My husband and I have recently sunk our teeth into the Danganronpa franchise. We’ve had so much fun playing the games (especially fun was being able to lord my overwhelmingly superior deductive reasoning over him) and watching its various anime adaptations. For those of you unfamiliar with the franchise (where have you been?) its premise is this: a class of elite students (all possessing an “ultimate” talent – a prerequisite for admittance into the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy) are pitted against each other by their mysterious captor in a gruesome “killing game”. They are then forced to unravel one another’s murders in order to escape captivity.
The Danganronpa franchise places a lot of emphasis on its characters’ talents. These form the basis of their identities and factor into many of the franchise’s key events. Whilst the franchise is only ever a hair’s breadth away from becoming utterly ridiculous, some of the implications it makes about talent are quite discouraging. The fact that extraordinary talent is necessary in order to attend Hope’s Peak Academy, that graduation is guaranteed to set you up for life, and that the main course students are hailed as the hope of Japan, whereas the (comparatively untalented) reserve course students are positioned as second-rate, are frequently labelled “weeds” or “parasites”, and whose entry fees are used to fund the main course, suggests that: 1. talent is all that’s necessary in order to succeed in life, 2. is what’s most beneficial to society, and 3. that the untalented should be content to simply act as the talented’s stepping stone to success.
If, like me, you don’t possess any exceptional talents, dwelling on these implicit messages can dampen your spirits. To lift them up again, here are five personal attributes that are just as important to have, if not even more so, than talent:
According to psychologists Salovey and Mayer, an emotionally intelligent individual is better able to perceive, manage, and use their emotions. For instance, these people are better at solving emotional problems and tend to fare much better in social situations. An emotionally intelligent individual is also much less likely to engage in problematic and/or self-destructive behaviour, including substance misuse and violent episodes.
Happiness, or the ability to experience frequent positive emotions, is another extremely valuable attribute. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that happiness leads to success in health, work, income, marriage, and friendships. One explanation for this is that happy individuals are better situated to build a repertoire of skills that can be of use later on in life (Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory). To demonstrate, Lyubomirsky, King, and Diener found that happiness positively correlated with a number of useful skills, including: coping, creativity, and sociability.
A resilient individual is one who possesses the skills necessary in order to cope in the face of trying circumstances. These include social skills, academic skills, and involvement in community and/or extracurricular activities. One groundbreaking study (carried out by Werner in 1971) studied participants from birth to 32 years of age. Many of these participants were found to experience problems, such as a lack of support, perinatal problems, and family instability. Of these participants, it was the resilient ones, the ones who sought out external support and increased their skillset and confidence, who made the biggest turnaround in their lives.
The Ability to Easily Forgive Others
This trait has long been considered desirable by most major religions, including my own: Christianity. The Bible posits that, since God has forgiven us our transgressions, we ought to forgive others their’s. However, since I’ve approached this blog post from a more scientific standpoint, let’s continue to see what the research says! Tangney and colleagues found that the tendency to forgive others was related to lower depression, hostility, and paranoia in participants. Wuthnow studied groups that fostered forgiveness and found that it positively correlated with success in overcoming guilt, addiction, and discouragement. Finally, Witvliet and colleagues found that those who forgave their transgressors experienced less physiological stress than those who did not. In other words, those who are able to easily forgive others experience fewer negative emotions, less physiological stress, and are better able to overcome obstacles in their lives.
Going through life simply treading water, doing only what you need to do in order to survive, is bound to make you deeply miserable. Why? Because you’re not living according to your values, the things most important to you. These vary from person to person. My values include faith, friends and family, loyalty, independence, and serving others. Since recognising these values I try to live in a way that aligns with them: I might work a 40-hour work week and juggle many other important responsibilities, but I still make sure to attend church, regularly touch base with my loved ones, and serve others to the best of my abilities. Living this way brings me great happiness. Unfortunately, however, despite the impact it could make on people’s health and wellbeing, there appears to be a lack of research into the benefits of living a values-driven life.
Alright, let’s bring it back to Danganronpa before I round this post up! Many of the franchise’s characters possess alarmingly few of the above attributes. Many are violent, negative, and socially inept (e.g. Mikan, Nagito, and Toko), many go into meltdown mode, as opposed to calling upon their skills, when faced with a challenge (e.g. Taka, Kazuichi, and Yasuhiro), and some continue to hold a grudge against others despite the harm it does to themselves (e.g. Kyouko and Fuyuhiko). Sure, these kids might be talented, but talent will only get you so far, as demonstrated by the misfortune that befalls many of them. The lack of other positive qualities also goes some way towards explaining why so many of them are crazier than a box of frogs (even before the murders start)! So the next time you begin to feel blue over your lack of exceptional talent, take comfort in the other exceptional qualities you have instead! Thanks for reading!