Spoiler break starts immediately at the first paragraph. If you are planning to play Hate Plus and don’t want to ruin the game for yourself, stop reading now.
The main thematic motif of Hate Plus is about hatred. When left unchecked and allowed to fester together with emotional instability, hate can lead to tragedy for everyone. There is also another important sub-message that Hate Plus is trying to convey: why people are driven to suicide, and its ramifications. This is a topic very familiar to me because I have attempted suicide in the past.
There are three characters that commit suicide in Hate Plus: Oh Eun-a’s “little sister”, Pyeon Mi-seun; Heo Seo-yeong; and *Mute at the very end of Day Two in her route. The root causes for all the victims are the same: their strong feelings of perceived powerlessness and guilt. Mi-seun just wants to continue loving Eun-a and be loved back by her in return, but Eun-a decides to pursue her affair with Ryu to fulfill her long-term agenda. *Mute is an AI construct programmed to ensure the safety of the Mugunghwa, and starts doubting herself when she reads about how her Old self failed to protect the ship.
While we never get to read a suicide note from Seo-yeong (she is locked up in jail after all), the player can make the inferrence from Eun-a’s funeral memorial speech and after discovering how the armed coup in 4045 failed: Seo-yeong feels great shame at being responsible for the radical change in the ship’s society. It is something that she could have prevented, but failed because of her devotion and faith in following Old *Mute’s orders.
When you realise that you have totally failed in your life’s purpose, when you feel betrayed by yourself or the people you care about, it can be a very bitter pill to swallow. And when you feel that you can no longer endure the pain and suffering, when you feel like you have no more control over the situation, that is when people may choose to end their life.
*Mute’s suicide is such an incredibly contentious and upsetting moment in Hate Plus, that it has caused quite a few distraught gamers to condemn the game on Twitter and on the Steam forums. And you cannot blame them. After spending so much time alongside her, both in Hate Plus and back in Analogue: A Hate Story (not to mention the effort you put in to save her from the exploding Mugunghwa, sacrificing *Hyun-ae in the process), this is what you were rewarded with: the death of someone you cared about.
Suddenly, Christine Love’s insistence on implementing mandatory 12-hour breaks in between the three days makes sense. It is to teach us a very important fact of life: death is something that can come suddenly when we least expect it, when we are not looking. It is neither considerate nor convenient. And when someone dies, everyone becomes affected.
Think back to the exact moment after you have finished reading *Mute’s suicide email. After the initial shock, anger, and despair, what was the next thing that went through your mind?
“What did I do wrong? I feel so helpless.”
“It’s my fault, I could have prevented it…”
“I wish I had more control to stop it from happening…”
We suddenly inherit the same feelings of powerlessness and guilt that the victim experienced. It’s a vicious cycle of suffering, similar to how hatred simply breeds more hate.
So what are the main lessons about suicide that Hate Plus is trying to tell us? How exactly do we go about preventing them? For *Mute’s case, it is all about learning to accept one’s faults and having the courage to learn from past mistakes. New *Mute summarises it best in her final dialogue wheel option:
“I don’t believe in second chances. I don’t believe in clean breaks! You can’t just ignore what happened in the past. You can’t just say ‘it’s better not knowing’. If there’s one thing I’ve learned… it’s that you can’t just have a clean start… I’m going to learn from my mistakes.”
Mi-seun’s suicide could have been prevented if both she herself and Eun-a had the courage to sincerely maintain their open communication and reassurances for each other. As for Seo-yeong, it is incredibly difficult to fault her decision, especially after she was forced to take the fall for the rebellion after Old *Mute’s betrayal. Perhaps what might have convinced her to stay alive was her daughter: the thought of orphaning such a young girl during a feminine-oppressive patriarchal society, is absolutely terrifying.
But these are solutions that only the player, an outsider who has access to the entire picture, can see and understand. As Mammon Machine states in their blog post, a tragedy remains a tragedy because there is no way to prevent it. None of the characters knew the right things to do, the right things to say. Even if we believe in our ideals, that what we are doing is right, even if we follow our heart and follow all the rules, things can still go horribly wrong.
And we, the player, must learn to accept their tragedy and faults.
Perhaps the overall, hidden message of Hate Plus is that of acceptance: we have to accept that evil, unfairness, and tragedy will always exist in this world. We cannot prevent all of them from happening, we just have to try to learn from them and move on. I have already managed to accept, quite painfully, *Mute’s death, and I hope everyone else will eventually be able to do the same.
P.S. Christine, if you are somehow reading this, I really hope that the Level Four Revive Materia is a red herring, or some sort of joke achievement, because if the player could really “revive” *Mute and prevent her death, then the entire impact of the tragedy would be muted (no pun intended) and lost on the player. Death is absolute and final, there are no restarts or second chances.