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The Rise of the Dragon – Kazuma Kiryu

The Rise of the Dragon - Kazuma Kiryu

Who exactly is Kazuma Kiryu? Why is he known as the “Dragon of Dojima”? Why did he manage an orphanage? All of these are quite viable questions for those who haven’t played the Yakuza series of games extensively, or even have followed the story to some extent. 

Don’t let the hard-exterior fool you, Kiryu has a very big soft spot for many things, including children. But take that soft spot for granted and you can end up on the other side of a vicious beating. 

Let’s take a deeper dive on Kazuma Kiryu and see what we can dig up about this larger than life character. 

The Dragon of Dojima

Kazuma Kiryu was born on June 17th, 1968, and shares the same birthday and month of his creator, Toshihiro Nagoshi. He features a tattoo that covers most of his back and ends just above his thighs depicting a dragon grasping a pearl, imagery which symbolizes power, wisdom, protection, and balance in Japanese culture. 

The imagery of a dragon is usually used to symbolize a hot-headed individual, however, the silver coloring of Kiryu’s tattoo suggests that he has a pure heart and means well. Kiryu lost both of his parents at a young age and ended up growing up at the Sunflower Orphanage alongside story-mates Akira Nishiyama, Yumi Sawamura, and Haruka Sawamura. 

Where many characters are purely fictional and modeled after the creator’s imagination, Kiryu was modeled after real-life voice actor and singer Takaya Kuroda who aside from being the voice actor and character model for Kiryu, has held prominent roles across the years such as the Japanese voice of “Starscream” in Transformers: Cybertron and the voice of Jibanyan in Yo-Kai Watch Shadowside. 

The Legacy of the Dojima Family

While the Yakuza story starts with Yakuza 1 on the PS2, the true story starts with Yakuza 0 released on the PS4. The story pits a young Kiryu as a low-rank member of the Dojima family working as a debt collector. While out on a collection run, he has an altercation with a man in which he leaves the man severely beaten. He later finds out that the man has died, and his clan is slamming him with murder. 

As the story plays out, he finds out that the man had died of a gunshot wound, provoking him to prove his innocence and find the true killer.

Throughout the Yakuza series of games, Kiryu is pitted up against a bevy of challenges, moral and mental, which he needs to overcome to solve the tasks at hand. By the end of the Kiryu story on Yakuza 6, we see him from going to being a member of the Dojima Clan to running an orphanage in Okinawa in Yakuza 4 and back to the streets in Yakuza 5 and 6. 

It’s without a doubt that we get to see the full story of Kazuma Kiryu develop over the number of titles that he has been the main character of. On top of this, you have seen him come up through the ranks of the Dojima family, leave the clan all together, get sucked back in, leave again, get sucked back in again, and then finally arrested for crimes which he committed in the past. 

At the beginning of 2020, Ryu ga Gotoku 7 (Yakuza 7: Like a Dragon) was released to the Japanese public. This is the first Yakuza game that has been released outside of the mobile Ryu ga Gotoku Online that did not feature Kiryu as the main character. Instead, the main character from Ryu ga Gotoku Online Kasuga Ichiban is our main protagonist and the story plays out in the various locales around the Yokohama area in Japan.

Wanting to start anew and live with the orphaned kids in Okinawa, he arrives to find that Haruka had disappeared from the orphanage 3 years ago while he was in prison. This provokes Kiryu to return to Kamurocho to find out what happened to her, thus sucking him back into the mound of problems yet again.

Aside from appearing in the main-line Yakuza games, Kiryu has also played host to several of the spin-off titles of the Yakuza franchise such as Yakuza Dead Souls, Yakuza Kenzan, and Yakuza Online. He is also the most requested guest appearance character for Tekken 7, from Namco.

Where there’s light, there’s darkness – The tribulations of Kazuma Kiryu

If you haven’t had the chance to divulge yourself in the story of Kazuma Kiryu and the Yakuza franchise, you owe it to yourself to do so. It’s a truly wonderful narrative about the trials and tribulations of a Yakuza member who wants to clean up and do right for the people around him, but just can’t seem to get himself out of trouble’s way, as many of us have the same problems. 

Albeit on a different scale. Some of the games are accessible on many platforms such as PS4, PS Now, and Steam. So, do yourself a favor and check them out. As I mentioned in my previous article about the Yakuza series as a whole, you won’t regret it.

SEGA / Yakuza
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