Ok, I know everyone praises P2 for having a canon gay relationship, But can we talk about how it isn't apex of represantation. I mean, while Jun's great, writers avoided giving him a Shadow. Also his relationship with Tatsuya has pretty much all yaoi cliches of that time (like game can't stop reminding us how feminine Jun is). I think Naoto and Kanji's (and Chie's, in the original) are much realistic and meaningful represantations of gender perspective in Japan.
I agree with some things you have said Anon, but I also think you got a lot of things wrong too, so I’m going to try to adress those things down below in this big post.
Just have in mind that this could be just my own opinion in the matter and I could have made some mistakes or forgotten to mention something, but I really respect your opinion and I will be careful to say anything about the matter.
JUST A BIG REMINDER: FOR SOME PEOPLE POINTING OUT FLAWS IS SAYING THE GAME IS BAD, THAT’S NOT THE POINT AT ALL. I’M A BIG FAN OF THE GAMES AND I REALLY RECOMMEND PLAYING THEM.
ALSO: I saw some ignorants saying that “the game isn’t even supposed to represent anything” and no, don’t freaking use this excuse for putting dirt under the rug, just don’t. If you are going to mention it in a game at least do it right.
First, I don’t think Jun not having a shadow has anything to do with bad writing because they explored his backstory very well even without a presence of his shadow (there is shadows in P2, but if you came from P4 thinking that shadows are necessary you can get some things wrong, exploring your “true self” is not the main point here, this is more of a SMT game where evil and good are the main attraction).
For example, Jun was manipulated to be Joker and control the shadows that were forcefully created to obey him, there wasn’t a reason for him to control his own shadow to begin with.
But this doesn’t mean we don’t try to show him who he truly is and have a insight of his confusing mind and what he really thinks of himself, through the Caracol dungeon we have a look inside Jun’s mind (looking at his younger self that appears like a ghost) and how he was manipulated to believe there wasn’t anything positive for him anymore.
And the relief of seeing the truth of himself.
He didn’t have a reason to have a shadow at all because he was already accepting the things he had done and accepted what was his true self (we even fight him in two forms, it would be a bit too much to have a three round battle against another side of Jun again, seriously that thing was terrible I don’t think I need another Jun to beat up, please, just don’t).
Second, I think Jun being feminine wasn’t exaggerated or “yaoi cliche”, he is a very caring, warm and protective character shown to have big problems of being antisocial, using his calculating self to manipulate other people and the big trauma he suffered when he thought Maya died made him even more closed.
Even if it is canon that he likes Tatsuya they don’t just slap that in your face with homophobic jokes or him being forcefully flirty every second too, he is caring with Tatsuya, praises him and is very attentive with him, Ginko considers him a “rival in love” just like Maya and the rest is pretty much optional demon negotiation dialogues where you flirt with him (that you, the player, can choose to unlock), calling him your “boyfriend” or saying “you like him”, but that’s similar for the girls too. I don’t remember anything overly exaggerated or mandatory for his interactions.
Now, Kanji too has what you would call a feminine side, Jun loves flowers and Kanji loves cute things and crocheting. I don’t see anything wrong in male characters to be shown to have “feminine” interests, this is what we would call representating people that feel that way too. Let boys smell flowers and admire cute things for god’s sake, this is beautiful and there’s nothing wrong with that (both Jun and Kanji wear make up during some scenes too).
But in Persona 4 they totally mock Kanji for having those traits, they call him “queer” and even his own father says that “because he is a man he needs to be strong” and this confused him to no end. We don’t have this kind of homophobic reaction for Jun feminine traits whoever.
I don’t think it was bad to adress those things, but for the way they made Yosuke (his own friend) to call him queer and make rude jokes all the time when he already suffered enough? That was painfully horrible and nobody called him out for that while on the other hand Ginko just says for Tatsuya “you are free to love whoever you want” when you choose to say you are interested in Jun and that’s it. They don’t shame you or Jun of being queer.
(This whole scene makes me uncomfortable. I’m sorry they wrote you that badly and scrapped your romance route Yosuke).
In Persona 2 Jun is already shown to be a canon gay character without problems to accept this part of himself because he didn’t suffer from people being homophobic with him (he was already suffering enough with trying to get away from people to begin with), but I don’t think this means he is a bad representation just because he didn’t suffer from it. He is just a character that accepted himself easily because Tatsuya was someone special for him since he was a child and he had even a worse trauma of being manipulated to cope with.
As for Naoto, I think she was a great character who saw how bad and sexist society was of having a girl as a detective and needed to dress up like a boy to continue with it and also because she admired male detective figures that marked her childhood, there is also a lot of transexual implications on her shadow, but she was a nice representation by herself (maybe some more development would be nice).
What I think is:
Persona 4 would be a perfect game about accepting your true self if the sexist/transophobic/homophobic jokes weren’t badly treated and overly used for no good reason, this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have addressed it, but they made even your friends do that and you, as a protagonist who is supposed to represent the player as much as possible, can’t even do shit about that (It’s just awful and I got a lot of LGBT people coming to me to talk about how uncomfortable it was for them to see that badly treated in a game).
- Because of the rude jokes the good representations were totally “covered” up, as for character alone Kanji and Naoto are nice, maybe just not so greatly developed, but for the game on it’s own it’s just poorly treated.
- Persona 2 was a game made in the 90′s and they didn’t make that amount of mistakes that Persona 4 made when addressing a character of being interested in men (I mean most people see Kanji as bisexual too, nothing wrong with that) and that’s why people praise this game (and it is the only game you can romance a male character in the series and they didn’t even have social links/cooperation for the whole dating sim thing).
- Homophobia is a delicate and heavy topic, if writers want to talk about it the number one rule isn’t to make the whole work with it all over the place (just mention it and never treat about it seriously is a big mistake) and if the character has already accepted who he is then there is not a single reason for him to not just react to it seriously (I really wanted Kanji to call out Yosuke and talk about it seriously, but it didn’t happen).
- Tatsuya is a silent protagonist too and he had options to say “sexual discrimination is wrong”, they could’ve just make something similar for Yu if they really wanted some representation even if demon negotiation wasn’t a thing (just for P5 recently).
- If Yosuke wasn’t scrapped as a romantic route they could’ve at least showed a character that was just being homophobic because he was still in doubt of his own sexuality (this is a real thing in real life too, sadly), this would be so interesting to see, but when they scrapped this out of the game they just left him as this character who is a complete dick without a reason and nobody cares.
AGAIN WHY THE PROTAGONIST CAN’T FIGHT AGAINST IT IF HE IS SUPPOSED TO BE AS CLOSE AS THE PLAYER AS POSSIBLE. IT’S UNCOMFORTABLE TO JUST SIT THERE AND WATCH.
The mistake that the new team of writers of P3/P4 and the direction made was so bad and regressive that what we got now for Persona 5 as a gay representation is… just, just look at it:
This is what I would call stereotypes and overly bad representation of “”feminine”” male characters (this whole scene is just a big rude joke on gay panic), to compare Jun of being feminine and exaggerated comparing to that? I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with you.
It’s not because “Japan is still not as progressive with it as other countries” because the media has already changed a lot and there is other games that treat about it with a far openly mind. This isn’t a excuse for anything.
No, the new team didn’t make a good job at all and never learned from that. I’m sorry if it hurts to say that, it hurts me too, but I don’t think the same team of Persona 2 would be able to make that mistake as careful as they was at least.