Screenshot: Sony Japan

In fall 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.

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

Screenshot: Sony Japan

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

Screenshot: Sony Japan

Advertisement

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 hairpiece was blown off, angering him and causing shame.

Screenshot: Sony Japan

Advertisement

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

Advertisement

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

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

Advertisement

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.”

Advertisement

Maybe it’s hard to depict the color 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 color change but did not hear back prior to publication.

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

Advertisement

“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.”

Advertisement

Yet another commenter was more succinct: “This is racist.”


Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.