5. Kanji Tatsumi and Take-Mikazuchi (Persona 4)
Sexuality is not something often discussed in media as a whole, not to mention the realm of video games. And when it is mention, it is often referred to when a character is revealed to be homosexual – and that is usually that. But the concept of queerness is rarely explored in-depth, even though, for the sake of telling an interesting and diverse story, should be. Enter Kanji Tatsumi, tough bad boy who also knits and loves cute things.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – just because Kanji likes knitting and thinks certain things are cute doesn’t make him gay – but that’s just what I mean. Kanji’s arc in Persona 4 is coming to terms with the fact that doing stereotypically “girly” things or doing stereotypically “manly” things doesn’t matter to him at all. He’s comfortable just being himself, and anyone who says otherwise can eff off. We can see this through his interactions with Naoto, who it’s clear he’s crushing on even before it is revealed that Naoto is a girl. And there’s no pomp, there’s no circumstance when we find out she’s a girl. There’s no sigh of relief from Kanji, knowing he won’t be picked on for liking a dude. Kanji’s sexual orientation is something that needs no explaining. He’s just Kanji. And that’s honestly the most important thing there is, isn’t there?
But there’s honestly so much more to Kanji than what he’s attracted to. He may be a bit of a dope, but he’s one of the real hearts of the team, and always has something interesting to say, whether relevant or not. He’s gruff, but he’s got a heart of gold, and toward the end of the game, you really get to see his sensitive side. Which is so important for a medium dominated by buff, manly protagonists.
4. Shinjiro Aragaki and Castor (Persona 3)
Orphaned at a young age and drafted into the Shadow fighting organization S.E.E.S. in his early teens, Shinjiro Aragaki left the team traumatized after his Persona Castor ran rampant and killed an innocent woman. Shinji eventually returns to S.E.E.S. at his best friend Akihiko’s insistence…and after discovering the son of the woman he killed, Ken Amada, is also on the team. Shinji’s acceptance of his inevitable death was flat-out heartbreaking. He was fully ready and willing to die for his sins, but the game indicates that he’s starting to push forward and grow with the new and old members of S.E.E.S. Then, he dies. No pomp, no circumstance-just a split second choice that he couldn’t walk away from. His death affects everyone, but it hits Ken (who spent his life desiring revenge) and Akihiko (who was best buds with Shinji to the point of having a thematically matching Persona) especially hard. Sure, you can save him in Persona 3 Portable, but his death in the original is a grim reminder: no one in this game is safe, and stories don’t always end happily.
3. Tohru Adachi and Magatsu Izanagi (Persona 4)
Who wants to talk about murder? Tohru Adachi is one of those villains that you just love to hate. This is in part because, for a certain amount of time, the guy was downright lovable. He was a dorky, goofy beat cop with a blabbermouth personality, one of the few truly kind adults in a town full of gruff or otherwise dismissive authority figures. This is what makes the reveal of his sadistic, murderous nature hurt so much. He’s not just some card-carrying villain; you abhor his actions but understand his motives, as twisted as they might be. This isn’t even getting into how he and the game’s protagonist, Yu Narukami, share similar backstories. They’re both young men forced from their regular lives into a humdrum existence in the middle of nowhere, Japan, and given powers beyond all imagination. Adachi’s Persona, Magatsu Izanagi, emphasizes their similarities even more. It acts as a dark mirror to Yu’s Izanagi, a god of creation twisted into a force of destruction. Adachi is Yu’s shadow as much as he was the player’s friend, making it easy to wonder if Yu would have become the same if for want of a nail.
2. Naoto Shirogane and Sukuna-Hikona (Persona 4)
Naoto, despite having her story told later on in Persona 4’s story, is one of the better fleshed out characters throughout the game. She serves as one of the story’s real connections to Inaba’s police department, the other being the player character’s uncle Dojima. And you heard me right, I said “she” – Naoto is a girl. Naoto’s gender ambiguity stems from her desire to be noticed for her talents as a detective and not what’s between her legs – even so much as to wear a boy’s school uniform when she attends Yasogami High. Naoto fears that because women are often looked down upon in law enforcement, and because she is so young, she will never be respected as a true detective, but through her interactions with her Shadow and the Investigation Group, however, she sees that she can be both a great detective and a young woman in tandem, and we see her really grow into herself because of it.
But that’s not all; from a personality standpoint, Naoto is simply a gem. She is extremely intelligent and observant, but has a bit of a shy side and seems to even be afraid of ghost stories. Hell, she does that silly thing that people who are unfamiliar with texting do where they type in all caps. Because of all these interesting traits, Naoto easily earns a spot so high on this list.