The Yakuza series is no amateur when it comes to presenting compelling, well-written characters. Ryo Aoki from Yakuza: Like A Dragon is one such character and this is his character analysis.
This article contains major spoilers for the main story of Yakuza: Like A Dragon, and it’s essential for the reader to be familiar with the game’s story in order to understand this analysis clearly.
Ryo Aoki’s background
Ichiban Kasuga comes across Ryo Aoki’s name in his search for answers after being betrayed by his father figure, Masumi Arakawa. Ichiban realizes that his story is closely connected to this Ryo Aoki individual. After doing some background checks, Ichiban finds out that Ryo Aoki is a member of the Citizen’s Liberal Party of Japan. Aoki was determined to clean every nook and cranny of Japan from anyone who lives on the other side of the law. His methods of “bleaching Japan clean” were ruthless and destructive.
After further investigation, Ichiban realizes that Ryo Aoki looks rather similar to his late master Masato Arakawa, who was Masumi Arakawa‘s son. And he was right. This really was Masato Arakawa.
Ichiban believed that Masato had died years ago because of his health complications. He was a disabled person and needed a wheelchair to get around. He was also spoiled by his father and was disrespectful towards many people, including Ichiban.
How Masato Arakawa became Ryo Aoki
Ichiban realises that the reason he went to jail years ago was not because of the Captain of the Yakuza Family he was in, Jo Sawashiro, but to cover up for a murder that Masato committed. Masato had gone through special treatment in the US to be able to walk again.
Ryo Aoki was now committed to eliminating crime from Japan. He called it “Bleaching the grey zones“.
Ryo Aoki’s goal
Ryo Aoki had helped the police to eradicate the Tojo Clan. Defeating the Yakuza was not done by any person before. But Ryo Aoki had done it. Not with strength and brute force, but with intricate scheming and planning.
To the civilians and media, Aoki was a hero. Because of him, the crime rate has lowered significantly. But he was not the saint that people believed he was. Aoki targeted every single person who crossed the law, be it a homeless person, a child or a helpless immigrant. He was ready to even use lethal force against unarmed people.
He manipulated people to do his bidding and used them like tools. Aoki‘s ultimate goal might have been good, but he only did it for his own sake. He actually didn’t care about anyone.
Ryo Aoki’s crimes
It would be ideal if someone who seemed as benevolent and heroic as Ryo Aoki were absolutely free of crime, but this was not the case.
He used excessive force, bribed officials, and ordered the deaths of a lot of people including those who were close to him.
He had a “friend” named Hajime Ogasawara. Ichiban captured him and interrogated him, and he didn’t hesitate to tell everything he knew about Aoki to Ichiban. After learning of Ogasawara‘s betrayal, Aoki ordered his death without hesitation. He put the blame for Ogasawara‘s death on “criminals from the grey areas”. Aoki even put up a very convincing act, crying and being very emotional about his “friend’s” death at his funeral. He actually didn’t care about Ogasawara one bit.
Even while continuing his new life, Ryo Aoki or Masato Arakawa still had ties to his father, Masumi Arakawa.
Masumi Arakawa was now a high-ranking member of the Omi Alliance of Kansai. Ryo Aoki actually had close ties to this Yakuza organization via his father. He used the Yakuza members as his lackeys. The Omi was an important asset to Aoki and with its power, he was unstoppable. In fact, Aoki used Omi Alliance members to carry out hits and do his dirty work. He had many of the high-ranking officers in his pocket.
Masumi Arakawa had realized to disband the Omi Alliance. He and other legendary members of the Yakuza all agreed to this. These members include Masaru Watase, Taiga Saejima, Goro Majima and Daigo Dojima. If there was no more Omi Alliance Aoki would be significantly weaker, so the disbandment happened.
But Aoki had a few members of the Yakuza who were still by his side. These were Jo Sawashiro, Reiji Ishioda and Yosuke Tendo. After learning of Omi‘s disbandment, Aoki ordered the death of Masumi Arakawa with no hesitation. It’s almost as if he had no humanity left.
Aoki killed his father.
How did Masato Arakawa turn into this monster?
By now, you would’ve clearly understood how much of a ruthless power-hungry maniac Ryo Aoki was.
But why did he become like this?
It was because he wanted respect and praise. He craved glory and admiration. What Ryo Aoki really wanted was to be treated as a literal king and he didn’t care about Japan or its people.
At the end of the game, Masato breaks down and tells Ichiban about his past and just how much he suffered because of his disability. People laughed at him behind his back. If anyone cared about him, it was because of his wealth.
Before he took the Ryo Aoki persona, Masato had a girlfriend whom he loved very much. But he eventually learned that she was only there for his money and that she humiliated Masato and called him a “creep” behind his back… Masato was heartbroken when he understood this. He then believed that no one ever loved him and he felt alone and miserable. This was very hard for him to bear because he was used to a comfortable and spoiled lifestyle…
His girlfriend eventually married Juro Horinouchi, the police commissioner of Tokyo. After Masato became Aoki and gained power, he was invited to a party at Horinouchi’s house. When he saw Horinouchi’s wife, he was shocked and terribly heartbroken…
Horinouchi‘s wife, the previous girlfriend of Masato, didn’t recognize Aoki. She told him that he was “very sophisticated and intelligent”… This destroyed Aoki because the same woman called him a creepy, disgusting cripple when he was disabled… From this point onward, Aoki became the cynical and narcissistic monster he was throughout the game.
Masato Arakawa became the villain Ryo Aoki because of his disability, humiliation, and spoiled childhood… He really was a tragic and unfortunate man.
In the end, Ichiban convinced Ryo Aoki, or rather, Masato Arakawa that he really loved him like a brother. Masato finally thought of redeeming himself, but it was too late. One of Masato’s own men, Sota Kume, killed him for his lies and deceit by stabbing him…
In his final moments, Ryo Aoki became Masato Arakawa again.
Keep living, IchiMasato Arakawa’s last words to Ichiban Kasuga.
Ichiban’s story will continue in Like A Dragon 8: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJhqN7R_oAg
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