|The Sensitive Boy|
Kanji Tatsumi's life is the life of a young man forcibly split between two different roads; in life, we must adapt to survive, and such is the case of this unfortunate boy.
Kanji was born a sweet child in the small rural town of Inaba. His parents diligently ran Inaba's textile shop, one of several interconnected stores that all worked to support one another, the central nexus of it all being the Yamagi Inn -- one of the Tatsumi's chief customers.
He was a boy with a large heart, and though oftentimes shy he was not unfriendly. Thanks to his parents' occupation, Kanji quickly developed an aptitude for tailoring and other related handicraft. He grew to enjoy dolls and "cute things," even playing house; his parents never attempted to dissuade him from these practices or passions, allowing him instead to express himself as he wanted. The young boy never knew these hobbies and likes were considered "strange" for a boy to have -- he never thought himself weird. At least, until other children pointed it out to him.
And in their innocence, a child's capacity for cruelty is as boundless as their capacity for kindness.
The teasing was simple, at first. If ever Kanji remarked about how cute a girl's doll was, his friends would laugh at him, and the girls would avoid him for being "weird." He never understood why -- especially the girls. Always chirping about him, acting like he was some sort of mutant. Didn't they like the same things he liked? So why did they make fun of him?
It was simple. Never anything vicious. Not at first. While he was never really accepted, he had some he associated with, and even liked; his first childhood crush was a fellow classmate. She had the cutest pink bag that she always, always carried around with her. And one day, it broke, The girl was saddened by the loss of her most precious thing and Kanji, wanting to cheer her up and express just how much he cared, decided to fix it for her. It was possibly one of the first times he ever openly showed his skill with handicraft.
When the other girls found out, they were vicious. They ridiculed the girl for having the "weird kid" fix her bag, mocked Kanji for doing such a "girly" thing like sewing. The girl began to cry, and Kanji couldn't understand. Had he done something wrong? Why were the other girls teasing her? It was the only reason he could think of -- the only reason why his kind gesture could be so mocked. Was he really... a "weird kid"...?
After that, Kanji began to grow more distant. "Shy" was one way of describing him; desperately attempting to avoid the ridicule would be another. Eventually, the young boy would become a young man. He had withdrawan from most school functions; he had no friends, no people to truly call his friends. The boys harassed him, the girls gossipped behind his back. He could no longer even bring himself to interact with girls without becoming horribly awkward, and deep down, he started to fear and disdain them -- loud and obnoxious and sneaky -- thanks to the events of his past, how could he view them in any other ways than discomfort and anxiety?
All Kanji wanted was for people to accept him. Yet as long as he continued to indulge in the habits he loved so much, he knew he would never find it. He began to detest his hobbies as things that a "man" would never do, and began to believe his peers who mocked him -- that these hobbies made him weird and disgusting, and thus, ultimately, he began to despise himself. If he was a man, yet he liked such feminine things, what did that make him...?
|Becoming a Man|
These questions and concerns would ultimately come to head at the precipice of his puberty, his transition from a young boy to a young man. It all happened while he was out of the house: his father fell ill and was rushed to the hospital, a fact that Kanji did not learn of until hours later. The news shocked him; the fact that he was not there devastated him. Thanks to this, Kanji would come to hate hospitals -- the things that represented the point in time when everything in his life would change.
Kanji rushed to his father's side. The man's condition was worsening dramatically; the days passed, and his health continued to deteriorate. His hospital bed gradually became his death bed, and it was Kanji who would be with him at his last moments. The young boy held onto his father's hand as life slipped away from him. And before he passed, his father imparted on Kanji his last words:
"Kanji -- if you're a man, you have to become strong."
The words shocked Kanji to his very core. If he was a man, he had to become strong? Was his father saying that Kanji wasn't a man? He'd never know for sure; his father passed away soon after this, without explaining the true meaning of his words. Kanji felt shocked -- he felt /angry./ And in that anger, Kanji interpretted his father's words in the most extraordinarily foolish way possible: his handicraft and "feminine" interests made him less than a man. If he wanted to become a man, he'd have to become strong. He'd have to reject everything that was the old Kanji, and become powerful -- become manly.
Soon after, Kanji completely changed his image. He bleached his hair, numerous piercings and tattoos, and adopted a much angrier, "hardened" personality, pushing away everything and everyone around him by projecting an image of intimidation and fear rather than the image of weakness and femininity he had before. Instead of mocking him, his peers now feared and avoided him. It was exactly what he wanted. Or at least, what he told himself he wanted.
|Becoming a Delinquent|
With his new look and his fierce temper and violent streak, Kanji quickly became known as a delinquent in his middle school and throughout Inaba. He would rarely go to class, would pick fights with his peers or anyone he believed might have been trying to mock his "strangeness." Out of necessity, he became the "man" he thought his father wanted him to be, trying his best to deny the true aspects of himself deep down. Yet, these things rarely /truly/ change. And deep down, Kanji was still a kind boy, if not expressed in different ways.
It was around this time that a group of roaming bousouzoku decided to make a home out of Kanji's neighborhood. They were true delinquents -- loud, abrasive, and violent, they would constantly upset the order of the neighborhood with their lawlessness. To the late hours of the night they would keep the block up with their jeering and roaring motorcycles. Kanji's mother, the only family he had left, could never get an ounce of sleep. Her health deteriorated as the biker gangs' boorishness...
... and finally, Kanji had enough. His hair trigger temper snapped, and while the old Kanji was never one for violence, the new Kanji was a man. In order to get the bousouzoku to shut up and leave his neighborhood, Kanji marched to the somehow-obscure-and-not-shut-down-for-selling-children-deadly-weapons weaponsmith shop of Yomenaido, bought himself a simple shield, marched back to his neighborhood...
... and single-handedly beat the shit out of every last one of those bikers.
He was like a man possessed. Like a demon. And terrified, the bikers were driven straight out of Inaba. While some - mainly his mother - viewed him as a hero, many others began to fear Kanji just as much as his peers and the bikers did. Many saw him as a delinquent, and many more began to assume - with his rough image, his hot temper, and his terrifying strength - that Kanji himself was a biker, a fact that frustrated him to no end. No matter what, Kanji couldn't find acceptance. So maybe it was better that everyone simply respected and feared him too much to harass him?
Life continued. With his newfound exposure and image, Kanji became the target of police harassment from officers assuming him to be another thug, another bully -- another gangster. But Kanji convinced himself he was fine with this, despite the fact that he grew more and more on edge with every passing day, embroiled in more and more fights. A series of bizarre circumstances eventually led to Kanji's arrest and subsequent parole, and through this, he found himself embroiled in the work of the Kuzunoha Detective Agency. Now a member of the KDA, Kanji finds himself delving waist-deep into a world he never knew existed, much less understood. Strega, the NWO, SEES -- Shadows, even the Persona he discovered the ability to call, all overwhelmed him... all while the growing fear of being shunned for his softer, sensitive side and his nagging self-doubts gnaw away at him... a fact that certainly isn't helped by the presence of the Detective Prince, Naoto Shirogane.