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:
Before beginning today’s blog post let me summarise the plot of Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny-Girl Senpai (since its title doesn’t really tell you anything)! It’s protagonist, Sakuta, whilst studying in his school’s library, catches a glimpse of his beautiful, yet aloof, senpai, Mai, dressed up as a bunny girl. After confronting her he learns that she is a victim of puberty syndrome – a mysterious phenomenon where the conflict that an individual experiences during adolescence manifests itself in strange and unusual ways – and that only he can see her. The rest of the show consists of Sakuta, your prototypical white knight, rescuing her and his other cute cohorts from the clutches of this bizarre condition.
The young girls of Bunny-Girl Senpai struggle to communicate with other people, to earn the recognition of others, and with their ever-evolving identities. These issues, whilst painful and unpleasant, are not altogether unusual for girls their age. Even dissociation, in response to traumatic events, is not unheard of in girls of Kaede’s age. However, as a result of these problems, the girls experience some pretty unusual phenomena. Tomoe learns to manipulate time in order to achieve her own ends, Mai turns invisible, and Rio splits into two versions of herself, a la Freaky Friday. All of this got me wondering, is there any merit in using supernatural phenomena like these to explore everyday issues? Below I briefly consider this question.
The issue of mental health is one that’s near and dear to my heart. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression ever since I was 11 and have recently been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I studied psychology for four years at university and, upon graduating, started work as a recovery worker for a mental health charity. So, with anime also being near and dear to my heart, I’m very interested in its portrayal of mental illness. Over the past few years I’ve noticed anime’s depiction of mental illness improve somewhat. A Silent Voice and Orange both depicted depression and suicidality in a sensitive way and it’s interesting to watch Okabe tackle what appears to be post traumatic stress disorder in this season’s Steins;Gate 0. However, to date anime’s depiction of mental illness has been largely insensitive or inaccurate.