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[In Atlus' RPG Persona 4, Kanji Tatsumi confronts his sexual identity in an engaging and meaningful manner, and in this Gamasutra analysis, we talk to Atlus staffers and commentators about the character's flamboyant in-game alter ego in the recently released Play Station 2 RPG.] Persona 4's Kanji Tatsumi is one of the first video game personalities to confront his sexual identity in an engaging and meaningful manner.
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.Shadow Kanji inhabits a steamy bathhouse dungeon inside The Midnight Channel, an alternate dimension inside the TV where the main characters must battle their alter-egos in order to save themselves and their friends.The alter-egos manifest aspects of the main characters' psyches that they are trying to hide from others and deny from themselves.Once the alter-egos are defeated in The Midnight Channel, they are validated by the characters accepting them as necessary parts of their real personalities.Shadow Kanji's scanty attire, flamboyant lisp, and over-the-top homoerotic banter shed light upon Kanji's hidden identity, but it is his remarks stating sexual preference for the male gender that directly support the notion that is Kanji is gay.Once Shadow Kanji is defeated in the game, Kanji accepts that his gay alter-ego is an essential part of his personality, but he does not make any outward declaration or revelation that he is gay or remotely bisexual.
As the game progresses, Kanji must deal with jokes regarding his sexuality and un-manly artistic hobbies, in addition to his crush on a male character, who turns out to be a cross-dressing woman.
Intentionally and perhaps tellingly, especially when we examine homosexuality within a greater social context in Japan, there is no concrete conclusion provided by the game regarding his true orientation.
"We would like everyone to play through the game and come up with their own answers to that question; there is no official answer," says Yu Namba, Atlus USA's Persona 4 Project Lead.
"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.
Nich Maragos, Atlus USA's Persona 4 Editor, agrees with Namba that it is up to each individual player to draw their own conclusions, but his personal opinions sway toward a gay Kanji.