How the Yakuza Made a Legend of Its Long-Time Hero Over Two Decades

Few video game characters stick around as long as Kazuma Kiryu, the long-time lead of the Yakuza / Like A Dragon franchise–and even fewer have as commanding a presence as him. It’s also rare to see one character’s rollercoaster of a life play out and evolve over the course of nearly 20 years, with 10 distinct entries telling that story. Though we thought we had closed the book on the Dragon of Dojima at the end of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life back in 2018, his appearance in 2020’s Yakuza: Like A Dragon and two new entries that put Kiryu front and center shows that series developer RGG Studio isn’t letting go of him anytime soon.In anticipation of both Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name and Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, I caught up with RGG Studio’s chief producer Hiroyuki Sakamoto, the voice of Kiryu himself, Takaya Kuroda, and newly minted English voice actor Yong Yea at Anime Expo 2023. While we weren’t able to get into specifics of the upcoming games, we talked about Kiryu’s budding relationship with co-lead Kasuga Ichiban in the new story, the complexities of building the character over the years, and the nuances of voicing a personality like him. We also got into our favorite substories and karaoke songs, if Kiryu will ever really get to rest and retire, and addressed Kiryu’s new idol-influenced haircut.From left to right: Takaya Kuroda (Kiryu’s Japanese VA), Hiroyuki Sakamoto (RGG Studio chief producer), Yong Yea (Kiryu’s English VA).”

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