salem and a player mentioned Danganronpa — and if anyone wants to watch it, “Danganronpa” is also an anime on Hulu. There are three games in the series, and I will describe them as much as I can without giving any spoilers. The game even has a very catchy theme song with a great message.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is about a group of “ultimate” students who have the opportunity to go to a very gifted school that will help them out with their futures, and they are so excited to begin the next chapter of their lives.

In this game, you play as a high school student named Makoto. He was selected as the “Ultimate Lucky Student.” That may not seem like much of a talent; however, sometimes luck is all you need to keep you going in life.

Little do the students know that there is a mastermind looking to keep the students there forever. However, there is a way out of the school: murder.

Yes, murder. The mastermind is a teddy bear named Monokuma, but he is anything but cuddly and cute. Monokuma is sadistic and a little bit psycho. He wants all the students to kill each other, and each episode someone gets murdered and then they have a trial. If they guess who the murderer is, just the killer dies. If they don’t guess correctly, then everyone else but the murderer gets killed, and the murderer gets to “graduate,” aka go into the outside world, ending in a game over.

Sounds twisted, doesn’t it? It turns out that when you play even further into the game, everything isn’t what it appears to be. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is very story-rich; you can even get to know your fellow classmates and learn about their lives. You learn that sometimes, people’s lives aren’t as perfect as they appear to be. This is the case in all three games.

Danganronpa: Goodbye Despair

In the second game, Danganronpa: Goodbye Despair, there is a new group of students, and they are on an island that appears peaceful. A bear called Usami guides you through the game. Dressed like a fairy, she seems all cute and cuddly.

However, not everything can be peaceful for too long in this series, as Monokuma comes in and brings terror to the students. Usami tries to stop him but fails. Despite being treated like a punching bag by Monokuma, she is still there to help the players if needed; she believes in them.

In Danganronpa: Goodbye Despair, you play as Hajime. He doesn’t know what his talent is, and you are left to wonder who he is. Why is he in this school? What is the importance of Hajime?

Danganronpa: Killing Harmony

The third game, Danganronpa: Killing Harmony, has the same concept as the first. You have gifted students who think they are getting ready for the next stages in their lives. Of course, Monokuma is back, and this time he has mini versions of himself — five of them to be exact. They are all adorable and annoying at the same time. There are so many pop culture references in the game, mostly by the mini Monos. You might lose count.

In this game you play as two characters: Kaede the Ultimate Pianist and Shuichi the Ultimate Detective. Kaede is one of the first female characters that you play in the game, and sadly, it is for only a short while. You end up playing as Shuichi for the rest of the game. Both characters have important roles, but you will have to play to find out what those are.

Danganronpa Has Fun Puzzles and Relevant Messages

Before the trials in each game, you enter investigation mode. You talk to students, look at the crime scene and gather evidence to help you win the trials. Sometimes, there are many different motives that people kill for, like blackmail or fear of a secret getting out. You might hate the killers for what they did, but sometimes they have a good reason, and you feel sympathy for them.

The trial scenes vary each game, and you put the pieces together in a series of puzzles. It can vary from hangman, racing games and games that you may not have played before. You can debate your classmates and call them out for lying. You get to put all of the puzzle pieces together.

What really got me into this game was the fact that there are a lot of hidden messages behind it. Monokuma is just one character that, in a way, represents depression and mental illness, which can make you feel like you are caught in all this despair that’s ultimately inescapable.

The schools forcing the students to stay inside forever is like a metaphor for mental illness, trapping you inside, away from the outside world. Keeping you from your friends and family and reaching your goals. It translates to the demons inside your head, trying to keep you from getting out there.

However, there is also hope in the game as well. Some of the characters symbolize hope, and ultimately, they are the ones that can help their friends and bring them out of the darkness. Like the song lyrics say, “There is a ray of hope beyond despair.” This is almost like what some of us are in right now, wondering if we will ever see light again. Will things get better? Will we ever be happy again?

I would encourage all of you to give this game a chance. If you can’t afford it, you can always watch “Lets Play’s” videos of the games. Here is one of my favorites: Cinnamon Toast Ken.

Whether you play it, watch other people play it or watch the anime, there is a good message in Danganronpa, something that is needed in times like these. It’s important to know that there is hope beyond all of this despair that we are facing right now.

All three games are available for purchase on Steam: Trigger Happy Havoc, Goodbye Despair, Killing Harmony.

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Lisa Lilianstrom

Northern Illinois University
Journalism, minor in Communications

Everyone deserves to have their stories heard. Writer, student, artist — plans to one day travel the world with the love of my life.

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