Persona 4: Diversity in Character (Part 1)

Persona 4 is considered one of the best RPGs on the PS2, beating out games such as Kingdom Hearts 2 (Metacritic 87), Dragon Quest 8 (Metacritic 89), and Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance (Metacritic 87). Heck, it beats out quite a few modern games, such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (88), and Deus Ex: Human Revolution (89). It also scores only 1 point behind games such as Mass Effect and Gears of War 3 (Both 91). However, it is not nearly as well known. It is quite a shame, seeing as there are quite a few lessons that other games can learn from Persona 4. The biggest lesson to learn from it would be the story, or, more specifically, the driving force of the story: the characters. Persona 4 has a very diverse cast of characters (which Extra Credits has mentioned several times), yet they all seem like normal people. First though, I’d like to briefly explain the story.

In Persona 4, the main character, a high school student, arrives in the small town of Inaba. Not long after you arrive, strange things start happening. First off, 2 unexplainable murders occur several days apart. Second, a rumor starts going around for a thing called the Midnight Channel, which happens at midnight when it’s raining. Third, after experiencing the Midnight Channel for the first time, the player discovers a dangerous world within the TV, called the TV World. You soon find out the three are related. The two people who were murdered were shown on the Midnight Channel a few days before they were killed. These people were killed by being thrown into the TV World. You and you friends also discover a hidden ability, called a Persona, that can only be gained by facing one’s Shadow. These Shadows represent a hidden secret or trait of that person, a secret or trait that they themselves haven’t fully embraced. If you are still confused about the story, this video kinda explains/parodies the start of the story in more detail. Video. Now that the basic storyline is out of the way, let’s start talking about the diversity topics.

There are many characters in this game, almost all of them feel like real people and help the story. However, there are two characters in particular that tackle topics that few games rarely even mention: homosexuality and sexism. Usually, if a game mentions these topics, it takes them in a very light-hearted or mocking manner. Quick question: How many games have you played that brings up the issue of homosexuality? Next: How many games have you played that brings up the issue of homosexuality without using it as a joke/fan service, and without the use of stereotypes? Persona 4 is one of the few games that falls into the latter category.

Kanji Tatsumi

First impressions: Just looking at him, what do you think his character is like? I think most people will probably think he looks like a “bully” of sorts. The scar over his left eye, the skull and crossbones shirt, and his posture all seem to imply this. This could then lead to a belief that he thinks himself manlier than everyone else, because he is stronger than everyone else. This is reinforced by the fact that, when he’s first mentioned in game, it’s through a news article about him. This news article was about how he had single-handedly beaten up a biker gang. When you first see him, you can quite easily believe that he’d be the type of person who would do that. There are even rumors going around that, after beating up this biker gang, he became the new leader of it. It is also mentioned that he skips school often and tends to get into fights. So far, our first impressions seem about spot on.

And then he gets thrown into the TV World and we get to see his Shadow. His shadow very bluntly shows to the player that there is more to Kanji than first meets the eye. Basically, his Shadow acts rather stereotypically like a homosexual. At first, Kanji will refute what the Shadow says, but eventually, accepts that it is indeed a part of him. After saving Kanji, the player is able to learn more about Kanji, and, as you talk to him, you learn many of the initial thoughts about him were quite wrong. For example, he explains that the reason why he fought the biker gang earlier in the game wasn’t to become the new leader, nor was it simply for the sake of fighting. He did it because he wanted them to stop riding around his mom’s shop. You also learn that Kanji has some hidden hobbies, such as tailoring. Instead of being this super tough guy who only knows how to fight, we see that he’s actually a bit of a softie. For example, when you first start talking to him, he ends up helping a young boy who lost a toy doll. Kanji later on makes him a new one.

And this brings us right back to the topic of homosexuality. It is hinted at in the game that he questions his sexuality and the opposite gender. This is mainly due to his soft side, which sometimes seems to be ridiculed by people. To him, the only people who understand him are other guys. So when another character, Naoto Shirogane (coincidentally enough, the other character I wanted to talk about), starts wanting to learn more about him, Kanji ends up developing a bit of a crush on him. At this point, we see the possibility that he could in fact be a homosexual. The game never confirms or denies this, but Kanji does say that his Shadow is indeed a part of him, and that he’s more comfortable with it. Even though Persona 4 might or might not have a character who is not a homosexual, they did bring up the topic of it, as well as talk about it in a way that most games wouldn’t dare.

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