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Faced with seemingly impossible odds, Makoto Naegi survived the mutual killing game. He played a critical role in guiding his classmates to victory in every trial, and even though they were whittled down one by one, he still managed to inspire them in their Darkest Hours. The mastermind was exposed, and after failing to drag them completely into Despair, punishes themselves, giving him and the others the ability to escape. As the doors finally open, Naegi's spirit soars, heart swelling with optimism...

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...and then he wakes up.

Handalion's Hope on a Distant Mountain explores a world where the events of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc were actually a D-course simulation, intended to test the mettle of selected students of Hope's Peak. Despite being a first-year student who hadn't even started classes yet, Naegi was placed into one... and proceeded to beat the unbeatable game. As a reward, he's given the title of SHSL Hope.

But Naegi doesn't feel worthy of the praise being heaped onto him. Looking back at the D-course sim, all he can see are his failures. His 'new' classmates aren't exactly as he remembers them; to make matters worse, they regard him as somewhat of a mystery...


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This Danganronpa Fanfic contains examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: In the simulation, Makoto Naegi thought he was comforting his classmates as they all attempted to escape a horrible situation together. He had no idea that he was repeatedly exploiting flaws in the D-course AI's programming, leveraging the personality system to protect himself from murder by other students and breaking the narrative by exploiting the Mastermind's inability to kill the player except in very specific circumstances, ultimately forcing it to invent a win condition that previously hadn't existed in a desperate attempt to break him. This actually leads into some of his self-esteem issues in the real world; since he didn't know his feat was supposed to be impossible, he doesn't think too much about what he did, while the people who knew the sim's nature in advance (including all the pitfalls he narrowly avoided) are highly impressed.
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  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Philemon takes on Headmaster Kirigiri's visage in an effort to help Naegi feel more comfortable around him. Tacitus, the AI in charge of the D-course narratives, appears as the Mastermind of his game.
  • The Ace: All of the SHSL students, naturally. It's explained that they're so incredibly awesome at what they do that they can go around spouting their ridiculous titles with a straight face, and people will still take them completely seriously. This extends to Naegi too, though it's implied that his title is part of the reason why people are so willing to listen to him.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Downplayed; Hifumi is still heavy set, but Makoto notes that his "real" counterpart is much more reasonably sized than his exaggeratedly huge simulation self, being more "egg-shaped" than "pyramid-shaped".
  • A.I. Breaker: Makoto managed to break the 'Mastermind' AI in the sims by refusing to present evidence against Kirigiri, making himself look like the killer instead. The AI couldn't kill him because the Mastermind isn't allowed to kill the player before making them succumb to despair (normal class trials don't count, but since the "murder" in this case was a frame job by the Mastermind, it fell under the 'Mastermind kills the player' instead of 'player fails the game'), and couldn't not kill him because he was voted as the culprit in a trial. The problem was solved by having Alter Ego appear and save Makoto, but this caused the AI to get stuck on the 'Kill Makoto' goal. The Mastermind couldn't use the other students to do the job, because Makoto befriended them so thoroughly that it would be a major character break for them to kill anyone, much less him. To make him fall into despair (so he could be killed) the Mastermind used dangling and then taking away hope, in the form of the Escape Switch. And in order to make that plan work properly, the potential escape had to be real- and thus the simulation now had a definite 'win' condition.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: An unusual case. An AI NPC goes rogue and rebels against the programs in control of the simulator because Naegi himself intentionally made it possible, in order to create a force for good to help people in the simulations against the amoral control programs.
    • Philemon and Tacitus, the AI that administer the situation, are a downplayed example. They're ruthless and amoral, but that's what they're programmed to do, because they're meant to administer high-stress tests to push students to their limit. Tacitus did, however, go somewhat rogue in the Trigger Happy Havoc simulation, as Makoto going Off the Rails of the simulation pushed it to prioritize killing him over continuing the game.
  • The All-Seeing A.I.: The simulated students only looked like they were acting independently. In reality, they were all controlled by Philemon, who was in turn in communication with Tacitus, so they could create plausible murder scenarios. Monokuma's motives were guaranteed to work on someone because Philemon knew what would cause each student to break; they weren't so much to foster chaos (though upsetting students to make them easier to manipulate later was a secondary goal) as to enable specific chains of events leading to murder (i.e. Chihiro needs to be killed off for his Story-Breaker Power. Tacitus creates the following narrative: Dark Secrets are threatened -> Mondo is made unstable by the reminder of Daiya's death -> Chihiro talks to Mondo -> Mondo murders Chihiro in a fit of rage).
  • Always Close: Seen in the School Trial that closes out Episode 1: They needed thirteen votes to censure the Board of Directors. They got twelve.
  • Always Someone Better: It's a background thing, but Makoto is this to Izuru. Izuru may have every talent in the world, but Makoto is able to inspire others in a way Izuru never could. During the trial, it's revealed that Izuru was placed in three simulations similar to Makoto's, and achieved a holding pattern (narrative can't continue, like in the canon Bad Ending where the students won't kill each other, but also have no leads because of Kyoko's death and so can't escape), the best intended result, but Makoto was able to do the unprecedented and outright win.
  • Arch-Enemy: Tacitus seems to think of Naegi as this. It claims to think about him and its loss to him often when it has nothing else to do and clearly relishes every opportunity to make him suffer. At one point it wonders if this is what love feels like.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Naegi has a knack for asking these. Sometimes it's entirely accidental; other times, it's because he slips into a 'trial mentality'.
  • Asleep in Class: The first glimpse we get of Izuru Kamukura is him on a security feed, face down on his desk, asleep.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The board of directors sometimes pressures Jin to get results of some kind out of Naegi, though it seems likely that they only wanted something to complain about. In the first trial they get their wish, and are horrendously embarrassed in the process due to their support of Kyouko Kirigiri against Jin.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Episode 1: The Second-Day Transfer Student, ends this way: Naegi convinces his classmates not to censure Jin, but the Board of Directors doesn't get censured, either. However, gossip about the trial will spread, which was Jin's intent. Kyouko isn't expelled, but it was close, hinting that she's lost a lot of her classmates' respect. Naegi's image of her from the sims is shattered, and he wasn't able to repair the Kirigiri's relationship.
  • Bizarrchitecture: A couple Lampshades are hung on some oddities in the way the school was designed in the game, such as the gym and the pool occupying the same space, and the windows in the dorm rooms being set up so that they would look into the neighboring room instead of outside.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The A.I.s were specifically designed to push those going through the simulations to their limits, even to the point of breaking them a little... but not to the point where they cannot recover. So they're brutally honest, always pressing buttons, and always angling to turn everything into another test.
  • Bold Inflation: Used as a way of Painting the Medium; if somebody declares something in bold, it's their equivalent to Naegi's "You've got that wrong!"
  • Broken Ace: Izuru Kamukura. Jin considers this to be one of his greatest failures, for much the same reasons as canon; Izuru is highly skilled at everything, but can't be called talented because he has zero desire to use those skills. Kyoko even tries to cast doubt on Makoto by insinuating that he's like Izuru, because Izuru's callous nature has alienated most of the other students.
  • Broken Pedestal: Kirigiri's increasingly petty behavior to try and destroy her father's career eventually causes Naegi to dislike her. After passing out at the end of his debate against her, he gets a flashback to one of the last conversations he had with her sim-version before they left the school.
  • Brutal Honesty: Philemon and Tacitus.
  • The Cameo: Certain SHSL students that appear or are mentioned are pulled from other media, such as the SHSL Seamster.
  • Catchphrase: Naegi still uses his from the game, and some other people indulge in them as well. It goes completely unremarked, so apparently that's just something people do from time to time.
  • Character Exaggeration: Used in the sim. For instance, the real Ishimaru proves to be more perceptive, and isn't so hung-up on proving the merits of hard work that he tries to push others past their limits.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: In the D-course sim, the reason murders were inevitable is that the AI was able to pull information from all the NPCs so it could always set up a semi-plausible murder scenario.
    • For example, the first murder: Sayaka snaps and decides to kill someone. The original target was Makoto, because he trusted her, but Makoto befriending her renders it out of character for her to go through with it, so she must select a new target. For a murder to take place, her target must a) accept her invitation, and b) either be incapable of escaping or turning the tables, or ready to kill Sayaka after she fails. If Sayaka had made the choice in reality, she had several choices that she had reason to think might respond, but actually wouldn't or would have simply stopped her without killing her afterward. The AI, on the other hand, knows that Leon would answer Sayaka's request and would impulsively decide to kill her if she failed to kill him, so Sayaka addressed her letter to Leon.
  • Coincidence Magnet: The game's truth bullet system gets deconstructed when Asahina's argument against Naegi is her surmising all the random pieces of evidence he just happened to remember was likely set up that way. Kirigiri later says his presenting so many coincidences at the same time is further evidence to him being a constructed being like Izuru Kamakura, who could remember any number of meaningless facts to defend his existence as a supposedly normal person. That explanation is supposed to be far more likely to her than a normal kid competing with the Super Duper Highschool Sleuth in her own field.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: During the first school trial, about Naegi's origins, Naegi wonders if anyone even thought of asking him the answer. However, it's subverted in three ways. Naegi would not have told them the truth. Simply asking would have been no fun. And finding out about Naegi's background was just a pretext for Kyouko to take a shot at her father.
  • Creative Sterility: Izuru Kamukura's key flaw.
  • Crossover: The third year class at Hope's Peak is mostly populated by crossover characters, aside from Yuuto Kamishiro and Yasuke Matsuda from Dangan Ronpa Zero. Some of them have already gone through their original plot lines, some haven't.
  • Daddy Issues: As in the sim, Kyouko has problems with her father. Her grudge against him is so severe that she's willing to deliberately trigger Naegi's PTSD just to build evidence against Jin.
  • Didn't See That Coming: During the game, Naegi's decision to not present the evidence implicating Kirigiri was a critical turning point, as the Mastermind AI hadn't even considered that as a possibility.
  • Difficulty Spike: The final audience participation puzzle in the first trial, which mimiced the puzzles in the games, was vastly more difficult than any that came before. It was the first to have two extensions (though these were already revealed due to the format), required noticing an extremely small contradictory detail, and it was also the first time in the trial that one statement had to be used against another.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Jin votes himself for censure at the end of the trial, with his votes numbering a mere 2 (the other being Kyouko). He wanted to make clear that he knew he'd wronged her, but she seemingly took it this way and it pushed her Rage-Breaking Point enough that she stormed out.
  • Emotionless Girl: Mentioned outright. Naegi's sim counterpart explains that Kirigiri's A.I. was written much earlier before the others, and before the actual Kirigiri was scouted by the school, leaving little in the way of a personality (Naegi wonders aloud if her father wrote her programming). His Sim version then goes on to warn him that her actual personality will be the furthest of anyone's as a direct result of this.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When one of the members of the board of directors brings up Nagisa Shingetsu as a potential replacement for Izuru Kamukura, the other members quickly shoot him down, finding the experiments done on him disgusting.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: What Naegi sees himself as, given how everyone seems convinced that he's an inhuman supergenius. It goes further than reality, where in his narration he says it was Kirigiri that saved the students during the game, handing himself the much less flattering title of "Super Duper Highschool Cheerleader."
  • Foreshadowing: After hearing Naegi's new title, Kirigiri thinks to herself that there's another student with the same title, but 'the two of them couldn't be more different'.
  • Forgets to Eat: Stress and trauma have messed with Naegi's appetite, so he often thoughtlessly skips meals. Tsumiki notes that this happens particularly often when he's about to do something dangerous, when he needs energy the most.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: Naegi feels guilty for yelling at the Headmaster and the researchers after getting out of the sim, but this doesn't stop him from being upset over what happened. He also struggles with forgiving some of the students for what their NPC counterparts did.
  • Full-Name Basis: Besides obvious mention going to Yamada, after the class trial Kirigiri goes from referring to Naegi as "Naegi-kun" to "Makoto Naegi-san."
  • Get Out!: Togami does not take Naegi telling him that "You're just as trapped in here as the rest of us" well.
  • Going Through the Motions: To save time, certain personality traits have pre-scripted animations. Naegi picks up on this when Philemon shows him an AI version of Kanji Tatsumi and they strike a knuckle-cracking pose just like Mondo's.
  • Good Feels Good: Apparently, a big part of Naegi's recovery has to do with him feeling good about himself by helping other people with their problems.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Everyone at Hope's Peak sees Naegi as a Magnetic Hero whose debut in school was in winning an Unwinnable Training Simulation. Naegi himself, between the PTSD from the experience, the revelation that none of what he accomplished was actually real, and his perception of himself as an Ordinary High-School Student, thinks that he's a normal kid who everyone is giving unrealistic expectations. That said, his time in reality has seen him nudge Mikan, Kiyotaka, and Byakuya towards character development, insert a AI into the simulator with the sole purpose of making further D-level simulations winnable, and winning a class trial against the Ultimate Detective, so take that with a grain of salt.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: In the final debate of "The Second Day Transfer Student", Naegi uses the fact that Kyouko deliberately triggered his PSTD just to hurt her father by proxy against them, shattering their credibility.
  • Hypocrite: Kirigiri accuses her father of using the school trial to increase the prestige of his protege, Naegi, while saying a school trial isn't a showroom but a serious matter. Several people point out she started the trial and has been using it for personal gain the entire time.
  • Impossibly Delicious Food: The food served in the cafeteria at Hope's Peak is not your typical cafeteria food. It's mentioned that Teruteru helped develop the menu.
  • In Harm's Way: Tacitus accuses Naegi of not being happy unless he has a problem to solve or despair to fight against.
  • Is This What Anger Feels Like?: After meeting Komaeda it takes Naegi a little while to realize that the emotion he's feeling towards the other is abject hatred.
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: An interesting version in that the Secret-Keeper is known. Naegi quickly finds his classmates starting to avoid him after the trial's end when it becomes apparent that he learned a lot of personal details about them inside the simulation.
  • The Load: D-course sims deliberately limit the amount of useful AI allies; one way to lose is for all of your useful allies to die, leaving you stuck in a holding pattern.
  • Locked Out of the Loop:
    • Whatever the Headmaster's exact intentions are with naming Naegi as SHSL Hope, he doesn't see fit to actually share them with Naegi. Nor is he willing to introduce him to the other SHSL Hope.
    • Naegi's parents and classmates don't know about the D-course. Kyouko reveals it to them during the School Trial that closes out Episode 1.
  • Loving a Shadow: Naegi briefly wonders if he was beginning to fall in love with Kirigiri's sim.
  • Magnetic Hero: Naegi, though he doesn't believe it.
  • Mood-Swinger: Sim-Enoshima's constant personality switching gets explained as a part of her difficulty level being ramped-up to maximum. At that point a consistent personality would've only gotten in the way.
  • Morton's Fork: How the D-course sim was supposed to go.
    • If you mess up in the Killing Game and become a victim (or convict the wrong person), you die. Game over.
    • If you murder someone yourself, you will be found out, no matter how much the AI has to cheat to make it happen. Game over.
    • If you fall into despair, the Mastermind is allowed to kill you. Game over.
    • If you try to escape, you're unavoidably shot dead. Game over.
    • If you play the game while avoiding death, never murdering anyone yourself, and never falling into despair, the game will continue until the player has completely exhausted their resources looking for a way out, at which point it falls into a 'holding pattern' where the player can't do anything against the Mastermind and the Mastermind can't do anything against the player, much like Trigger Happy Havoc's Bad Ending. This was considered the closest you could get to winning the game. Izuru Kamakura's D-course sims ended in Holding Patterns.
    • Makoto, being Makoto, managed to turn it back on the AI by creating a situation in which he literally couldn't fail, despite seemingly dooming himself, because none of the above conditions were met: Covering for Kyoko when the Mastermind framed her. He hadn't lost the killing game because it was the Mastermind doing the framing instead of an NPC, he hadn't met any of the conditions to allow the Mastermind to kill him (never killed anyone, wasn't trying to escape, hadn't fallen into despair), and a holding pattern hadn't yet been reached because he still had useful NPC allies. This forced Tacitus to save him via Alter Ego and served as an A.I. Breaker.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Naegi deeply regrets a lot of what unfolded in the sim. However, he has absolutely no regrets when it comes to Hagakure. His experiences with his artificial counterpart left him completely cold towards the fortuneteller.
  • New Transfer Student: Downplayed: while Naegi was supposed to start classes at the same time as the others, unknown circumstances kept him from attending the commencement ceremony or the first few days of classes. Add onto this how his title was changed, and his generally odd behavior, and everyone treats him as though he's a mysterious new student.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Deconstructed. Certain members of the board of directors thought Naegi wasn't worthy of being a SHSL student, and put him into the sim in hopes of scaring him off. Instead, Naegi beat the unbeatable game, proving himself more than worthy to attend and changing his title from SHSL Luckster (a rather disparaged talent) to SHSL Hope. However, he's still left suffering from PTSD and self-doubt.
    • During the first simulation, the mastermind's desperate plan to crush the will of Naegi and the NPCs by making them choose between staying in Hope's Peak or being thrown out into a dead world was the thing that made the Unwinnable Training Simulation possible to win.
  • Non Standard Game Over: The audience participation game for the first trial included the option to use Naegi's former SHSL Luckster title as an evidence bullet at pretty much every opportunity. Using it instantly derailed and ended the trial, but resulted in a Downer Ending where "Things went wrong." What happened isn't clear, but it involves riots, suicides, and part of the school burning down, with Naegi apparently being partially responsible.
  • Noodle Incident: What exactly did Naegi say to Jin after being pulled from the simulator? We may never know, but apparently it was bad enough to convince Ishimaru to drop any objection he had about Naegi following the Headmaster blindly.
  • No Time to Explain: There seems to be something going on in the background that involves Naegi, which he keeps just barely missing an explanation on.
  • Not as You Know Them: Inverted: The simulated versions of Naegi's classmates had their personalities altered in order to better serve the test, pushing him increasingly into the spotlight. The differences in their actual personalities prove disorienting to him.
    • Mikan Tsumiki is mostly the same, but her issues cripple her less, and she's got a hidden backbone when it comes to protecting her patients.
    • Kyouko Kirigiri is much less stiff, has friends, loves gossip, and hates her father with a fiery passion.
    • Kiyotaka Ishimaru loses most of his hardass tendencies. While he still favors formality and procedure, he also pays attention to other people's personal situations and takes them into account.
    • Byakuya Togami doesn't consider himself to be (that far) above his classmates. In fact, he came to Hope's Peak to network with them. He's still pretty smug, though.
    • Hifumi Yamada seems to be essentially unchanged. However, he's expanded his repertoire of references to include the works of William Shakespeare.
    • Touko Fukawa is not a serial murderer, and doesn't have a hair trigger on her defensive reactions any more. Instead, she's highly intolerant of stupidity, lewdness, and fanfiction (which she sees as plagiarism).
    • Aoi Asahina doesn't just love physical competition. She also throws herself fully into more academic tasks such as the school trial.
    • Junko Enoshima seems to be almost suspiciously normal, except that when she manages to wheedle Naegi into telling her that she was the mastermind in the simulation, she celebrates.
  • Not So Stoic: During the School Trial of "The Second Day Transfer Student", Kyouko Kirigiri increasingly loses their cool.
  • Off the Rails: For the most part, Makoto's conduct was unusual but entirely within bounds of the D-Course simulation... until he refused to call out Kyoko when she tried to pass the Mastermind's frame job onto him. This allowed both of them to survive the chapter, as by the rules of the killing game the Mastermind cannot be directly responsible for the player's death (unless the player gives into despair, which Makoto hadn't), and the Mastermind was directly responsible for the frame up. Tacitus had to desperately cover its virtual ass by invoking Alter Ego as a Deus ex Machina.
  • One-Letter Name: Up to Eleven. One chapter ends with an email exchange between two unidentified people, the second of whom has just a full stop (.) for an email ID, whereas almost ever other time the characters' names are used.
  • Original Flavor: A lot of effort goes into creating the same effect as one of the game's class trials, such as the use of truth-bullets, musical cues and reader-interactive questions at the end of several chapters.
  • Painting the Medium:
    • When trying to figure out the answer to something the Headmaster asked him, Naegi's thoughts take the form of the Anagram Mini-Game.
    • Bold Inflation highlights lines that are each student's counterpart to Naegi's "You've got that wrong!" Such as Ishimaru declaring "Your words are out of line!"
    • When Naegi returns to the sim, music cues are included. The characters themselves 'hear' whatever track is playing, and at one point, Naegi yells for it to stop. This is immediately followed by an 'End track' cue.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: When Jin meets with the school's board of directors, he uses about every other line to politely and condescendingly remind them of their malfeasance.
  • Plot Armor: Naegi had it in the simulation. The mastermind wasn't allowed to kill him directly unless he despaired, which forced it to find a way to save his life when he tried Taking the Bullet for Kyoko (who the Mastermind had intended to frame).
  • Post-Victory Collapse: Naegi, after the first school trial.
  • Precision F-Strike: Tsumiki uses one when revealing what she sees as her 'true self' to Naegi.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Naegi asks aloud if Kirigiri is planning to pin chapter 27's murder on her father. Instead of denying it, she lists off a number of criminal students she could go after if she wanted to hurt her father's reputation, saying that waiting for a scandal is better than inventing one. Naegi walks away in disgust.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots/Deceptively Human Robots: The A.I.s fall somewhere in between the two tropes. They're almost indistinguishable from humans, unless they're trying to make a point or just don't care. Then they instantly become incredibly unsettling. They also tend towards Spock Speak when dumping large amounts of exposition.
  • Robot Me: Naegi has an NPC copy in the simulator, meant to (fail to) predict his actions. The mastermind summons it and kills it in an attempt to break him. He retaliates by freeing it to act against the mastermind and Philemon. It later takes the name Janus, after the Roman god of gateways, since it usurped control of the simulator's external interface to keep the human operators from noticing or interfering with his actions.
  • Sadistic Choice: Tacitus offers Naegi the answers he wants... in the form of a letter that either AI can read for him. The Mastermind AI points out that some very painful answers are included, and if they read them, then Naegi could pretend the answers were lies, whereas Philemon is in a form he respects and therefore Naegi wouldn't be able to not believe his words.
    • It's later confirmed by The Jester that both choices were untrustworthy. Tacitus would frame everything in the worst possible way, while Philemon would only tell him whatever would guide Naegi to the conclusions that Philemon wished him to reach.
  • Schrödinger's Gun: During the D-course sim, one of the researchers exploited this by changing the identity of the Mastermind before it was revealed. When asked why, he justified it by stating this Plot Twist created a better story, as the Mercenary was simply "too obvious."
  • Shame If Something Happened: During their breakfast, Togami implies that he could arrange for something to happen to Naegi or his family if he doesn't give him what he wants. This only manages to shift Naegi into a trial mentality. However, Togami later claims that he was only trying to impress Naegi with his influence.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: His experiences in the sim have left Naegi with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Sherlock Scan: Invoked when Kuwata asks if Naegi has "some kind of Sherlock Holmes super detective powers" and goads him to use it on him. Naegi then uses Kuwata's piercings to 'conclude' that he really doesn't like baseball. (Of course, he knows this from the sim, but Leon doesn't realize it...)
  • Shout-Out: The scene where Philemon creates the ground is paraphrased from the Mind Screw last episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Doubles as an Actor Allusion for Naegi's voice actress.
    • In order to decribe Naegi's awesomeness, Kuwata and Yamada act out Dragon Ball Z's famous Over 9000 scene, until Naegi stops playing along. Everyone seems to think the comparison is apt, and Tsumiki even suggests that 9000 is too low.
    • The explanation of A Bao A Qu's name mentions that it was also the name of a fictional space station, and that it's much better known for that than the mythological creature it originally came from.
  • Smug Snake: While significantly less of a Jerkass than his NPC counterpart, Togami still confidently assumes that he can manipulate Naegi when he talks to him. This backfires hard enough to send him into a Heroic BSoD.
  • The Stinger: At the end of Episode 1, "The Second-Day Transfer Student", there's a conversation with a Wham Line where Komaeda declares that Naegi should have a real murder mystery to solve.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: When Naegi calls his family for the first time after the simulation, he realizes that he feels detached from them because of everything the sim put him through... experiences that they know nothing about and can't share.
    • To a lesser extent, the school itself. Naegi grew close to his classmates in the sims, but the NPC students, while based on and mostly accurate to the real students, are altered enough that Naegi gets thrown off whenever a real student proves to be different than their AI selves.
  • Super Window Jump: When Komaeda misses Naegi and needs to find him in a hurry, he asks Kamukura for directions on how to get from where he is to Naegi. Those directions lead to him jumping straight out a window. On the third floor. Apparently it happens so often that the school has given up on trying to get him to stop, instead only asking him to open the windows first.
  • Supporting Protagonist: According to the narration, Naegi's position as this was the reason for his victory in the simulation, because it was expected that players would take a proactive role solving the game's mystery, and he chose instead to grow closer with his classmates. The position then had to be handed off to types like Kirigiri and Togami to keep the narrative running properly.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Toko is not Genocide Jack, and Junko isn't the Ultimate Despair. The real Hope's Peak may be corrupt, but they're not stupid enough to let a Serial Killer and a terrorist in because they thought being a murderer or Hope Crusher counted as a talent.
    • Alter Ego only exists in the sim. Laptops simply don't have enough power to run a complex AI.
  • Survivor Guilt: Naegi suffers from this. Being told that nothing he experienced was real and the game was rigged against him from the start hasn't helped.
  • Sweet Tooth: Oogami reveals one upon ordering a decadent dessert.
  • Take a Third Option: Faced with a choice of who he wants to deliver the answers he seeks, Naegi ultimately picks himself. Or rather, his AI counterpart.
  • Take That!: In an Omake scene, Naegi asks if he ever used the shower in the sim, as he half-remembers "a completely gratuitous shower scene right after we finished the first trial..." Philemon responds with confusion, and the two discuss how out of character that would have been given the circumstances. Such a shower scene was added in the anime adaptation.
  • Tarot Motifs: Aside from the prologue, all of the chapters are named after Tarot Cards. Handalion has confirmed that these are connected to characters featured in each chapter, such as Naegi being The Sun.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. There are; however, Naegi's reluctant to meet with them.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The story is set in 2038. From what has been seen, Japan is mostly unchanged, but technology has advanced significantly. Hope's Peak has access to Cyberspace-capable computers, and Transforming Mechas are starting to be developed.
  • The Unseen: Aside from Philemon and Tacitus, there is at least one other unseen AI program, Hypnos, in charge of graphics design and modeling. According to Philemon, he's shy, lazy, and incompetent (see Bizarrchitecture).
  • This Is Reality: Brought up by Nagisa in Chapter 27, where Naegi has to solve a real murder and gets told that the real thing is nothing like the elaborate twists and turns seen in detective fiction. It's Double Subverted, though. When the event actually happened, the culprit, Nagisa himself, planned to pin the blame on Chinese spies. But as it turned out, nobody investigated thoroughly enough to even discover the faked evidence, so the culprit just removed it after a while.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Kirigiri tries to invoke this against Naegi in her attempt to discredit his arguments, suggesting his entire life is a fabrication as a part of grooming him into his title. Maizono remembering him from the crane incident in middle school doesn't stop her from revisiting the topic later in desperation.
  • Unwinnable Training Simulation: D-course simulations are designed this way. The one Naegi tried specifically tested response to being trapped in a morally and psychologically taxing scenario (an unknown mastermind has trapped students in the school and promised they'd only escape by killing someone). The idea was that the subject would attempt to investigate their situation and pinpoint the Mastermind's identity while avoiding failure and managing NPC allies, but there was no real method to escape the school or defeat the Mastermind, since the sim's purpose was to see how subjects behaved in the conditions of the killing game (the closest thing to a 'win' being a draw where there was just no one left to kill and nothing left to try), not beating up the Mastermind. Naegi, however, managed to break the game enough that the AI in charge of the narrative had to generate a win condition (taken from an entirely separate scenario meant to test survival and resource management in a hostile world) to have a chance of beating him.
  • Video Game Tutorial: The trial has one, despite the fact that it isn't a video game. It takes the form of a separate narrator who gives instructions to allow readers to play along with the trial at certain points, which are framed as if it was a video game (along with several mentions of having to cut features that would be difficult to present in text format due to budgetary reasons) but also talks about past events from the game as if he were an actual character, and in the Logical Dive explanation even references Hinata's version of the minigame, despite the events of that game never happening.
    • Tutorial Failure: The instructions for the first Nonstop Debate segment fail to mention that the rules of the pseudo-game have been changed so that other people will shout out the answer if Naegi doesn't do so quickly enough. Of course, this has no effect on the actual narrative.
  • Wetware CPU: The simulator runs on an incredibly powerful supercomputer, but it also uses the brains of people using it to render graphics (allowing the human brain to fill in details it expects to find) and occasionally to come up with plot points or character traits. For example, the real Toko isn't a serial killer; Makoto just thinks you should Beware the Quiet Ones and assumed that Toko was hiding something because of it.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • During the Prologue, Headmaster Kirigiri calls out the scientists running the sim upon finding out about it. However, upon learning how well Naegi is performing, he encourages them to continue while taking every precaution available.
    • Naegi screamed his head off at them after waking up and learning what they'd done. And apparently he said some pretty bad things.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: Philemon explains to Naegi that some of his own conclusions were written into the narrative to save on processing power before criticizing him using the "reclusive crazy author cliché" on Fukawa's characterization.
  • World of Ham: People with over the top titles going around shouting catch phrases in melodramatic scenarios? All par for the course at Hope's Peak, and presumably everywhere else, given that Naegi is the top user of such devices.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: From Naegi's POV, he was trapped in Hope's Peak for about three weeks. In the real world, it took only a few hours, or about the amount of time it would take someone to play through the game. Though, this is not due to time dilation, but the simulator tricking his mind into thinking more time was passing than actually did.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Headmaster Kirigiri tells Naegi this directly while trying to encourage him. Naegi isn't sure that he believes it.

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