— Neku to Sora
Neku Sakuraba is the main protagonist of The World Ends with You, a role-playing game developed by Square Enix. Born and raised in Shibuya, Neku is an ardent fan of graffiti art. He hates people and makes every effort to seal himself off from the outside world, even wearing headphones wherever he goes. Neku's life takes a turn when he wakes up lying facedown in the middle of Shibuya's Scramble Crossing, with his name the only thing he remembers. While attacked by creatures called Noise, Neku met Shiki Misaki and partnered with her since they both need each other to survive the Reaper Game. During the week, Neku met Beat and Rhyme while learning of the Reapers and that he is actually dead. By the end of the week, after defeating the Game Master Yodai Higashizawa, Neku was given back his memories, the entry for the Reaper Game.
When told he would be involved in the second Reaper Game, Neku is horrified that Shiki is his payment fee. Neku meets Joshua during the second week and, despite faint memories of being killed by the youth, partnered with him prior to his assumed death by the Game Master, Sho Minamimoto. During the third week, Neku is partnered with the rouge Reaper Beat as the sole mission of the week is to find and defeat the Reaper, Mitsuki Konishi. However, though managing to defeat her, Neku learns the role he played as Joshua's proxy with Shibuya's Conductor, Megumi Kitaniji, whose actions served to save Shibuya from destruction from Joshua, as his final opponent. Soon after, Neku is offered a chance to save Shibuya by killing Joshua in a pistol duel. Though he refused to shoot Joshua, now trusting him though still unable to forgive him, the fact that Neku slowly opened up to the outside world within three weeks convinces Joshua to spare the district while giving Neku and his friends a second chance in life.
Neku is one of the first characters to appear in the Kingdom Hearts series who originated from something other than Disney, Final Fantasy, or Kingdom Hearts fiction, although he is from another game that is property of Square Enix, as well as being designed by Tetsuya Nomura. Neku and his friends are meant to serve as tutors to Sora and Riku, in the same role as Leon and his friends from the first game.
Neku's personality is generally unsociable; he claims he "doesn't get people", and because of this, he usually dislikes interacting with other people. His opinion of others is so low that he tends to see people only for their use. Neku refuses company, as he feels that friends only drag him down, cause him pain when they fail him and make him feel like "unnecessary baggage" to them. Neku sees society as simply an annoyance that forces their values on him, pester him and expect him to do things he doesn't want to do. As such, he admires the designer CAT for their motto, "do what you want, how you want, when you want".
Though at first his negative world view keeps his friends alienated despite their best efforts, Neku slowly softens as he listens to the advice of everybody around him. He becomes more open and trusting as he gets to know people like Shiki, Joshua, Beat, Rhyme, and Mr. Hanekoma among others. As time passes, he begins to understand more about others and believe in his friends.