Yakuza’s Ichiban Kasuga is the hero we all need

Kiryu later.

Oh Ichiban, you really are great. Who would have thought it? Kazuma Kiryu was irreplaceable, a staple in the Yakuza series. When this newcomer Ichiban came along, it was difficult to imagine him holding a candle to the former leading man. It felt like Raiden from MGS2 all over again. After almost one hundred hours though, I can honestly say he’s become one of my favourite characters in all of video games.

In the beginning, I was trying to pin down what it was I liked about Ichiban Kasuga. Then, one weekend, it clicked. For context, I unfortunately, like a lot of people, suffer from extreme anxiety and depression and a few weeks ago, it was hitting me pretty bad. But, there was something different about that weekend. Slowly but surely, my mood was lifted and it all happened while playing Yakuza: Like a Dragon

A quick heads-up, there are some story spoilers ahead for those of you yet to play Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

After some thinking, I started to realise that Kasuga-san’s upbeat attitude towards life was really having an effect on me. The dude is legitimately the embodiment of getting up when you’ve been kicked down. Just watch him sing ‘The Future I Dreamed Of’ in Survive bar and you’ll understand. 

He spends most of the game being screwed over, talked down to, and having pretty bad things happen to him. Right at the beginning, he throws himself under the proverbial bus for the sake of the Arakawa family, only to get out and be ignored by his father figure. It’s not long after this that Ichi finally tracks him down, is shot by his former boss, and left for dead. Now, you’d think that after that, he’d be gunning for revenge, but his positive thinking pushes the story in a different direction. He is convinced his former boss is still on his side. 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Ichiban is just being naïve, but really, he is just choosing to see the good in people, even in extreme circumstances. It’s something we all do: person A does something bad to us and they are immediately the enemy. No one is born inherently evil. We are moulded by our upbringing and surroundings. Ichi has a deep understanding of this which allows him to see past people’s bad behaviour in Yakuza: Like a Dragon. 

It’s the reason why during the game’s ending, he’s able to finally get through to main antagonist, Aoki. Even when Aoki is telling Ichi that he hates him and his father, Ichi never gives up on him. It’s a great message to take away. People are always worth the effort and you should never give up on someone straight away. It’s certainly something I have been guilty of in the past. 

Alongside this, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, like previous entries in the series, has an abundance of side missions which mostly have those similar positive beats. What makes it better here is that Ichi is in the driving seat, pushing forward and doing the best he can to make people’s lives better. 

During one of the side missions, Ichi straight up pays for a young lad’s hospital bills because his sister is out on the street begging for donations. Then there’s the mission Persimmon Premonition, which sees Ichi protecting a persimmon because a young girl believes if it falls off the tree before she gets her op, she will die. Obviously she won’t, but Ichi doesn’t care, he just wants to make someone’s life that little bit better. Finally, let’s not forget Nancy-chan, a lobster who Ichi refuses to let be eaten because Ichi has taken a liking to her. 

After spending a weekend doing all these things, I felt lighter and more positive about life. I wanted to do better and try harder to see the good in people. In these rough times, we can all do with a little reminder that we are all human and are capable of great things. Believing in each other, is a great start.

Thank you Kasuga-san. 

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Consummate professional, lover of video games and all-round hero that can be found doing a podcast, writing about games and also making videos. Oh, I have saved the world 87 times and once hugged Danny Trejo. You're welcome.