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. 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. After watching the video featuring her Idol group unconscious, she decided she couldn't stay in the school any longer, and that she had to make sure her Idol Group were okay. 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. On top of that, she didn't survive long enough to know about the Class Trial, 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, 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. But later, when he sees the state of the outside world via a Flashback Light, he's so traumatized but what he saw, 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 intention being to have Kokichi being blamed for the deed, having everyone else executed. 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, but once again, think of it from Gonta's perspective: All he had wanted throughout the game was to save 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. But now that an opportunity to help them comes up, he's so desperate to finally be able to help everyone, he accepted. And while he did end up losing his memory after messing up the connection to the virtual world where the murder occurred, and while the others still blamed Kokichi for what happened and insisted Gonta couldn't have known what he was doing, in the end, memory or not, Gonta made the decision to kill Miu and cover up his crime. But still, not with malicious intentions, but instead with intentions of helping the classmates he wanted to help so desperately throughout 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. On the surface, she's stoic and submissive. Underneath that demeanor, she's manipulative and observant, and since no one really pays that much attention to her throughout the game, she utilizes. Before she 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 freaks the hell out. 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. The interpretation of her character depends 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 any 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. 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, level-headed, no-nonsense, the straight man. 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. 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 people than her father. 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 and Teruteru from the previous games. But unlike Hifumi and Teruteru, he isn't a brainless comic relief, on the contrary, he's one of the most 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 had simply been these perfect, sweet, completely innocent goody two-shoes', 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 on Mary Sues on this wiki, having one person or two people dislike and antagonize them doesn't keep them from being one-dimensional Mary Sues. Does Timmy Turner love Chloe Carmichael? No! Does Emperor Palpatine love Rey? No! But do they hold either of them back from being Mary Sues? 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 one-dimensional 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. That, is not, how a character arc works. 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). I mean, here's how it went:
Chiaki has no friends, her teacher, Chisa, 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 intereacts with with her classmates in the beginning. All we see if her playing games with everyone, and now she's everyone's bestie. 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). And people complain about Shuichi Saihara only becoming a leader and discarding his timid attitude after Kaede's death, but never complain about this?! Seriously! Think about the best character arcs in the series. They didn't just happen in the blink of an eye. You wanna make it better and more believable? Extend the arc! Make Chiaki think about the offer but accept after Chisa's Transferal and Nagito's suspension! That would've much more realistic, and much more believable.
You want to see character arcs done right? Think about other character arcs in the series, like Toko Fukawa becoming friends with 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 brining 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 Maki Harukawa's character arc in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. In the beginning, she's selfish, rude, and antisocial. She introduces herself as someone who doesn't get along with people and would rather avoid them. However, over time, she builds a friendship with Kaito and Shuichi and eventually manages to warm up to most of her classmates, and even begs Kaito to stop when he announces himself as Kokichi's killer and was about to be executed. And during the Final Class Trial, she asks to be killed so that Shuichi, Keebo, and Himiko can make it out. None of it was instant. It took time for her violent and harsh exterior to eventually fade away and reveal her softer, nicer side, it took time for her to eventually become one of the group's most helpful and reliable allies, it took time for her to get closer to those around her, it took time for her to learn to trust them, it all took time.
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, were 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 called, 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 he had just been pushed out of his comfort zone and into a very difficult position. 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, Kyoko serves as a mentor to him, teaching him how to solve each murder case by himself. And by the end, he becomes a leader figure to the rest of the students, over the long, long course of the previous 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. This is shown in Trigger Happy Havoc, were he falls for Sayaka's trap of switching rooms with her, so she could kill Leon and pin the blame on Makoto later. Later, after he and his allies had captured the Remnants of Despair, 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, has 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. 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.
Anyway, back to the character arcs. Unlike Chiaki's, Makoto and Toko's character arcs didn't take place in the flick of a switch, 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 happen in the blink of an eye. They took time, involved actual development, and 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, 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 agonizing and brutal, it still doesn't change the fact that, in the end, she was still left as a static, uninteresting character. And because I'm not emotionally attached to Chiaki, I'm more affected by the deaths of characters I do care about and actually have an emotional attachment to, like Gonta Gokuhara, Sakura Ogami, and Chihiro Fujisaki. Those deaths hurt me a lot more, because unlike Chiaki, I genuinely care about them. They were some of my favorite characters in the Danganronpa franchise and so their deaths hurt me much more to watch. And even if they're deaths weren't as cruel or excruciating, those moments remain much closer to my heart, and left a much bigger impact on me than Chiaki's death, because unlike Chiaki, I had genuine emotional attachments to Gonta, Sakura, and Chihiro.
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. 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. Anyways, S&P Productions made an excellent video discussing all the problems with Chiaki in much more detail, and I highly recommend watching 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.