Hump Day Husbandos: Nagito Komaeda (Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair)

I’ve been threatening friends and colleagues with this article for a while now, and the fated day is finally here. Like him or not, Nagito Komaeda is a phenomenon of a husbando who has persisted in the internet’s collective memory for over a decade now, and it’s about time we figure out why.

If you’re not familiar with the often-polarising Danganronpa series, you may wonder what the fuss is all about. Without giving too much of the game away, I think it’s something to do with how easily the character can fit into much-loved yaoi fanfiction tropes like hurt/comfort, enemies-to-lovers, the woobie, and the yandere.

Komaeda from his OVA
From the OVA Super Danganronpa 2.5: Nagito Komaeda and the Destroyer of Worlds.

Ultimately, though, I think so many people (myself included) are so taken with Komaeda because of his multifaceted nature – he represents both good and evil, Hope and Despair, and his tragic backstory combined with his descent into madness and warped worldview makes you sympathise and even root for him, even when he really doesn’t deserve it.

He’s a bad boy, a sad boy, and a mad boy all in one, like the wizards from Adventure Time. He’s every woman, it’s all in him, and so on.

This write-up contains very minor spoilers for the Danganronpa franchise, particularly Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.

Who is Nagito Komaeda?

Komaeda is the Ultimate Lucky High School Student in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, the second student to hold the title after Makoto Naegi from the previous game. While Luckiness is not exactly an Ultimate Talent (Komaeda and Naegi were both admitted to Hope’s Peak High via a random lottery, and not for any particular skill), it is definitely a real and demonstrable characteristic in the Danganronpa world.

However, unlike Makoto’s luck (which is always apparently bad luck, but often leads to beneficial results), Komaeda experiences an extreme cycle of luck in all its forms. Also unlike Makoto, Komaeda makes far more active use of his luck, knowing how to manipulate situations to make his luck the deciding factor in particular outcomes, usually by gambling with his life. You’d think that this would make him a more effective hero (or villain), but it actually does the opposite – Makoto wins his Killing Game, whereas Komaeda had lost his before he even began.

Komaeda enjoying some Russian Roulette

Komaeda’s extreme luck resulted in a difficult and tumultuous childhood – anything good that happened to him would be counteracted with something worse. To cope, he developed an unhealthy obsession with hope, just to make sense of the tragedy that constantly surrounded him, and dreamed of becoming a “stepping stone” for humanity, presumably via his own death.

Since he believed that his luck made him “worthless” and prevented him from ever embodying hope, he ultimately decides to fan the flames of despair in order to encourage another Ultimate Hope to manifest and destroy it.

Why we love him

Because he’s crazy. There, I said it. Harley Quinn doesn’t have a patent on being hot and insane. Let the boys have a go!

Komaeda is the first character you meet in Goodbye Despair, looking down at you lovingly as you both lie on the sandy shores of a tropical beach. He’s sweet to you, if a little bit odd and unnerving at points…

Komaeda as he appears at the beginning of Goodbye Despair

The gradual realization that Komaeda might not just be the polite, easy-going yet self-deprecating friend he presented himself as at the start of Goodbye Despair is, for me, one of the major highlights of the game. Everyone likes a hottie with just a little bit of moral ambiguity, and I gotta say, Komaeda’s crazy swirly despair eyes really did it for me. (His cute white-pink hair also deserves a mention).

Komaeda from the Danganronpa 3 anime wid de swirly eyes
From the anime Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School.

My personal favourite attribute of Komaeda is his voice, especially because his Japanese voice actor is Megumi Ogata, who also voiced Naegi (and Shinji from Evangelion!) I love how Ogata modifies her voice for Komaeda – deeper and less confident than Makoto’s voice, yet also more playful and whimsical. She also can do one hell of a maniacal laugh.

Lastly, Komaeda’s character never shies away from the yaoi of it all. He wears his fondness for Hinata on his sleeve (even though it’s not always reciprocated), seeming to find both Hope and Despair to be physically attractive qualities. When interacting with Hinata he is theatrical, intelligent, and vulnerable. It’s pretty hard not to fall for his charms!

Why you will love him

Well – you might not. While Komaeda has been a certified Tumblr sexyman since 2012, and the subject of countless eye-wateringly sordid fanfics, he’s quite the controversial figure both in-game and in fandom. Some of his actions are certainly… distasteful… to say the least.

Komaeda enjoying some fire
This is fine.

But if you play Goodbye Despair, you’ll find Komaeda to be an enduring ally who never gives up on Hajime Hinata – at least, that’s his intention. He never means any harm, per-se, but his extreme ideology sometimes leads to unfortunate, permanent conclusions for his fellow classmates. But it’s not his fault, you know? In every iteration of Komaeda, he strives to be a force for good, even while fully believing that there is no good to be found in himself.

Thanks to the impressive staying power of the fanbase, Komaeda is never far away from discussions of obsessed-over fictional characters, proven by the beloved 2016 meme wherein Komaeda is likened to the man himself, Sans Undertale.

Komaeda Sans meme...?
This image gives me psychic damage.

If you don’t like him for his looks or personality or slightly evil tendencies, you may at least appreciate his memetic value.

Komaeda and Sans drawn to resemble a certain Kanye music video.

Much like Sans, Komaeda combines comedy and tragedy, friendship and opposition, to create an enduringly dynamic and fascinating character. If you played Danganronpa 2 and you hated him, it’s entirely understandable. But, to me, he will always be babygirl.

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