Is Persona 4's Kanji Gay or Not?

Is Persona 4's Kanji Gay or Not?

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One of the most compelling parts of Atlus' Persona 4 is the question of one of its characters' possible homosexuality. The game gives no easy answers, but members of the Persona 4 team have shared their opinions.

Persona 4 made great strides in the portrayal of homosexuality in games with the character of Kanji, a rough-and-tumble delinquent who may or may not be gay. In the game, players enter an alternate world where a character's hidden desires manifest themselves in the form of an "other self" and a dungeon. In Kanji's alternate world, his other self appears as a near-nude, "gay" sounding version of himself who inhabits a men's bathhouse, strongly suggesting that the character houses homosexual desires. The game, however, never really makes it concrete whether or not Kanji's gay or just sexually confused, which has frustrated some gamers. Now, commenting in a Gamasutra opinion piece, Atlus has spoken out definitively on the topic.

"We would like everyone to play through the game and come up with their own answers to that question; there is no official answer," Yu Namba, the project lead on Persona 4, said. "What matters is that Kanji's other self cries out, 'Accept me for who I am!' I think it's a powerful message which many, if not all of us can relate to."

Other Atlus staff feel the same way, and have drawn their own conclusions. "At the end of Kanji's Social Link, should you choose to advance it that far, he does say specifically in reference to his Shadow self, 'That 'other me' is me," Nich Maragos, an editor at Atlus, said.

The ambiguity of Kanji's sexual persuasion might frustrate American gamers who have more black-and-white concepts of sexuality, but it's true to Japanese culture, according to experts. "[In Japan] there is an understanding that you can play with fantasies that you might not want to live out in your normal life," Dr. Antonia Levi, a scholar of Japanese culture and anime, said. "The Japanese are more comfortable with the concept of being gay and not being gay at the same time. In this case, it makes sense that, in the end, the game is not telling you what to think about Kanji or even if he is gay."

For Atlus' localization team, staying true to that aspect of Japanese culture was central to their aims. "We did encounter a small number of sexually oriented instances which we decided to make more subtle, but the meaning of everything is still intact," Namba said. And in some cases, it often complimented the game's portrayal of modern life. "That flamboyance was also what the viewers of the Midnight Channel wanted to see: a typical gay person on TV that people would laugh at. The TV station broadcasts what the audience prefers to watch - it's a stark portrayal of modern society."

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I think this is probably the best way to deal with the issue. Saying a definite yes or no would take something away from the character and things aren't as black and white as people would like to see.

That's pretty much what I gor from Kanji in the game. Not that he was "gay" but that he wasn't sure in one way or another. Doesn't he say something like

"It's not guys or girls, it's just people that I don't understand."

PedroSteckecilo:
That's pretty much what I gor from Kanji in the game. Not that he was "gay" but that he wasn't sure in one way or another. Doesn't he say something like

"It's not guys or girls, it's just people that I don't understand."

Yeah, I remember him saying something like that.

And does anyone remember that one dude that you could get in your party in Star Ocean who starts as an evil dude? I think that guy was transvestite.

EDIT: AH-HAH! It was Albel Nox

PedroSteckecilo:
That's pretty much what I gor from Kanji in the game. Not that he was "gay" but that he wasn't sure in one way or another. Doesn't he say something like

"It's not guys or girls, it's just people that I don't understand."

Yeah, I agree, kinda, but I felt like the game was kinda pulling in both ways, because on one hand it was treating the topic with real seriousness but on the other the Yosuke-Kanji comedic interplay was always just kinda at his expense and just for laughs and not really contributing to the character at all.

MASSIVE SPOILERS Come to think about it Kanji is just completely riddled with sexual and gender play - there's the issue of his own, and then the fact that he has a crush on Naoto who ends up being a girl MASSIVE SPOILERS END.

They ("men" in anime) are all equally gay to me. Boning dudes is just not necessary if you look like that.

I think that the portrayal of gay lifestyle in Persona 4 was a little too stereotypical for my tastes, I think we should be trying to promote more realistic or different gay characters (Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the Midnighter or Apollo in the Authority).

Does the cock-chariot persona (aka Mara) make an appearance at any point in the game?

harhol:
Does the cock-chariot persona (aka Mara) make an appearance at any point in the game?

Not that I've seen yet (and I've been looking), but I think so, yes.

men are almost always gay in anima, this one is no different...

Kukul:
They ("men" in anime) are all equally gay to me. Boning dudes is just not necessary if you look like that.

pyromcr:
men are almost always gay in anima, this one is no different...

You see, this is just ignorant stereotyping. There is no other name for it. The Japanese have very different ideas of what a straight or gay person is to look like. You know how everyone looks in "Gears of War?" To Americans (and anyone not from Japan, I'm guessing), they come off as a bizarre take on masculinity, but overall as heterosexuel. From what I understand, to the Japanese, every single guy in Gears would be considered flamingly homosexuel until stated otherwise. In Japan, it was the gay men who would end up massively buff, not the straight men. So, to say that all anime characters are gay is simply a lack of understanding (Unwilling ignorance), or a willful ignorance. I hope it's the former, or else you might not like how the world is slowly changing.

I thought he was someone who was "suffering" from the looking glass self. He hints that other people think of him that way and that he has doubts because he has a fear of girls. The girls used to belittle him and he could never understand them. He did say that it made no difference to him boys or girls he just didn't understand them. I also thought he was straight because every time a girl would kind to him he would act as if he had a crush on them.

Mstrswrd:

Kukul:
They ("men" in anime) are all equally gay to me. Boning dudes is just not necessary if you look like that.

pyromcr:
men are almost always gay in anima, this one is no different...

You see, this is just ignorant stereotyping. There is no other name for it. The Japanese have very different ideas of what a straight or gay person is to look like. You know how everyone looks in "Gears of War?" To Americans (and anyone not from Japan, I'm guessing), they come off as a bizarre take on masculinity, but overall as heterosexuel. From what I understand, to the Japanese, every single guy in Gears would be considered flamingly homosexuel until stated otherwise. In Japan, it was the gay men who would end up massively buff, not the straight men. So, to say that all anime characters are gay is simply a lack of understanding (Unwilling ignorance), or a willful ignorance. I hope it's the former, or else you might not like how the world is slowly changing.

Get off my lawn!

;D

Kukul:

Get off my lawn!

;D

Crap! It's Old-Man Jenkins! RUN!
...
...
(Sorry for the old part. It just goes well with the joke.)

He's the most awesome character in the game, hands down.
Unlike the other protagonists, who can't help but conform to some sort of anime stereotype, Kanji just seems real as a person. When the other characters interact with him, even they seem more realistic.

I've been playing P4 with my friend, and we were both said, "Whats wrong with you people?! He's gay. He's going on a date. Stop stalking him!" during the scene in which some of the supporting protagonists were stalking him.
Personally, I do think he's gay. But unlike what a lot of Americans want to think, one's sexual orientation isn't the identity of a gay person. Its just a factor in who they are. I found it brilliant that the protagonists literally defeat the stereotype of the homosexual male. Once Kanji accepts that being gay is a part of him, he is able to really be himself. He realizes that he can wear black and be an introvert, while still liking to sew, and still being attracted to men. While many of the other characters remain pretty much the same after they defeat their inner demons, Kanji shows that he has grown as a person.
And in every form of media, demonstrating a personal development with this degree of excellence is a rare treat.

Wouldukindly:
I think that the portrayal of gay lifestyle in Persona 4 was a little too stereotypical for my tastes, I think we should be trying to promote more realistic or different gay characters (Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the Midnighter or Apollo in the Authority).

In the true ending, the stereotype portrayal is explained better. Actually, Namba kind of spoiled that bit in his last quote there.

Telling us if Kanji is gay or not will kill the meaning behind this wonderful game. I like to think that he's just confused about it but gradually over the course of the game gets used to the fact he thinks about being gay. (Oh how I hate to use such a label.)

From what I read here (putting it together) Kanji's "other self" shown on the Midnight Channel was a part of Kanji but it was a part of him that he still wasn't sure of so the way he was actting was picked by the viewers. Because if you look at Yukiko her "other self" was actting opposite of how she acts outwardly to others, but I guess since not a lot of people care about how a "love-sick girl who beats on herself" would act, she was shown the opposite of the self she wanted to show.

The song "The Back-side of the TV" that plays when inside the TV was a great choice as it talks about things like the conflicting feelings that Kanji and the others have that they don't want others to see but end up coming into light when this whole Midnight Channel thing comes around.
It's great how they showed Kanji in this way as it brings the stereotype portrayal of a gay person and how hard it is for them in this day and age into light.

I agree with Erana. Kanji, out of all the characters, is the one who had the most character development. Maybe because his problem was much bigger than the others. No one cares if you hate everyone else or if you use your best friend or if you want a prince charming or whatever else. (Though Teddie's and Naoto's identity problems are pretty up there when it comes to fans and those who are having that problem.)

I'd rather not know if Kanji is really gay or not. At least there will be some fanfictions for the Yaoi fans and an amazingly awesome character for the regular fans...

According to certain fans everyone is gay for each other.

Kanji is so awesome regardless. His confusion really gives his character such a nice depth.

Kukul:
They ("men" in anime) are all equally gay to me. Boning dudes is just not necessary if you look like that.

This. Plus, Why the necro?

Ok, people, are you really serious?

It's obvious that he is not gay. You just have to play until 3/4 of the game

Spoilers:

He's in love with Naoto. At first, Naoto present himself as a male. Kanji inmediately falls for him, thus creating his confusion about being gay or not. He ONLY likes Naoto.
Buut then, when we rescue Naoto from inside the TV, we find out that she is actually a girl!
So, Kanji was never gay, he just liked a girl who pretended to be a guy (she didn't even look like a guy, i thought she was a girl until they said otherwise)
So, Kanji's Shadow was overreacting because he really thought that Naoto was a male.
I'd say Kanji is Naoto-sexual or heterosexual but Naoto is his "it's ok if it's you"
Meaning that he'd like her even if he was really a guy.

End of spoilers

I got that he was very very afraid that we was gay, because he was sexually attracted to Naoto.. So he was conflicted, so his level shows off this conflict, and his phantom self embraces that in him which he is conflicted, just like all of the other characters in the game.

But Naoto was a girl in disguise. And he was still in love with her, so he wasn't gay, his body was just not falling for Naoto's lies as much as his brain was.

Altorin:
I got that he was very very afraid that we was gay, because he was sexually attracted to Naoto.. So he was conflicted, so his level shows off this conflict, and his phantom self embraces that in him which he is conflicted, just like all of the other characters in the game.

But Naoto was a girl in disguise. And he was still in love with her, so he wasn't gay, his body was just not falling for Naoto's lies as much as his brain was.

Exactly my point... wasn't this obvious for everyone else?

Ignawesome:
Ok, people, are you really serious?

It's obvious that he is not gay. You just have to play until 3/4 of the game

Spoilers:

He's in love with Naoto. At first, Naoto present himself as a male. Kanji inmediately falls for him, thus creating his confusion about being gay or not. He ONLY likes Naoto.
Buut then, when we rescue Naoto from inside the TV, we find out that she is actually a girl!
So, Kanji was never gay, he just liked a girl who pretended to be a guy (she didn't even look like a guy, i thought she was a girl until they said otherwise)
So, Kanji's Shadow was overreacting because he really thought that Naoto was a male.
I'd say Kanji is Naoto-sexual or heterosexual but Naoto is his "it's ok if it's you"
Meaning that he'd like her even if he was really a guy.

End of spoilers

But kanji falls for the masculine side of Naoto. Although it was really obvious from the biggining that Naoto was female but nobody realises this until quite far through the game(and after kanji falls for her).

Kanji's shadow represents both his desires but also Kanji's fear of nobody liking him for who he truly is. The shadow might not be saying that he is gay but instead that his hobbies and likes were seen by others to be gay and unmanly.

Sorry to comment on such an old thread, but I found this while googling the issue (Kanji being gay or not). I really have to second Ignawesome and others. I don't understand all the praise for Persona 4 as a progressive game with regards to its treatment of homosexuality.

As a gay guy I've even been tempted to stop playing several times because frankly the game keeps pissing me off (which is unfortunate, because I liked Persona 3, and Persona 4 is like Persona 4 except better in almost every single regard). Basically Kanji is afraid of being gay, is made of fun for being gay (seriously, NO ONE in the game ever says "Dude, you know it's okay to be gay, right? Chill!" Instead they're scared of being in a tent with Kanji - because if you're a man then a gay guy will obviously rape you when you're not looking), and gets fucking nosebleeds (sign of sexual arousal in anime) when seeing girls in bikinis.
And in the end his love interest turns out to be a girl! Hooray! Phew! Not gay! Let's celebrate!

Btw, I've lived in Japan for several years and have quite a few friends who are gay and Japanese and let me tell you that "scholar of Japanese culture" (whatever that means) Dr. Antonia Levi is full of shit. I'd assume (without much basis, obviously) that she's one of those foreigners who doesn't really speak Japanese all that well and doesn't have any Japanese friends, so to her everything is strange and foreign.

To say that Japanese people magically think completely different from everyone else is pure exoticization. Whatever Dr. Levi says, you're not magically "gay and straight at the same time" in Japan. Guys will call each other gay as an insult just like in other countries and if they think you might be gay you'll suffer the same fate as Kanji. Persona 4 is a terrible game in that respect, because it teaches kids who might be struggling with their sexuality that the happy end would not be accepting who they are (in a meaningful way and not the ATLUS "I've punched my gay side in the face" way) but turning out straight after all.

Persona 4 isn't "more subtle" because it's "Japanese," it's simply relatively backwards in its treatment of homosexuality. This is what a comparable game would've looked like in the US a few decades ago. It's not more subtle, it's just more cowardly because the developers were scared of alienating homophobic players.

Sorry, just had to get that off my chest.

 

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