Yakuza’s Devs Love The Memes As Much As You Do

A Yakuza 6 screenshot shows Kiryu Kazuma giving the camera a thumbs up.
A Yakuza 6 screenshot shows Kiryu Kazuma giving the camera a thumbs up.

When you make a long-running series as wacky and melodramatic as Sega’s eclectic Yakuza / Like a Dragon games, there’s no telling what players will latch on to. A key example? Yakuza’s creators were very surprised by female players finding Goro Majima, the series stalwart eye-patched gangster, unfathomably attractive.

In a recent interview with Automation Media at the Tokyo Game Show, producers Masayoshi Yokoyama and Hiroyuki Sakamoto revealed that they try not to be influenced by overseas fans when making content for games like Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. Nevertheless, the pair couldn’t help but acknowledge three popular fandom memes. Here are the Like a Dragon producers’ favorite memes from overseas—in this case, that means us!

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Nugget’s popularity eventually landed him a guest appearance role in developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise game.

Kiryu’s old flame Sayama having so many die-hard fans

One of the most surprising memes (at least for Yokoyama and Sakamoto) is the Yakuza fandom’s undying love for protagonist Kiryu Kazuma’s old flame, Kaoru Sayama. Sayama is a police officer from Yakuza 2 and its remake Yakuza Kiwami 2. Alongside being one of the only female characters to fight alongside Kiryu, Sayama was also one of Kiryu’s love interests. In between beating bad guys up and down the street, Kiryu and Sayama went on cute dates and shared two very long and very passionate kisses. That is until the beginning of Yakuza 3, when she moved to America and was never seen again.

Read More: How To Get Into The Yakuza Series

Sayama would eventually make her triumphant return to the series as a Poundmate (assist character) in a Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth trailer. During the interview, Sakamoto recalled being surprised by fans at RGG Summit 2023 yelling Sayama’s name during a trailer cutscene in which Kiryu told fellow protagonist Ichiban Kasuga that he once proposed to someone. Many Yakuza likers, myself included, assumed Kiryu was talking about Sayama and were very normal about our boy finally having some sort of development in his stagnant love life.

“To me, Sayama was just ‘a woman from long ago’ from a past title, but among overseas fans, there were people asking if she will be making an appearance again, so I was quite surprised,” Yokoyama said. “And now, when she appeared among the Poundmates in the trailer, everyone was like ‘I knew it, there she is!’ It’s an odd feeling for me, as I don’t recall having Sayama mentioned to me much at all in Japan.”

Sayama x Kiryu shippers would be wise to not get their hopes up about Sayama making a big appearance in LaD: Infinite Wealth. In a previous interview with One More Game, Yokoyama revealed that Kiryu only mentioned that he proposed to someone in the past to follow the flow of the conversation he was having with Ichiban and to comfort him over his failed proposal with party member, Saeko Mukoda. Bummer.

The ‘Kiryu never killed anyone’ meme is big in both countries

By far the most prolific meme in the Yakuza fandom is the cognitive dissonance over the fact that Kiryu definitely has unalived people throughout the series despite saying otherwise. Yakuza’s producers can’t help but acknowledge how funny it is.

“The ‘Kiryu has never killed anyone’ [meme] is popular overseas, but I think it’s also quite funny to Japanese people,” Sakamoto said. “Rather than just one thing going viral, it feels like all kinds of scenes are being used in all manner of contexts online.”

Off the top of my head, I can recount numerous times when Kiryu drop kicked people out of the windows of tall buildings, gutted someone with a katana, or smashed a bad guys’ face in with a metal bat. There’s no way doctors in Kamurocho can bring someone back from all that damage.

With each new Yakuza game comes a new highlight to add to the proverbial “Kiryu Never Killed Anyone” folder, and I can only hope that the meme gets even more out of hand in Like a Dragon Gaiden and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth.

Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name will come to PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One on November 9. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is coming to the very same platforms on January 26.


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