Sony Changed The Colour Of Its New Character 

In spring 2017, Sony announced a new character named "Gonjiro". When Gonjiro debuted, it was black with big eyes, large lips, a red button on its chest, and an exposed butt. The character, it seems, is now red.

Screenshot: Sony Japan

Aimed at children, the character is a collaboration with CoroCoro Comics and Aniplex.

Screenshot: Sony Japan

Memories of the controversy surrounding Jynx from Pokemon come flooding back, as well as a larger and longer history of offensive and codified imagery.

Screenshot: Sony Japan

When Gonjiro was first shown, Sony said it was still in development. The company also showed a clip of the character in action.

In it, a man's hairpiece was blown off, angering him and causing shame.

Screenshot: Sony Japan

So Gonjiro turned into an afro and landed on the man's head.

Screenshot: Sony Japan

To the delight of his lady friend.

Screenshot: CoroCoro

This past February, the character still looked like it did when announced (below). There was even Gonjiro merchandise.

However, a red Gonjiro will appear at the PlayStation booth at the World Hobby Fair later this month at the Makuhari Messe, where the Tokyo Game Show is held.

The original one is nowhere to be found.

The new Gonjiro has new merchandise, too.

This seems sudden because the original version did feature in fairly recent adverts for the World Hobby Fair (below). Note that Gonjiro is described as a "new character whose whole body is a furball".

Maybe it's hard to depict the colour red in print like this?

Sony's latest press release now describes Gonjiro as a "ball of yarn character", but does not explain why it's suddenly red. Kotaku reached out to Sony Japan regarding the colour change but did not hear back prior to writing.

Earlier this autumn, there was a thread online in Japan discussing the character.

"This seems no good." Screenshot: 5ch

The questionable imagery was not lost on other commenters in Japan when the character was announced, and this past January, there were those on Japanese bulletin board 2ch who quickly pointed it out.

"Guess they put a red button on its stomach like a plush toy so it didn't look like a racist character," wrote one 2ch commenter, while another commented, "I think this is insulting to black people and will probably cause an international problem."

Yet another commenter was more succinct: "This is racist."


Comments

    I don't get it, what's so bad about the character being black?

      Because in western audiences black characters with big lips were used as an insulting stereotype long ago. Look at disney cartoons from that time and youll see what i mean. Black people in those times were often portrayed in animation to be similar to apes.

      Here is an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0z7oZ0jzQs

        Was hoping for that link. Loved it as a kid. It's painful to watch now.

      all black, big white lips, it is concerning to me that you (and anyone of the last few generations) dont know how that could be seen as bad

      The issue isn't specifically that the character is black, but as everyone else has said, it looks like a historically racist caricature of a black person.

      Last edited 21/06/18 4:36 pm

    I was gonna wright it off as a case off differing cultural perspectives: Japanese not realising the historical use of characters with that kind of appearance in American culture.
    But then it turned into an Afro.

      I thought that too but then a lot of asians (not stereotyping) use afro's in there animes regardless of the characters skin color

      Japanese people do the whole Jim Crow thing again and again. They know what it means. They just don't like being told to stop doing something they find fun.

        A bit of that indeed, but also a bit of not having the cultural touchstones to understand why is it so bad. For them, it's just another harmless caricature. It's the same reason why so many anime treat Christianism as simply another mythology to exploit for fun, like they (and we) do with say, old Nordic or Greek religions.

          They honestly understand by now. Like, they got away with the whole "We didn't really get it because cultural somethign something" for a long time. But they Know now. With a capital K.

          It's just one of those things where losing it would be unfun so they pretend it isn't there. Like when you find out a celebrity you really like said or did something shitty and you kinda don't want to boycott all of their stuff because you like their work despite hating the things they say and do.

      www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/04/19/voices/historically-japan-is-no-stranger-to-blacks-nor-to-blackface/

    I get it the similarity but does any sentient creature that is black/brown or even pink have to be deconstructed to find out if there was any malice or even connection behind it creation
    And now that the have changed it, they have admitted guilt to that whether it's true or not
    personally I would of brought out a whole range of colors have him as the head cause to me that's the color of Sony it's the color of my playstation's, TV, camera (I like sony) and I'm sure all there other products too

    So I guess when he turns into an Afro now, the lucky guy looks like Ronald McDonald instead of Shinichi Watanabe, the producer of Excel Saga who self inserts with his magnificent Afro all the time?

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