(Oh, digitally isolated / Oh, creator, please don't leave me waiting.)

...

I'm sure that, if you've heard of Chihiro, you've heard of the Discourse surrounding her. Which I suppose I will cover (clearly labeled so you can skip over it), so maybe this makes me a hypocrite, but I find the fact that Chihiro is mostly known for the discourse surrounding her frustrating, when she is such a genuinely sweet character. She's very relatable to me, and a comfort character!

Please be aware that Chihiro's story includes many transmisogynistic tropes. In the 'pregame' and 'canon' sections, I will be telling Chihiro's story as the game presents it, and I will then analyze Chihiro's story in a trans context in the 'trans coding' sections. I will also be using 'AGAB' (assigned gender at birth) language. I hate 'assigned gender at birth' language with a passion, and avoid it whenever possible, but I unfortunately can't think of any other alternative for this particular topic.


PREGAME

When Chihiro was a child, because she was assigned male at birth, she was bullied for being a weak boy. This resulted in Chihiro dressing like a girl in order to escape the bullying.

Because she didn't like playing outside, Chihiro spent most of her time on the computer. Her father was a software engineer, and, while using his computer, Chihiro found an incomplete information retrieval system that used voice input. She made her own modifications for it, and this led to her realizing she could write programs by herself. She found pride in this, and became absorbed in programming.

Chihiro became famous for creating cutting-edge programs, and she began developing top-secret AI programs for an unnamed company. Because of her notoriety, she was scouted to attend Hope's Peak Academy as The Ultimate Programmer.


CANON

Chihiro is very smart, but is also meek and timid. She's shy and apologizes a lot, but, when the topic of programming is brought up, she lights up and becomes much more lively. She is one of the kindest and most gentle characters in the entirety of the Danganronpa series. She refused hurt a mosquito that was biting her, because she worried that it was hungry and must have a family.

Chihiro is the only one who, after having her memory wiped, seemed to recognize Makoto, and she asked if they have met before. This may be due to Chihiro's above-average intelligence, and shows a sharp memory.

After the first murder, when Byakuya began to pick on Chihiro, Mondo interjected and said that it's unfair to bully the weak. Mondo had good intentions, but Chihiro, who has been bullied for being 'weak' despite her assigned gender at birth, felt greatly upset by this. The next morning, Chihiro began crying after Mondo's argument with Taka, which made Mondo regret his actions. He made a 'man's promise' to protect Chihiro from any danger. This touched Chihiro to the point that it made her want to take action to become stronger, and not be a burden to the other students.

In order to become stronger, Chihiro made plans to start working out. Sakura and Aoi offered to work out with her, but Chihiro declined the offer, in fear of having her assigned gender at birth found out, because Monokuma had set it up so that those assigned male at birth couldn't enter the female locker rooms, or else they would be killed.

Around this time, Monokuma introduced the second motive, which was a set of envelopes containing each student's worst secret. Chihiro's envelope contained the note, reading: "Even though he is a boy, Chihiro Fujisaki dresses as a girl." Despite Chihiro's meek nature, she didn't feel frightened by the note. She instead became even more determined to become stronger, so she could tell her secret. She resolved to share her secret with Mondo, who she deeply admired, by inviting him to work out with her at the gym.

Chihiro met up with Mondo in the boy's changing room, and told him her secret. Mondo (who was under the pressure of Monokuma's threat, and had a complex of his own about being seen as weak) became overcome with intense jealousy towards Chihiro. He felt that by choosing to make her life better, Chihiro was stronger than Mondo, who, himself, was wracked with survivor's guilt for his brother's death and intense, irrational feelings of weakness. This jealousy turned to fury when Mondo attacked Chihiro; hitting her on the head with a dumbbell and killing her. (He does NOT kill her because she dresses as a girl. He kills her because he was jealous of her strong character.)

Mondo realized he had to move Chihiro to the girl's locker room to keep her secret, which he did, setting it up so that it appeared Chihiro was murdered in the girl's locker room. She then broke Chihiro's e-Handbook, so that another student couldn't turn it on and find out about her assigned gender at birth. Despite his best efforts, however, Kyoko discovered Chihiro's assigned gender at birth while searching her dead body, and revealed this to everyone. From that point on, Chihiro is referred to as a boy, and with he/him pronouns by all other students.

After her death, Chihiro's classmates discover that Chihiro had made an AI named Alter Ego, in an attempt to decrypt files about Hope's Peak Academy. Alter Ego used Chihiro's likeness and voice, which endeared the students to it. However, the computer that Alter Ego was hosted on was later destroyed.


TRANS CODING

I don't think that I have to explain to you how Chihiro's story has issues aplenty. The "she was a he?" plot twist, the misogynistic implication that all women are weak, and the transphobic trope of a character dressing up as the opposite gender because they are "insecure" in their AGAB (with the implication that they would stop if they had confidence).

Obviously, the writing is transphobic. So, in a sense, trans people's seeing Chihiro as one of our own is sort of reclaiming. Chihiro is a sweet and kind character with a good heart, but was written into a franchise that treats her awfully.

It's not just reclamation, though (although that's a huge part of it). Trans people see ourselves in Chihiro's experience, even despite the transphobic filter her story is told through. From coming out to someone only to be met with a negative reaction, to being misgendered after death, to being outed without one's consent, to having your privacy and body invaded, to gender assumption based on genitalia; these are real fears that trans people have had to cope with for decades.

And, if someone says, "Chihiro isn't trans, she was just insecure and lied about her gender to cope with it..." Well, that's just how a whole lot of transphobes see trans people. We're seen as 'just insecure' in our assigned gender at birth, so we 'lie' about our gender. I mean, fuck, this game was made in 2010, when that view of trans people was even more rampant than it is now! Not to mention that the game's heavy implication with Chihiro's story is that women are inherently weak. If you insist that people have to see Chihiro as cisgender, you're sort of agreeing with and enforcing that sentiment.

I'm not against people reading Chihiro as cisgender. I've met lots of gender non-conforming boys and crossdressers who say that Chihiro helped them a lot, and I wouldn't take that experience away from them for the world. I'm against people who see Chihiro as cisgender, and attacks anyone else who draws her with the trans flag or calls her a 'she'. Gender non-conformity, crossdressing and transgenderism are all siblings in arms, after all! We should act like it!


PERSONAL THOUGHTS

"I hate that Chihiro's character gets overshadowed by the trans discourse," exclaims the person who just made a write-up about the trans discourse.

But seriously. 10+ years after her release, and people still can't leave trans people who reclaim Chihiro in peace, and it leaves Chihiro's actual character underappreciated! She's one of the sweetest and cutest characters in the entire game, and definitely one of the most intelligent. But mostly, I want to put her in my pocket.

But, yeah, shoutout to the multiple people who I made play Danganronpa who made a, "A girl programmer? What, is she trans?" joke, and then got slapped across the face with the actual game's contents. If it helps, that happened to me, too.


GALLERY

Anyway guys check out my hamster! Open the images in a new tab to get an up-close look!


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Louie Zong