Kazuma Kiryu is an ex-Yakuza member and the protagonist of Yakuza 3. He is a strong fighter, and when challenged doles out numerous beatings to thugs on the streets of Ryukyu and Kamurocho. He can and does use almost anything within his grasp as a weapon: guns, baseball bats, chairs, bicycles, ceramic statues, or his bare hands. Many of the quests and goals in Yakuza 3 leave a series of bloodied, battered opponents in Kazuma’s wake. The battles leave his weapons, hands, and the ground covered in blood. The are very violent episodes which can include curb-stomping or full body slams. With all of this violence I expected a cruel character. I expected a Grand Theft Auto style, “running people over with a car is fun” attitude to the game. But Kazuma does not fit into that mold. He is only violent when he deems it absolutely necessary. He fights the thugs on the streets because they are harassing other people or force him into a battle. During several different cut scenes in the game, Kazuma Kiryu walks away from confrontation when a non-violent route is an option. But the most surprising thing about Kaz is not his ability to walk away from battle. The thing that I found the most appealing about him is that he is an amazing father/caregiver in an unexpected location.
Yakuza 3 takes place in several locations. The primary location for the game is Ryukyu. It is a suburban area, removed by distance and atmosphere from the busy city streets of Kamurocho (the setting of the first two Yakuza games). Within Ryukyu you spend most of the game at Sunshine Orphanage. Yes, an Orphanage! The ex-Yakuza Kazuma runs an orphanage. He takes care of a young girl that he has effective adopted, named Haruka, as well as a crowd of other children. Much of the early game is spent dealing with the orphanage and social interactions between the kids. He helps one of his boys that is being bullied (done without using violence!), he finds out why someone stole some money from another child, he plays hide and seek with the kids. Many hours of the game are spent caring for these children. Kazuma sincerely wants them all to live good, happy, violence free lives. He is an ex-Yakuza and he does not glorify that lifestyle. He specifically asks friends to not call him Boss in front of the children because he does not want them to have any associations with that part of his past. He and the children eat meals together, play together, and clearly care for one another deeply. They refer to him as Uncle Kaz and he encourages their bond as a family. While he has a strong connection with all of the kids at Sunshine Orphanage, he has a special relationship with Haruka. She played an important role in the previous games and knew Kazuma before he founded the orphanage. He can take Haruka on trips into town to increase their bond. While there, she and Kazuma go to shops, buy ice cream, sing karaoke, go bowling, or just wander around town happily. As they walk, Kaz holds her hand further securing his role as a caregiver.
Kazuma in the role of a wonderful father/uncle/parent/caregiver is a stark visual contrast to his role as a proficient fighter. When he is in town with Haruka there are no fewer encounters with the thugs on the streets than when he is alone. He will be walking down a corridor hand in hand with Haruka and a fight will begin. Kazuma beats several men into bloody submission, the fight ends, and then he grabs Haruka’s hand and continues to stroll down the corridor. Because he strives to protect the children in his care from his life with the Yakuza, it is very shocking to have these battles occurring in front of one of his kids. This is the life he is attempting to keep away from their doorstep. Despite this contrasting imagery, I still found his character to be a strong father-figure/caregiver to the children. His bond with them is clearly seen throughout the game and he is willing to give up much of his own life and comfort to ensure their safety. I found it remarkable to discover such a caring figure in a game that, on its surface, is about violently beating enemies. Yakuza 3 is much more than a bloody action game and a lot of the heart of the story is dependent on the relation between Kazuma and his kids at Sunshine Orphanage.