Sony’s new mascot, Gonjiro, was announced back in September 2017 during the Sony Japan press conference. The character was fairly negligible in the grand scheme of things, but apparently the more the character appeared in media the more certain Japanese began complaining about racism, which may have led to the color-swap of the character for his eventual debut in the upcoming anime this spring.
A new trailer was released for the upcoming anime. Anime News Network linked to the video, but unless you change your IP so that it’s set for Japan, you won’t be able to view it.
The trailer for the anime, which is due out this spring, was also promoted by the official Coro Coro Twitter account, but once again, it’s not available to anyone outside of Japan.
【アニメ映像解禁!!】『けだまのゴンじろー』アニメ ショートPV公開～！ コロコロチャンネルにて https://t.co/SqAZS3TSNr
— コロコロコミック【公式】 (@corocoro_tw) January 19, 2019
Regardless of the contents of the trailer, it doesn’t detract from the fact that Gonjiro has undergone a rather drastic change in appearance.
During the initial reveal of the character at Sony’s press conference, you’ll note that Gonjiro was showcased as a black fuzz ball.
However, as pointed out in an article by Kotaku back in June of 2018, they noticed that the character had undergone a drastic change in appearance.
In the article they link to various forum threads, and blog posts from Japanese who were mocking Sony and expressing an air of annoyance at the company, attempting to chide them away from the design of the character. The criticism containing the threads began popping up as Sony was promoting Gonjiro in late 2017 and heading into early 2018, where the news popped up on various Japanese blogs.
A disappointing amount of comments from Japanese mirror certain Social Justice Warrior talking points, noting that Sony put the character at the bottom corner of the page because that’s what they thought of black people. Others belabored the point that Gonjiro’s black design was somehow racist and carried a similitude in appearance to “black face”. They began posting some comparisons to “black face” imagery to show how Gonjiro was “racist”.
Kotaku’s Brian Ashcroft believed that the highly negative reactions from Japanese SJWs may have led Sony to abandoning the old design and changing it up at some point in the middle of 2018.
Sony didn’t explicitly give a reason for the change, but it went from being a ball of fur to being described as “毛糸玉”in a press release from back on June 15th, 2018, which related to the character being made of a threaded ball of fur, or a “ball of yarn” or a “yarn ball”.
As you can see from the comparison below, Gonjiro went from a black fur ball to a red yarn ball.
Typically when forums like ResetEra picked up on it they were quick to point out that it was likely Sony’s California branch that likely had the Japanese branch to change the design, with one user writing…
“Honestly, I’m kinda glad they realized the issues with the design, because that was… definitely… Yeah… As I said, it’s not perfect, but color absolutely matters here, so someone definitely raised the issue, which I assume had to be on the International side of things (Maybe the main SIE branch in the US, perhaps?). Kinda reminds of the issue with Oilman in Mega Man Powered Up, which thankfully got altered.”
Actually, based on the Japanese blogs, it appeared there were plenty on the Eastern front who seemed to share ResetEra’s regressive view on sociopolitics, likening any character donned in a black hue as “racist”.
We saw something similar happen with the game Chuchel, where the developer kowtowed to demands from Social Justice Warriors to change the main character from a black dust ball to an orange dust ball (which technically doesn’t make much sense). The developer even stood his ground after the videos and the Steam page was review-bombed by angry customers who didn’t like the fact that he had given up his artistic integrity to placate the intemperate whims of the perpetually offended.
But regardless of why it changed, the outcry itself was predicted long before it happened.
(Thanks for the news tip Dandylion)