Why I Don't Like Chiaki Nanami
NOTE: I KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE LIKE CHIAKI, AND THAT'S ALRIGHT. I WON'T BASH YOU FOR HAVING YOUR OWN OPINION. THAT BEING SAID, THIS BLOG POST IS DEDICATED TO MY THOUGHTS ON HER. IF YOU DISGREE WITH ME, I UNDERSTAND.
ALSO, SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE DANGANRONPA SERIES
I know Chiaki Nanami's a really popular character in the Danganronpa series, which I can get to a degree. I mean, she's cute and nice enough, but I'm not a fan of her, and here's why. And no, it's not because she's dumb. It's not because of she gets in Komahina's way. And it's not because of how similar her beta designs look to Chihiro. It's far from that, actually.
Danganronpa is a series filled with complex, interesting, likable characters, who have detailed backstories and layered personalities. And those characters are one of the series' biggest strengths. Most characters in the series, likable or not, more often than not also have backstory exploration, which can help us understand who they are, and why they act the way they do. Getting a look into a character's past can be a look into their personalities. Knowing the experiences a character had in their past can help you understand who they are in the present day. But what do we learn about Chiaki? Like, apart from that she's nice and likes video games? What apart from those two things? Nothing! We never learn how she got into gaming, her backstory, we barely know anything about her! Nothing in the free time events either (it's actually the other way around, as she learns from Hajime). And yes, I know she's an AI, but there was a human Chiaki too. And she doesn't get any backstory exploration or character development either. They still could've given her some character development or a fake backstory at least! (one that could've later applied to the real Chiaki in Danganronpa 3)
Oh, and speaking of that first thing, that's another major problem I have with Chiaki. Remember how I said there's only 2 major things we learn about her? Well, one of those traits is her kindness. Kindness is good, right? Well, not if it's the only thing we get from a character. And Chiaki is a major example of this trope. On top of the fact that we have not the slightest clue of how she acts thanks to her lack of a backstory, but then there's the fact that she only really gets moments of being sleepy, nice, or cute. She never makes mistakes, she has practically no flaws, and this makes her, indeed, an effortlessly perfect Mary Sue. And no, her laziness and drowsiness are not flaws. Well, they're not flaws that aren't portrayed as cute or endearing, which are exactly the types of "flaws" found in Mary Sue characters; cute and endearing "flaws". Yeah, I know she's an AI, but there was a human Chiaki as well, who shared the same problem. And, as we've seen in other characters on this wiki, making a character a one-dimensional Mary Sue makes them feel a lot less human, relatable, and interesting. I mean, can you name one moment that shows Chiaki making a mistake? Can you recall any moments involving her that weren't either sleepy, shy, or cute? Can you bring up any moments where we see Chiaki develop and grow as a character? I didn't think so. I mean, and people complain about Kazuichi Souda and Sonia Nevermind being static characters, and yet never bring up how Chiaki's not only more static than either of them, but also happens to have less charcter than either as well? This also isn't excused with her AI counterpart either, as just because a character is an Artificial Intelligence, doesn't mean they have to be one-dimensional and personalityless. For example, K1-B0 from V3. Yeah, he's more "normal" than the other characters, but he's a maturing AI, who undergoes character development over the course of the game, unlike Chiaki.
And, yes, I am aware that while her purpose as an AI was to protect the Remnants of Despair while inside the Neo World Program, only for her to be forced to throw the killers under the bus in order to minimize damage once the Killing Game starts. But even then, she never shows any indication of some internal conflict in having to go against her code. She never talks to Hajime about how she hates having to expose the killers and let them die (yeah, she couldn't reveal her identity as the traitor, but that wouldn't be necessary in order for her to vent her frustrations at everything that was happening). And after she was found guilty for Nagito's murder, she could've talked more about what it was like to be a traitor among the others (since her identity was already exposed by that point), before being punished. We could've gotten some character depth from those situation, but no.
Not only that, but since Danganronpa is a series praised for it's complex characters, it makes Chiaki feel even more bland and static, especially when compared to those complex characters.
Take Sayaka Maizono from Trigger Happy Havoc for instance. Ever since she was a little girl, and saw an Idol group performance on TV, she had dedicated her entire life striving to be just like those Idols. But then, she ended up trapped in the school with the others, and forced into the Killing School Life. In the beginning, she made Makoto promise her that they would make it out of the school alright, but after watching her motive video which hinted that her Idol Group was in danger, she became determined to escape the school at any cost, realizing she couldn't rely on Makoto to save her anymore. And later, she formulated a plan to get Makoto to swap rooms with her, so she could kill Leon Kuwata and frame Makoto. Some people view this as her being a manipulative egotist, but it adds depth to her character. Try to put yourself in Sayaka's shoes: She had dedicated her entire life to being an Idol, and now, she in a situation were she was at risk of never achieving that goal. Because of this, she's willing to do whatever it takes to save her career, even commit murder and pin the blame on someone she genuinely cared about. She's done so much for the sack of her dream, and she isn't willing to stop now. She wasn't willing to kill and frame someone she was genuinely interested in. But she was torn between whether to save her career, or her friend, and this adds depth to her character. As for me, I personally don't agree with her methods, but I can see where she's coming from. It's also worth noting that she didn't survive long enough to know about the Class Trials, and the executions. She didn't know framing Makoto for the deed would've resulted in everyone being killed (don't know what she thought would've happened to him if her plan succeeded and she found out, but still).
Another great example would be Gonta Gokuhara from V3. Throughout the game, he was portrayed as this kind, dumb, innocent boy who's main goal was becoming a true gentleman. This lead to people calling him "boring" and saying that the "dumb but likeable trope is his only purpose in the game", both of which I strongly disagree with. Because later, when he discovers the state of the outside world via a Flashback Light, he's so traumatized by what he sees, that he agrees with Kokichi Oma that having everyone die would be better than having them see what the outside world had in store for them. This motivates him to kill Miu Iruma with the plan being to have Kokichi blamed for the deed, resulting in everyone else being executed, believing that because of the state of the outside world, the students killing each other and trying to escape would all end up being for nothing. While this was indeed shocking, and while he knew Kokichi was a liar, and the situation wasn't exactly an "act immediately or die" one, keep in mind that all he had wanted throughout the game was to help his friends and help them survive the Killing Game. And to make matters worse, he hadn't been able to save a single one of them so far. This combination of a extreme need to help others and cripplingly low self-esteem leads to Gonta being desperate to do anything to help his peers. But now that an opportunity to help them comes up, he accepted. And while he did end up losing his memory after messing up the connection to the virtual world where the murder occurred (leading to him being horrified when he finds out what he almost did), and while the others still blamed Kokichi for what happened and insisted Gonta couldn't have known what he was doing, in the end, Gonta made the decision to kill Miu and cover up his crime. But not with malicious intentions, but instead with intentions of helping the classmates he's wanted to help so desperately throughout the course of the game.
Kirumi Tojo also deserves a mention here. As the Ultimate Maid, she's acts like everyone's servant, but there's more to her than meets the eye. People see her as one of the more forgettable characters in V3, which I also strongly disagree with. On the surface, she's stoic and submissive, she seems like everyone's tool or personal attendant. But underneath that demeanor, she's manipulative and observant, and since no one really pays that much attention to her throughout the game, she utilizes it to her advantage. Before they knew it, she had everyone's trust and dependency, two things she later exploits. In the Class Trial in Chapter 2, she takes control of the narrative, trying to manipulate others into taking her place in getting executed. And when her execution is announced, she discards her quiet demeanor, panics, and becomes determined to escape at any cost. But, once again, in Kirumi's perspective, this murder was a product of altruistic intentions, and her behavior becomes more understandable when the truth is exposed. Her motive video shows that she's responsible for the entire population of Japan, and must escape the school before the entire country falls into ruin. She was willing to sacrifice several people, but she had an entire country to go back to. She views the lives of a small group worth sacrificing to save those of much more. Personally, I'm mixed on Kirumi. Like Sayaka, I can understand her motives, but I still can't simply overlook her actions. But the interpretation of her character truly does depend on who you ask. Some may say her intentions are altruistic, others may say her position makes her believe her life is more important then anyone else's. This is what makes her character so interesting.
And then, there's Mahiru Koizumi. While not a murderer, nor did she ever intend to be one, Mahiru will still be mentioned due to the complexity of her character (which, like many of the example characters here, is often overlooked). When we first meet her, she's harsh, strict, and seemingly has a low opinion on most of her male peers. She seems like the foil to most of her peers, the level-headed, no-nonsense, straight man, in stark contrast to her more eccentric, off-center classmates. But later, we learn why she acts the way she does: Her mother, who's a famous photographer, spends most of her time away from home, leaving her alone with her father, who, according to her, is extremely lazy (who she still loves regardless). She acts harsh towards her male peers because she doesn't want them to end up like her father; lazy and incompetent. She wants to see them become better, stronger, more selfless people than her father. And its not just the men she wants the best for. She wants the best for everyone in the Killing Game, both the boys and the girls. Yeah, she ended up dying in Chapter 2, but in that short time we had with her, while it wasn't enough to make a true impact, it was enough for us to get enough on her character and what she's like.
Mondo Owada from the first game is another example of this. He had been haunted by having to watch his own brother die after the latter sacrificed himself to save the former's life. That experience had stayed with him over the years, and he had always blamed himself for it. He had always tried to act tough and strong, but deep down, he didn't truly believe he was strong. He blamed himself for his brother's death. So when Chihiro Fujisaki admitted his secret to him and asked to train with him and become stronger, he realized that Chihiro was strong enough to confront his own insecurities and decide to not let them control him. Something Mondo himself didn't have the courage to do. And upon seeing Chihiro's strength, and realizing how much truly stronger Chihiro was than him, he was overcome by anger and envy, leading him to attack and murder the latter in a fit of rage. This lead to him being later overcome with remorse over what he had done, after he had (albeit unintentionally) killed someone who looked up to him.
And, for the final example, Ryoma Hoshi. Yes, he's one of the least popular characters in the entire series, but I personally think that's a shame, because, while he didn't last long, he still showed quite a bit of depth in that little time. He's clearly meant to be the goofy-looking character who stands out when compared to the crowd, like Hifumi Yamada and Teruteru Hanamura from the previous games. But unlike Hifumi and Teruteru, he isn't a brainless, perverted comic relief. On the contrary, he's one of the more serious characters in the series. He's mature, serves as a voice of reason, and has a much darker, harder backstory than most of his peers. He cares for his classmates, and is willing to sacrifice himself for them. He feels he has nothing to live for due to being a Death Row Inmate, because of his use of his talent to murder mafia members in his past. However, after a while of interacting with Shuichi and the others, he slowly begins opening up to the idea of escaping with them and starting over, until he saw his motive video and saw that nobody from the outside world missed him (or perhaps more accurately, there was nobody from the outside world left to miss him since they were presumably all killed by the mafia), and he loses whatever will he had left to live and allows himself to be murdered by Kirumi. Ryoma shows that sometimes, like in real life, a battle with your inner demons isn't something you can just magically triumph over. Sometimes, you can try your hardest, and still fail.
If any of these characters didn't have these depths and had simply been these perfect, sweet, completely innocent cinnamon rolls, then they would've just been one-dimensional Mary Sues/Gary Stus like Chiaki. The trials revolving around most of them would've been much less interesting, and their characters would've been much less interesting. Cause, unlike Sayaka, Gonta, Kirumi, Mahiru, Mondo, and Ryoma, Chiaki has literally no flaws. She's perfect, and by doing that, the writers made her incredibly uninteresting, and unrelatable.
And don't tell me "Mary Sues are loved by everyone, and Junko and Mukuro don't love Chiaki, so she's not a Mary Sue!" Well, Junko and Mukuro are antagonists, so of course they don't love Chiaki. And as we've seen with other Mary Sues on this wiki, having one person or two people dislike and antagonize them doesn't mean they aren't Mary Sues. Does Timmy Turner love Chloe Carmichael? No! Does Emperor Palpatine love Rey? No! But does that mean they aren't depicted as unrealistically lacking in flaws or weaknesses? No! And before Chiaki was even aware of Junko and Mukuro's existences, she had all her classmates rallying behind her the second she met them. Which reminds me...
And yes, I an aware she started as a loner, but that's not a valid excuse to say she isn't a Mary Sue. Cause even then (as I've mentioned in the previous paragraph), it wasn't anything that couldn't be solved in a snap. I mean, even her only character arc, wasn't really a character arc. Cause there was not complex development or anything. I mean, just so it can really rub off on you just how simple Chiaki's only "character arc" was, it all happens over the course of a single episode. One. Single. Episode. Just, let that actually sink in. And to add salt to the wound, most of it happens off-screen (that's right, we didn't even see most of her only character arc). Basically, here's how it went:
Chiaki has no friends, her teacher, Chisa Yukizome, encourages her to use her gaming skills to make friends. Later, Chisa finds Chiaki and her classmates all playing games together. And now they're all friends. Later, Chisa asks her to be the Class rep. She says no. Everyone else says "Chiaki, you should be the Class rep!", and she immediately accepts. And that's it.
Like, that's literally it.
Not only does it all literally happen in one episode. But we don't see how it even happens, how Chiaki approaches and interacts with with her classmates in the beginning, how she gradually gets used to having people to play with. All we see if her playing games with everyone, and now she's everyone's bestie. Not only that but even Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu and Hiyoko Saionji are her friends now! And considering how Fuyuhiko's a short-tempered yakuza and Hiyoko's a childish bully, do you honestly think that they'd immediately warm up to someone they just met after playing games with them? I didn't think so! And yet, here they are, playing games with and being Chiaki's BFFS along with the rest of their class! And then, there's her becoming the Class Rep. Her denying, just to later immediately accept after some compliments from her classmates is not the way going from a loner to a leader works (not that her gaining friends in the first place was a better depiction). She just became friends with these people (not to mention that until now, she had literally no friends), and now she's ready to become a leader for them?! Heck, she's even Chisa's favorite student! If this isn't a Mary Sue, then I don't know what is! (Well, it's also a terrible character arc) And people complain about Shuichi Saihara only becoming a leader and discarding his timid attitude after Kaede's death?! Seriously! At least Shuichi had something to motivate him to become a leader! You wanna Chiaki's arc, an arc? Extend it! Make Chiaki think about the offer but accept after Chisa's Transferal and Nagito's suspension! That wouldn't have solved the "her immediately becoming everyone's bestie after playing games with them once" issue, but it would've made the rest of it much more realistic, and much more believable.
You wanna see character arcs done right? Think about other character arcs in the series, like Toko Fukawa befriending Komaru Naegi in Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultimate Despair Girls. In the beginning, Toko made a deal with Nagito Komaeda to save Byakuya Togami from the Warriors of Hope, which involved bringing Komaru to their HQ. Because of this, Toko ends up tagging along with Komaru throughout a majority of the game. And as it goes on, Toko provides Komaru with emotional support and entails the former on her past. As the two learn more and more about each other, and while Toko does occasionally tease Komaru, you can tell how much she obviously cares for her. To the point that she's willing to break her promise to Byakuya to help Komaru escape Towa City. But by the end, she's willing to protect and escape with them both, her crush, and her best friend.
And think about Himiko Yumeno's character arc of her learning to express her emotions more. When she's first introduced, she's inexpressive, keeps to herself, and is somewhat whiny (though, even then, she still manages not to be an unpleasant characters). Despite the fact that she's an Ultimate, she complains about not having enough MP and that murder would be too tiresome to commit. Even relaxing is too taxing for her laziness. But in Chapter 3, where her two best friends, Tenko Chabashira, and Angie Yonaga die, she takes Tenko's words to her about not being afraid to express her emotions to heart, and finally breaks down after the Class Trial. She decides that she isn't going to sink in self-pity, as that wouldn't have been what Tenko or Angie would've wanted for her. She decides to keep moving forward and stay strong. Afterwards, she stops whining about how "tiresome" everything is and hiding her emotions, becomes more outspoken and optimistic, and uses "Nyeh" less.
And think about Makoto Naegi's character arc of becoming the Ultimate Hope. This one took place not just in Trigger Happy Havoc, but throughout the series, extending throughout Trigger Happy Havoc, and Danganronpa 3. It all started in the first Class Trial, where Kyoko Kirigiri sees something in Makoto no one else saw; a leader, someone who could free the other students from their current situation, someone who she labeled as, the Ultimate Hope. Makoto, on the other hand, didn't see himself didn't see himself as a leader, he saw himself as an average high school boy. And considering how he was, until then, an average high school boy, who had not only just had his, and the rest of his classmates' lives placed on the line, but had also been pushed out of his comfort zone and into a very difficult position, it's hard to blame him for it. But throughout the game, as more and more people die, and as Makoto continuously tells himself that no one was going to kill each other anymore, he's forced to confront the fact that he didn't know what his classmates were truly capable of. And that he could never be certain of what they would do during the Killing Game. As the students continue to die, one by one, Kyoko becomes a mentor to Makoto, teaching him how to solve each murder case by himself. And by the end, he becomes a leader figure to the rest of the survivors, over a long, long course of events. With him learning more and more about becoming the Ultimate Hope over the course of each murder and Class Trial. And now, he, and the rest of the survivors, stand up to Junko, and put an end to the Killing Game. Makoto didn't just become a true leader overnight. It took time for him to accept his role as the Ultimate Hope and lead the students into shutting the game down and defeating Junko.
Speaking of Makoto, his main character trait, his trusting and merciful nature, is pretty much his greatest strength, and biggest weakness. What do I mean by that? Well, in Trigger Happy Havoc, he falls for Sayaka's trap of having him switch rooms with her near the beginning of the game, so she could kill Leon and pin the blame on Makoto later. Later, when he and the Killing Game survivors had joined the Future Foundation and the Remnants of Despair had been captured, Makoto decided that they should've been given a chance of redemption. So he had them placed inside the Neo World Program to have them reverted back to their regular selves. But what he didn't realize was that Izuru Kamukura, one of the captives, had smuggled a virus into the program to sabotage the attempt of saving the remnants, causing a killing game to happen inside the Neo World Program. Some could argue that in these situations, Makoto was too trusting and merciful, and that led to more problems for him and his those around him. The question of whether his trust and mercy is his greatest strength, or his biggest weakness, isn't just a one size fits all thing. Some could say it's his best quality. Others could suggest otherwise. The choice is yours. This is what makes me believe he's, once again, a character stranger and more complex and interesting than Chiaki. As her willingness to trust those around her is never portrayed as a flaw.
Anyway, back to character arcs. Toko's, Himiko's, and Makoto's character arcs didn't take happen in a snap, and they weren't treated as easy solutions that just exist so the characters can be accepted by their peers. They both had intricate character arcs that didn't just occur in the blink of an eye. They took time, involved actual development, took place onscreen, and were complex. Unlike Chiaki's.
And yes, I'm aware that her boyfriend, Hajime Hinata, disappeared after being turned into Izuru Kamukura, and she spent a year waiting for him to return. And when he did, as Izuru, he tells her to her face he doesn't remember her. And later, she inadvertently leads her friends to their dooms on a failed rescue mission, is betrayed by a brainwashed Chisa (the person they went to rescue), goes through one of the most brutal deaths in the franchise, and dies cursing her uselessness in front of Izuru, who still doesn't remember her, and tells him that all she wanted to do is have friends to play games with. But no matter how sympathetic all that is, it still doesn't solve the problems that are her shallowness and how little we learn about her. None of it ended up building or developing her character, and it didn't dive deeper into her backstory. And while I will admit, her death was indeed agonizingly brutal (which is the only reason I felt anything during that scene), it still doesn't change the fact that, in the end, she was left as a static, uninteresting character. Not helped by the fact that even here, Chiaki's willingness to help others wasn't portrayed as a flaw (unlike Makoto's), and Junko was the one who the episode was doing all it could to convince us was solely at fault for what happened. And what I really don't understand is how her classmates completely fell into despair over her death despite how little time they've actually known her. It should've taken something more than that to leave them vulnerable to Junko. The death of someone they've only known for a while shouldn't have been the only thing that caused them to fall into despair. And because I'm not emotionally attached to Chiaki, I'm much more affected by the deaths of characters I actually do care about and have emotional attachments to, like Gonta Gokuhara, Sakura Ogami, and Chihiro Fujisaki. Those deaths hurt me a lot more to watch and hit me much harder, because I care about Gonta, Sakura, and Chihiro much more. Gonta, Sakura, and Chihiro were some of my favorite characters in the Danganronpa franchise, and so their deaths hurt me much more to watch. Even if they're deaths weren't as cruel or excruciating, those moments left much more of an impact on me and remain much closer to my heart than Chiaki's death, due to the emotional connections I have with them, the same kinds of ones I lack towards Chiaki.
So basically, my reasons for disliking Chiaki are her lack of depth and exploration. Like is said before, try to think of a moment starring Chiaki that didn't involve her simply being cute of shy or sleepy. And try to think of a moment where we discovered more about her past. There aren't any. Chiaki is a very shallow character. That is the feeling I constantly got from her. And given how nearly every other character in the series has a backstory and (at the very least some) character beyond a blank Mary Sue, I'm not gonna lie, it really gets under my skin how so many people will constantly throw so much praise at Chiaki and place her on such a high pedestal, instead of much more interesting, intricate, and well-developed characters. It wouldn't be so bad if the fanbase didn't worship Chiaki as this monumental goddess who every other character paves away in comparison to so much! I mean, why is Chiaki so popular? That's a question I have! She has no intriguing personality! No compelling arc! No backstory! No complexity! Nothing! Something found in so many other characters that Chiaki is constantly picked over by so many people! Okay, I promised I'd respect others' opinions on Chiaki, so I'll stop now. I think it's important to mention that S&P Productions made an excellent video discussing all the problems with Chiaki in much more detail (and it's where I got many of the points used here), and I highly recommend watching it.
And, speaking of S&P Productions, they said at the end of said video that, despite how bland and dull Chiaki is, there can still be a solution to many of the problems we both have with Chiaki; a light novel (or maybe an OVA) that could expand on her character, like the ones they made for Byakuya and Kyoko. Something that could dive deeper into her backstory or explain how she felt when she became the Class Rep or when Chisa was transferred to the Reserve Course. And, while I don't think that could solve every single problem I personally have with Chiaki (her instantly befriending everyone in her class and deciding she's ready to be a leader for them over the course of a single episode), but I think most of them can be with a light novel/OVA. It's not too late to make something that, and taking Chiaki's popularity into consideration, it's almost certain that people will read/watch it.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'll still respect others' opinions on Chiaki. If you like Chiaki, I understand. I won't bash or criticize you for having your own opinion. But I simply don't for the reasons explained here.