Through experiencing several life-or-death battles in the previous game, Kurohyo, Tatsuya Ukyo has become twice as mature. His physical strength is centred around his way of thinking, but he is beginning to look forwards and wonder if perhaps, rather than simply using it in fights, he might be able to use it in another sphere. After searching for what he can do, he arrives on the American stage. In Chapter 1, there's a scene where Tatsuya saves Shinji, but I'm sure that the old him would have left him alone. At the start, he has grown a level from the simple delinquent that he was in the last game.
When Tatsuya returns to Kamurocho after a year, the place doesn't seem to have changed much. Maybe to the extent that, perhaps because he's been gone for a year, or because he's grown, it feels a little strange. It's Tomoki who gives him a connection to it. In order to create a contrast between the games, I wanted to effectively use the last game's characters. Out of these, Tomoki is in the unique position of having a grudge against Tomoki, but also being a sort of old friend. By fighting with him, Tatsuya is able to confirm once more that he is still on the road to becoming a superstar, but he can't truly be happy about it. He starts to feel that something is out of place about himself.
For Kurohyo 2, we asked that Takumi Saito, who played Tatsuya in the drama version of Kurohyo, provide his voice. I had always wanted to make a live action version of Kurohyo, and I thought that it was particularly compatible with a drama. But for me, Tatsuya is a lonely hero, so it wouldn't really work with someone who was just excitable. I screened tens, hundreds of people, and found Saito's unique eyes incredibly impressive. We also had the issue of whether his build would be a match, so I ended up meeting him once, but every single word he said was so serious, which confirmed my belief that he could fulfil the role of Tatsuya, and when we made the next game I'd like him to play Tatsuya. When I'm writing the screenplay I will imagine who might speak the line in my head, but there are times when the actors I think of will be scattered depending on the line. Of course, we couldn't do this. Thanks to this, because I had Saito's voice and performance in my head this time around, I managed to write it quite smoothly, like, "I think this is how he would read this kind of line."
Tatsuya didn't particularly feel any lingering attachments towards having said goodbye to Kamurocho a year ago. Tatsuya had his own reasons for this - he believed that no matter how much time had passed, he would be able to carry on the same relationships with everyone, but his companions have all matured, too, and though they feel the same, they can't go on with their relationships in the same way. This is what I had in mind when making the scene where he reunites with Tenma Sakaki. Tatsuya doesn't regret that he was able to make his debut as a professional boxer. He knows perfectly well what a huge chance he snatched, and both the people around him and his sister praise him. However, when he returns to Kamurocho he has an internal conflict about whether he can leave alone the sense of off-ness he feels; it is during Chapter 2 when he begins to feel as though this is impossible.
What I thought when production began on Kurohyo 2 was that, although he has matured, Tatsuya still hasn't matured enough to be able to solve the incidents and troubles of the people around him all by himself. Tatsuya mentions the word "philosophy" in Chapter 2, but simply put this is his sense of purpose or meaning. This means that it's because they have a reason or goal that there's a meaning behind his violence. Tatsuya learned this in the previous game, but he still hasn't quite made it far enough yet to be able to tell anyone anything from it. Born from this was Ryusho Kuki. He is the prodigal son, yet he has his own pride, and even though other people misunderstand him he has something passionate deep down. I wanted someone whose standpoint is a bit above Tatsuya's, but I thought that it would be more interesting to have someone who's not yet complete as a person walking alongside Tatsuya, and so I made him into this kind of character. As Tatsuya becomes more of an adult, he might turn into someone like Ryusho. I wanted to portray a new kind of charming adult in Kurohyo 2, so I think he turned out to be in a pretty good role.
This is the chapter where the fight between Dragon Heat and Ashura begins, but the way the enemies are presented is different from the previous game. By bringing up the condition of achieving 10 consecutive wins at the beginning of the last game, we made it so that the player would know that they needed 10 wins, but in addition to this in this game we set it up so that the enemies' strength would be brought out in an objective manner. I wanted to make the foes appear sensationally strong, and entrusted with this was Shinobu Okita. He is Ashura's first assassin, so I did want to make him look somewhat strong; his voice, performed by Han-kun of Shonan no Kaze, was a good match and felt nice.
In Kurohyo 2, I wanted to make it so that there is a succession of nuisances caused by the presence of Ashura - to make it feel like the town is running wild, so to speak. In order to portray this, criminal stories begin to appear from this chapter. The exchange about the modified handgun was a high hurdle for me to leap over, but I thought that it would be good to have a scene like this, and so decided to challenge myself to do it. As much as I can, I really don't want to write scenes about drugs or kids dying in the Kurohyo series. Scenes where they take up a gun and shoot it to solve something are too exclusive when you think about it being a drama for young kids... you can't really do it. Naturally, when you're portraying troubles in a drama you have to create a cause for this trouble, but in my case I intentionally add limitations on the keywords and items that serve as the source. If I did it freely, I would be able to create absolutely anything and it would actually make it uninteresting. That might be the difference between dramas made by Japanese people and foreign dramas, but this is the kind of balance that suits me.
In the fights with Ashura, I wanted to give individuality to each character from each fight, and also to bring out the differences between them and Dragon Heat. Ashura is a group of delinquents like Dragon Heat, but I wanted to make them more entertainment-oriented. I think that by making Dragon Heat a hang-out spot for kids that doesn't earn much while having Ashura put on extravagant shows and earn their money in extravagant ways, I managed to bring out the contrast between them. It was this concept that caused me to intentionally put in comparatively colourful - or perhaps showy - characters. Meteor Suzuki in particular stands pretty much on the fringe. His lucha battle style was an idea by a member of staff who was helping with the screenplay, though I did at first wonder if that was possible (laughs).
Tetsuji Shima also appears in Chapter 3. He plays the role of explaining to Tatsuya what Ashura is, how tough the fight that awaits him will be, and to make Tatsuya think about returning to centre stage. Shima has turned into more of an adult than other characters who appeared in the last game, so being told by him to give it up and that there's still time makes Tatsuya quite reluctant.
In Kurohyo 2, I wanted to put in an assembly point for young kids, and I wanted there to be all kinds of types of kids who gather there. If the character who overlaps with the old Tatsuya is Makoto Yashiro, then opposite him is Tamotsu Saito, who is the main character in Chapter 4. Tamotsu wants to become strong, but he actually can't win at all. He's a character I quite like. Dragon Heat has four young fighters this time around, and from an early stage in production I wanted to include a chapter featuring each one as the main character. The story of the chapters in which they're the mains converge around not a boss, but how to portray them.
The theme of this chapter is: "A winning posture is important." Tamotsu has been in matches before, but he has never fought. Then the question becomes, "What does it mean to 'fight'?" - the fight that he picks with Ohba in this chapter was something Tamotsu brought on himself. This means that he must take responsibility for it himself. Until now, Tamotsu has always avoided taking responsibility for anything, but by challenging himself in a fight with Ohba he is finally able to show a "winning posture". Because there are so many things on the line, they do want to win the fight against Ashura, but of course you can't get results without fighting. There is a depiction of Ruri's heart moving over to Tamotsu during the match, but though she feels regret for selling him out, he is fighting purely for himself. The depiction of the fighting stance he adopts for his own sake ending up moving her heart was executed well, I think. Tamotsu loses the match, but is able to take a step forwards. I think this was able to make the players think, "I'm sure he'll get stronger one day."
Shosuke Ohba, this chapter's boss, is, like I said earlier, something that I wanted to portray as being at the centre of Tamotsu's story, so that's the way in which his character was created. People who commit scouting fraud are more suited in terms of image to being smart, intellectual criminals, I think, but I also thought that it would be interesting if his build was so large that it completely blocked out Tamotsu when he stood in front of the camera, so first we started with the visuals and then gave him a sumo-type battle style. I think we managed to make him into a character that makes Tamotsu and the player both think, "I don't stand a chance against him."
Yuta Mikami from Chapter 5 is the only character who portrays the relationship between parent and child. Compared to his other friends, he's quite well off. However, if people in such a blessed environment can't understand that they're well off, they can't really be said to be happy, and since Yuta is still a child he hasn't yet even tried to understand. He arbitrarily thinks, "This is the what my father is," and arbitrarily hates him, but they haven't properly spoken. This chapter has quite complicated relationships between people - not just Yuta and his father but also his father's relationship with Kubo, and also Nioka - but I decided to be bold and go ahead with it. I think this is true of love or anything else, but actually talking things through can solve things a surprising amount of the time. It's not doing this that creates misunderstandings, and these misunderstandings bring about awful consequences, which I think is something you hear a lot socially. There are some things that people can't talk to anyone about, but if you don't talk to each other, how can you understand each other? The focus of this chapter is particularly on parent-child relationships, but I hope that people who play it think, "It's silly to decide on something based only on the side you can see right now."
Kubo dies without being able to do something as simple as speak. His death makes Tatsuya realise the gravity of the dispute, and Ryo Nozaki's presence gives meaning to it. Tatsuya is jolted by Kubo's death in this chapter, but at the same time he is also shaken by Ryo's prophecy. Takenaka also appears in this chapter, and his advice, too, also shakes Tatsuya. Takenaka gives Tatsuya advice because he is concerned about him, and Tatsuya understands this, which is precisely why he is so badly shaken and indignant. Tatsuya still has some embers of wanting to be a boxer. These embers continue to pile up and then he is shaken by Ryo's prediction, which gradually begin to corner him.
Ichiro Tanaka, the boss who killed Kubo, is a professional hit man. I think there are lots of different ways you could depict a hit man, but I intentionally made it so that the personality of Tanaka's character doesn't stand out when he's in town. He is quite alien in battle, though. By having a name and appearance that you would never think belonged to an assassin and no sense of presence at all, I think we managed to express the professional part of him that allows him to casually kill people.
Kurohyo 2 portrays the current day, so you constantly witness crimes and incidents that are based around social issues. The themes dealt with in Chapter 6, cyber crime and brainwashing, are quite extreme things, but I think people are no longer laughing them off as something silly. When I first began writing the story, I myself thought, "A game about murder is so stupid," (laughs). But as I continued to write, I started to think, "There actually are kids out there doing incomprehensible things." This is a chapter I was hesitant about, but made the most of. The characters refer to Tatsuya and the others as "points", attacking them as if it's a game; I'm sure that actually experiencing this through Kurohyo 2, itself a game, gives the players mixed feelings, turning it into a drama that really makes you think.
Shinji Sakamoto is a straightforward character who has a fowards-facing outlook on his life as a martial artist. To that extent, not being able to move his legs is, for him, a shock equivalent to death; for saving him from it, Ryo and Kaz Kakizaki become like gods to him. If he were led astray by them, it could turn out badly. Do you ever watch the news and wonder how people could be fooled so easily? But there's a story behind why they were tricked. Kaz Kakizaki was also saved by Ryo, but in his case, unlike Shinji, it's a dry relationship where they partner together in their greed for things like money. What happened was because Shinji is straightforward and pure. While the same was true of Tamotsu and Yuta, I set up the story to make the players angry at all of the things that his friends are falling victim to at Ashura's hands, and to make them grasp the controller with more passion. I hope that Ryo and Kaz using Shinji despite knowing how pure he is will also give rise to another type of anger. Another thing I want to bring to attention is that, like Shinji and the others, there is something to be learned from confronting your own weaknesses. The story of Chapter 6 itself is complicated, but Shinji's own story, compared to that of his friends, is quite refreshing. I think this is because of its purity. I guess that out of the four, he is the closest to a normal boy. I think that he became a widely loved character.
Chapter 7 and the following chapter, Chapter 8, were created to act as a pair. The latter half of Chapter 7 contains the shocking development of Saeko's kidnapping; Saeko is Tatsuya's only family, and so to speak is forbidden territory. Of course, laying hands on her is also a great risk for Ashura, so this is the proof that, while they have begun to use any means necessary, they are also starting to be driven into a corner. It is, of course, Tatsuya's strength that causes them to behave this way. They had anticipated that it would be much easier for them to steal Dragon Heat, but Tatsuya was stronger than they imagined that he would be, and so things don't go as planned. Realising that they won't be able to stop Tatsuya without setting an even bigger trap leads to their kidnapping of Saeko.
Tatsuya must return to Kamurocho in order to rescue Saeko, but he is charged with the mission of fighting for the existence of Dragon Heat. The situation has progressed to a point where Tatsuya can't manage it by himself, and he has been driven into a corner. It is here that Tatsuya, for the first time, arrives at the conclusion that he will entrust the rescue of his family to a friend. Not only this, but it is to Makoto, the Dragon Heat companion with whom he has the hardest time seeing eye to eye. These actions are because Tatsuya has begun to feel something. Tatsuya is actually the kind of person who looks like he could take priority in things, but can't. All he can do is meet the obstacles in his path with all of his strength. I do think, however, that this is part of Tatsuya's charm. So this time, all Tatsuya can do is entrust Saeko's rescue to a comrade and win the fight, a decision made by process of elimination, but he is beginning to realise what a blessing it is to have friends he can trust with things. He still hasn't found a solution to his own problems, but he's faintly beginning to see a way out. If he didn't have friends, I'm sure that Tatsuya would have ignored the match and gone to save Saeko.
Unlike the Eight Legions so far, in terms of the crimes and incidents, the focus is drawn onto Futa Kinjo, who chose Saeko, and Masaru Shinahara himself isn't too deeply involved. He is simply a strong foe. Even under normal circumstances he is a tough opponent, but thinking about Saeko and wanting to end the fight as soon as possible means that he must return to Kamurocho. The impatience of Tatsuya having to fight when he is mentally cornered is probably best captured in this chapter.
When I was wondering who to charge with this role in Chapter 8, I thought that it had to be the kid who was closest to Tatsuya. Like Tatsuya, Makoto doesn't really trust people, is energetic, and their circumstances are similar. To put it simply, he would end up being burdened with ill fortune, but I think you could say that what incident Makoto would become wrapped up in and what conclusion he would reach is the ultimate theme, so I thought about it over and over when writing the scenario. As a result, Makoto perishes, but he does grow. While there are street punks whose lives will end without them ever maturing, there are also people who, while their lives are short, realise what is really important. If neither Makoto nor Tatsuya grew, they might become adults without knowing a thing and die by the roadside. But Makoto has entrusted his feelings to Tatsuya. It's a shame that he dies, but there is deep meaning in the fact that he manages to realise what is important, and I wanted to show that. In that moment, by protecting Saeko, Makoto is able to obtain something like the "philosophy" that Tatsuya talks about. At the same time, thanks to Makoto, Tatsuya clearly sees the path that he must take.
Makoto's death affects the other three Dragon Heat members, too. When they are practicing martial arts they all want to move forwards, but they still don't really know what it is that they're fighting for. The labels they've created for those around them are like a wall. I think that Makoto is able to plant this idea in each of them that they will never see the truth until one day they pull down this wall with their own hands.
Futa Kinjo takes Makoto's life. He's a character who came from the idea that, rather than being an all-out delinquent, someone who makes decisions based on money and his mood alone would more readily choose means like kidnapping and coercion. He's quite flashy, but I think flashy people like him are sometimes the scariest of all.
Dragon Heat is like Tatsuya's hometown, so simply establishing a situation in which it's taken away from him wouldn't be interesting. If it was really going to be taken away, I wanted it to be in an absurd situation including selfish desires. What popped up here was the casino bill. I think that politics has a scary side to it. In a way it's a world where those who talk big win, and if someone tries to do things properly and logically it can simply be shut down by saying, "That's the law." Of course, this isn't the only part to it, but I thought that portraying the underhandedness of that kind of politics would make the player angry at the absurdity of it. The same is true of the Ryu ga Gotoku series, but anger is the driving force that pushes Tatsuya onwards. By gradually piling up the situations that corner Tatsuya Ukyo and the player, I wanted to make them start to feel angry at their situation, but also build up the story.
Yasuto Akita is a boss who represents Dragon Heat versus Ashura and Tokyo's Kamurocho versus Osaka's Sotenbori, so I wanted to make him into a terrible character in terms of both his strength and appearance. However, I never intended to have him be totally evil. He's a lonely man, and he has the weakness of not being able to overcome that solitude.
If he didn't seek strength as a result of that weakness, he would be crushed by his loneliness. The Eight Legions arbitrarily assembled to form Ashura, but by creating an organisation, Akita was trying to find the meaning of his own existence amongst them. This, too, is something you could call a weakness, and Tatsuya defeating the Eight Legions and destroying his organisation is when it first begins to emerge. I often felt bad for Akita, so I wanted it to end with him being loved. This is also true of Ryu ga Gotoku, but there aren't really many people who are just bad by nature. Well, maybe aside from Nioka (laughs). I wanted him to be an amalgamation of selfish desires, and constantly behaving as such. Furthermore, the mastermind is someone who is hidden behind the scenes of the story, so I thought that I needed an easy to understand bad guy like Nioka to move it along. In that sense, I'm indebted to Nioka (laughs).
Tadashi Tsurumi is absolute evil. There were actually several underplots that weren't tied up in the first game, and since we were doing Kurohyo 2 I wanted to finish them up properly. It's not like we couldn't do a development that went like, "There were reasons for why Tsurumi did those things..." but since he has driven both Tatsuya and the player so far into a corner, I thought that the end had to be refreshing, and brought along this development without much hesitation. However, even though Tsurumi was the wire-puller behind the events that encircled Kamurocho, what I actually want you to pay attention to in the Final Chapter is Ryo Nozaki. Midway through, Ryo gives a pistol to Tsurumi's son, Daisuke, setting Daisuke up to shoot Tsurumi, but Ryo didn't use this method out of choice. He has a long-standing grudge that can't be explained in short, which forced him into doing what he did.
I actually had a lot of plans for Ryo. The reason why he pretends to be blind is a representation of his decision that, "The next time I open my eyes will be when I get my revenge." Another is that Ryo chose to feign vulnerability in order to get revenge, since he was powerless. He chose to pretend to be weak and sneak into the inner circle of the strong, laying his trap bit by bit. To feign weakness is a cowardly thing. At the time, though, Ryo was focused only on getting his revenge. There is a reason why his character is that of a prophet; with this game, I always wanted to make a show of the contrast between people who will believe anything if it will grant them easy happiness, and people like Tatsuya who will readily let go of the future they've worked so hard to grasp. To create that contrast, the position of a prophet - someone who can use predictions and fortune telling to beckon people towards the easy path - was very good. Ryo lures people towards the easy route, but while people revered him, at some point he, too, forgot his desire for revenge and took the easy way out. Ryo is human too, after all, and has his weaknesses. But when Tatsuya, making no attempts to take it easy, appears before him, Ryo remembers the old self within him. At this point, Ryo is absolutely furious. In order to reassure himself that what he has done is right, he surrenders himself to the anger. By setting up all kinds of traps for Tatsuya and driving him into the corner, he schemed to protect his own identity. But Ryo also has something like the indignation that caused Tatsuya to choose the path of hardships. This is tied to his sudden change in the scene on the rooftop at the end. This livid Ryo is his true form, and something I wanted to portray.