Kazuma, as he appears in Yakuza 6
|First game||Yakuza (2005)|
|Voiced by (English)||Darryl Kurylo (Yakuza)|
|Voiced by (Japanese)||Takaya Kuroda|
|Portrayed by||Masakatsu Funaki (Like a Dragon: Prologue)
Kazuki Kitamura (Like a Dragon)
Kazuma Kiryu (桐生 一馬? Kiryū Kazuma) is a fictional character and main protagonist in Sega's 2005 action-adventure JRPG series, Yakuza. Kiryu is a yakuza who takes the blame for his boss' death to protect his best friend, resulting in his expulsion from the clan and a ten-year stay in prison. After leaving prison, Kiryu realizes the crime world has changed and fights against the new threats in his life. Kiryu is the protagonist of the following Yakuza games which follow his attempts to aid his former family. He is voiced by Takaya Kuroda in Japanese and by Darryl Kurylo in the English version of the first game.
Kiryu was created to appeal to a broad audience as a result of being the series' only playable character during its first three games. Critical reception to Kiryu has been generally positive, and he is often recognized as a PlayStation mascot. Several have praised how despite him identifying as a yakuza, Kiryu stood out because of his kindness and character development across the series' story. On the other hand, he has also been viewed as a somewhat typical gaming protagonist.
Kiryu is famous member from the Tojo clan, earning the nickname of "the Dragon of Dojima" (堂島の龍? Dōjima no Ryū). Early in the first game he was planning on starting his own subsidiary group until he takes the blame for the murder of his boss, Sohei Dojima, to protect his best friend, Akira Nishikiyama, and is imprisoned for ten years. After his release, Kiryu returns to his home town, Kamurocho, but due to his patricide he is marked for death by the entire yakuza community. Kiryu then learns that 10 billion yen has been stolen from the Tojo Clan. Soon after he meets a young girl called Haruka, whom seemingly every criminal group in the country is after. With help of detective Date, Kiryu manages to learn the truth of the money. Upon reuniting with Yumi, his childhood love and Haruka's mother he is confronted by Kyohei Jingu, Haruka's father, and the true owner of the money. After defeating Jingu, Kiryu is reunited with his old friend Nishiki. The two fight, with Kiryu coming out victorious. Jingu tries to shoot Kiryu but Yumi takes the bullet for him. Nishikiyama then kills himself with Jingu. After Yumi dies in Kiryu's arms, Kiryu subsequently decides to start a new, honest life with Haruka.
In Yakuza 2, the fifth Chairman of the Tojo Clan, Yukio Terada, is assassinated and Kazuma Kiryu wants Sohei Dojima's son Daigo to take the clan's leadership and prevent an upcoming yakuza families war. While attempting to broker a peace deal between the Tojo and the Omi, Daigo and Jin Goda, Omi chairman, are kidnapped by Ryuji Goda, Jin's adopted son. Ryuji, through working with the Jingweon mafia, attempts to destroy Kamurocho and Kiryu to be the only dragon in Japan. Kiryu is put under the protective custody of a female detective called Kaoru Sayama, who uses him to get close to the Tojo to discover her past. Eventually, Kiryu and Ryuji fight atop Kamurocho Hills. Kiryu is victorious, but Yukio Terada appears, revealing that he faked his own death to start a war and is really a Jingweon survivor. Terada is also defeated, but begs Kiryu to trust him. After Jin Goda, Takashima and Terada are dead, Kiryu and Ryuji have a final showdown, which Kiryu wins. A bomb Terada had triggered, but secretly removed the fuse from, fails to detonate, saving Kiryu and Kaoru's lives.
For Yakuza 3 Kiryu leaves Kamurocho for Okinawa, where he now runs the Sunshine Orphanage. There he raises nine children, including Haruka Sawamura. He is caught up in a government plot when Sunshine's land is in the way of a proposed resort.
During Yakuza 4, Kiryu continues to run the orphanage. However, he is once again involved in the matters back in Kamurocho, having found Saejima washed ashore one day. Saejima tells him a man called Hamazaki told him to find Kiryu. Some time after Saejima leaves, Hamazaki washes ashore. After meeting up with Yasuko, Hamazaki sends the two on ahead to Kamurocho. There Kiryu leaves Yasuko at New Serena, but returns to find her missing after witness Goro Majima being arrested and dragged away from Millennium Tower to police patrol cars. He chases her into the sewers, where Tanimura and Akiyama mistake him for an Ueno Seiwa Clan member, and attack. After defeating them Kiryu chases Yasuko to the roof, where he finds her and Saejima bound and gagged by Katsuragi. During the events that follow Yasuko is shot and kills Katsuragi before dying herself. Kiryu later fights Daigo on top of the Millennium Tower.
In Yakuza 5, Kiryu has left the orphanage in Okinawa and becomes a taxi driver in Fukuoka under a false identity.
7 years before the events of the first game, Kiryu is framed for killing a civilian during a routine debt collection and must find the true killer before his family is forced to take responsibility on his behalf. While he attempts to uncover the mysteries behind the murder, he becomes entangled in a ruthless real estate war.
Spinoffs and other appearances
During the events of the zombie spinoff Yakuza: Dead Souls, he returns to Kamurocho after Haruka is kidnapped by a mysterious man. In the film adaptations Like a Dragon: Prologue and Like a Dragon, he is portrayed by Masakatsu Funaki and Kazuki Kitamura respectively. In the Yakuza stage, he is portrayed by Eiji Takigawa.
Outside the Yakuza series, Kiryu appears as a guest character in Binary Domain through an unlockable code and Everybody's Golf 6 through downloadable content. His character is also used as an avatar in the PlayStation Vita version of Power Smash 4. He is also a playable in Project X Zone 2 alongside Majima.
Currently, Kiryu is the most requested guest character in Bandai Namco's Tekken 7. Katsuhiro Harada, the producer ofTekken 7 and director of the series, stated that he was taken aback by the amount of demand there was for the character in the west.
Creation and development
Originally, there were some issues regarding how realistic was Kiryu's position and age. Writer Hasei Seishu told the staff the positions were too high for his age and thus Kiryu's age was revised. When describing Kiryu, the staff found his position would be of the noble samurai type who would often protect others. According to Sega producer Toshihiro Nagoshi, dragons have a strong image about them, and that when players sample it, they would, as the title suggests, get a feel for the strength and manliness of the main character. When the spin-off Yakuza Kenzan was released, he commented that the tale of Kazuma Kiryu had yet to be completed. As a result, he had Kiryu and Haruka trying to live a "more 'human' life" throughout Yakuza 3.
Across all these games, the development team developed a sturdy understanding of his personality, and there was a lot of effort put into making the character attractive to the audiences as a result of being the only playable character. By Yakuza 4, Kiryu was seen as "indestructible" by the staff, and as a result, he was made the last character playable in the game, following three new characters that stood out thanks to their different traits. In localizing the games, the character was often referred to by his first name, but by Yakuza 4, producer Yasuhiro Noguchi made him most commonly called Kiryu in an attempt to make him fit with the other main characters also called by their last names. In late 2016, Nagoshi claimed he had been doing Kazuma's story for nearly a decade, stating "it had its pros and cons". He concluded saying "I also think that's a way to give back to Kazuma Kiryu. Sooner or later, I want to announce something different."
Critical reception to Kiryu's character has been generally positive. Juan Castro from IGN praised him as an appealing character noting, both his violent traits as well as his kindness. They further noted that while being a "badass", he stands out thanks to his kindness. The same website listed him as a notorious anti-hero as he "walks a fine line between good and bad." Cheat Code Central expressed similar comments noting that despite the character's occupation, he is so kind he takes the blame of Dojima's death in the start of the first game resulting in the expulsion from his family. Eurogamer similarly commented that "Despite all the violence, Kazuma is quite a personable bloke, whose love for his friends sees him banged up for ten years over a murder his "brother" Nishiki committed." VideoGamer.com's Wesley Yin-Poole also shared similar commenting adding that " Kazuma isn't averse to the odd spot of humanitarian work either - he's just a big softy really." Greg Orlando from the magazine Newtype found him entertaining due to multiple actions he does across the series. When reviewing Yakuza 3, Sam Marchello from RPGamer noted the character's notable development comparing his life with the Yakuza to the orphans. Greg Miller from IGN noted how developers wanted players to connect to Kiryu's side in Yakuza 3 as a result of being his motivation, resulting in several cutscenes and minigames which left him mixed feelings. Anthony John Agnello from GamesRadar praised Kiryu's initial appearance alongside his personality. Anime News Network writer Dustin Bailey praised Kiryu's role in Yakuza 0 saying that while in most of the games he has portrayed as a "saintly Superman", in the prequel he liked how the character was involved in darker scenarios.
On a more critical view, Greg Kasavin from GameSpot stated that while Kiryu often resorts to profanity "he's your prototypical hero taking on your prototypical villains." 1UP.com called him "a hard-boiled thug" comparing him with characters like Niko and Alex Mercer due to his inhuman powers. They further noted that his powers can be "ridiculous." Real life yakuza Midoriyama commented on the character during a review of the third game that "Kiryu is the way yakuza used to be. We kept the streets clean. People liked us. We didn't bother ordinary citizens. We respected our bosses. Now, guys like that only exist in video games." In a Famitsu poll from 2010, Kiryu was voted as the eleventh best video game character. Because Yakuza has a long running history of being PlayStation exclusive, Kazuma Kiryu is often recognized as a PlayStation mascot.
In promoting Kai Razor and Yakuza: Dead Souls, Kiryu's image was used in the razor. Kiryu also uses such razor during a scene from Of the End. Sega also sponsored a contest where the winner would get Kiryu's $9000 tattoo. The winner was Fari Salievski. The process took sixth months to complete. Salivevski commented "Well, my nickname is now "The Dragon"... Whilst in Thailand, I had people coming up to me and taking photos, other cam round wondering what all the fuss was about thinking I am some kind of celebrity. I could not stop laughing! my Facebook page gets a lot of comments too."
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Kiryu: I was sentenced to ten years. After going inside I got a letter of expulsion from the Dojima Family and found out Yumi had disappeared.
- Sega. Yakuza 2. Sega.
Date: Snap out of it! You've still got something to fight for! There's someone who needs you! Don't run from your responsibilities!
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