Real honest-to-goodness yakuza have already made their thoughts known on Sega's crime opus Yakuza 3. Now a Tokyo police officer and a yakuza lawyer weigh in on the game and suss out what's realistic and what's not.
Over the weekend, Adelstein tells Kotaku that he discussed the title with a Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department officer. About the game's main character Kazuma Kiryu, the cop said, "The yakuza are dressed like yakuza except for Kiryu." According to the officer, Kiryu, with his purple shirt and white suit, "looks like a frigging host". This is problematic as yakuza hate hosts. (Hosts are paid drinking companions for Japanese women. Check out the documentary The Great Happiness Space for a probing look at their lifestyle.)
"In their minds, there is nothing lower than a host," the cop added. "They view them as vain, petulant vermin that suck the life forces and savings out of women, and the lowest predator on the totem pole."
In the game, the officer says the yakuza are shown doing what the yakuza do: "extortion, violence, and exploiting the weaker". According to the officer, "There is no such thing as a noble yakuza like Kiryu. I've never met one." He said he knew one or two former yakuza that followed a code of honor — "which is probably why they're ex-yakuza." Money, he said, is the modern yakuza's honor and currency. "The whole nikyodo (chivalrous way) is so much bullshit."
Adelstein also spoke with a minbo lawyer, who as the crime writer explains specializes in taking cases concerning yakuza intervention in civil affairs.
(For more insight on minbo, have a look at The New York Times' coverage of the film "Minbo — or the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion" as well as the film itself. Do know that its director died under mysterious circumstances.)
The lawyer told Adelstein that the game's depiction of the various political alliances "was dead on". Continuing, he added, "Traditionally, the yakuza, especially the Ingawakai and Sumiyoshikai, have had strong links to the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, but since 2007, Yamaguchi-gumi and the current ruling party, the DPJ have become very cosy."
The game features a fake political party that is in a cozy relationship with organized crime. This, the lawyer said, is based on the reality of Japanese politics. He added that the game's depiction of real estate developers using the yakuza to force people out for lucrative real estate developer is "very real". There is even a term for it — "land-sharking".
And about the yakuza group in Yakuza 3, which is called the Tojokai, the lawyer said that the depiction is "semi-accurate". While he commented that the depiction of yakuza betrayal and killing was "well done", he stated that the Tojokai should be more like the Kobe-based "Yamaguchi-gumi" to make the game more realistic.
"The Yamaguchi-gumi which is from Western Japan is taking over Tokyo very rapidly and they're much more thuggish and violent than the local yakuza, and at the same time, much broader in their invasion in the normal business world," the lawyer said.
The in-game version of Shinjuku's seedy Kabukicho — called Kamurcho — is no longer "even close" to being what it was like in the game. "Not that I go there that often," the lawyer added, "but it's like ghost-town now compared to what it was years ago."
Adelstein tells Kotaku that while he had do go the extra mile to get Yakuza 3 reviewed — which consisted of him threading the figurative needle and certainly not crossing any lines or uncrossing any legs — he isn't planning on reviewing the upcoming Yakuza: Of Then End.
"I don't have any access to zombies, and I'm not a professional video game reviewer. In some sense," Adelstein jokes, "when you've reviewed one Yakuza game, you've reviewed them all."