Waifu Wednesday: Mahiru Koizumi (Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair)

Waifu Wednesday

I’m back at it again — it’s time to discuss Danganronpa and highlight some of the more underappreciated characters of the series. With such a widely diverse, dynamic and charismatic array of characters across the trilogy – not even including its numerous spin-offs and other adaptations – many of its characters go under the radar for a variety of reasons.

For today, I wanted to put the spotlight on a female character who is completely (but understandably) overshadowed by Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair’s legit best girl Chiaki Nanami – but my personal SS-tier Danganronpa waifu will always be Mahiru Koizumi.

Spoilers ahead.

Who is Mahiru Koizumi?

Mahiru Koizumi is Danganronpa’s Ultimate Photographer from its second installment. She is first seen to be quite volatile in the way that she speaks dismissively of others – or rather, the way that she seems dismissive towards men.

She is quick to complain about having to do anything for others and has quite the sharp tongue in dishing out criticisms, but her heart is in the right place, no matter how laced her language is. This becomes apparent when appreciating her quiet consideration for everyone around her, and the amount of depth that can be seen in her character during her Free Time Events (FTE) especially.

Why we love her

Mahiru is strikingly normal and relatable for a Danaganronpa character. She has her fair share of self-esteem issues — she compares her Ultimate ability to those of her other classmates, and her photography skills to the source of her inspiration, her mother.

Due to her being so career driven with her own photography, Mahiru’s mother was rarely at home and spent little time with her daughter as a result of her work. Her father in comparison was not an accommodating parental figure. He often shifted household duties and responsibilities onto Mahiru and was unemployed throughout their time spent together.

What Mahiru takes away from her background is that all men are like her father, and she instead strives to be like her mother – both from the way in which a mother would critique her own children, and in following her own dreams after seeing the beauty in people smiling in professional photos. Mahiru’s past remains a defining origins story, one in which tightly constricts her to this day until players put in the effort and time to correct her prejudices.

Mahiru’s FTEs gradually see her opening up to protagonist Hajime as she begins to feel much more comfortable in truly expressing herself. This is quite unlike the majority of her scenes in the mainline story, where she has a tendency to dismiss compliments and throw snarky remarks — though both of these instances dwindle with each and every FTE.

The best indicator of this character development and journey is how in each FTE save for the last one, Mahiru quickly excuses herself from the conversation. In the final one, she stays on the beach next to Hajime and is only a few lines away from confessing to him even. This is made all the more heart-breaking if players experience all her FTE before Chapter 2.

Why you will love her

While her FTEs are impactful, with some of the most impressive character development in the series as she learns not to generalise men, her behaviour across the main story is just as memorable. For example, the way she takes photos to capture positivity in such a dire situation remains as one of the only consistent means of keeping a record of the students’ time on the island. It turned a negative experience into a positive, and that was what Mahiru was all about.

Mahiru literally wants to capture smiles in her pictures – to retain the briefest of joy in even the most difficult of times. It is her one and only goal, and it is a truly wholesome one, as she always wanted to travel the world to take pictures of as many smiling faces as she can in different locations.

She’s also extremely forgiving, going out of her way to build bridges with those who wronged her in some way. She just wants everyone to be happy, no matter how she personally feels. If anything is for the greater good – as seen in the Girls’ Only event especially – then she puts the wants of the majority over the minority, herself included.

Mahiru tries her best in everything that she does. She is always serious, resourceful and helpful during investigations and trials right from the get-go. She tries to see the best in everyone around her, including even Hiyoko, who only ever wanted affirmation, and who acts out in retaliation for not getting any. Despite going far too soon, she even positively impacted Hiyoko upon her death for the short time they spent together, as Hiyoko creates a questionable but well-intentioned shrine to honour her.

Mahiru is an incredibly early character death in Danganronpa 2, but was always the only one that affected me to such a level that truly got me emotional. She’s a flawed character who grows from the constraints of a toxic mindset which only persisted due to her desire not to see others turn out like her father. She is unintentionally and unknowingly a source of inspiration, and one that should and will not go unnoticed or underappreciated.

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is available to play on Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PS4 and PlayStation Vita.

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Lilia Hellal
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