Monday, April 6, 2015

Character Select: Kanji Tatsumi (Persona 4)

Sometimes the reason a video game resonates with us so powerfully has to do with the characters we encounter along the way. This post marks the first in a new series I will be adding new entries to every on a semi-regular basis, and which will explore some of my favorite characters from different video game series in brief. Simply stated, these posts will be more along the lines of quick blurbs than full-fledged articles, though I may have more to say about certain characters than others due to a variety of factors – the numbers of games they have appeared in, the degree to which I have found myself entertained by their antics or invested in their development, etc.

Following the legacy of handsome blond-haired bruisers like Final Fantasy IV's Kain Highwind, Kanji is rough, tough, and hits like a truck. What lends Kanji to stand out from the crowd is his personality, and his role as part of a modern social commentary. While other JRPGs remain rooted in the expansive fantasy realms that first put them on the map, the Persona titles opt for a contemporary setting, featuring high school kids capable of using the powers of the Arcana to summon their respective Personas and – in the case of Persona 4 – defeat the shadow monsters of the Midnight Channel as they piece together a mysterious series of kidnappings in the rural town of Inaba. Kanji is one of the Persona series’ most striking reflections of modern sensibilities, as his shadow form, a physical manifestation of his inner struggles, deals with a confusion of his own sexual identity and the interpretation of what others view as ‘manly’ and ‘masculine’ versus what he knows he is good at and passionate about. While Kanji’s actual sexual orientation is somewhat left up to each player’s own interpretation, it’s certainly easy to find yourself invested in his story, especially when it comes to accepting the fact that some people might think his sewing and crafting skills are unusual, but that it is more than acceptable for him to take pride in these. I also found the clash of Kanji’s badass scrappy external image and the fact that he could become so easily flustered when put on the spot to be entertaining, as well as facets that further lent to his progress being arguably more human and meaningful than some of his P4 comrades, and certainly a more compelling individual tale than many other JRPGs have to offer these days.

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