The Yakuza get a bad rep, what with the whole “organised crime” thing, but they can’t be all bad, right? Not if they gave us the bundle of unbridled enthusiasm that is Ichiban Kasuga. As a character in the Yakuza game series, of course he is going to be mixed up in some wild situations, but there is no denying the sheer joyfulness that he displays in otherwise tense situations.
For this week’s Humpday Husbando feature, we’ll be taking a closer look at “The Rock-Bottom Dragon” and his journey for revenge and justice, with a splash of building a business empire mixed in.
Who is Ichiban Kasuga?
After spending a total of eighteen years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, most men would come out drastically changed, but most men aren’t Ichiban Kasuga. In the opening chapter of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Ichiban willingly takes the fall for a murder committed by the captain of the Arakawa Family to save the family from disgrace. Without hesitation, Ichiban accepts the blame and spends a lifetime behind bars.
Upon his release, Ichiban Kasuga finds that the world is changed. His beloved Arakawa Family has betrayed their clan and he must try to find his way in a modern Yokohama with the help of a retired police detective, a homeless nurse, and an unemployed hostess. All this would seem like too much for most people to handle, but Ichiban possesses an unwavering enthusiasm and eagerness to help people. No matter how dark the story gets – and it gets very dark – he is always ready to pick everyone up for another try at being a hero.
Why we love him
When Yakuza: Like a Dragon was announced, it caused a bit of a stir among the fanbase. After seven games with Kiryu as the main protagonist, suddenly there was a new hero on the scene. Ichiban Kasuga’s design and behaviour, with his wild, heavily permed hair and penchant for heroism, was a stark contrast to Kiryu’s serious and more traditional demeanour. Many fans were nervous to see this new main character step into the beloved series’ spotlight, but the gamble by the developers paid off.
While Ichiban might be a different kind of main character, he comes with an indomitable spirit and an overactive imagination — characteristics that make him surprisingly endearing. During battle, he imagines himself as a hero fighting his way through a Dragon Quest game, complete with special attacks and heavily stylised enemies to fight. The sense of justice that he carries with him leads him to helping almost anyone and everyone who approaches him for help, from a man having his baby formula stolen from him or a young woman with a crumbling business to run. Ichiban Kasuga is there to protect the forgotten and downtrodden people of Yokohama.
Why you’ll love him
With his glorious afro and occasionally goofy way of looking at the world, Ichiban Kasuga is an easy man to under-estimate. But if you like your heroes with a strong sense of right and wrong and a willingness to take risks to help people, then you’ll love him just as much as we do. He often agrees to help those in need without entirely understanding what is happening, but that only lends itself to the kind of ridiculous situations the Yakuza series is known for. Sega took a big risk shifting the series from Kiryu, but the gamble certainly paid off with Like a Dragon.
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