Dangan Ronpa: Sakura + Hina, friends for life

My Dangan Ronpa overview post turned into 2000+ words and counting comparing the game to The Hunger Games and Battle Royale. So I thought I would write about two of my favourite characters instead. Most of the characters in Dangan Ronpa are understandably standoffish – the premise of the game is that they have all been kidnapped and are being compelled to kill one another.

There is a lot of distrust and fear, but Sakura and Hina can’t be bothered with that shit. They are FRIENDS and don’t you doubt it. Sakura is the Ultimate Martial Artist and Hina is the Ultimate Swimming Pro – they bond straight off over their exercise regimes and love of protein shakes. They keep believing in one another, even in the face of the most startling revelations.

The strength of their friendship would endear them to me on its own – but also, here is a picture of Sakura, don’t tell me you don’t love her already:

An extremely buff young woman, with white hair and an impressive scar across her face.

Any game that has a female character that looks like that is alright by me.

Funnily enough, I am also predisposed to like Hina on account of her body type, although it is very different from Sakura’s. Hina is slim and busty, and I automatically feel protective of slim, busty characters (provided that it’s not just a function of the art style …).

Hina gets a fair amount of flack for being busty – notably from Toko, a character whom I find it extremely difficult to like. It seems as if Hina finds it easy to brush off the harassment – until a scene where Makoto and Hina are going swimming, and Hina gets embarrassed, because she only has a T-shirt to swim in. And she says something along the lines of, I don’t know why it matters, I’m sure it never used to. Which I found heartbreaking.

Hina has a warm, bubbly personality, but she’s also one of the most sensitive characters in the game. Which I can’t talk about without getting into massive spoiler territory – but this also relates to why I like Sakura so much, and the friendship between the two of them.

So: part way through the game, we find out that Sakura is spying on the other students, reporting back to the villain Monokuma on what they’re up to.

The player-character Makoto finds this out when he sees Sakura telling Monokuma she’s not going to play his games any longer – she’s going to fight him. He’s been blackmailing her, threatening her family, but that’s no longer enough to make her betray the others.

Makoto keeps this to himself, trusting that Sakura will do the right thing. The other students find out about it when Monokuma tells them. If Sakura won’t serve his purposes by spying on the others – well, he can dob her in to the others, and they’ll be too worried about her to unite against him.

Note that when Sakura’s secret comes out, Hina determinedly sticks by her, speaking out in her defense. Hina believes in Sakura’s goodness, that Sakura is on their side.

And Hina takes it very hard when Sakura is the next student to end up dead.

Sakura is the only one of the characters I really latched on to who dies. And her death is, I think, the most important one in the game. It’s the turning point where the students move from simple survival to fighting back.

Before Sakura’s death, as a result of the ill-feeling toward her, Hina gets hurt. Sakura can’t stand to think that other people might get hurt because of her. She’s aware that, because of her, the other students are turning on one another. And she knows that there’s a way to get access to evidence that might help them get the better of Monokuma – but that Monokuma would kill her when he found out.

So Sakura kills herself first. If she’s going to die, she wants it to be on her terms. And she wants her death to accomplish something.

Her death is presented as a locked-room mystery, so it was fairly obvious straight off, that Sakura must have killed herself. Of course, there’s a lot of misdirection that goes on, other characters who do legitimately think they’re responsible for Sakura’s death (her attempts at reconciliation didn’t go too well).

And then there’s Hina. Hina who knows that Sakura’s death is a suicide. Hina who thinks that it was an act of despair, on Sakura’s part.

This is when you realise that Hina’s good cheer is more of a front than it seems. Because in the trial that follows, Hina tries to take the blame for Sakura’s death. Which isn’t a harmless defence of Sakura’s honour – if Hina had been successful, the whole class would have been killed. And that’s what Hina wants. She wants the students she sees as responsible for Sakura’s death to be punished for it. She wants to punish herself for not being able to defend Sakura.

THIS GAME.

Truth, thankfully, prevails. No-one is executed. But the mood after the trial is more somber than it’s ever been. That’s until Monokuma reveals that he’s played a trick on them. Hina had found a suicide note – but it was a false one, that Monokuma had swapped out. The suicide note that Hina found is not the one that Sakura left for her. And when the students find out what Sakura actually wrote, they have a way to fight back against Monokuma, and a new determination to do so.

None of the students kill one another after Sakura’s death.

I love Sakura for her sense of honour; her determination to atone; her self-sacrifice. For being the strongest person in the world! I love Hina for her energy and optimism, and for her darkness. For being more sensitive than she lets on. For her love of donuts. And I love their friendship – how quickly and intensely they come to matter to one another.

Dangan Ronpa has some really excellent character development in general, but oh, am I ever a sucker for girl friends.

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