19 CommentsTwelve Days / By Scamp /

12 Days of Anime #6: Tatsumi Kanji and Laughing at Stereotypes

Let’s talk gay people.

This year saw Tiger and Bunny sport the fabulously flaming gay Fire Emblem. He was essentially just a mixture of endless gay stereotypes. Flamboyant, wears lots of pink, tries to be one of the girls, randomly groping various straight men. He’s actually a very entertaining character in his own right with a lot of good qualities, but he’s hardly doing much for a nice variation of gay characters in television. He’s certainly an interesting contrast to Tatsumi Kanji.

Tatsumi Kanji is a delinquent who has started to question his sexuality (gay? Bi? It’s all left a bit vague, so I’m just going to call him gay for convenience sake). But his actions hardly fall into any of the categories of gay stereotypes. Some do, such as his appreciation of cutesy, girlie stuff like teddy bears, but by and large he’s an abrasive, blunt tough guy, unsure of himself but barreling forward regardless. One thing I love about his character is how his homosexuality doesn’t define him. Unlike Fire Emblem, where there’s not a single part of his character that is not defined by his unbelievable campness, Kanji is a person before he’s gay. It’s still a vitally important part of his character, but there’s more to him than that. But what’s brilliant about Persona 4 in this regard is how they tackle that side of him.

I’ve got in trouble for mentioning this before, but I despise the method used by Wandering Son to tackle these sorts of problems. The careful delicate touch, unable to ever crack a joke about such a serious subject in case it offends or scares off those too sensitive. Persona 4, on the other hand, devotes an entire episode to the characters entering a gay paradise, being covered in lube and assaulted by macho masochistic men. Ridiculous, hilarious and only offensive if you totally missed the point of the entire piece.

This is what Tatsumi Kanji is afraid of. The stereotypes of gay people he sees in the media with characters like Fire Emblem have led him to believe that’s what people will see him as if he’s gay. It led him to retreat inside himself and become afraid of his own feelings. It’s rather fitting that a show where characters jump into televisions that it’s televisions portrayal of these characters that is the focus of the episode. Persona 4 laughs at these stereotypes, mocking them for the crude, ridiculous portrayals that they are, while presenting us with a character more balanced in his presentation. It’s an episode that’s willing to crack jokes about its subject matter and through this hilarity deliver the message. It’s satire in its most bizarre yet most brilliant form.

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19 Comments

  1. ペーパー先生
    Posted December 20, 2011 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    You have renewed my faith in Persona 4! I kinda gave up as soon as I saw Kanji in his little…um…loin cloth…thing…

  2. Posted December 20, 2011 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    Hear, hear.

  3. Someone Else
    Posted December 20, 2011 at 3:39 am | Permalink
    • Someone Else
      Posted December 20, 2011 at 3:43 am | Permalink

      oh fail

  4. Kyano
    Posted December 20, 2011 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    Where I think Kanji (and P4) fails to be progressive, is the fact that the majority of Japanese fans don’t seem to think he’s gay or even bisexual at all. The main reason for this is slightly spoilerish since it’s due to your interpretation of what the Shadows actually are, but if people just think he’s a straight guy troubled with his manly image then his character doesn’t do much to challenge people’s perceptions of queer stereotypes (althouh it does challenge gender stereotypes). The Shadow sequence may be mocking stereotypes, but I don’t know if the audience really aren’t just laughing at the gay jokes.

    • Scamp
      Posted December 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      You know, I can see why they think that. Him liking girly things make him worry people think he’s flaming gay like Fire Emblem. As for people just laughing at gay jokes, remember there’s also people who laugh with Stephen Colbert because they agree with his right wing sataric views, thinking he’s being serious. It’s a pretty frequent thing that happens with satire

  5. gw_kimmy
    Posted December 20, 2011 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    ….actually, i have to say i don’t understand your argument at all. is all that really satire of homosexuality or just turning up the stereotypes x over 9000? i think i’m missing something, probably since i haven’t seen any of persona 4. the only time i’ve seen homosexuality in real satire commentary was in south park where all homosexuals were actually crab people plotting to take over the world (lol).

    wandering son didn’t crack any jokes since there really isn’t a joke available to crack. the anime was about transsexuality, not homosexuality, and since lots of people can’t distinguish the two most jokes go along with the assumption that you lump the two together anyways.

    • Posted December 20, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      i think i’m miss­ing some­thing, prob­ably since i haven’t seen any of per­sona 4.

      Uh…yeah. You are missing something. And challenging Scamp’s stance with a question that basically says, “Is it really satire?” is kind of a ridiculous thing to do when you admit you have no knowledge of the context.

      The entire point of the TV world in Persona 4 is that it reflects both the character’s inner feelings and how the characters fear others perceive them. Yosuke is afraid that the people who claim to be his friends actually just find him irritating and clingy. Chie is afraid that her protection of Yukiko comes off as manipulative. And in Kanji’s case, he’s afraid that people immediately assume he’s the gay stereotype instead of actually getting to know him.

      Your argument about the lack of comedy in Wandering Son doesn’t hold much water, either, partly because it doesn’t even make sense. While some people may incorrectly lump transgenders and homosexuals together, those are not the people who would watch Wandering Son. Plus, you can make jokes about anything, provided you aren’t tasteless about it. Persona uses its jokes well; and while it would be unfair to expect Wandering Son to take the same goofy tone as Persona, it’s still a show that could have benefited from more levity.

      • gw_kimmy
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 1:48 am | Permalink

        but he was attempting to apply that context and argument inherent to other shows/whatever that deal with homosexuality (or that’s what it read like). which is where i was lost. frankly i feel that view is a little shortsighted. from what he described, it sounded like he wants to encourage more random stereotyping, and since i didn’t watch the show he was referencing, i was just hoping it was my mistake that the context perhaps implied something else.

        i wasn’t saying that wandering son couldn’t be funny at all. there were a ton of other things it could have cracked jokes about. but the large problem with cracking a joke on transsexuality would not be the potential offensiveness (though im sure enough people would rage) but that the subject matter is too complex (not to mention still widely misunderstood) for jokes based on stereotyping to work.

  6. Posted December 20, 2011 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    I really enjoyed this episode. I always enjoy flamboyance for some reason~

    However, I will make note that a lot of people were quite upset with the anime’s teatment of Kanji’s orientation.

    More so than the funny scenes presented in this episode, I think, many were disappointed with how the main character and what’s his face treat Kanji when he gets close to them (like fainting when their butts were groped, or the “no we don’t want you sleeping here” camping scene).

    Well, I am not making a statement either way, just echoing the opinion opposite of yours. :P

    • Hanamaru
      Posted December 20, 2011 at 6:57 am | Permalink

      I agree that their reaction to Kanji was a bit too juvenile for my tastes, but they are young high schoolers. I am generalizing, but I have noticed that it takes guys a longer time to get over homosexuality. In my high school years, the females seem less threatened by homosexuality than the males. When people start college and get out of their cliques, people begin to realize that a person is more than their sexual orientation. I think it really has to do with the maturity of the individual.

      • Posted December 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        To back up that point, it doesn’t seem like an accident that it’s only Yosuke and Narukami who still give Kanji crap, whereas Chie, Yukiko and Teddie never make fun of him.

  7. derp
    Posted December 20, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think that Kanji is gay. Never got that impression. He just wants someone who’ll love and accept him, after all. Doesn’t matter if they’re a girl or guy. He said that himself in the game. Also, it’s worth noting that (lol spoilers, don’t read if you don’t want to know) after Naoto’s gender has been revealed, Kanji still quite obviously likes her.

  8. Posted December 20, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Y’know, it’s never outright stated that he’s gay, sexually confused yeah, but not gay. I think his sexuality is left ambiguous so that viewers/players can give their own interpretation.

    • Posted December 20, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      There’s been no indication (yet) that he’s attracted to women, but there’s been quite a bit to suggest he likes men. That doesn’t quite fit my definition of ‘ambiguous.’

      • Scamp
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        I’m with this explanation. Plus he’s just a 15 year old kid, he hasn’t got his emotions figured out yet.

  9. Posted December 21, 2011 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    less Kanji, shifting to oh-my-nathan-seymour.

    Fire Emblem’s “stereotypical” design could’ve been done on purpose, knowing that even the yaoi market doesn’t use it. IMO Nathan’s emotionally stronger than Kanji, wherein his overly evident sexuality doesn’t create barricades for him. Changing the wording, Fire Emblem doesn’t allow his sexuality to create barriers such as Kanji’s.

    Also he’ll have a key role in the upcoming TIGER&BUNNY movie, so maybe he can come off as less stereotypical by then. Though the only actual overboard trait I see in him is wearing pink :|

    • Scamp
      Posted December 21, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      Only trait? Everything about his is related his gayness

      • Posted December 21, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

        overboard trait, the one that makes him such a stereotype.

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