Note this is is a very rough (partial machine translation) of the interview with Dengeki Online. I apologize for how sloppy the work is. If you’re a translator that would like to collaborate on future interviews please let me know! It’s not the 100% full interview but just the most notable or interesting parts highlighted.
There’s some great stuff in here about how Nakatani changed the story of Yakuza 2 and how Kuroda didn’t realize Yakuza: Dead Souls was a spin off at first!
Interviewer: After 15 years is the Yakuza series part of your life?
Kuroda: Since it’s roughly 17 years since I started recording for Kiryu I feel like I’ve heard him in my head. It feels like my life. I’m always thinking “What would Kiryu do if I had trouble in my daily life”.
Interviewer: Nakatani-san initially appeared as Akira Nishikiyama, and now the new main character, Kasuga Ichiban
Nakatani: That’s right. Regarding Nishikiyama, I played him in Ryu ga Gotoku, and Ryu ga Gotoku Ishin! In fact, it was about eight years until I returned. To be honest, I wasn’t prepared to return because it was a character that exploded and died in Ryu ga Gotoku (laughs).
Nakatani: “Honestly, since the character died in an explosion, I really didn’t think I’d ever play him again. …I asked series chief producer Yokoyama, ‘Well, maybe he could have been really badly injured but … you know …’ But he shut me straight down, ‘No, that didn’t happen.’ But at the launch, when I heard, ‘Actually, we’re making Ryu ga Gotoku 2’, I followed up with ‘Then … a twin brother … maybe?’ To which he said, ‘That would be the most boring thing ever.’ So the idea I got from Yokoyama-san was basically, ‘You’re not going to be in another one.’” (thanks Carrie1138 for clarifying)
Nakatani: When I played Nishiki I was 25 or 26 so it was hard to act as someone that was 40. When I returned to play Nishikiyama as Okada Izo in Ishin I thought to myself “what kind of person was he”. When i showed up to record for Ishin I was worried I wouldn’t remember the character and Yokoyama-san would tell me to go home due to the 8 year gap since playing him.
Since playing Ichiban I’ve been like Kuroda-san with Ichiban living in my mind, always thinking how he would react. Even while sitting in the car I’ll ask myself “how did my voice sound when I say that” I don’t think I can do the next game unless I’m always “idling”
Kuroda: That’s right, I have to keep it (my kiryu voice) ready for use, I do the same thing in the car from time to time.
Interviewer: During Yakuza 7 as Kiryu was not the main character what did you think
Kuroda : At first, I thought that Kiryu wouldn’t come out. Therefore, there was only “Nakatani-san, do your best”.
Interviewer: Did you know at that time that Nakatani-san would play Kasuga Ichiban?
Kuroda: Yes, I knew. There is no guarantee that there will be the next one, so I always play one by one, thinking “this is the last”. “Ryu ga Gotoku 6” was touted as “Kazuma Kiryu Legend, Final Chapter”, so I thought it was really the last. “I don’t play Kiryu anymore.”
Interviewer: Then he appeared in Yakuza 7
Kuroda : That’s why I said, “Oh, I’m coming out” (laughs). After that, I was wondering how it would come out.
Interviewer: From the player’s point of view, Kiryu in Ryu ga Gotoku 7 was a person who stirs up “fear”. Did you act consciously that you are the wall of the new hero?
Kuroda : From the side of playing the game, I don’t want to see Kasuga defeating Kiryu because I’m Kasuga. I think that’s the psychology of fans. On the other hand, I probably don’t want to see Kiryu’s new protagonist, Kasuga, saying “You’re like me!”
I think it will be more like that in the future. However, now I think it is necessary to show the new hero Kasuga Ichiban, “This is a wall that cannot be won.” So, I’m conscious of the size and strength.
Interviewer: Was it long before Yokoyama-san talked about Nakatani-san playing Kasuga and “Ryu ga Gotoku 7”?
Nakatani : Well, I heard about it about three years before its release. However, I didn’t hear that Kiryu-san would appear. Also, after a while, I was told “Because it will be an RPG”, and I was like “Eh ~ !?”. (everyone laughs)
Nakatani: I was shocked to think that “action games and Ryu ga gotoku are not equal!?” Therefore, there were two pressures, one was to play Kasuga Ichiban and the other was to make the game an RPG. What’s more, I can’t tell anyone about this. It was hard because only me and my manager knew and didn’t know how to handle this feeling (laughs).
Interviewer: After it was released, you probably heard a lot of people saying “good!” To the story and the character Kasuga Ichiban. How did you feel?
Nakatani : Actually, it didn’t come that far. Obviously, this evaluation is due to the power of the “Ryu ga Gotoku Studio” team that developed it, and also to the scenario team, including Yokoyama-san, who wrote story.
Above all, thanks to Nagoshi-san, the general director, and Sato-san, the head Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, for giving me the chance at all.
Kuroda-san said, “If you put all your efforts into playing Kasuga, you will get results. So you should play without thinking.” If you keep it faithfully (Ed exactly as on script), Kasuga Ichiban will not be the best, and you should be able to recognize that Ryu ga Gotoku 7 was Ryu ga Gotoku! I was thinking and acting only there.
That’s why I’m really happy that he said on Twitter etc. “I hated Kasuga the most because I liked Kiryu-san, but I really liked playing Ryu ga Gotoku 7.” I still have a lot of things to learn, so if I have another chance, I think that everyone see it as “the true Kasuga Ichiban”, and I think I can show my growth. I am grateful to everyone who played and like Kasuga Ichiban.
Interviewer: I would like to ask Kuroda-san again. For the past 15 years, you have been close to Kiryu, but which scene did you feel most familiar with Kiryu?
Kuroda: I always feel very close to Kiryu in terms of style and values. The only difference our sense of humor. He can’t get a laugh, but when I go to get a laugh I go agressively. (*everyone laughs*) Also, I think “Kiryu is too careful when he defeats a person and shows his back too much.”
However, when I usually walk, it is said that I look like Kiryu. Fashion is a little different, so when I was asked, “Kuroda-san, Kazuma Kiryu, isn’t it?”
Interviewer: Maybe 15 years have made it so.
Kuroda: After that, I value reality the most, so as long as I play Kiryu, I always think that I have to be as strong as Kiryu. No matter how sick I am, I’m always preparing to fight except when I’m in the hospital (laughs). I can’t go to the gym because of corona, so I made a gym room at home. The strength that comes from absolute self-confidence and the persuasive power of words can’t be expressed when you talk in a sloppy manner no matter how low the bass is. That is the part of reality, and I have always been conscious of it.
Interviewer: What kind of person does Nakatani-san feel about Kasuga? I would like to ask if there is something close to you.
Nakatani: I think it’s a bad thing, or something that’s a little sloppy and a little sweet. Something like this can’t be cool or ruthless. However, once blood spills on my head, I can’t handle anything else… As a result, a mysterious man rebukes me to the fullest and beats me (laughs).
Interviewer: No matter where you throw Kiryu, it basically doesn’t change, right?
Kuroda: He doesn’t change. However, in this sub-story, I read, understand, and act on “what I want”. I want players to enjoy this kind of thing, and I want to show them this clumsy part of Kiryu.
Kuroda: Kiryu is usually in charge of surreal laughter. If it’s a sub-story, Goro Majima, played by Hide-chan (Hidenari Ugaki), will make a passionate burst of laughter.
Nakatani : Yoshimoto Shinkigeki? On the contrary, Kiryu is a comedy in Kanto.
Kuroda: That’s right. It’s a little intellectual, isn’t it, my (Kiryu) laughter? It’s more than Majima, and I’m a little more intelligent than Hide-chan (laughs).
Nakatani: That’s what happened when Ugaki-san isn’t here (laughs). Ugaki-san is also reading this the interview article (laughs).
Kuroda: It’s okay because I’ll say bad things even when I’m there (laughs).
Interviewer: I think the “Ryu ga Gotoku” series will continue for the next 20 to 25 years, but regardless of whether or not an offer is coming, how do you want the series to develop in the future? How do you feel like you want to evolve?
Kuroda: For me, Ryu ga Gotoku 6 has reached a kind of end, so from Ryu ga Gotoku 7, I’m conscious of “watching over”. From now on, I will be watching over the Ryu ga Gotoku Studio team that has taken care of me, led by Nakatani-san. They just support them to make new things, “Do your best”. And I hope you can say “It was a hit again”. I don’t know if he will call me again (laughs)
Interviewer: How about Nakatani-san?
Nakatani: Even if I make something that I want to make, it’s never interesting (laughs). I’m impressed because I make something that I can’t imagine. The “Ryu ga Gotoku Studio” team has been doing it for 15 years, and I think it is a rare group.
That’s why I’m in a crazy scenario beyond my imagination, and I have no choice but to tell everyone about the gameplay in Kasuga Ichiban, so there is no requests for “I want this to happen”. (ed: sorry this is the best I could translate this line!)
It took over the leading role from Kuroda-san, but I don’t think there are many such works. I think it’s only James Bond in “007” that doesn’t change as a work even if the main character changes.
So, considering that Kazuma Kiryu has changed to Kasuga Ichiban, by the time we reach the 25th anniversary, we may see a new Dragon develop.
Interviewer: Nakatani-san said, the 15 years of the “Yakuza” series was a 15-year period that kept me surprised, “Is this coming next!?” Wasn’t it surprising that Kuroda-san said, “Next is Ryoma Sakamoto?”
Kuroda: Every time (laughs).
Kuroda: I was imagining, “I wonder if this will happen next time?” But I’ve been betrayed every time. Whenever the script came, he said, “What are you doing !?” or “Did you come this way!” It was also interesting as the side on which it appeared. “Ishin! Was the same, and “Kenzan!” Was also the same. “Well, historical drama!?”
Nakatani: That’s true of “Ryu ga Gotoku OF THE END”.
Kuroda: That’s right. I’m not familiar with games, so I said, “Why did you suddenly get into this world view!?”
Nakatani: You were surprised (laughs).
Kuroda: I was told in my acting that “Please take care of reality”, but “Is there a zombie !?” (laughs).
Nakatani: Far from being zombies, there are some really big monsters.
Kuroda: Besides, because the title said “OF THE END”, I was fooled by saying, “Oh, this is the end of” Yakuza “.” The work that has developed such a serious story ends with the appearance of zombies.
Nakatani : That was a gaiden work, wasn’t it?
Kuroda : At first, I was shocked because I didn’t know that it was a gaiden.
Interviewer: You have been surprised even as the performer. I think you may be surprised in the future.
Nakatani : If that was the story of “OF THE END2”, the appearance of the zombie Nishikiyama, and the defeat of Nishikiyama … I’d hate it (bitter smile).
Interviewer: Lastly, do you have a message for Kiryu, Nishikiyama, and the fans who have supported Kasuga for the past 15 years?
Kuroda: I’ve played various roles as an actor for 37 years, but I really love Kazuma Kiryu. I think I’m probably more of a fan of Kazuma Kiryu than any other fan (laughs). Therefore, I would like the people who support Kazuma Kiryu to continue to support me.
I want you to love me no matter who the protagonist is. I want you to always remember that Kiryu did not appear in the work, but that there was a wonderful man.
Ryu ga Gotoku itself was enjoyed by learning the action even for myself who is not good at games, and I was looking forward to the release, so users have always loved this game and Yakuza I hope you enjoy the next one.
Nakatani: First of all, as a fan, I would like to say “Congratulations” to all the fans for the 15th anniversary of the Ryu ga Gotoku series. And thank you for letting me play the really important characters Akira Nishikiyama and Ichiban Kasuga.
In the future, I will play Ichiban, but both Ichiban and Nishikiyama are important to me. I don’t want fans to say, “Nakatani = Ichiban, and Nakatani = Nishikiyama”
For the fans who love them, with the meaning of giving back, make as many messy works as possible for a year, together with the members of the “Ryu ga Gotoku Studio” team. I think it would be nice.
And I would like to continue to deliver works to surprise, sadden, and laugh with the fans who play, and have them finally say “It was really good”.