Jeremy enjoys gaming when not helping manage the college he graduated from.
Killers in Danganronpa
The Danganronpa games remain some of my favorite mash-ups ever made, landing somewhere between a visual novel and video game. Throughout their core titles, groups of high schoolers are trapped inside large facilities and can only escape by killing another student—and getting away with it. If the remaining students correctly guess who the killer is, the "blackened" is executed; if they guess wrong, everyone except the blackened dies.
But only selfish murderers would kill to escape, right? Not quite; the games are renowned for their twists, and often the killers have sympathetic motives that make them surprisingly hard to hate. But which killings were most forgivable? These are the 10 most understandable killers in Danganronpa!
Major spoilers ahead.
10. Hifumi Yamada
Victim: Kiyotaka Ishimaru
Hifumi here isn't so much of a malicious killer as he is a gullible accomplice. With his chubby appearance and questionable social skills, he was desperate for female attention. So when Celestia Ludenberg lied about Kiyotaka harassing her and plotting to kill Hifumi, Hifumi agreed to help kill him first.
Of course, Celestia's real plan was to off Hifumi once Kiyotaka died, and her plan went smoothly until the ruse was unveiled during the class trial.
9. Mikan Tsumiki
Game: Danganronpa 2
Victims: Ibuki Mioda, Hiyoko Saionji
Like Celestia, Mikan murdered not just one classmate, but two! To be fair, Hiyoko had constantly bullied her and was only killed for witnessing Ibuki's death.
More than that, Mikan wasn't planning to kill anyone until she was afflicted with a disease that caused her to remember her past as one of the Ultimate Despair Remnants. Turns out, the entire class belonged to this group (and had forgotten), so anyone whose memories had been restored would have done the same.
And in the Danganronpa 3 anime, we learn that the class was brainwashed into becoming the Remnants in the first place, further excusing their crimes.
8. Kirumi Tojo
Game: Danganronpa V3
Victim: Ryoma Hoshi
Similar to Mikan, Kirumi's restored memories end up being her motive, as she recalls effectively serving as a nation's Prime Minister. Faced with a tough decision, Kirumi ultimately weighs her people's needs above her classmates', deciding that saving a nation would justify a few murders.
Furthermore, she had told Ryoma about her restored memories, and he literally turned his back to her, which she interpreted as acceptance of her plan. Whether Ryoma did or didn't intend to let her kill him isn't clear, but if so, it further blurs the "evil" of Kirumi's crime.
7. Leon Kuwata
Victim: Sayaka Maizono
The first blackened in the first game, Leon's crime hits home since he murders Sayaka, your (Makoto's) childhood friend, and potential romance. But as the case unfolds, it's revealed that Sayaka intended to kill Leon and frame you for the crime.
This twist shows that things are never as they appear in Danganronpa, and Leon's crime was partially self-defense. Now, there was a point where he could have fled rather than continue fighting back, so he's not completely spotless, but it's still a tragic event where the victim is as guilty as the killer.
6. Gonta Gokuhara
Game: Danganronpa V3
Victim: Miu Iruma
Similar to Leon's case, here's another incident where the victim was actually the intended killer; Miu was going to execute Kokichi Oma, who would have been helpless against her assault (they were in a Virtual World where Miu had tampered with certain settings).
Gonta, hidden from Miu's view, knew that if he didn't take action, Kokichi would die, so he began strangling Miu to save Kokichi. Additionally, Gonta had just learned a horrific truth regarding the outside world and figured that his entire class dying might actually be more merciful than letting them discover their tragic circumstances.
As if that weren't enough, an error caused Gonta to lose his memory once everyone logged out, so he wasn't lying during the class trial; he really didn't remember killing Miu.
5. Gundham Tanaka
Game: Danganronpa 2
Victim: Nekomaru Nidai
One of the last murders in D2, Gundham's crime was only carried out because the mastermind had threatened to starve everyone until a murder happened. That's a cheap motive, not just tempting someone to kill, but basically forcing it lest everyone dies.
Gundham killed one to save the rest, and targeting Nekomaru made the most sense since Nekomaru's consciousness had been transported to a robot (long story). So "killing" him was probably the most humane way to spare the rest of the class.
4. Sakura Ogami
Victim: Sakura Ogami
Long story short, Sakura agreed to serve the mastermind as a mole in exchange for the safety of her loved ones outside the school. But she really didn't cause much harm in her role, as killings were already occurring without her intervention.
Sakura later rebels against Monokuma and ultimately decides that the best way to protect both her loved ones and her classmates is to kill herself, technically following Monokuma's commands by initiating a murder while keeping her friends safe.
3. Kaito Momota
Game: Danganronpa V3
Victim: Kokichi Oma
Kokichi's constant lies frustrate his classmates, but when both Kaito and Kokichi are shot by poisoned arrows, Kokichi willingly gives the only antidote to Kaito. In exchange, he asks that Kaito help with his plan—commit a murder while the surveillance cameras are down, thus preventing the mastermind from knowing who the culprit is and hopefully ending the killing game.
Kaito begrudgingly agrees to kill Kokichi, and really, what choice did he have? Kokichi was poisoned by Maki (Kaito's love interest), so if Kaito had refused, Maki would have become the blackened and thus died when discovered. Left with no alternative and a willing victim, Kaito and Kokichi both gave their lives to thwart the mastermind.
2. Chiaki Nanami
Game: Danganronpa 2
Victim: Nagito Komaeda
This one's such a fluke it's hard to even count Chiaki as a killer. Nagito arranged his own death in such a way that a random student would unknowingly kill him while trying to put out a fire, and Chiaki ended up being the hapless target.
So while it was technically by her hand that Nagito died, she had no intention of killing anyone, and it was sheer bad luck that made her the culprit.
1. Kaede Akamatsu
Game: Danganronpa V3
Victim: Rantaro Amami
Boy is this one rotten. Kaede appears to be V3's protagonist until she's executed for killing Rantaro and Shuichi takes over. But she was actually trying to kill the mastermind behind the group's imprisonment, and Rantaro's own actions put him in the path of a weapon intended for someone else.
More than that, the class eventually discovers that Kaede never killed anyone—her intended weapon missed. The mastermind killed Rantaro, then tampered with the crime scene to make both Kaede's classmates and Kaede herself think she had killed him, bringing her from forgivable to completely innocent.
More Danganronpa Killings
Every so often, Danganronpa throws a malicious psychopath at us, but today we've seen that many of its killers actually have selfless intentions. And we only tackled characters from the three core games—check out the highly-recommended Danganronpa 3 anime for a unique killing game with a different set of rules.
Spanning video games, novels, anime, and more, Danganronpa is still thriving and we'll undoubtedly see more killing games in future entries. But until then, vote for your favorite blackened and I'll see you at our next gaming countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill
Haley Is A Trashy Mortal on July 20, 2020:
I feel like Mondo could also be another sympathetic killer too. You know how Sayaka cracked it's kinda like that for Mondo too. Having something thrown at him telling him that it could ruin a promise between his brother would be pretty harsh. At the end of the trial, he clearly regrets what he did. There is a book that is shown in the killers/victim's perspective but it's only in Japanese so it might be hard to find out what it says. I do agree with everything you said though.
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on June 23, 2020:
I disagree, but I see where you're coming from. Part of the beauty of the Dangonronpa series is how sympathetic half the blackened are.
John on June 22, 2020:
I feel like mondo peko and teruteru are a lot more sympathetic killers than hifumi and leon
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on August 19, 2019:
Interesting points, I'd be curious to hear who you find more sympathetic. And here's more food for thought on each case:
Hifumi may not have thought that far ahead, and even if he did, he could have figured that it'd be better for everyone to die except Celestia (the girl he trusted) than Kiyotaka (who he was now convinced was a predator and soon-to-be killer). And for what little it's worth, he tried to point out Celestia as the killer with his last words, but his habit of using last names confused the group.
Leon's skirmish was initially self-defense, as it was Sayaka who first attacked him with the kitchen knife, but yes, once she escaped to the shower, it became purposeful revenge. Which admittedly lowers the sympathy factor, but as you say, he didn't know what would happen to everyone else and *had* just been targeted for murder.
I don't really fault Kirumi for her post-vote manipulation (she tried to get the others to feel bad and have someone offer to switch places with her) because it stemmed from the same semi-understandable motivation as her crime. Not that she should have killed someone, but those are the kinds of tough decisions political leaders face.
Rotten orange on August 18, 2019:
Don't disagree with these, but Hifumi at 10 seems strange. He knew by killing Kiyotaka he'd be dooming the other students and tried to get away with it. He's definitely not innocent or even sympathetic in that regard. There are definitely a wealth of more sympathetic murderers than him.
Leon also wasn't self-defence by any stretch. Sayaka was not a threat to him. You can say it's second-degree murder because her murder attempt threw him into an enraged/imbalanced state, but he had plenty of time to calm down and the way he hid the crime to the point of checking for hair in Makoto's room is pretty incriminating. But I'd say he's still a decent guy. He tried to kill someone who targeted his life. Class trial rules weren't explained here so he didn't know he'd be dooming everyone else.
Kirumi is also a bit suspect too. She is obsessed with serving others and the weight of failure is what drove her to the crime. It's entirely selfless on her part and the way she manipulated everyone even after being exposed was pretty damning. She's not a bad person I'm sure, sympathetic too but I'm sure there's more.
I agree with the rest.