“Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair” is the second game in the “Danganronpa” series, a group of visual-novel detective games surrounding high school students pushed to murder by a sadistic bear named Monokuma. In “Danganronpa 2,” you control Hajime Hinata, who is woken up in a daze by another student, Nagito Komaeda. We quickly learn that on Hajime’s first day at Hope’s Peak Academy, Usami — a peaceful rabbit focused on harmony — transported a handful of students to a tropical island. It doesn’t take long until Monokuma arrives and the killing games begin again.
Nagito Komaeda is a sour spot among the Danganronpa community, as fans heavily debate whether he should be loved or despised. Like Hajime, he is also a student at Hope’s Peak Academy, holding the title of the “Ultimate Lucky Student,” meaning that his talent is his supernatural luck. When he is first introduced, Nagito comes off as very easygoing, polite and friendly toward Hajime. Yet, even from the beginning, it is clear he does not think very highly of himself. He constantly belittles himself, saying things like, “I never thought an average, talentless high school student like me would ever enter Hope’s Peak Academy.” Though he is very kind, it is a bit unfitting considering their circumstances. Although he is down on himself, Nagito radiates hope and wants everyone to be well.
It’s within the first case of the game that Nagito reveals his true nature: He has a twisted obsession with hope. Nagito holds the belief that hope is an absolute good, and anything that is done in the pursuit of hope is righteous, including murder. He also believes in two different kinds of hope, those being “strong hope” and “weak hope.” To Nagito, “strong hope” will inevitably devour “weak hope.” This means that ordinary, untalented people have weak hope, and those who have strong hope are the ultimates, those with extraordinary talent like the other students of Hope’s Peak Academy. Untalented people are expected to act as stepladders for talented individuals so they can create a stronger hope.
Although he has supernatural luck, Nagito doesn’t consider it to be a talent, and thus he does not believe himself to be an Ultimate. Instead, he desires to be used as a “stepladder,” a sacrifice of sorts so other Ultimates can shine and create hope. He thinks of himself as a lower being, confusing his obsession with the Ultimates as the embodiment of hope with pure, platonic love. His desire to be useful causes him to be self-sacrificing and shows he has very little regard for his own well-being. He doesn’t care for his own life; Nagito goes as far as to encourage the Ultimates to kill him to achieve their own hope.
Needless to say, Nagito is pretty extreme. Even after the reveal of his true nature, he is still relatively kind and actually rather clingy to the main character. It’s these extreme views, lack of self-regard and clinginess that make him such a controversial character. People within the fandom either love him or hate him. He happens to be my favorite character in the game, but it is very easy to see why many would not agree. As Hajime, the player must face Nagito as an antagonist during various situations throughout the game. It’s natural for many players to side with the protagonist because they are you, and grow to dislike the antagonists, in this case, Nagito, who impede your progress. We see Nagito through Hajime’s perspective, and, while Hajime does not fully hate Nagito, it is quite evident that he views Nagito as a nuisance of sorts.
If you complete all the hope fragments for his character — story beats you get from talking to characters and learning more about them — we learn that his parents were killed in front of him after a meteor crashed into their plane, leaving him to inherit a fortune. In middle school, he was kidnapped by a serial killer, but was released. As his good luck would have it, after he was freed he discovered a lottery ticket in the garbage bag he was kidnapped in; he won three million yen. Nagito comes to realize his good luck only arises in the event of bad luck. To cope with this constant cycle of extreme good and bad, he was forced to develop a strong faith in hope. It is through this faith in hope that Nagito could find meaning in the senseless actions that have plagued his life. Tragically, as we see within the game, this coping mechanism soon turned into an obsession.
A lot of the debate occurs within fan circles on Twitter and TikTok, but it is mainly vocalized in play-throughs of the game on platforms like YouTube or Twitch. Creators like Bijuu Mike have openly expressed their distaste for Nagito, with some notable comments including, “You guys like this character? … finally someone shut this man up … he’s so weird I really thought he was going to be a good guy at first, but now he is just weird. Shut up, I hate this guy.” Other creators, like Kubz Scouts, really love Nagito, going as far to say, “I’m telling you all ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we stan Nagito in this house. If you don’t stan him then I’m sorry that’s just what it’s going to be.”
For those who have not played the game, you can hopefully understand the complex emotions people feel toward Nagito. Some hate him, others love him, some like him for his looks and not really for anything else. What I have found is that many enjoy him as a character for his unpredictable nature. Whenever he appears you don’t know if he will be your friend or your foe. Throughout the entire game, Nagito will always tie the conversation back to his ideology of hope. It makes the player wonder why he holds this belief so dear and would ever go as far as to risk his life for it.
Nagito possesses both likable and unlikeable traits. He is both calm and extreme. So it would only be natural for others’ reactions to be the same.
Daily Arts Contributor K. Rodriguez-Garcia can be reached at email@example.com.