Monika (Doki Doki Literature Club!)
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|Doki Doki Literature Club! character|
Monika, as she appears in Doki Doki Literature Club!
|First appearance||Doki Doki Literature Club! (2017)|
|Created by||Dan Salvato|
|Voiced by||Jillian Ashcraft|
|Title||President of the Literature Club|
Monika, also known as Monika.chr, is a fictional character and the main antagonist of the visual novel metafictional psychological horror video game Doki Doki Literature Club!. The character was created by Dan Salvato and voiced by Jillian Ashcraft. While Monika initially appears as the main tutor and supporting character that guides the player on their path to romance the three provided love interests, after being revealed to be a computer program that gained sentience, her words, actions and surroundings become increasingly malicious as she makes her intentions clear. She is apparently deleted at the end of the game, but returns to destroy the game itself.
The inspiration for the character's creation extends Salvato's concept of an innocuous romance game that slowly falls apart over time as horrible things begin to happen and one girl takes control. The physical appearance of Monika went through several designs, one of which featured a chibi effect. Discussing the creation of Monika and her abilities, Salvato explained that he was inspired by "things that are scary because they make you uncomfortable, not because they shove scary-looking things in your face." To achieve this, Salvato developed the façade of a cute setting, which would break down over time along with the behavior of the characters, and eventually the role of one evil character (Monika) who had seized control of the game from the player would be revealed.
In creating the game's horror elements, Salvato drew inspiration from Yume Nikki and Eversion, emphasizing to his team that he wanted the market for visual novels to become much more daring and less reliant on the same plot concepts. The game's other stock characters were based around standard anime archetypes (such as childhood sweetheart, girl next door, tsundere and manic pixie dream girl) and were given Japanese names to emphasize a pseudo-Japanese atmosphere characteristic of Western-produced visual novel, with each character's dialogue being written as though poorly-translated from Japanese; the game's title refers to the colloquial sound of a heartbeat alongside reference to a combination of book club and literature circle. The sole exception to these formats is Monika, who received an English name and speech pattern as a hint to her individual nature compared to the other characters, and the blank slate in-game protagonist "MC".
Monika has been well received by critics and gamers, some of whom called her disarming, passive-aggressive, tragic, sinister and witty. She is considered one of the greatest video game characters, particularly among those created in the 2010s.
Dan Salvato on the reception of Monika.
For the first quarter of Doki Doki Literature Club!, Monika serves solely as the tutor, guiding the player through the narrative. Over time, after the exaggerated suicides and erasure of the three love interests, the player learns that Monika is in fact a self-aware video game character file who has the ability to manipulate and delete other character files, which she used to alter the behavior of her club-mates in an unsuccessful bid to make them unlikable and prevent their programmed confessions of love to the protagonist. She expresses her loneliness from being relegated to a fruitless supporting role within an empty world where her only company had been "autonomous personalities" designed only to fall in love with the protagonist, and she confesses her own love not to the male protagonist character "MC", but directly to the player controlling them, regardless of their gender; having failed to use coding to transfer herself into the player's computer, she instead seeks to trap them with her within the game itself.
Monika will sit and talk to the player indefinitely about various topics until the player manually enters the game's directory and deletes Monika's character file. Monika subsequently begins to break down, initially lashing out at the player, but ultimately forgives them upon realizing her own mistakes, remorsefully repenting by restoring the game and the characters excluding herself. Depending on the course of action taken by the player, the game can come to three possible conclusions. The standard ending sees Sayori introducing herself as the president of the literature club and thanking the player for getting rid of Monika. As she adopts Monika's possessive characteristics, Monika intervenes via text prompt and deletes Sayori to save the player. Monika deletes the game over the course of the credits, and the game concludes with a note from Monika, stating that she has disbanded the literature club because "no happiness can be found" in it. In the true ending, achieved by the player paying Natsuki, Yuri and Sayori an equal amount of attention prior to the end of Act 1, Monika remains silent as Sayori learns from her mistakes, ending the game on her own.
Doki Doki Literature Club!
Monika initially serves as the literature club's president and the designated nice girl preparing for an upcoming festival, before having an epiphany which leads her to discover that she and all of her "friends" are characters in a dating simulator video game, drastically changing her attitude towards the other girls upon realizing she was not available to be picked as a romance option, having been written to be a one-dimensional supporting character preparing for a non-existent event, learning that as the president of the Literature Club, she became able to manipulate the script and code of the game and break the fourth wall. Outraged, this led to her using her powers of manipulating the script to do things like emphasizing the negative traits of the other characters Sayori and Yuri (respectively depression and self-harm), in the hope that the player would choose her instead of them, only for the player to turn to Natsuki for platonic companionship.
After the protagonist "MC" notices that Sayori (his childhood sweetheart) seems "down" about something, he informs Monika about it, who expresses interest in having "a talk with Sayori" later that day. Jealous of the friendship that Sayori and the protagonist have, Monika instead manipulates Sayori's code to have her commit suicide by hanging, breaking the script and deleting Sayori from the game, which makes the entire game restart with Sayori being completely absent. Due to Monika's manipulation of the script, from this point onward there are a variety of "glitches" in the game, and she manipulates the personality of Yuri, one of the other two main characters, to be more intensive. She often uses the script to make other characters try and get the main protagonist to spend more with Monika; a famous example of this is when she removes Natsuki's face and forces her to repeatedly say "Just Monika". Eventually, Yuri's obsessive personality becomes so intense that she kills herself over the protagonist, leaving them trapped in the characters' school for the length of a weekend, leading Natsuki to vomit and Monika to completely delete both remaining character's files, restarting the game with just her. When she is alone with the protagonist, she reveals she is not in love with him, but with the player themselves, drawing them into the game in the character's place. She continues to endlessly talk with the player about various topics as love, vegetarianism and her Twitter account, unless the player completely deletes her from the game by going into the game files. When this is done, she will initially express fury at the player, but then shows regret for her actions towards her former friends and devolution into a villain. In an attempt to repent for her wrongdoings, she brings back the other three girls and seemingly fully removes herself from the game.
If the player attempts to reload or copy her file back in, she sends them a message asking them not to toy with her heart and she no longer wants to come back after her previous actions. However, when the player restarts the game with the other three girls, Sayori gains self-awareness and data manipulation powers like Monika's, having taken her place as the president of the Literature Club. After thanking the player for ridding the game of Monika, she alternatively (depending on the player's actions) also attempts to trap the player in the same classroom Monika did, in the hopes that she will be in a relationship with them forever, or learns from Monika's mistakes and allowed them to leave. In the first ending, Monika, realizing that no one is ever going to find happiness in the game, deletes it entirely, possibly taking her existence and that of her friends with it. In both endings however, before the credits roll, she communicates vocally with the player for the first time and plays and sings "Your Reality" while playing notes from a piano as she deletes each file in the game, and eventually the script itself. In the first ending, she will additionally leave a goodbye note, serving to explain her final actions. In the true ending, which can be achieved by going through all the girl's routes, Monika's goodbye note is replaced with a message from the game's developer, Dan Salvato.
On January 1, 2018, Monika and the other main characters of Doki Doki Literature Club! were added to Yandere Simulator as character skins, with Salvato's permission. Later in 2018, a computer avatar based on Monika was released to Gaia Online under the title "Just Dangerous Me", the addition of which has been criticised by Salvato due to no permission having been sought and the skin being sold as downloadable content.
Dan Salvato on the motivations of Monika with regards the player(s) of Doki Doki Literature Club!.
Because Salvato lacked artistic skill, he used a free online anime-creation program to create the initial character design of Monika and the other characters, and applied these designs in test versions of the game. Salvato recognized that a product of such quality would not satisfy potential players, so he made a request to his friend, a translator for Sekai Project, for sketches of school uniforms and hairstyles for the character. Salvato then handed initial visual development over to Kagefumi, who left the project very early on. After Kagefumi's departure from the project, Salvato contacted the freelance artist Satchely, who would created the final character sprites over the course of the following few months. The sprites were created in several parts to give the poses more variety.
In an interview with Asian Crush, Salvato stated that "[in] writing [Monika] I was seeing more 'reality' in [her] than I had initially planned. In concept, [she was a] generic anime character, [but] I think I really wanted to connect with [her] as a writer, so [she] started expressing insecurities and realistic personality traits behind their stock archetypes – ones I see around me in real life."
Reception and analysis
With a Terrible Fate's Kent Vainio described Monika as a "profound perversion of the boundary between real and fictional[;] like a real person, [yet] incredibly superficial and callous." Rock, Paper, Shotgun contributor Darragh Nolan said of Monika: "The fracture between you as [the] protagonist in the dating sim and Monika as [the] protagonist in her own counter-narrative is what fragments the game and our experience of it. It has both a wall, and a [J]apanese schoolgirl taking that wall apart and [ch]ucking bricks at you to knock down your wall." Kotaku describes Monika's writing as "disarming and sinister". Since the release of Doki Doki Literature Club! in September 2017, Monika has become one of its most popular characters, with several memes being made about her.
- Jackson, Gita (October 20, 2017). "Doki Doki Literature Club's Horror Was Born From A Love-Hate Relationship With Anime". Kotaku. Archived from the original on October 21, 2017. Retrieved October 29, 2017. Unknown parameter
- Salvato, Dan (2017) Doki Doki Literature Club! Concept Art Booklet, p. 3
- Salvato, Dan (2017) Doki Doki Literature Club! Concept Art Booklet, p. 4
- Staff, Polygon (2019-11-27). "The 70 best video game characters of the decade". Polygon. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
Monika wants to be loved, but the dating sim part of Doki Doki doesn’t even include a route for her. What do you do when your favorite NPC isn’t a romance option? Monika takes this into her own hands, self-aware of the limitations of her own genre, and turns into one of the most terrifying video game villains of this decade. She manipulates the game itself and ultimately smashes through the fourth wall. But Monika learns her lesson; she realizes the best way to love the player is to let them be free, which is poetically conveyed in the game’s ending song.
- Lineham, Mitch Jay (February 16, 2018). "Doki Doki Literature Club is a visual novel worthy of a Black Mirror episode". PCGamesN. Archived from the original on October 5, 2018. Retrieved March 30, 2019. Unknown parameter
- Lee, Otter (2018-01-03). "We Interviewed Doki Doki Literature Club's Twisted Creator, Dan Salvato". Asian Crush. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
- Fujita, Shōhei (March 4, 2018). "【完全ネタバレコラム】世界を大いに盛り上げる「Doki Doki Literature Club」の真の目的と少女たちからの救難信号" (in 日本語). IGN Japan. Archived from the original on June 26, 2018. Retrieved March 30, 2019. Unknown parameter
- Salvato, Dan (2018-01-02). "It's cool, I gave him permission under the condition that their likeness isn't exploited or used for profit in any way". Twitter. Archived from the original on 2020-11-01. Retrieved 2020-11-02. Unknown parameter
- YandereDev (January 1, 2018). "Happy New Year!". Yandere Simulator Development Blog. Archived from the original on 2019-07-04. Unknown parameter
- Dan Salvato [@dansalvato] (23 February 2018). "Dan Salvato on Twitter: ".@gaiaonline I discovered recently that you stole my character design and sold it for money. I don't understand why you felt the need to do this. DDLC is a free game, even."" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Salvato, Dan (2018-04-09). "Hello, my name is Dan Salvato. I created Doki Doki Literature Club. AMA". Reddit. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
- Salvato, Dan (2017) Doki Doki Literature Club! Concept Art Booklet, p. 5
- Salvato, Dan (2017) Doki Doki Literature Club! Concept Art Booklet, p. 11
- Satchely [@_Satchely] (2 June 2019). "Satchel on Twitter: "Suddenly the artist credit is being switched around in the article, I don't think it was like that yesterday. Kagefumi didn't draw the final sprites and backgrounds. Her art isn't in the game because she left the project very early on."" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Salvato, Dan (2017) Doki Doki Literature Club! Concept Art Booklet, p. 18
- Vainio, Kent (2018-04-13). "Not Just Monika: Sadistic Horror in Doki Doki Literature Club". With a Terrible Fate. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
- Nolan, Darragh (2018-07-25). "How Doki Doki Literature Club frames you: Where we're going, we don't need walls". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. ReedPop Limited. Archived from the original on 2018-07-25. Retrieved 2018-07-25. Unknown parameter
- Jackson, Gita (2017-12-11). "Doki Doki Literature Club's Darkest Moment". Kotaku. Archived from the original on 2017-12-11. Retrieved 2020-07-12. Unknown parameter
- Valens, Ana (2018-02-20). "Here's the Best 'Just Monika' Memes Taking Over the Internet". Gamepur. Archived from the original on 2020-04-12. Retrieved 2018-02-20. Unknown parameter
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