Part 8: Tropical Chancer
So while they were translating Danganronpa 2, orenronen also took a crack at Danganronpa Zero, a light novel depicting events before Junko's Tragedy overtakes the world. It was never translated into English, so for the .3 of you who have been waiting to hear how that story ends, here's a quick summary:
Ryoko Otonashi possesses the talent of Ultimate Analysis (my best guess for how her talent would translate), but also suffers from retrograde and anterograde amnesia. She can only stay at Hope's Peak because of her doctor, Yasuke Matsuda, the Ultimate Neurologist, giving her treatments. She and Kyoko both pursue independent investigations of the deaths of the student council, the gradual murder of the Hope's Peak steering committee, and Izuru Kamukura, a person of interest whose existence has been covered up, who also happens to be the lead suspect in the student council's death. The following people are also involved:
-Yuto Kamishiro, the Ultimate Secret Agent. He offers to help Ryoko out in exchange for a James-Bond-esque happy ending with her. Yasuke kills him when he gets too close to the truth.
-Isshiki Madarai, the Ultimate Bodyguard. Out for revenge on the student council's behalf, he gets into fights with Junko and pursues Ryoko when she gets involved, too. He dies multiple times during the story, only to seemingly reappear, because the truth is that he has seven brothers, and together they make the Ultimate Octuplets. Not that it does them any good, since Junko kills them all.
-Junko Enoshima, obviously. Or rather, Mukuro disguised as Junko, which explains why she can take all comers in the fights that happen in the book.
It turns out that Yasuke is on Junko's side, since the two of them were friends since grade school and Junko manipulated him into being dependent on her. His talent is the source of Junko's ability to erase memories, and he's been using Ryoko as a guinea pig to test the procedure. Because of his conflicted feelings about Junko, he attempts to kill Ryoko, who is instrumental to Junko's plan. Instead, Ryoko regains her memories, revealing herself to be a cover persona for the real Junko Enoshima, and kills Yasuke instead. Kyoko's investigation hits a dead end, and the Tragedy proceeds as scheduled.
(The events of DRZero happen concurrently with the latter third of DR3: Despair. I think you can see Yasuke through a window in episode 8 at some point, as well as one or two other cameos I'm forgetting.)
Now that that's out of the way...
Usami, a bunny mascot with magical girl powers, has taken sixteen Ultimate students on a vacation to the tropical Jabberwock Island before they can start their Hope's Peak curriculum. The ostensible goal of the vacation is so that all of the students can form strong, lasting bonds with each other, though Usami acts cagey about it. Regardless, Monokuma arrives soon after and hijacks her plans, taking her power and turning her into his bediapered sister, Monomi. The only thing she does well is unlock other islands and take Monokuma's abuse; she's ineffectual and annoying otherwise.
Hajime Hinata has always admired and adored Hope's Peak Academy, and getting in was his lifelong dream. When he finally does get in, though, he can't remember why; his Ultimate Talent is a mystery to him. As Monokuma's new killing game gets underway, he finds himself making the majority of the deductions in class trials. Before the fourth case, he finds out the disappointing truth: he has no Talent, and is just a member of the Hope's Peak Reserve Course, opened as a revenue source for the cash-strapped Academy. Thankfully, nobody takes this reveal too badly except Nagito and Hajime himself.
Instead of keeping it a secret like last time, Monokuma immediately reveals that the students had their memories of attending Hope's Peak excised by Monomi. They can only find out what's up in the outside world if one of them starts killing.
Byakuya Togami, the Ultimate Affluent Progeny. Large and in charge, Byakuya retains his arrogance but tempers it with an obligation to shepherd his peers and protect them from the killing game. He takes several precautions to keep anyone from harm at a party people throw, but after a blackout, Hajime finds him dead from multiple stab wounds under a table. Much later Hajime finds out that he's not the real Byakuya, but the Ultimate Impostor, though if you do enough of his Free Time Events he'll drop a hint to this effect anyway. Lacking a name and identity of his own, the Impostor borrows them from other people, the only constant to his life being his weight-gaining hobby.
Teruteru Hanamura, the Ultimate Cook, though he prefers to be called Ultimate Chef. A man torn between carnal appetites, like food and sexually harassing other students, be they male or female; and his desire to appear upscale, urban and sophisticated, hiding his country origins and accent. During the setup to the party, Teruteru stumbles upon Nagito's preparations for murder, and hears Nagito's gleeful confession. He decides to beat Nagito to the punch, crawling under the floor in the dark and skewering him, so that he can find out what happened to his Mom's diner, though he ended up killing Byakuya by mistake. Monokuma fries him, tempura style, in an active volcano.
Monokuma sets up an arcade cab of Twilight Syndrome Murder Mystery, a simplistic adventure game depicting the murder of a high school student and the classmates who cover it up. There's a trick to seeing the whole thing, and the first person to figure it out gets photographic evidence that the game is based on a true story.
And that person is...
Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu, the Ultimate Yakuza. A short-tempered, and short, heir to a massive crime organization, Fuyuhiko spends the earliest parts of the killing game unwilling to socialize with most of his fellow students. Things turn personal for him when he finishes Twilight Syndrome and discovers that the first victim depicted within is his sister, Natsuki, and thus she's dead in real life. His avatar in-game is implied to have finished off the murderer already, but one other student helped cover up her crime, and Fuyuhiko wants answers from her.
Mahiru Koizumi, the Ultimate Photographer. Though she's easily one of the most grounded and realistic characters on the island, Mahiru holds boys to a higher standard than girls and isn't shy about letting them know when they fall short of those standards. It might have something to do with her home life; she greatly prefers her mother's company to her father's, especially since she learned the art of photography from her mom. She's understandably unnerved from learning her involvement in the Twilight Syndrome case, and tries to talk things out with Fuyuhiko the night after. It doesn't work; she takes a baseball bat to the head, not from Fuyukiho but from...
Peko Pekoyama, the Ultimate Swordswoman. She alternates between acting intense and awkward, clearly more used to studying the blade than social graces. Hajime has to teach her how to smile, and her battle aura makes fluffy animals run away before she can pet them. That's only to be expected, since she was raised from birth to be Fuyuhiko's personal servant, bodyguard and assassin. She kills Mahiru on his behalf before he can bloody his hands, and hatches a plan to have Fuyuhiko win the killing game by convincing Monokuma that Fuyuhiko's the culprit after everybody already voted for her. In her logic, she's a dispassionate extension of his will, but since she clearly has her own feelings about him, Monokuma doesn't buy it. He sets a battalion of samurai robots on her, and though she fares well at first, she loses focus protecting Fuyuhiko from dying with her; he survives, minus one eye, one friend, and one bad attitude.
Who saw through her ruse?
Sonia Nevermind, the Ultimate Princess. Hailing from a micronation in the Grunge Mountain region with more quaint traditions than you can shake a makango at, Sonia is a charming, charismatic young lady with a good command of outdated slang. Her hobbies include Japanese soap operas from at least one generation before hers, the occult, Freemasonry, and serial killers. When Peko's decoy motive involves posing as Sparkling Justice, who only kills other criminals, Sonia points out that Sparkling Justice operates in Spain and thus it makes no sense that Peko would be that person.
Monokuma spreads what he refers to as Despair Disease, dramatically altering the personalities of the infected. For instance, Nagito becomes a pathological liar, and Akane a coward. The students' attempts to quarantine the infected unfortunately make the next murder that much easier to commit.
This quarantine brought to you in part by:
Kazuichi Soda, the Ultimate Mechanic. Despite what his appearance might indicate, Kazuichi is a highly emotional and skittish boy, though not beyond what you might expect from normal high-schoolers. He decided to start looking like a punk because a friend ratted him out in middle school, he got fed up with everything, and he wanted to see if getting rid of his appearance would get rid of his acquaintances as well. (It did.) On Jabberwock Island, he fixates on and fantasizes about Sonia, and fixes gadgets, most notably the two-way video system that showed Hajime an apparent suicide in progress.
Ibuki Mioda, the Ultimate Musician. The queen of the non sequitur, Ibuki is highly energetic and always raring to go. A member of a band in her former high school, she left due to creative differences, a.k.a. her shift to highly abrasive death metal, which she inflicts on her fellow killing game participants. Sadly, she's struck with the Despair Disease, which makes her extremely gullible and a dead woman walking. Hajime watches what looks like her approaching a noose with a bag over her head on the video feed, and despite his best efforts to stop it, he finds her corpse hanging from it.
The Other Victim:
Hiyoko Saionji, the Ultimate Traditional Dancer. Though she may appear to be an innocent child at first, Hiyoko quickly reveals herself to be a spiteful, sadistic bully who manipulates people to get what she wants and picks on her vulnerable classmates. Mahiru is the only person she actually likes, because Mahiru helped her dress her complicated kimono, and she was upset to see Mahiru die and get framed for her murder. Just as she was maybe, possibly, kind of sort of thinking of becoming a functional human being, she ran in on Ibuki getting killed and got her throat slit.
Mikan Tsumiki, the Ultimate Nurse. Boy is this girl uncomfortable to watch. Thanks to some serious abuse in her past, she's timid, panicky, and paranoid, always assuming that people hate her and willing to drastically degrade herself to get them not to, very rarely letting slip a morbid, vengeful side. This isn't helped by her being Hiyoko's favorite target, either. Her killing Hiyoko isn't motivated by revenge, surprisingly, but by the Despair Disease restoring her memories and a radical personality shift she underwent at Hope's Peak. During the trial, she reveals herself as much more willing to do harm at the behest of a nebulous "beloved." Monokuma gives her a lethal injection, I think, visualized as her flying off on an arm rocket, I guess.
While the students explore a new island, Monokuma traps them in a pair of funhouses with no way out and no food or water, giving them another time limit to kill. He also forces the students to exercise daily, and leaves some of them in substandard sleeping conditions.
Nekomaru Nidai, the Ultimate Team Manager! He's boisterous, loud and constipated, and loves nothing more than bringing out everybody else's peak physical potential, with the help of his legendary massage technique! Early on in the killing game, he takes a shine to Akane, insisting on helping her even if they have to beat each other up a little to do it! When she violates one of Monokuma's rules, he takes a rocket to the chest for her, and after a trial's worth of tension on whether he survived, it turns out that Monokuma had to turn him into a robot! Mechamaru didn't have much time to make an impression, though, as one morning when the students prepared for their tai chi death march, they found him in a pile of mangled scrap, bludgeoned by a nearby pillar!
He is survived by...
Akane Owari, the Ultimate Gymnast. She's one of the most feral Danganronpa characters, given how much she's motivated by food and has a mercurial, short-sighted temperament. Though she grew up in a destitute, abusive home, she doesn't seem bothered by it because she remains ignorant of just how abnormal her treatment as a child was, though she knows enough to cover up for any weakness she sees in herself. Though she initially blows off the self-improvement regimen Nekomaru forces on her, she respects him enough to call him Coach, and mourns him more than anyone. At least she enjoys the Minimaru doll Kazuichi gave her, built from Mechamaru's remains.
Gundham Tanaka, the Ultimate (Animal) Breeder. As the ur-chuunibyou, Gundham filters his life through the lens of being an over-the-top shonen anime villain. About the only time he talks straightforwardly is when giving advice on raising and caring for animals, whom he trusts more than people because they can't lie to him. When he and the other students are trapped in the funhouse, and everyone else appears resigned to starvation, Gundham gets fed up with them and challenges Nekomaru to a duel. Upon winning thanks to interference from his hamsters, Gundham sets a lethal trap for Nekomaru. Gundham had figured out that the two funhouses were actually stacked atop each other, and determined the means and location to have Nekomaru fall to his death from there. Though he plays the villain to the end, his classmates choose to believe that he meant to sacrifice himself so that everybody else can live. Before Monokuma makes a herd of cattle trample him to death, he entrusts his hamsters to Sonia, who had grown fond of him to Kazuichi's chagrin.
Long before the events of this case played out, Monokuma had dropped hints about the organization that originally imprisoned the students on Jabberwock Island: Future Foundation. Instead of focusing on why they did it, he loves talking about the traitor among the students working on the Foundation's behalf. By now, one student in particular is hellbent on finding out who that is.
Nagito Komaeda, the Ultimate Lucky Student. Though he seems like a chill, helpful bro at first, Nagito reveals himself to be a delusional psychopath during the first trial. His talent has resulted in a miserable life for him, subjecting him alternately to absurd fortune and misfortune, though only misfortune seems to splash onto the people around him. His parents died during an airplane hijacking, he found a winning lottery ticket while abducted by a serial killer, and he was diagnosed with terminal dementia just before he got accepted to Hope's Peak Academy. Because of this, he's dead set on proving that hope can overcome any despair, to the extent that he's willing to steelman despair and cause so, so much trouble for the other students. His cloying, obsequious attitude toward them evaporates, however, when he uses his luck to find dirt on them during the previous investigation. Afterward, he arranges an elaborate faux-suicide involving a hanging spear, self-mutilation, and a poisoned fire grenade, counting on his luck to make the Future Foundation traitor deliver the final blow against him.
Chiaki Nanami, the Ultimate Gamer. A spacey, sleepy girl who thinks about video games 24/7, Chiaki is surprisingly helpful during investigations and forms a strong bond with Hajime over the course of the game. Nagito's death and subsequent trial force her to hint that she's the traitor, since she's physically unable to reveal it herself. Though Nagito's intention was to save her life through an unsolvable mystery, Chiaki instead sacrifices herself for everybody else. Monokuma subjects her and Monomi to being trapped in real-life versions of classic video games, finally crushing them with a Tetris line block.
After Chiaki's death, reality begins to break apart, and various glitches manifest for Hajime, including the brief presence of those who died as if nothing had happened. Nagito leaves behind the password to access the final area of the island, ruins that resemble Hope's Peak Academy on the outside and a virtual version of environments from the first Danganronpa on the inside. During the final investigation, Hajime finds out that the entire Jabberwock Island environment was a virtual reality program; that Chiaki and Monomi were AI designed to facilitate a rehabilitation program; that the program is necessary because all the other students in it are Remnants of Despair, the willing, fanatical servants of Junko Enoshima; that there's a schism in Future Foundation about whether or not they should be rehabilitated; and that Chihiro's Alter Ego can barely make contact with Hajime thanks to a malicious AI that's taken over the whole program. Said AI is an Alter Ego of Junko herself, implanted into the Neo World Program thanks to...
The Mastermind, kind of
Izuru Kamukura, the Ultimate Hope. Though Hajime was only able to enter Hope's Peak as part of the Reserve Course, the steering committee found in him the perfect guinea pig for their experiments on human talent. Through invasive brain surgery, they peaked his capacity for mastering various talents in exchange for obliterating his personality and ability to feel passion. Now named for the Academy's founder, Izuru excels at anything he tries on a reflexive level, but feels no joy from his accomplishments, and is listless, bored and dismissive of everything in life until Junko convinces him to get involved in the cause of despair. Despite this, he was never truly absorbed into her worldview, and decides to upload her Alter Ego into the Neo World Program behind the back of the people trying to reform him, to perform an experiment that he would never see the results of himself.
Junko has hijacked the program's normal graduation routine, and presented the surviving students with a choice: either graduate, and allow the comatose bodies of those who lost the killing game to reanimate with Junko's personality implanted in them, or repeat the year and stay in the virtual world indefinitely. The intrusion of Makoto, Kyoko and the real Byakuya, the people behind reforming the Remnants of Despair in defiance of Future Foundation superiors' orders, offer a third choice: force quit the program and destroy Junko at the cost of reverting to their memories prior to entering the program. The prospect of drastically changing their personalities, especially in Hajime's case, causes the students to freeze up, and Hajime to hallucinate an eternal life with everyone on the island. However, Chiaki breaks through to him one last time and encourages him to face the future without fear or regrets, and he convinces everybody else to do likewise, a solution framed as neither hope nor despair. Usami reappears to delete Junko once and for all, and Hajime, Fuyuhiko, Sonia, Kazuichi, Akane, Makoto, Kyoko and Byakuya initiate the force quit.
In the real world, Makoto, Kyoko and Byakuya prepare to face the music on the mainland, leaving Hajime to care for his comatose friends on the off chance he can restore their minds. Despite everything, Hajime is still himself, perhaps because of Izuru's preparations before the killing game began.