In autumn 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.
Memories of the controversy surrounding Jynx from Pokémon come flooding back as well as a larger and longer history of offensive and codified imagery.
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.
So Gonjiro turned into an afro and landed on the man’s head.
To the delight of his lady friend.
This past February, the character still looked like it when announced. 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.
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.”
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 publication.
Earlier this spring, there was a thread online in Japan discussing the character.
“This seems no good.”
“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.”