This adorable little murderer is a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in an unforgettable character design. A series of robots remote controlled by a human killer? A talking bear with a series of mechanical doubles? A sentient AI with an endless supply of self-destructing bear avatars?
Three games later, we still don’t know. The third game serves only to deepen the mystery. Whoever or whatever Monokuma is, they are a killer. Of high school students, no less! Yet it’s easy to forget (or, at least, deprioritise) this while playing Danganronpa. There’s a playful yet malicious bounce to their voice, and that laugh – puhuhuhu! – is never far away.
More important than the killing to Monokuma’s identity, arguably, are the terrible puns that they throw all over the place. They'd fit right in here. You know, apart from the murdering and kidnapping.
That twisted humour is what makes the terrorising teddy equal parts appealing and frightening. Despite forcing a bunch of strangers into a deadly situation, Monokuma refuses to take it seriously. The whole thing is turned into a game, a series of actual murder mysteries that won’t end until one person is left standing... or everybody is dead.
The killings – those committed by the cuddly mastermind, at least – are flamboyant, complicated, and infused with a dark humour. The bear personalises each according to the victim. Monokuma’s actions are impossible to defend, but the bear/robot/AI/ person/whatever themselves?
One of the most memorable villains in fiction, and very easy to celebrate.
This feature first appeared in PLAY magazine - Subscribe here to save on the cover price, get exclusive covers, and have it delivered to your door or device every month.