Danganronpa V3 spoilers ahead!
Korekiyo Shinguji is a MILF. And by that, of course, I mean a Mistake I’d Like to Fix, which now that I see it on the screen seems a bit harsh. After all I think he’s pretty far from a “mistake”. His design is great, one of the best in the Danganronpa series in my opinion; likewise I think he has one of the more interesting talents as well. Finally Todd Haberkorn really knocked it out of the park with his voice, especially during his breakdown in trial 3. Korekiyo was one of my favorite characters pre-release, and while I still really like him I think he could have been so much better.
First off let’s take a look at the man of the hour. I’d ask you to point out all the creepy and unsettling parts but you presumably only have ten fingers. Of course I’m exaggerating but there are several parts of his design that definitely give off an unsettling vibe.
An important part of human interaction is reading the other person: checking their body language and facial expressions to see how they are feeling in regards to the things you say and do. I’ll gloss over the first part and go right on to facial expressions. I don’t have to tell you that a lot of the expression on the face comes from the mouth or the eyes. Our friend Korekiyo has both of these important features downplayed. Most obvious is his mask, which spends almost all the game covering his mouth, the only time it isn’t present is when he’s “possessed” in the chapter 3 trial. Looking at this picture one can see his eyes are a good deal smaller than the other students’ as well. As a matter of fact, I measured the eyes of all the students (very crudely, mind you) and Korekiyo’s eye area of 56 pixels (14×6) is 28% less than second place Shuichi (and this is with Shuichi’s hat sprite where most of his eye is obscured) and 33% less than third place Kirumi.
Of course the physical attributes are but one side of things, but they compliment the creepiness of his general demeanor throughout the game as well. Outside of the third trial Korekiyo speaks in an eerily calm voice for the majority of the game, at odds with the situation the students have found themselves in and even contrasting with the strange things he has been known to say. And I’m not the only one who thinks so, countless times through the early game characters call him out on his “creepiness”. A few examples:
Kaede Akamatsu, during the prologue: “This guy looks like a creep… and it turns out he is one too.”
Korekiyo Shinguji: “My appearance and actions thus far suggest I am someone who would commit a murder.”
Kaede Akamatsu, internally: “At least he’s self aware.”
Tenko Chabashira: “With how creepy you are I’m sure that person didn’t want your love!”
Himiko Yumeno: “You really are screwed up…”
Miu Iruma: “Screwed up from head to toe! Even through your clothes I can tell!”
Put these together and you have a character that almost seems deliberately designed to be almost impossible to read. And that’s not getting into the weird things he spouts about “Humanity’s Beauty”.
So we’ve got a creepy looking guy who is hard to read and he’s a brutal killer, what’s wrong? The problem, to me, is how obvious a killer he is set up to be. He looks creepy, he talks creepy, he acts creepy, and he’s the double killer this go around. And I’m clearly not the only one to think so. In Japan he had one of the lowest survival chance predictions (each sticker represents a vote, Korekiyo is next to Tsumugi). Likewise in /r/danganronpa’s pre-release poll Korekiyo was voted as the most likely killer, with 209 votes (out of 301, listed by 69.4% of respondents) earning 10% more votes than 2nd place Tsumugi.
Therein lies the problem, at least to me: predictability. Now one of the main draws of Danganronpa to me is uncertainty. Who will snap and be a killer? Why will they kill? Will my favorites make it to the end? When you have someone who is so strongly assumed to fit a mold and they do so like a key it isn’t very rewarding. Similarly his motive or trial don’t stand out all that much either. Kiyo killed for a fairly selfish reason (maybe in his mind it wasn’t as bad, but I digress) and that’s about it. I know I’m not the first one to draw parallels to Celeste but they stand in that regard.
So we’ve got the problem: Kiyo screamed murderer pre-release and we got just that with him, no twist or anything to really set him apart despite how obvious he was for the role. Now unlike many other places online I’m not just going to sit here and complain, I want to offer a solution. But since any solution would switch some deaths it’s important that I lay down some ground rules for myself.
For starters I don’t want to change the overarching story. I feel that’s too far, so chapter 6 would have to have the same “killer” and “victim”. Likewise chapters 1 and 5 are both important and therefore won’t be meddled with. Finally Miu must survive until at least chapter 4, for the whole VR chapter to work, since I wouldn’t want a whole rewrite of a chapter, and Maki must survive until 5, since she’s kinda the catalyst for the whole murder in that chapter.
Now my main idea for what would happen lies in the fact that Monokuma reveals that in the event of two murderers only the first one counts yet that information was never used. Keeping that in mind I wanted to see how the group would cope with living with someone who killed a classmate yet was not executed, and to keep with the theme of Danganronpa I just wanted some good ol’ despair.
First off I would keep chapter 2 the same, partially because I quite like Kirumi’s execution and partially for simplicity’s sake. So that means that I’m keeping the first two and a half chapters exactly the same. Then chapter 3 continues very similarly, but with slightly less of Tenko prior to the first body discovery. Instead of her coming to Shuichi and Maki to talk Angie out of the ritual, the two decide to have Gonta get them in to talk with Angie to achieve the same goal. It shouldn’t be too big a stretch, Gonta has been shown many times to be easily manipulated. Angie again denies them, but this time Gonta has betrayed the council (though I’m sure it wouldn’t be as bad as Tenko’s betrayal, since Gonta, again, is easily manipulated). The rest of the chapter would go the same until the seance, wherein Tenko doesn’t offer to replace Himiko as the spirit medium, and Himiko is killed during the ritual. Afterwards it plays out the same again, until Monokuma is asked about the possibility of two culprits. Instead of an answer he just handwaives it “Puhuhuhu we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we”.
At the trial it is revealed that Tenko saw how dangerous the council was and only joined to protect Himiko. However she saw that the problems were less the council themselves and more Angie’s way of doing things. Even worse, in her mind, was that every day saw Himiko sway closer to Angie’s side. Therefore she decided to kill Angie, knowing full well she’d be executed, in order to protect Himiko. Korekiyo killed Himiko during the séance, same as he killed Tenko during the game. Voting time would happen twice as each killer is voted on separately. Finally the execution involves both characters as we still don’t know what happens if there are two blackeneds. I picture Korekiyo and Tenko each on a rollercoaster car, on parallel tracks. After mirrored movements the two end up facing each other with a huge weight above them. It cuts back and forth between their eyes until a weight drops and executes Tenko.
Continuing to chapter 4, the group is now on edge due to Korekiyo murdering a classmate, which would be interesting to see how the remaining students handle it. For chapter 4 I’d see Miu’s plan actually work, but instead of Kokichi she has her sights on Korekiyo, and the plan isn’t foiled. Now Kokichi will have to do some more work to convinve the others he’s the mastermind for chapter 5 to follow the same setup, but I think it’s worth it for two reasons.
1) Gonta’s Survival: This plan would make Gonta survivor 3 instead of Himiko, joining Shuichi and Maki. The main reason I’d like to see his survival ties back in to the whole theme of expectations. Gonta made the main series games 3/3 in killing off the muscle-y character in chapter 4. While there is not necessarily anything wrong with a formula for the Killing Games (chapter 3 double murder, first victim is someone who seemed very important) essentially telling your audience that a character will bite it, and exactly when gets rid of a lot of mystery, which is important in these games. Having Gonta survive would mean that you couldn’t pencil in the muscle character as a chapter 4 death.
2) It Causes the Most Despair: Now each installment has their own theme, but the central theme to the Danganronpa series is certainly Hope & Despair. There’s a good amount of despair in V3 already, but I think that this would set it over the top. Tenko kills specifically for Himiko’s sake and she is murdered shortly afterwards. Not only that but her last sight is Himiko’s killer as she is executed yet he walks free. Similarly, Miu is executed for doing what everyone was no doubt hoping someone would do.
I know it’s not perfect, but I feel like it would add layers of depth to pretty much everyone involved, except Himiko. And it would turn the guy who everyone expects to be a killer and ends up being that, into a little more than we got, while still keeping his role similar, as well as quashing the muscle bound chapter 4 death.