Kanji is feared by the locals and maintains a confrontational machismo toward the other characters throughout the game. He is a loyal son and employee at his family’s textile shop, and it’s not until the debut of his alter-ego Shadow Kanji that we are made aware of his inner sexual turmoil
Xu looks at how homosexuality is viewed in Japanese culture and interviews people at Atlus USA who worked on Persona 4</em, game journalists and Sex in Video Games author Brenda Brathwaite. Brenda likes many things about Kanji’s portrayal, but one thing she dislikes is “the game’s juvenile nature in dealing with his sexuality.”
Though I haven’t been able to play Persona 4 yet (damn you, Atlus rarity!), I wonder: is this “juvenile nature” really the game’s, or is it the teenage characters’…especially Kanji’s? He’s a teenager in high school, first of all. At that age, he might only just be realizing that he’s attracted to men. Not only that, but Kanji’s grown up in a culture where straightness is seen as the default. What he knows of openly gay men is what his heteronormative society has told him over the years. Is it any wonder that his personal version of a gay man–the fey, girl-hating, most of all dangerous Shadow Kanji–is these ideas personified?:
Like Kanji, I too spent my teenage years thinking about how the person I was fit in with my environment–and I don’t think we are at all unusual. I’d known I had a disability for years, but it was only during adolescence that I started to work out what it meanS to be a disabled person in this world. I read lots of books by other disabled people and was interested in self-advocacy; I also thought a lot of stupid, ableist things. Over the years, I’ve been able to tear apart a bunch of my own prejudices and cultural baggage. When Kanji defeats his alter-ego in battle, it’s not his sexuality he crushes; it’s the culturally-sanctioned idea that his sexuality is bad.
Yes, Kanji’s journey toward accepting his sexuality is messy. It’s bogged down in the lies society tells him. But from what I can see, it is an honest one. And by battling his own fears and prejudices in such a literal way, Kanji makes his struggle to accept his sexuality a story best told by a video game.
(Crossposted at GameCritics.com).