Every time a student dies, under any circumstance. For one thing, don't forget that these are extraordinary high school children who had their whole lives ahead of them but have instead been forced into a deadly game where many of them will be broken again and again, emotionally, psychologically, and physically. Most of them will die in violent, sometimes torturous ways. Finally, consider that behind every character is a player who may have spent months or even years developing them, and now they must watch their creations go through the wringer, unlikely to survive their ordeal.
Special mention goes to any and all innocents wrongfully convicted of a murder. Unlike Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, where the game immediately ends with the promise of most of the students being executed, in Doubt Academy the game continues and the consequences are played out on-screen. The convicted alone is executed in spite of their innocence, and the rest of the class must live with having condemned that person.
Even the most violent murderers will have at least one person who mourns them, and many culprits will have a significant portion of classmates that will at least pity them for being pressured into killing.
Of the games that have been completed so far, the casts have been utterly gutted, leaving few survivors. Just scroll on through the class rosters and look at how many students have died over the course of the game. It's harder to read through in DA2 because they have ID cards that are bloodied and sliced up, a trend that DA3 is continuing.
Many characters of Doubt Academy are understandably traumatized by the violence around them, and their reactions can express far more agony than those of the characters in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Self-harm and even suicide attempts are not uncommon. Others even begin the game with wounds that are reopened as the story unfolds, such as in strip trials that end up highlighting someone's body dysphoria or their brutal scars, or when certain methods of death cause flashbacks to incidents someone went through before the game.
For dead characters, the game continues into the afterlife, meaning that there are a lot of happy reunions. Most of these relationships end with Together in Death, itself a Tear Jerker. Still, some people do actually make it to the end alive, and they remain separated from the people they loved and lost.
Doubt Academy 1
How does the very first trial in the series end? In desperation, the majority votes Akari in as the murderer, even though they know she is most likely innocent, solely because she appears to be unstable, uncooperative, and dangerous. Indeed, she was not the person who killed Tama, but she is executed anyway. It sets the tone for how dark the entire series can get, and how the survivors will have to live with the guilt of the things they did and the innocents they've killed.
The fourth trial and execution. Ryo did not plan to kill their friend Hisoka, but when they admitted they were considering murdering people to escape, Hisoka angrily stormed out of their room, and in a rage they followed him and fatally stabbed him in the neck. When Ryo is executed, they're forced to run through a long maze, just to be led right into a small room that acts as an iron maiden. Right before it closes in on them, they turn and cry out for Nanase, their lover.
Details shown after the end of the game make it worse. Nanase was the mastermind the whole time. However, her feelings for Ryo were genuine, and despite orchestrating the deaths of many of her classmates, she still felt anguish at Ryo's death.
The ending. It turns out that the students had signed up for this whole ordeal, and although they obviously didn't know it would involve killing each other, it ensures that Yasuda, the headmaster of the academy, cannot be easily held accountable for what happened. He then returns to them memories of the first phase of the project (where everyone formed close bonds with each other), in exchange for erasing their memories of the second phase (where the murders took place). The four survivors wake up in a hospital to find a news channel reporting that their best friends have been killed in a terrorist bombing — and they mourn for their deaths, not remembering the truth.
Doubt Academy 2: Black
The third trial. Blazing Justice Phoenix did not intentionally kill Iko, not realizing that she was a robot that wasn't waterproof. The classroom is torn on whether or not he deserves to die for this, and despite the constant shuffling of votes he ultimately gets the majority. However, in response to both this conflict and Angelo's earlier behavior, Monobear chooses to execute Angelo instead. This enrages Daiki, who furiously berates her classmates for not doing anything to stop this game from continuing, and then charges Monobear. He decides to show exactly why no one should rebel against him, skewering Daiki with spikes.
The twist of the fourth trial: Yamato attempted to hang himself off a scaffold in the amphitheater. Hiroshi, misinterpreting his earlier actions to be him plotting a murder, followed him to the scene and climbed up to the scaffold, trying to talk him out of committing suicide. His words comforted Yamato, who resolved to keep living and work on escaping the park...and then the scaffold gave out under the prolonged weight on it, resulting in Yamato falling to his death anyway.
There's a double-subversion of a tear jerker in the ninth trial: Monobear randomly picks a student to execute to make up for an incorrect suicide vote, and he ends up picking Nice Girl Yukie. Subverted, since Yukie doesn't die...and double-subverted, because another popular character, Setsuko, sacrifices herself to take Yukie's place, so the class still loses someone they very much liked.
After the end of the game, the player of the mastermind posted a short comic from their character's point-of-view on said character's blog, complete with an audio clip: Khadija is reunited with her sister in the afterlife.
Doubt Academy 2: White
The fourth trial. At the end of the trial, the votes are split between Yukiko and Ritsuka. The tiebreaker convicts Ritsuka with a narrow margin...and she is revealed to be innocent. Everyone is crushed by the guilt of condemning her, especially those who actually did vote for her. But despite holding anger inside for being judged just for her talent, Ritsuka resolves to face her death with calm dignity, sparing kind last words to many of her classmates and even giving Mimi a kiss before she is sent off to her execution.
The fifth trial. Driven by Monobear's threats to starve everyone out if a murder doesn't happen, Marian kills Adeline to save everyone else. She tries to hide the injuries she gained during the murder but eventually is forced to reveal them, breaking down in tears in the process. Many characters sympathize with her motivations and give her their blessings even as they vote her in as the culprit. Ryosuke in particular is devastated, sharing a kiss with her and saying that if, no, when he makes it out alive, he'll tell his father about the girl he loved. (Incidentally, he does end up surviving the whole game.)
On that note, the victim is known by this point to have killed Shinya, though questions remained on if it was self-defense. As a result, many characters barely even care about Adeline being murdered or even believe that she got what was coming to her and that Marian was making a selfless sacrifice by killing her and being executed for it. The lack of sympathy towards Adeline can be heartbreaking.
Doubt Academy 3: Alpha
The first death. Saki stands up against Monobear, saying that she believes no one will fall to his influence and that everyone will escape Gaia alive. In response, he throws her down into the labyrinth, and then triggers a cave-in that crushes Saki to death a short distance away from the exit. The students' reactions seal it in, as many of them view her as a hero and a martyr. But then, of course, the murders start happening in spite of that...
The first trial. No one can figure out conclusively who killed Ayako, so the students are left throwing out accusations in an attempt to figure out what fits. As a result, many of the characters end up hating or fearing each other, even if they were friends prior to the trial. Ultimately, it's Yuuto who gains the majority vote. And he's innocent. Yuu throws himself at his feet while Kosuke clings to him, but Yuuto just shrugs them both off and declares that there is not a single hero in the room, just villains and fools.
Yuuto's relationship page was updated a final time after the trial — and every opinion there is a negative one. Trying to visit his room results in another heartbreaking scene, as the reader will never get a response and will remain locked outside; previously, the reader would be invited inside and have a rather humorous tour of his room.
Emiko having a complete breakdown following the first trial. First, she frantically tries to scrub off the body paint that cast so much suspicion on her, and when it doesn't come off fast enough, she begins clawing at her face, arms, and chest, leaving her howling and bleeding inside the Abandoned Ward. Even when Sayuri and Yuu rescue her, she spends most of her time delirious and makes a few mistakes that leave her ashamed.
Emiko finds brief peace by spending time alone with Yuu and developing her romance with him. And then she goes to the cafe where Kosuke, Kikuyo, and Shun are. All three regard her with suspicion, but it's Shun who reacts violently when she tries to defend herself, telling her that he hopes that someone will mangle and kill her and that she will be abandoned by everyone who loves her. Shortly after this, Emiko attempts to commit suicide by falling down the entrance to the Labyrinth.
The worst part about this is the fact that everything that Shun said he hoped would happen DID: Chiemi gets into a fight with Emiko in the very next trial and screams at her, and apparently doesn't go to comfort her at all after the trial concludes and Emiko's boyfriend dies; Yuu, as mentioned, dies a murderer after trying to protect her, and the one person she wanted to be friends with more than anything, and who she thought could save her (Kosuke) shuns her after she tells him the truth about Ayako's death. A few days later, she is found having been murdered in one of the most horrifying ways yet. Shun had stated that "nothing would give me better pleasure than to watch you die, see your mangled body or even watch everyone who ever gave a shit about you leave you. Abandon you."
Between the conclusion of the second trial and the beginning of the third, one of the first romances in the game, Yuu and Emiko, is killed off entirely one right after another; Yuu is executed as the second murderer while Emiko becomes the third murder victim. Worse still, part of the reason Yuu killed Ryota was to protect Emiko from anyone who could hurt her.
Driving it in is the fact that they stood right next to each other in the trial arrangement, and on Yuu's other side is the spot where Ayako was supposed to stand. Only three trials in, there is already a significant gap in the podium circle.
Mitsu's backstory, which she reveals after falsely confessing to chapter 4's murder, causing the class to mistrial by incorrectly voting her as the culprit. It turns out she falsely confessed so that she could be useful to someone for once, at least as a "scapegoat", because for most of her life since discovering her SHSL talent of Sex Educator, people haven't been grateful for it. Previous classmates have beaten her up, and even cut her for it, which only added more stress to her "poor infected parents". Well, at least Ayako was Mitsu's chance to finally be understood—oh wait, Ayako was the first murder victim on top of everything else!
Doubt Academy 3: Omega
Rune Andersen's backstory. He was repeatedly beaten up by whole gangs of bullies, except during the times where his sister stood up for him, just because he supposedly had a monster's eyes. At one point when Rune finally makes a friend, he decides that friendship is something new for him. All this make it all the sweeter when Wakana tells him point-blank that he's human, and not a monster (and Wakana exorcises evil spirits as her SHSL talent, so she would know).
Minako Ito's backstory: she's been repeatedly screwed out of getting dates and boyfriends, just because she's been cursed with an unusually small stature and looks young for her age. The tear jerker moment happened at age 13, when Minako gave a boy a love letter. He didn't even open the letter, which was a rather rude way to turn her down, and it broke her heart.
Her Precocious Crush on Akira is one too when you think about it. She develops a crush on him in chapter 2, two of her classmates offer to try setting them up...and then during the trial, it appears to her that he's already got feelings for Usoko. Minako decides she doesn't mind too much as long as he's happy and resolves to never tell how she feels, because she feels it'd be an insult to Usoko's memory and any feelings he has for her. And thenhe turns out to be a victim in chapter 5...and Minako's diary entry reveals she was planning on finally confessing to him anyway, even knowing she'd be rejected. In the end, she has to confess to his portrait when she presents the new flower-crowns.
The first death. Eikichi stands up against Monobear, saying that he believes no one will fall to his influence and that everyone will escape Tartarus alive. In response, he throws him into the Animus, where he is confronted by a shadow of his own flaws. The shadow fatally stabs Eikichi through the chest. The students' reactions seal it in, as many of them view him as a hero and a martyr. But then, of course, the murders start happening in spite of that...
When the class finds out who chapter 1's culprit is, it's a huge tear jerker, because the culprit is Lee, who was close friends with a few of the class, including Minako, Koyomi, and Imogen. And Lee did it both to protect everyone else from the "computer glitch motive", and because she was just "so damn scared." The aforementioned three classmates find Lee sympathetic enough that after Lee breaks down in tears, the three hug her, comforting her before her execution. Aqua even kisses Lee, just because Aqua admires Lee's "guts". (However, Tamaki and Hikaru find this sympathy for the murderer to be disgusting.)
The second body reveal begins in an unusual manner: Gorou finds Riko in the break room, dying from a knife stabbed into her chest. All she can do is lightly kiss him and tell him she's scared to die, and she passes away as he holds her.
Heck, as far as the class is concerned, the fact that the second murder victim was Riko at all is a huge tear jerker. Riko loved everybody, and a bunch of students were friends with her, so all of those friends are really torn up about Riko dying. It's even worse when we find out that the culprit chose Riko as the murder victim because the murderer is uncaring and nihilistic and just thought Riko was convenient to murder.
The identity of the third victim (Elijah) hits Ume, his girlfriend, very hard. While visiting his room, she cries out that Elijah was the first boy who treated her right, and that before him she had been in numerous abusive relationships. And she is consoled by Imogen, who learned just the day before that Elijah was the pen pal she had been best friends with since childhood.
As of the fifth trial, the podium circle now has a massive four-person gap, separating Koyomi and Minako. On their other sides are also two-person gaps, meaning that they stand almost entirely by themselves during the trial.
Doubt Academy 3: Epsilon
Rune's eyesight begins to deteriorate at a rapid pace shortly after he awakens in Gaia. According to out-of-character posts on his blog, during the three-month timeskip in the ending, he loses his vision entirely. It doesn't bother him too much since he's had his whole life so far to prepare for it, but it's still heartbreaking to consider that the last time he saw many of his friends was when they died in horrible ways, and he doesn't get to see them as they are when they're cloned and given a new chance at life.
After Koyomi's death and Koharu's execution, Rune makes his way to the theater and basically pours his heart out to the empty room. He's not sure if anyone's there to hear him, but he basically has a complete breakdown- apologizing, not apologizing for his condemnation of the murderer, pouring out his fears and inevitably, basically eulogizing the victim, thanking them for their kindness and just for existing.
And then Minako joins him, also thanking them, also saying that everyone loved him. She tells a story of two brothers who were tasked to kill a terrible boar, and were promised the princess' hand in marriage. When the younger brother succeeded, the older one killed him in a rage. An ocarina player found the brother's bones, and at his ghost's urging, made them into an instrument- which, when played at the wedding, told the true story of what had happened, allowing the brother to be at peace. She relates it to their situation, and hopes that the victim can be happy and at peace now.
The way that the students continue to struggle together. Seven chapters in, and they have yet to attempt a Mastermind attempt, despite the fact Monobear has doubled the amount of attempts they can make to six. Keep in mind that the only time they can call for a Mastermind vote is during a trial, meaning that Someone Has to Die before they can even attempt to find the culprits.
During the seventh trial, Chiemi attempted to call for a Mastermind vote, and Kikuyo confessed to try and get people to spend more time discussing who it could be... only for their efforts to dissolve into still more infighting and petty sniping, including, ironically enough, them getting scolded for wasting time that could be spent working towards answers.
By the eighth trial, it has become questionable as to whether things are going to end happily for anyone. Chiemi tried to do the same as Mitsu did- a false confession- and not only was it shot down, but she was savaged for even trying it. When the murderer was identified as Tamaki, she quietly offered to let Shun murder her. Minako just started screaming uncontrollably, and Imogen◊- who had given a love confession to the murderer before the trial began- finally cracked under the stress and completely fell into despair.
The aftermath of this trial breaks Imogen even harder: Despite not a single public vote being cast for her during the Mastermind Vote, she shockingly wins the majority of the Omega votes anyway. That means that for reasons currently unknown, the dead students decided to choose her. It appears that she is not a mastermind, however. Even worse, her legal name appears on the ballot, causing her yet more anguish. As she reveals to Saori during the following (Ab)normal Days, the surname Beauregard is an alias of her father, a war criminal who murdered countless people and forced his family to constantly change their names and homes to keep him hidden.
Chapter 10 has Minako as the victim. The entire group knew Minako was the most innocent of all of them and did not deserve to die. Many of them were affected by this killing, especially Aqua and Chiemi who both swore to avenge her.
As if that weren't bad enough, it turns out Minako died because of an Accidental Murder / Heroic Sacrifice. She'd caught Shun about to drink poisoned water to kill himself, and fought him over the glass before drinking it herself in a snap decision. Also in a Meta sense, the fact that right after that trial, both Masterminds were caught...Minako was this close to surviving the game.
It must also be pointed out that Imogen was executed immediately after Minako's body was discovered. Monobear began to torment her after she demanded that Minako's killer step forward, and this turns out to be the final straw for her after everything that's happened. Imogen tries to shoot down Monobear, and all she accomplishes is earning herself a torturous death right in front of everyone.
OOC remarks have noted that one of the Masterminds nearly confessed on the spot when they saw Minako's corpse.
The entirety of the tenth trial, in both the main blog and the Isolation Ward. Special mentions go to the truth behind the murder, the existential crisis consuming the dead students, and the Masterminds breaking down under the guilt of what they did.
Tamaki deserves a note here, considering what happens to their loved ones during this chapter. Convinced that their mothers are dead thanks to the theories that an apocalyptic event overtook the world, the only things in the living world they still care about are Minako and Imogen. Both of whom end up dead within hours of each other. With this, any reason they had to care about what happens to the survivors is gone; their apathy is so great that they immediately default on their Mastermind vote.
Elaborating on the existential crisis, none of the dead students know what will happen to them even if the living are able to escape. Fully aware that they are data backups of their original selves, many of them suspect that they'll either spend eternity in the Isolation Ward or, more likely, will completely cease to exist soon. Some of them are scared of having to face either possibility, but a few actually welcome the chance that they might stop existing, so broken they are by self-loathing.
As stated in the section above, Shun, the culprit of the trial, was trying to kill himself, but Minako panicked when trying to get the cyanide away from him and drank it herself. Despite this, Shun is considered her murderer since he was the one who filled the cup. On top of this, just about everyone rejects his story when he tells the truth, accusing him of having intentionally murdered not just Minako, but the three people he killed in fire accidents prior to the game: His parents (he was seven years old and forgot to put out the candles) and his ex-girlfriend (she abused him and was chasing him down when he accidentally knocked hot grease onto her). The dead even make plans to torture him in retribution, until Minako tearfully begs them to leave him alone. Very, very few people even attempt to defend Shun, and most of them are just dead students trying to break up the mob.
On the subject of Minako and the truth of her death, Usoko hears Minako reveal that she'd drank the water in desperation, and flatly calls her an idiot. Minako immediately snaps and tearfully yells back that she knows she's stupid, because her father told her so over and over before she came to Hope's Peak, and the last time they saw each other before she arrived at school, he was shaking her and yelling this over and over again. Her older brothers had to run in to stop Mr Ito from hitting her at that point. It's the first time Minako's really said anything about her father's abusive nature - and while most of the dead students have no response to it, it's mentioned that Tamaki is stunned by the revelation.
This marks the first time any Masterminds have publicly confessed: When confronted with the evidence, Wakana admits that she is the Mastermind of Tartarus. This gives time for her friends to react to this confirmation, many of them wondering if any of her kindness was real. Rune, who had been so severely bullied in the past that he fears being betrayed and trusts only two people, Wakana and his sister, with details of his past, is especially hurt. When he questions her, the once-stoic Wakana begins to cry as she assures everyone that she genuinely cared for them.
Most of the defaults on Alpha's Mastermind vote happened for meta reasons due to players being unavailable at the time. The two exceptions to this? Ayako and Yuuto, who are so devastated by the truth that all they can do is hold other and sob, failing to put in any vote at all. Their posts and last private thread make it clear that they were both in very, very deep denial, and even now still cling to convoluted justifications to try and defend Yuuto's innocence. And, similar to Rune, Ayako is a bullying victim with severe trust issues, leaving her very vulnerable to this betrayal.
The first half of the ending:
To start with, we have Wakana in tears as she explains why she helped start the Game of Mutual Killing. She was absolutely convinced she was doing the right thing for the world, and if any deaths happened, the deceased would become martyrs for her cause; instead, all she did was cause several months of suffering for herself, her friends, and even the dead who continued to exist. Even her partner has turned on her, making it very clear that he was never so optimistic about the outcome of their plans and is glad that so many people died. Her final wish is that the survivors can still rebuild society like she wanted to do, so that she can be reborn into a world where even a monster like her can be happy.
After that, once the Masterminds are executed and the A-Team makes its offers, Monomi interrupts the argument with some news: She has messages from the dead students. As humorous as a few of her masks are, the words themselves are tearjerkers. Some people show intense guilt for their actions, others don't even care about the survivors, and a few simply don't want to be saved at all — but almost everyone else appeals to the survivors to give them another chance at life. What follows is an agonizing debate...in which half the class says to not clone anybody; the reasons for this vary, but some argue that the data copies are just that, and not actually their dead friends. And, if one reads the Isolation Ward, several students are absolutely livid that they're being seen as fakes not worth saving, and are scared of being left behind in Isolation or even erased from existence entirely.
And for a happier tearjerker in the second half, despite this massive split in opinion that results in over half the group leaving Gaia and the rest staying behind to start the cloning process, the survivors work out an escape plan that will get everyone out. Three months of preparation later, every dead student is cloned, and with help from outside they're able to leave Gaia without being stopped by Collective guards. Doubt Academy 3 is the first round to end with every student alive, and while their futures are still bleak because of what happened to Japan since the broadcast, at least they have futures to speak of now.
The ending is bittersweet in general, but for a few characters it leans very much towards bitter, particularly for those who came away with no close friends or a high number of enemies. Some go as far as cutting off any ties to their old lives and making absolutely no effort in reuniting with their families. One person even attempts to kill himself just hours after being cloned. Others have a happier future filled with lots of support, but still discover that their loved ones outside the school have been injured or even killed due to the rioting.
Doubt Academy 4: Rot
In Chapter 8's Monobear Theater, Alice vehemently argues when Keita is suspected of being the Mastermind. He's her friend, he's a kind person, she even says one of the clues pointing to him makes no sense considering what his talent is, and holds his hand to try to calm him down. And then it turns out she's wrong. Keita is the Mastermind. Also makes their previous interactions Harsher in Hindsight, especially since he was the one Alice had trusted most out of everyone and was her first friend in the lodge.
Speaking of Keita, in Chapter 5 his reaction to Hirashi's death. He actually sprints to the infirmary to make sure the victim isn't Hirashi, and when he gets there he simply falls to the floor in grief. It gets sadder when it is revealed that Hirashi was afraid to die, and that Keita had apparently promised him he would keep him safe. It also parallels Hirashi's reaction to Aya's death in the previous chapter, complete with anguished sobbing and denial.
It all gets more painful when Keita is revealed as the Mastermind, as not only does it show that he genuinely cared about the people in the lodge (and that, by caring about them, he thought they might've been safe), but that Keita is technically responsible for it.
The death of Rover brought many players and characters alike to the point of tears, and continues to be one of the most painful moments in the entirety of Doubt Academy.
There's a brief moment by P.K. when trying to convince Misaki that she's real, and not just an artificial intelligence. It really drives home the point that although she has her voice again, poor communication is hard to overcome.
P.K.: Please, you have to believe me, I-I spent my whole life with nobody listening to me, Sake, please!