Part 7: This Place Is a Prison
Maybe it's been a while since you read the LPs or played the games. Maybe you didn't follow my advice and just jumped straight to V3. Either way,
Makoto Naegi, the Ultimate Lucky Student. Selected by lottery to attend Hope's Peak Academy, a prestigious school for the most talented high-schoolers in Japan, Makoto wakes up to find himself and fourteen other students sealed inside the academy. Instead of a normal curriculum, the self-proclaimed headmaster, Monokuma, insists that the students get away with murder to earn the right to leave. Despite his self-proclaimed lack of distinguishing characteristics (aside from his optimism, which proves much more useful than first thought), Makoto proves adept at making deductions during class trials and finding culprits.
The first incentive Monokuma gives the students to kill is a set of videos, one for each student, depicting their loved ones in peril with the implication that only they can save them by committing murder. Makoto sees his home ransacked, with his parents and his sister Komaru missing, and most other students aren't forthcoming about their videos.
Sayaka Maizono, the Ultimate Pop Sensation. An acquaintance of Makoto's from middle school, at which point she was already a popular idol singer, Sayaka remembers him and is quick to wrap him around her finger. She's deeply invested in the idol group she leads, confessing to Makoto that she's had to do things she's not proud of to hold onto that career. Given how exploitative the real life idol industry can be, I can imagine what those things are. Upon seeing her group victimized in video, she snaps and forms a plan to get out. After manipulating Makoto into switching rooms for the night, she'd lure a victim inside and frame Makoto for the murder. Instead, Makoto finds her in the bathroom with a knife sticking out of her stomach.
Junko Enoshima, the Ultimate Fashionista. A, like, total valleygirl type who's posed for all the magazine covers and junk, though she looks kind of different in real life. Aside from confessing to a stint of homelessness in free time events, she mostly muses about Makoto's love life. Once Monokuma announces the first class trial, she objects to the idea and puts her foot down... on Monokuma, who impales her with several spears to demonstrate the penalty for violating school rules.
Leon Kuwata, the Ultimate Baseball Star. Despite his talent, he hates playing baseball and never practices. Instead, he wants to be a punk rocker, a choice motivated entirely by his desire to pick up chicks. When Sayaka ambushes him with a kitchen knife, he hurts her with a prop sword, and breaks the bathroom door with his toolkit from his room, which puts the lie to his claim that he killed in self-defense. Monokuma executes him by bludgeoning him to death with baseballs.
Monokuma has everybody's dirty secrets and will reveal them to the world if enough time passes without a murder. In Makoto's case, it's that he used to wet the bed, but in other cases...
Chihiro Fujisaki, the Ultimate Programmer. Frail and softhearted, Chihiro harbors an inferiority complex about his inability to live up to any sort of masculine standard, and spent much of his life hiding from it by dressing and acting like a girl. That's the secret Monokuma threatens to expose; Makoto and most other students don't realize his true sex until the middle of the trial. Ultimately he decides to work out and come clean instead of allowing Monokuma to control him through fear, but his poor choice of workout partner leaves him with a barbell-shaped dent in his skull.
The Red Herring
Toko Fukawa, the Ultimate Writing Prodigy. The author of a romance novel that took the country by storm, the real Toko is an unpleasant, unhygienic loner with a persecution complex. Only Byakuya, the only student who can rival her in unpleasantness, avoids her scorn, instead earning her obsessive love. Her dark secret is that she harbors a split personality: Genocide Jack, the Ultimate Murderous Fiend. Jack embodies her repressed perversions, murdering boys they deem cute with homemade scissors. Though Byakuya frames Jack in the trial for kicks, her very specific modus operandi make her a bad fit for the killing game, so she mostly just livens up trials with weird jokes.
Mondo Owada, the Ultimate Biker Gang Leader. Rude and crude with a manly 'tude, Mondo makes his first impression by putting his fist in Makoto's face. Despite that abrasiveness, he has strong sense of honor and a soft spot for dogs. Unsurprisingly, his tough front also hides insecurity and fear, much of it stemming from the dark secret that he got his brother Daiya killed in an accident. When confronted with the fact that Chihiro, the least manly boy imaginable, has more courage in admitting his own shameful secret, Mondo snaps and beats him to death. In one of the dumbest things to ever happen in Danganronpa, Monokuma executes Mondo by strapping him to a motorcycle, subjecting him to lethal G-forces... and melting him into butter.
Ten million dollars in cash! Nobody took it seriously at the time, especially not Byakuya, or so it seemed.
Kiyotaka Ishimaru, the Ultimate Moral Compass. An uptight goody-two shoes, Taka values hard work over natural genius, stemming back to the shame he feels from his grandfather's fall from grace as Prime Minister. He clashes with the delinquent Mondo, but somehow ends up forming a brotherly bond with him at the end of the day. Mondo's death devastates him until the surviving students find a laptop containing Alter Ego, an AI programmed by Chihiro with its creator's appearance and personality. Alter Ego briefly impersonates Mondo and imparts some words, giving Taka the strength to evolve into Kiyondo Ishida, an awkward fusion of their personalities. Sadly, Kiyondo's attachment to Alter Ego leads to him getting hammered, and not in the fun way.
The Other Victim
Hifumi Yamada, the Ultimate Fanfic Creator. AKA shittier Tsumugi, Hifumi has forsaken normal human socialization in favor of a magical girl character with no free will who can't reject him for being gross and obnoxious. His talent at creating the fan-comics known as doujin and selling them en masse makes him one of the few nerds who think they deserve respect because of their refined taste in children's media to almost earn that respect. Almost. His 2D complex extends to Alter Ego, and he fights Kiyondo over who gets access to him. It was he who cracked Kiyondo's skull with a large, painted hammer, though he fell to a similar injury minutes later.
Yasuhiro Hagakure, the Ultimate Clairvoyant. Turns out you don't even have to be that great at fortunetelling to be "Ultimate;" you just need the ability to bilk rich idiots out of all their cash! Unfortunately he's no better with his money than they are, which probably has some connection to him repeating a bunch of grades. During the third case, the other students find him in a "Justice Robo" costume designed to look like the murder weapon. Sadly, it's proven that he was framed, and thus he gets to live. One of the only students in the series that I liked less after reading all of their Free Time Events.
Celestia Ludenberg, the Ultimate Gambler. A classy-looking girl with killer style, Celeste does her best to look like she belongs in high society, earning the right through participation in Kaiji-esque underground wagers. Monokuma's motive proved too tempting to resist, enough to fulfill her dream of owning a castle and a fleet of gothic servants. Having previously established dominance over Hifumi, she tells him that Kiyondo had assaulted her to get Hifumi on board with killing him, and tolerates him making props out of his gauche hobbies, but neglects to mention that Hifumi would be her ticket out of this dump. Her real name, Taeko Yasuhiro, proves her undoing, and she drops her foreign accent just in time for the execution. Monokuma burns her at the stake, then runs her over with a fire truck.
One of the students was spying on her peers for Monokuma, who just blew her cover and left her to face their wrath.
Sakura Ogami, the Ultimate Martial Artist. A hulk straight out of Fist of the North Star, Sakura wants to be the very strongest like no one ever was. The only opponent she has yet to conquer is her lover, Kenshiro, who fell victim to a terminal illness before she was ready to face him in a fair fight. Monokuma blackmails her into being a mole and committing a murder if the killing game stalls out, but she rebels against him after Celeste's trial. When her request to talk things out results in two of her classmates trying to kill her, Sakura decides to take her own life by drinking poison. With no culprit to execute, Monokuma settles for smashing Alter Ego's laptop. It's later revealed that Sakura broke down a door to a restricted area before she died, which proves instrumental to solving the mystery of the killing game.
Aoi Asahina, the Ultimate Swimming Pro. Hina's kind of a ditz, but she knows a wide array of inspirational quotes from famous athletes, and that donuts are what's best in life. Sakura was her best friend; Hina stuck up for her the most when she was revealed as a spy, and was devastated to see her body. Upon seeing a fake suicide note left by Monokuma, she covers up evidence of the suicide and does her best to pin anyone else as the culprit during the trial, since she blames the others for Sakura's death and wants them to die with her. After Makoto reveals her plan and she learns the contents of Sakura's real note (mostly), she accepts Sakura's death and joins the united front against Monokuma.
Byakuya Togami, the Ultimate Affluent Progeny. The product of an obscenely wealthy upbringing, Byakuya embodies the capitalist class at its most contemptuous and predatory, without even the fig leaf of noblesse oblige. As a child, he competed with his siblings and half-siblings for the right to remain in the family and be his father's sole heir, doing more to earn a vast inheritance than the nothing that most heirs do. His vast fortune and unparalleled ability to succeed have alienated Byakuya from the human experience, causing him to regard his fellow students as toys at best, and the killing game as his to win by foregone conclusion. This alienation leaves him unable to imagine someone performing acts not for profit, but to benefit others at the expense of self, and thus the ending of Sakura's case utterly blindsides him. He gives up on playing the game to win and begrudgingly agrees to cooperate with the surviving students instead.
As they explore the top floor, Makoto and company find a masked corpse with a bomb strapped to it. Good luck solving this case, suckers!
Mukuro Ikusaba, the Ultimate Soldier. The other students have no recollection of meeting Mukuro, but find out through their investigations find out that she joined a Middle Eastern mercenary group called Fenrir, fighting in many battles without suffering a single wound. Kyoko discovers her existence early and thinks her to be the mastermind behind the killing game before her corpse is discovered. In truth, the corpse is planted by the real mastermind in a last-ditch attempt to frame Kyoko for murder and keep the killing game from derailing.
The Fall Girl
Kyoko Kirigiri, the Ultimate Detective. Poker-faced and taciturn, Kyoko refuses to disclose her talent to Makoto when she first introduces herself. When the first trial puts Makoto on the spot, Kyoko nudges him in the right direction, and assists him with investigations and detective work on every subsequent trial. Her efforts to pry into places she doesn't belong make headway after Sakura's death, and thus the mastermind behind the game frames Kyoko for Mukuro's murder, giving Makoto a case where the only available evidence couldn't point to anyone else. Instead, Makoto conceals one piece of it, implicating himself instead. After Alter Ego, who escaped his laptop before it was destroyed, saves Makoto, Kyoko confides her identity, which she only recently remembered herself; her contentious relationship with her father, the Academy headmaster; and why her heritage made it necessary to keep her enrollment at Hope's Peak off the books.
Kyoko and Makoto escape the garbage disposal and challenge Monokuma to one last trial: a redo of the last one, but with everything on the table this time. Monokuma agrees, unlocking the whole Academy, but insists that the students solve every last mystery about the killing game. After the investigation, Makoto determines that Kyoko's father is long dead, that everybody has already attended Hope's Peak Academy and had those memories erased, that they voluntarily sealed themselves in the building, and that Mukuro was disguised as Junko up until her execution by spear. Which means...
Junko Enoshima, the Ultimate Despair. The real Junko is an inhuman hodgepodge of disparate personalities, stripped of any desire apart from spreading despair. She even adores feeling despair herself, which is why she killed her twin sister Mukuro. In order to facilitate the killing game, she erased her classmates' memories, giving them reason to want to escape and thus play the game the way she wanted them to. Of course, if they knew that her followers had caused the apocalypse outside, they definitely wouldn't want to leave. The choice Junko presents them is simple: kill her, and be forced into an outside world full of misery, or kill Makoto and live inside where it's safe. But Makoto, realizing his potential to inspire hope, convinces everybody to take a chance that they can find a better life in the outside world. Junko accepts defeat and puts herself through every execution in the game, ending with her crushed beneath a metal press.
Makoto, Kyoko, Hina, Yasuhiro, Toko and Byakuya survive the game and open the blast doors at the front, facing an uncertain future.