MP (militarypenguin) wrote,

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Dangan Ronpa Chapter 2 Impressions

First, the less uncomfortable stuff: Fukawa continues to intrigue and entertain, and I'm glad with the reveal of her Genocider Syo personality she's here to stay. It's common for a mental disorder to be the root of all horror, and while for all I know the horror factor of it might be milked for all its worth from here on out, it's pretty refreshing to have the character remain a part of the recurring cast. It opens for a multitude of possibilities of interesting dynamics and Fukawa's own struggle with coping with. As entertaining as her Syo personality is (homemade scissors! I love her), I hope there's more light shed on the cast helping Fukawa out with the latter, though I still hope that won't be the last we see of Syo.

And now on to the uncomfortable stuff...I knew the "twist" about Chihiro being biologically male since starting the game, and my friends had warned me ahead of time that the way it's revealed is pretty cringe-inducing, so I wasn't as angry about it as I might have been had I gone into it with no preexisting knowledge. But it's still pretty uncomfortable and infuriating how it's handled all the same, from the "reveal" being found via physically examining Chihiro's deceased body to the cast referring to Chihiro with male pronouns after the discovery, despite her having consistently presented as female beforehand. Most infuriating of all was Kirigiri treating it like a freak show ("I have a place I want to take you all...Don't you think this school trial will get much more exciting that way?") and the game going out of its way to follow Kirigiri's lead.

Obviously, with trans* issues being such a seldom accurately-covered topic in mainstream media (I'm not going to get into Japanese culture's general stance on gender, as it's not one I'm well-adversed in) and the cast consisting of teenagers, I didn't expect them not to be shocked at Chihiro's "secret" nor expect them to keep referring to her with female pronouns. But the narrative never attempts to frame their behavior as faulty or negative, so it's still a problem.

It's doubly frustrating because Chihiro could have been an excellent example of a trans* character that both presents the struggles of a trans* person in a realistic, subtle light (Chihiro's discomfort with putting on a bathing suit and joining the girls in swimming, her becoming self-conscious when Naegi says he always considered computers to be a hobby associated with boys) while not being tied solely to their gender issues (Chihiro's desire to be stronger, insecurities about being useless, her passion for computers). She had the potential for a strong arc that, unfortunately, gets cut short by her death and revealed in a rather tasteless manner.

On the other hand (and here's where I begin to refer to Chihiro with gender-neutral pronouns), was Chihiro trans*? The game doesn't make it clear, as Chihiro's backstory is revealed that they chose to become a girl because of their experience of being looked down upon for being too weak and unmasculine to be a "proper" boy, so they presented as a gender they'd get less ridicule for. Things become even hazier as we learn that Chihiro approaches Mondo for advice on how to be "stronger" (they explicitly refuse to confront Sakura on account of her being female) because he's the manliest/strongest student there, which begs the question: is Chihiro aiming to be "stronger" in the masculine sense of the word, or "stronger" in terms of physical/inner strength? Again, it's unclear.

So where does the sort-of-good lie in all of this? For one thing, Mondo's reason for killing Chihiro isn't out of shock when they reveal the secret about their biological sex. Instead, he reacts with jealousy that Chihiro had so much inner strength to confront him, a physically powerful and intimidating man, about such (widely considered to be) controversial information, and kills them in a fit of insecurity and jealousy. However, it doesn't end there--Mondo, having snapped back from his fit of jealous rage, remembers the promise he made to Chihiro not to reveal their secret, and (having met them in the boys' locker room) moves Chihiro's body to the girls' locker room, determined not to let the secret get out.

So, in the remains a topic that's handled disgustingly at first and then...ends up not so bad, but still pretty hazy. I'm not sure how I felt about it overall, though discomfort slightly outweighs comfort here.

As for the rest of the chapter, the sauna scene between Ishimaru and Mondo was priceless (AND ACTUALLY BECAME A PLOT POINT), Togami is a fucker, Mondo's execution started out not too bad and then became horrifying when I understood what happened to him (liquefied into butter, just holy fuck), and Mondo himself...might have become one of my favorite characters. At first I thought there was no way I could get past his corn-on-the-cob hair, but once I got to know him, his insecurities, vulnerabilities, and likings, plus his treatment of Chihiro (sans the killing), the hair suddenly just kind of disappeared. He's a sweet person at heart, he just has a terrible fatal flaw (maybe I like him so much because he reminds me of Kaiji in that regard?). I think he and Chihiro could have been great friends, if not for that...

Also, Naegi is responsible for every murder in this game. I'm calling it now: he's Monobear.
Tags: dangan ronpa
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