Charting a history of dramatic shirt-off moments
There are few moments as blood-pumpingly dramatic in a Yakuza/Like a Dragon game as when someone rips their shirt off and unveils their tattoos. It is the peak of a fight, often reserved for special showdowns or the height of the story’s arc.
Sega—for a reason I can’t really discern at this moment—recently posted a compilation celebrating just that: the epic back tattoo reveal moments of Ryu Ga Gotoku’s Like a Dragon series. From the original Yakuza games up through Like a Dragon, there are many. And they’re all spectacular.
Of course, we see many of the usual suspects here: Kazuma Kiryu, Goro Majima, Taiga Saejima, and newcomer Ichiban Kasuga. Plenty of villains too, including Akira Nishikiyama and one of my favorites, Daisaku Kuze. All of them baring their incredibly detailed and gorgeous back tattoos.
Art in motion
Part of my motivation for writing about this was just the strangeness of Sega posting this on a seemingly random Friday, as if someone was bored and chopping together footage that someone, somewhere, gave it a green light. Maybe it’s sowing some groundswell. Like a Dragon: Ishin! just came out, but there are still a few modern Like a Dragon games in the works, too. That’s just my red-strings-on-corkboard theory, though it could just as easily be a fun video to fire off on a Friday.
But even more than that, I just love highlighting what I think is an excellent character development tool for Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio. The tattoos these characters bear often reflect who they are as a person: their values, their drives, and their ambitions. Nishikiyama’s koi tattoo is a beautiful foil to Kiryu’s dragon. And when Kiryu shows his tattoo in Yakuza 0, it’s stenciled and uncolored; he is still becoming the Dragon we see him as in later games. Kotaku ran a feature around the release of Yakuza 0, delving into this and more around the imagery used for these tattoos.
So yes, it’s not just a blood-pumping moment of hype, but these art pieces also add fantastic touches of character work to the memorable cast Yakuza and Like a Dragon has had over the years. So yes, we will take some time to celebrate that today.