It’s no stranger to fans of the Yakuza (or Ryu Ga Gotoku) series that aside from some well known voices in the Japanese dub, there are also a fair amount of well known faces too. These will most likely be more apparent to either those who watch a lot of Japanese movies and television or those who have seen Japanese films that have become international and well known hits.
I started playing the Yakuza series at number 3 because it was on PlayStation 3 and the first two were at lot harder to find at that point. Because I didn’t even know they added real people in the games at that point I never noticed who was well known and who was an originally created model.
However, when Yakuza 4 came around I did notice a couple of faces that I know I had seen before. Hiroki Arai was played by Ikki Sawamura, who I noticed by chance on a batsu game on Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!. Also in 4 was Masayoshi Tanimura who was played by Hiroki Nariyama who I will come back to later.
Admittedly I’ve hardly played any of 5 so don’t know much about it but when it comes to Yakuza 0 you see a lot more. Hitoshi Ozawa, Riki Takeuchi, Hideo Nakano, Shingo Tsurumi and oddly enough Sam Lee but only exclusively in the Chinese version of the game.
In 6 you have Tatsuya Fujiwara and Hiroyuki Miyasako, both of whom voiced characters in 3, as well as Beat Takeshi, Nao Omori and Oguri Shun.
There’s a lot of well known talent placed in these game all of whom play their roles amazingly well.
But now we’ve gotten the Judgment series who also star some well known talent, particularly Takuya Kimura, who we will come to, who plays the lead role as well as Pierre Taki, who we will also come to, who plays a secondary antagonist.
Lost Judgment also features Takuya Kimura for the lead role once again.
But why am I saying that there’s something about these particular people involved in this game series?
It’s because actions outside of development have directly impacted the games, even for the future of them.
Hiroki Narimiya was accused of drugs and decided to retire from acting. This resulted in the character’s change of appearance and voice in the HD Remaster of Yakuza 4.
Pierre Taki was also accused of drugs and was replaced entirely in his voice and likeness for the planned international release as it was already out in Japan. This also resulted in a halt of sales and taken from the shelves until a new version came out that replaced him. It was unsure for a while whether the west would meet it’s release deadline or even get a release at all.
Then there was Hiroyuki Miyasako, a comedian who was accused of performing at a private comedy show for real life Yakuza members. Sounds like a substory. He was in the news and it was unsure how it would affect the series, like they may have done what they did with Pierre Taki’s character. Luckily though, nothing happened.
Now these are all to do with the law and Japan has some very serious laws about things, oddly enough quite relaxed ones that the west will take very seriously. But if you are suspected of being involved in drugs or organized crime than that could be potentially career ending.
Takuya Kimura is a well known, highly respected and sought after star so why is it now that he is one of the people that could de-rail the entire Judgment series?
Well, put simply, it isn’t him. Apparently he has great love and respect for the series and clearly wants to keep going if it he’s already in a sequel. The real people behind this one is his talent agency, Johnny and Associates, who are not happy with the games.
Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s have been putting their games onto Steam/PC and it’s come with great success. Each one has sold really well and has gone on to increase visibility and popularity for the series. The only missing games are Fist of the North Star and Judgment. While I’m not sure about the former but it turns out the latter is because J&A won’t allow them to put it on the platform because of Takuya Kimura’s image likeness. Or to put it another way, they don’t want to see 3D models of their client being modded to look silly or worse. You know the internet.
On one hand it’s understandable if you represent one of the highest stars in Japan but in another way it’s extremely over protective and is a massive loss to both their company and the video game industry. PC sales are pretty much guaranteed.
It turns out that this talent agency is so over protective of their clients that they will sue anyone selling pictures of them in any form, they don’t put their own stars on their websites (that ban has now been lifted) and they would place silhouettes over them on TV appearances.
Sadly with this news it puts the future of Judgments in jeopardy because SEGA want to move forward with the PC releases but cannot reach an agreement with J&A.
After the whole controversy with Pierre Taki I kind of felt like they should stop using real life actors because it seems like their success, along with the fans’ enjoyment of the series, relies on them not doing anything to put their image at risk. This is a tall order to fill when we do not know who these people are or what they do. Now it seems we also have to worry about what talent agencies they work for and what strict regulations they must abide by.
As much as I like seeing stars that I like, my favorite being Tatsuya Fujiwara, I think it’s probably best to avoid using them incase situations like these keep happening with each new release. It’s an uncommon event, granted, but it’s something that really affects the games. If this is the end of the Judgment series then that will be a damn shame. It’s one of my favorite games and I was so happy to see it get the sequel it deserved.
So let me end this on a multiple choice question. You can chose one, a couple or even order them in your preferences.
But here are my suggestions:
What should happen if this situation is not resolved?
1 – Yagami’s actor, Takuya Kimura, should be replaced.
2 – A new character should take Yagami’s place.
3 – An entirely new cast should be introduced.
4 – A different themed series should be made (i.e. samurai games translated/high school).
5 – Judgment should end with main focus back on the mainline series.
Personally I feel Yagami should be written out if the situation is not resolved but keep the rest of the game intact with a new protagonist. Ideally I would like Takuya Kimura to stay in his role but if not then I think that’s the best solution rather than end the investigation series all together.