Screen Critics Misael takes a look at Daganronpa’s iconic Monokuma, exploring what made the villain such a strong presence.
Spoilers for Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, and the anime, Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School, all of which contain Monokuma.
Monokuma is one the more underrated video game villains out there. A walking, talking teddy bear, Monokuma is the main villain of the Danganronpa series of video games. He may have a cute and cuddly design, beneath that innocent exterior is a purely evil personality. He is rude, ruthless, and lacks any kind of compassion. He may fake being sincere and helpful at times during the games, in reality he is rotten to his core. He would say and act the silliest things in one moment, only to be deadly serious the next. He is just a jerk with the power to control the lives of the protagonists.
Monokuma is a sentient bear doll that appears to have near omnipotent abilities. He is in charge of the School Killing Game – the game is about sixteen high school students being trapped in a secluded area. A student can leave if they kill another student, and convince the others of their innocent in a trial. It is Monokuma’s job to push the students into killing one another, either giving the students a motivation via threats or bargains, or by manipulating them. He lies and constantly changes the rules to make it more difficult for the students. He is also the one that carries out the executions for each guilty student; some of executions range from being truly brutal to nonsensical. One of them has a student be bludgeon to death by baseballs, while another one has the student turn into butter.
In the first Danganronpa game, Trigger Happy Havoc, he locks the sixteen students in the luxuries Hope’s Peak Academy. In a twist at the end of the game, it is revealed that Monokuma is being controlled by one of the students of Hope’s Peak Academy. Junko Enoshima orchestrated the killing game so that she can broadcast the game to the world. Before the events of the game, the biggest, most awful, most tragic event in human history happened. The world fell into complete despair, and Junko wants to push the world further into despair with the killing game. Her plans fail when the remaining six students decided to join forces against her. She decided to kill herself because in a twisted way she believes her loss was an outcome of despair, and she wanted to feel ultimate despair in her moment of defeat.
Monokuma would than return in the sequel, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. This time Monokuma has trapped the students on a set of islands in the middle of the Pacific. The killing game goes as usual, until the end where it is reveal that the events of the game take place in a virtual reality. Junko was able to hack her conscience into the virtual reality after her death, and used Monokuma as her avatar. It is revealed that most of the students of Goodbye Despair were part of a group called the remnants of despair. The remnants worshipped Junko, so they carried out acts of terrorism around the world to push the world further into despair after the biggest, most awful, most tragic event in human history.
The virtual reality was created by the survivors of the first game to help rehabilitate the remnants. With their memories as remnants lost, the point of the virtual reality was to have the students regain hope. Junko wants to take over the remnants bodies so that she can continue with her plans, and tries to manipulate the surviving students that they will not be able to live a normal life after the things they did. Eventually the remaining students decided that it was better to live in a future with hope rather than despair, and reject Junko’s ideals. She is erased from the virtual reality program, while the remaining students finally wake up.
In the anime only, Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School, a Monokuma doll is reactivated. He traps the members of the Future Foundation, a group whose duties is to rebuild the world after the tragedy. He forces the members to participate in a new killing game, where each member is given a bracelet that will release poison if each member does not follow a certain rule. Each rule is different for all the members; for example, one person had not being able to use their fist, while another had not being allowed to open their left hand. This time Monokuma is not being controlled by Junko, instead he was reborn by Kazuo Tengan, the founder of the Future Foundation. His goal was to release the video of the new killing game to another member of the foundation named Ryota Mitarai.
The founder wanted to convince Ryota to use his talents as an animator to create a video that would brainwash people into feeling hope.
The survivors of Danganronpa 3 decided to not go through the brainwashing, as they felt that the brainwashing would have made people be emotionless puppets, with the hope given to them being a fabrication. Monokuma returns once again in Danganronpa V3, this time with his “children”. Called the Monokuma Kubs, Monokuma’s kids’ main duties are to enforce and help carry the rules of the new killing game. The killing game in V3 takes place in the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles, where Monokuma is now in charge of the fates of a school full of new contestants.
Monokuma is without a doubt the mascot of Danganronpa series, having appeared in every major installment. He is often seen on every Danganronpa product, with his iconic design being one of the more recognizable aspects from the series. He is everything a good villain should be; he is someone to love to hate. It doesn’t matter who is controlling him in the end, or who is the real mastermind. All that matters is that Monokuma is a jerk, and we all love him for it.