Can a violent fighter be a good caregiver?

A fight between Kazuma and a thug in Yakuza 3. Kazuma is hitting a man in the face with his elbow.

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.

The children of Sunshine Orphanage with the young girl, Haruka, in front of the rest of the kids.

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.

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11 Responses to Can a violent fighter be a good caregiver?

  1. YelloBird says:

    From a story writing point of view, I would say, the attacks while walking with Haruka could be an attempt of realism, but you would wish for some kind of after reaction. Like bringing her to safety or comforting her, or her reacting more shocked.

    But then I think it is already quite good that they attempted to write that relationship in a semi-meaningful way into the story … not that they shouldn’t strive to do better.

  2. beo_shaffer says:

    I will admit that I am basing this on what I have heard, without actually playing the game, but my impression was that Haruka had become used to violence from her role in the previous games/her relatively high exposure in this one.

    • Gunthera1 says:

      It is completely true that Haruka, by Yakuza 3, has seen a horrific deal of violence first hand. She sees a lot of it in Yakuza 3 as well. But just because she has already witnessed it, I don’t see that as a necessity for her to see even more. At some point in that character’s story, I would hope that she is finally able to see and live a more peaceful life. I saw part of the Sunshine Orphanage’s goal as a shield for these children from that sort of life experience.

  3. Mirai says:

    I always liked the idea of taking more characters from games – like protagonists in GTA or whatnot – and making them parents. Never played Yakuza but it’s good to know they handled it pretty well.

  4. KA101 says:

    I concur: parenting/fatherhood is woefully unexplored in this sort of combat-heavy game. Good to see this and I hope it’s the beginning of a positive trend.

    Looking at the second shot: Haruka, her arm position notwithstanding (she looks like she might be preparing to hug the viewer) and the two children immediately behind her could be taken as just *serious* based on their facial expression. Everyone else in that shot looks downright unhappy. Understanding that orphanages aren’t a happy place to end up, do we know if players/Kazuma can cheer things up or otherwise improve the situation?

    • Gunthera1 says:

      That image is from a specific scene that is not very happy. Overall the children at Sunshine orphanage are actually VERY content. The game paints the place as a home and everyone as part of a family. The kids play together, take care of each other, and really like their lives there. In hindsight, maybe I should have used a different image there but I was looking for one of the kids together as a group.

      • KA101 says:

        That’s reassuring. I wouldn’t expect the orphanage to be constant sunshine & laughter but neither should the children constantly suffer. Thanks for the information.

      • Xiroth says:

        If it were easy to get, I’d suggest one of the shots around the dining table – I seem to remember one after he convinces one of the kids to come home after some kind of drama and they’re all waiting for them both to get back before eating. It’s been a while since I played ;P

  5. Rakaziel says:

    Somehow he reminds me at the Leon movie. A killer adopts an orphan and is not let alone. Of course it is no copy but Leon could have been the inspiration.

  6. Kalica says:

    This is the first thing I’ve read that makes me want to actually pick up the game. Thank you for the wonderful write up.

  7. I haven’t played Yakuza 3, but, to me, the scenes involving Kazuma and Haruka were both the high points and low points of Yakuza 2. I enjoyed being a father in that game much more than being a fighter, and there were so many little touches about the way they treated that relationship (e.g. the gangly eager way that Haruka runs) that I really loved. But then there was one chapter where some random person tries to get Haruka to be a child actor, Haruka protests, and the game doesn’t give you any choice (playing as Kazuma) but to try to force Haruka to go along. Which felt really wrong, both for me personally and in terms of the relationship that the game had set up.

    I’m glad to hear that they’ve brought back the good aspects of that relationship in Yakuza 3; I hope they didn’t make similar missteps.

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