[Analysis] Doki Doki Psychology Club Redux

In light of recent news about DDLC, specifically ignorant and toxic people misjudging it and keeping people away from it, I have decided to repost my old DDLC analysis of the girls’ mental illnesses to show how fairly and honestly the game portrays mental illness.

Special thanks to ahogegirl for posting about the situation on her blog. Read her post here, it is her well-written rant about the situation itself.

l start off my post by saying that mental illness is no joke, and that if you or a family member suffers from any of the illnesses that we’ll be talking about in this video, I sincerely hope I am able to handle it in a sensitive and truthful way.

I wanted to make this a video, but time and budget won’t allow me right now. Maybe in the future. But I wanted to discuss it anyway, so let’s go.

I was taught, by TV and by movies that mental illness is something silly or scary, and that only over-the-top and crazy people can have them. The number of comedy movies that use mental illness as a quick and easy vehicle to make jokes is insurmountable, and not done very tastefully, if at all. Overall, it has led to this stigma against people with mental illness, pushing them into becoming reclusive and instead trying to act as normal as they can instead of getting help.

Which is why I’m glad that in recent times, awareness for mental illness and tasteful satire of these issues are now present, instead of resorting to what it used to back then. More bills being passed, more people becoming comfortable seeing therapists, which is a very good thing.

I wanted to talk about Doki Doki Literature Club’s portrayal of mental illness. It paints us a picture of mental illness that is neither insensitive nor inaccurate. Quite the opposite, I believe they portray the disorders very well. Now, some of these might not be disorders at all and just quirks of these characters, but I am simply pointing out a possibility, with some evidence.

First, we’ll start off with the obvious one

Sayori

Sayori suffers from depression. She clearly states this herself when you confront her in her room, but there’s a very good reason why the portrayal in this game was lauded as one of the most accurate portrayals in video games.

Depression, according to an article I found on medicalnewstoday.com, can be seen with the following symptoms.

Depressed mood (duh):

Sad Sayori

In the 3rd segment of the first act, Sayori enters the classroom, not with her usual infectious, joyous self, but a very sad girl, downcast and quiet. She refuses to discuss the problem, and ultimately decides against showing a poem or even reading anybody else’s, opting to go home early instead, which leads into the second symptom of reduced interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed.

Low appetite, hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) and restlessness:

sLEEPY Sayori

Sayori tells us herself in her monologue that often times, she asks her self why she bothers eating and waking up in the morning, which invariably causes another symptom to arise, fatigue and loss of energy. The restlessness can be seen when she’s putting up her hyper-energetic facade on, or trying to make everyone happy, as she puts it. It is most probably as a way to distract herself from her true feelings.

Delayed psycho-motor skills, for example, slowed movement and speech:

pwap

Okay, this one, maybe not so much, as we clearly know that she is not a slow person, she only pretends to be for others’ sake. Better to be known as somebody simple-minded than have to have people maneuver through her own mental problems.

Feelings of worthlessness or guilt:

Worthless

Furthermore, states outright in her monologue that she’s worthless and she feels guilty when people waste time trying to cheer her up. She believes that her own selfishness is why the world has decided to punish her with your arrival.

Impaired ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions:

idk

Near the end of the first act, we start seeing her descent into hopelessness with Sayori telling the main character that she’s confused by her own feelings. Depending on your choice, these feelings can become even more confusing and painful. In the pamphlet she gave to Monika, it was clearly a jumbled and disturbing mess of repeated words, similar to that one scene in The Shining. Eventually, these lead to:

Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or attempt at suicide:

getout

Even before this scene, it was already hinted at in several scenes that she thinks a lot about death. While picking words for your poems, her liked words, among other things, include death, unrequited, and suicide. Her poem, or what it should be really called, her suicide note, you see her write the words “before I know what’s best for you”, implying that she had difficulty setting her mind to killing herself. The repetition of “get out of my head” implies that she had been thinking these kinds of thoughts for a while.

Finally, as the MC goes to visit her, he sees the horrifying result of all of these symptoms:

img_20180221_153431248467047.jpg

Sorry about that.

Now, let’s move on to the second Doki Doki death flag,

Yuri

Yuri, on the other hand, is a trickier one. In the first act, she shows very little sign of any mental illness, as Monika hasn’t started Shiba Inu’ing the game yet. However, we do see a few early signs that Yuri may not be all there.

Through my research, I found the page on Borderline Personality Disorder, with a dash of Bipolar II.

New Addition: Bipolar Disorder is characterized by highs and followed by severe depression depending on how high you were from your manic depression. The Bipolar Disorder theory was shared to me a by a fellow member in a DDLC FB Group.

Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that causes intense mood swings, impulsive behaviors, and severe problems with self-worth.

Please keep in mind, that BPD and Bipolar Disorder have a lot of overlap,so for the sake of efficiency, I’ve merged similar symptoms under one bullet point.

But wait, isn’t Yuri a shy and meticulous person? How can she be impulsive, or have mood swings?

Well, that’s what we’ll be focusing on right now.

With information I gathered from the internet, and an excellent post by u/Elegant_Trout in the DDLC subreddit that has been a great help to this post, I pinpointed the symptoms one by one proving this. You can go ahead and read the post for yourself, it’s the precursor to my analysis.

On to the symptoms!

Intense emotions and mood swings:

haah

Before Yandere Yuri shows up in the second act, we actually already see these symptoms in the first act. She often has passionate reactions to the MC’s advances, and her mood quickly shifts from happy to anxious in a matter of seconds. The MC mentions more than once that she is a very intense person. Monika gives this the Kaioken treatment in the second act, and her monologue implies that in her childhood, she was too “intense” for people, and that’s why she tries to tone herself down.

In addition, this plays into the highs and lows of Bipolar Disorder, such as Yuri’s “excitement” when cutting herself, or falling into despair when you reprimand or otherwise reciprocate her feelings in a way that she didn’t want.  Alternatively, it could also be a sign of-

Mania

Mania, or a manic episode, is usually characterized by feelings of extreme energy, restlessness, or irritability. This is most definite when she starts being snappy at Monika, and constantly fidgeting around you. She also becomes remarkably nasty towards other people while she is in this state, and further solidifies the possibility of her being bipolar alongside the BPD.

Harmful and impulsive behaviors:

cut

This is most likely where her fascination with knives comes from, as well as her more impulsive actions. In the first act, in the MC’s room, We see her impulsive behavior when she licks your finger clean of blood, and the MC reciprocating isn’t helping matters at all. We also see her hide her arm in her sleeve as soon you return from the bath, implying that she cut herself way before Monika started messing with her head. The biggest telling factor is the fact that she consistently wears long-sleeved clothing, in contrast to Sayori and Natsuki, who we see wear shirts or sleeveless tops at least a few times. This is most noticeable in the scene where Sayori has long sleeves but has them pulled up, already implying that the day was pretty hot to be wearing a thick sweater. In the second act, we actually catch her in the act of cutting herself, after the MC had made her happy beforehand.

If we are to believe some of these behaviors are uncontrollable urges, it may also lead into the possibility of Bipolar Disorder mania.

Relationship problems:

Touch

Her relationship with the MC is clearly a difficult one. First act, she’s always fidgety and nervous around you, more than a normal person should be, really. Second act, she has become obsessed with your character, and often times keeps the MC to herself throughout most of the act, regardless of if you picked Natsuki or her.

Low self-worth:

Flustered

For once, this is more seen in the first act instead of the insanity in the second. Yuri has a very low self-esteem, with her constant second-guessing of herself, sudden bouts of anxiety when confronted, and overall meekness. Most interactions with her involve her backpedaling from a statement, or apologizing for something she did.

A frantic fear of being left alone (abandoned):

PgzD6VA

Her fears lead to frantic attempts to hold on to those around her(more specifically you), and caused her to reject others before they can reject her.

When she makes her “confession”, it is way less heart wrenching than Sayori’s, and about ten times more terrifying. After admitting to a lot of unsavory things, she asks you if you love her. Regardless of the decision you pick, she cannot handle your answer, and much like Sayori, she ends up taking her own life.

Combining all the factors above, her obsession, her violent and impulsive behavior, her mood swings and her self-esteem being entirely tied to yours, we see it all culminate in a very broken, very confused, and very dangerous girl.

Losing

As u/SignalstoNoise pointed out on my original reddit thread, what makes it even more poignant was how Yuri actually did notice she was going insane throughout the entirety of act II. She knows that she’s going off the deep end, and fast, but she’s powerless to stop it, so in the end, she just gave in to her basest desires. This, I believe, is a result only seen when Monika allows her to release her urges, and she starts showing more signs akin to a person with Bipolar II.

Nuts

And she’s enjoying the hell out of it.

Moving on from Yuri, I’m surprised to tell you that a certain tsundere……………..

Natsuki

………………is the one and only relatively mentally sound person of the four girls!

When Monika amplified every girl’s problems, she probably saw that the only upgrade Natsuki got was being more angry, so, she instead turned up the abuse that she received from her parents.

dad

Now, this does not mean that Natsuki is perfectly fine. She still shows a host of symptoms that can stem from being abused, most specifically, her small frame and aggressiveness being the result of living in a home where she is starved and constantly has to fight against others to get time for herself. She probably learned to bake and cook for herself because she is neglected and starved by her parents. Despite that, she still manages to be the only girl who was aware enough to notice that everybody was starting to act weirder than usual, as stated in her letter to you about Monika and Yuri.

letter

Speaking of which:

Monika

Monika is the hardest nut to crack so far. In the first act, she is shown to be the most emotionally mature and competent of the four girls. However, that doesn’t mean she’s not slightly off. Finding out that you are in what is essentially the shoujo matrix wouldn’t leave you completely sane as well, now would it?

So, what’s Monika’s deal? Some people suggested she was a sociopath, and while the lack of empathy for others is certainly there, the anti-social tendencies and impersonal nature just doesn’t work for the most popular girl in school who wants be the only one you love, and keeping you to herself in her time dungeon.

No, her true disorder is one that is often confused with being a sociopath. Monika’s problem is narcissism, or as u/zeanobia in the reddit comments suggested, more specifically, schizophrenic-induced Erotonia. In layman’s terms, it is a delusion in which a person believes that another person (typically of higher social status, in this case, you are literally real and she’s not) is in love with them.

How do I know? Let’s go down the list of symptoms:

Exaggerates own importance:

try

She fancies herself as a much higher entity than the rest of the girls for knowing that they are in a video game, and even messes with the game files to freak you out. However, she is still just an asset that can be deleted in the game, and her own hubris stops her from perceiving that.

Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence or ideal romance:

elite

She believes she is special and can only be understood by other special people, such as you for instance.

Again, she has a false sense of how powerful and manipulative she really is because she can mess with the game’s files, and with her statements of “I feel us two are the only real people here” , along with her infatuation with you because you’re a real person, it’s a pretty cut and dry symptom. Most apparent in her monologue towards you near the end of the game, she often states how only you can truly understand her, and that you feel the same way.

Requires constant attention and admiration from others:

Need

Well, not from the girls, but most certainly from you. She craves spending time with you, and this is the crux of why she’s even messing with the game in the first place, so that you, the player, pick Just Monika. She even becomes visibly upset when the day ends when she still wants to talk to you.

Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment:

Forev

She expects you to just sit there forever for eternity while she stares at your face. That’s a pretty unreasonable expectation in my book.

Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals:

JUST

She messes with the other girls and sabotages their advances towards you, in an attempt to get you to want her instead of them. Sayori’s descent into hopelessness, Yuri’s descent into madness, and Natsuki’s abuse, is all caused by her selfish behavior.

Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy:

will

Since she feels that the other girls are just “characters” in a game with a preset number of responses, she doesn’t believe them to be actually sentient, only drones that will eventually fall in love with you, completely ignoring he fact that she’s the same as they are.

Is often envious of others, believes other people are envious of her and shows arrogant behaviors and attitudes:

Definitely envious of you. She’s stuck in a 2D world she can’t even fully control. She may act high and mighty when deleting characters or rewinding events, but in the end, you are real, and she is not, and that is something she cannot stand, which is why she is obsessed with you.

So as it stands, Doki Doki paints a rather sad and brutal portrayal of mental illness.

But maybe not.

Sayori, in the good ending that you get by getting every girl’s CG before she kills herself, has her depression alleviated, when she realizes that her ultimate goal, to make her friends happy, was accomplished by none other than you. Even knowing everything about her true nature, she becomes truly happy that you, the player, worked hard to see the game through for a good ending for each of them.

Yuri and Natsuki as well, make friends with each other and learn to balance out their differences. Two lonely people are now less lonely together.

Finally, Monika. In the final moments of her deletion, and in her song called Your Reality, Monika shows us that she truly did care for the you and her friends, and that she felt awful at the horrible things she did. She even reveals that she never truly deleted the girls, as she cannot bring herself to do it completely.

After that, she does the farthest thing from narcissism at that moment, sacrificing herself so that everybody else can be happy. In the end of the game, she leaves you be.

Dawww

They really did.

I made this post to showcase to people just how great the writing of the characters really are, despite the fact that they are based on the most bland and two-dimensional archetypes in anime. Doki Doki Literature Club is not only an amazing game, but also an amazing character story, managing to use the medium of video games to its advantage, as well as being a satire of the Visual Novel genre.

fb_img_1515321176286913760315.jpg

If you read through my wordy post in the sea of dank doki doki memes, I am thankful and also happy to accept any criticisms or corrections. I do eventually want to make this a full-blown video, but I need to get the proper equipment first, so for now, I want to improve my script and research as much as possible.

Also, I fully give permission to anyone who wants to use this post as a reference for their own videos, so long as I am credited of course.

Thanks for reading my first ever blog post!

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18 thoughts on “[Analysis] Doki Doki Psychology Club Redux

  1. Yeah when I played through, I was reeeeeeeally surprised at how well Sayori was handled. I literally thought to myself, “wow, this dating sim parody just explained depression better than almost any other fictional work I’ve ever seen.” I do love Natsuki and agree that she would be the most mentally sound, but I would think that if anything, she’d have some mild PTSD from the abuse. But then again, I don’t think too many symptoms of that are actually really shown.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. This game brought so much to the table, even in terms actual interactive gameplay.

    My hope is that other developers notice the popularity that a VN with serious thought put into the story, and legitimate player interaction, can receive, and that they start to deviate a little from the same old tropes.

    DDLC could be game-changing for the VN genre, even in spite of the criticism it’s received.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I won’t pretend that DDLC is a perfect game, it’s not. It’s very simplistic and gimmicky, but that doesn’t discount the depth and passion put into it.

      I hate that it might get some unwarranted hate because of a few ignorant people.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t think it’s all that simplistic or gimmicky at all as far as VN’s go, or even small independently produced games, for that matter. I think Salvato had a crew of like 3 people.

        Now I havent played every VN out there, heck, not even every one I own, but none of the ones I’ve ever clicked through have the same level of actual interaction with the player, or like you said, depth.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Simplistic and gimmicky in that none of your choices really matter, and it is a pretty straightforward short story that has a lot of shock value lost past the first playing. Let’s face it, despite my post, the biggest hook was always the psychological horror aspect.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a wonderful read out of the various DDLC char-analysis on mental problems I have seen thus far. You really should make it into a video/audio soon.
    *
    *
    The thing about the game I feel is that it is a double-edged sword. The developer, I believe, knows this fairly well and specifically implants the warning at the start of the game. It really depends on how the player interprets the game, and what kind of messages they take away from it. Therefore on one hand we can have an alarming & educational motivation, while on the other it may be seen to be distressing & extreme. Of course the fact that the game is free-playable lends ‘supporting’ arguments to both cases.
    *
    While I lean more towards the game providing a decent narrative structure and perspective towards mental illnesses, I also have to agree that involvement with such games (or more generically, media) are going to have some degree of influence on the viewers’/players’ mental well-being. It’s just like how watching some tear-jerking shows can induce viewers to become very emotional – Exposure to ‘negative’ information will lead us to think about (logical in the aspect of analytical, and sometimes emotional) negative thoughts; if the individual is unable to rationalize it and draw the line where it matters, things can derail pretty quickly.
    *
    I think it isn’t just about DDLC, but also for other games as well. There have been critics and arguments on games like GTA, MW-franchise, etc where some form of violence or brutality portrayed led to unlawfulness in real life.
    *
    *
    Bottom line, I think people interpret things the way they see them, and that is inherently an issue with the blame game when things get problematic. And that in association with DDLC, is still a problem because then it does seem like people are still not really seeing the full picture of mental illnesses (whether the game helps to elucidate on it or not).
    *
    PS: I interpreted Monika to be sociopathic too XD (And really sorry, I ended up writing a chunk from my thoughts on the issue >.<)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t be sorry, I like hearing the thoughts of my readers.

      I do agree that watching negative things while in a negative mood is bad, but the blame falls squarely on the guardians in that case. The creators of this game should not be sorry nor even responsible for any perceived damage these games might cause, because they had given warnings beforehand already about the possible triggers within it. Should Schindler’s List be banned from being viewed by Holocaust survivors? No. If they can’t handle it, they should not watch it, but for a LOT of survivors of trauma, being able to face them in a fictional medium like a movie or a game has helped them cope or accept it. Depression was handled exceptionally well by DDLC, and I think it’s a disservice to the creators for all that to be left to the wayside.

      In truth, finding where the line is will never have a solid answer, as it varies from person to person. Oyasumi Punpun made me feel awful for a week, but I got over it and appreciated the experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeap I agree with what you mentioned, DDLC (or other controversial media/games) should not really be on the receiving end of the brunt (especially if they are created with positive intentions in mind).
        *
        I think there will be some cases where individuals do not exhibit any symptoms or suffer from mental illnesses, but the exposure to the media might ‘turn-on’ some new concepts previously unknown to them.
        As you mentioned, the guardians should pay attention to the development of the child and intervene when they sense that something is off. People can have the freedom to do what they want, but some regulation is also needed since young minds may be unable to distinguish between lawful/neutral/chaotic rights and wrongs.
        *
        I’m still part-way reading Oyasumi Punpun; haven’t got to the part where it gets traumatic (or so from what I heard). But yea, lots of things in life is about getting knocked over and recovering for our own sake, and that experience can be potentially helpful to others as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Don’t be sorry, I like hearing the thoughts of my readers.

    I do agree that watching negative things while in a negative mood is bad, but the blame falls squarely on the guardians in that case. The creators of this game should not be sorry nor even responsible for any perceived damage these games might cause, because they had given warnings beforehand already about the possible triggers within it. Should Schindler’s List be banned from being viewed by Holocaust survivors? No. If they can’t handle it, they should not watch it, but for a LOT of survivors of trauma, being able to face them in a fictional medium like a movie or a game has helped them cope or accept it. Depression was handled exceptionally well by DDLC, and I think it’s a disservice to the creators for all that to be left to the wayside.

    In truth, finding where the line is will never have a solid answer, as it varies from person to person. Just be careful, I say.

    Like

  5. This is a great read and it help gave further insight on the girls and their issues.
    Althrough not a form of mental health (as far as I know), I’ll say that Monika is also Machiavellian (cunning, schemeing, take advantage of people to fuel theri selfish goals) and it’s fitting given her position.

    Liked by 1 person

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