Originally posted on 16 February 2016
Source: Ryu ga Gotoku 4 Guidebook, page 580-583

Ryu ga Gotoku 4: Taiga Saejima

Those who cooperated
*Toshihiro Nagoshi (general producer)
*Masayoshi Kikuchi (producer)
*Masayoshi Yokoyama (scenario/direction)
*Jun Orihara (director)
*Kazuki Hosokawa (design leader)
*Tadashi Okuda (battle game design)
*Mariko Kawase (adventure game design)
*Yuji Saito (motion design)
*Fujiyoshi Shimohara (sound programmer)
*Naoki Someya (stage design)
*Kazunobu Takeuchi (adventure game design)
*Saizo Nagai (character design)
*Yuri Fukuda (sound)
*Ryosuke Horii (karaoke/heat actions)

Q. Please give us a catchphrase you think suits Saejima perfectly.

● An earnest and sentimental beast. [Nagoshi]

● An escaped prisoner who murdered 18 yakuza. Just what it says on the box. [Kikuchi]

● He keeps swimming through a living hell, not permitted even to die. The clumsy way of life of a clumsy man. [Yokoyama]

● A man who is frank, body and soul. [Orihara]

Q. How did Saejima change from the start of development to completion?

● We took care to make sure that his character wouldn't overlap with that of Ryuji Goda. [Kikuchi]

● I had a firm image for Saejima from the start, too. He lives right in the middle of the Ryu ga Gotoku world, sort of like a self homage to Kiryu himself. Everything he does - whether it's visiting the underground arena or returning to Kamurocho after many years - was done by Kiryu in Ryu ga Gotoku. They have slightly different senses of values, but we purposely had their stories develop in similar ways so he would be the successor to Kiryu's story. The reason why Majima becomes so obsessed with Kiryu is because Kiryu carries along a phantom of Saejima with him. We wanted to create someone who Majima used to look up to, and someone who would make him start to obsess over Kiryu, and that's how Saejima came to be. His initial name was Michiyoshi (道義), but the tattoo on his back was that of a tiger, so we made him into a "Tiger". Also, we planned to have him stay as a murderer during the story and kill people, but it didn't work out. [Yokoyama]

● He had a wildness (?) to him from the beginning, but he had a more cool impression to him. When he was done, he was a man who was on a level of his own and sultry in every way you could think of. [Orihara]

Q. Now that the game is complete, what kind of feelings and impressions do you get from Saejima?

● In terms of the fact that he's a character who encompasses both strength and fragility, he's my favourite. The strength with which he wholeheartedly believes in his own path is comparable to that of the main character, Kazuma Kiryu. He's clumsy, but pure and earnest. I love this about him. I entrusted a lot of feelings to this character. [Nagoshi]

● He's the kind of man who may as well have "chivalry" written on his forehead. He's a man who pushes his way onward with sincerity rather than what he stands to gain from relationships, so I think that he in particular will attract the backing of other men. [Kikuchi]

● I feel like Saejima is more befitting of being called "strongest" than even Kiryu. [Orihara]

Q. What is the theme of Saejima's chapter?

● Saejima's theme is "simple and honest love". It was because we had Saejima that I wanted to explore what happens to people in the end when they live for love. Living too honestly is never a good thing, and so Saejima, too, subdues himself. But he does have one honest point, and that's for love, including that which he feels for his little sister. He faces adversity when he appears in Kamurocho, but the important part was how far love would push him amidst that. [Yokoyama]

● The themes for Saejima during adventure mode were "let's change the way you walk around Kamurocho" and "the nervousness of being a criminal walking around a red light district". Battles are most representative of this, but he's a character whose power stands out in all kinds of ways, so we put in things like him being able to open a manhole by himself. [Orihara]

Q. What kinds of things did you have in mind for Saejima's section's substories?

● Saejima's substories included a theme along the lines of, "how does he convey his love to people who live in a similar way?" Saejima has his own beliefs, which, rather than being based in reason or experience, are simply something like, "You gotta protect women. Of course you gotta help someone who collapses in front of ya. If there's someone who's hungry, then of course I'm gonna persevere and give 'em my food." He has something inside him like old Japanese love, which is the focus of his substories. To be honest he does get seriously taken for a fool sometimes, but that doesn't matter. "I was fooled - so what?" [Yokoyama]

● Saejima is being chased, so he can't do anything that stands out too much. We took steps to make you feel the tenseness of the situation that Saejima is in. This is the reason why most of the people you meet in the substories in Saejima's part have their own problems. Saejima's part is even more consistently tense than the rest of the game, so these mainly appear to give you temporary relief from that stress. We were going for a relationship like the one between Kiryu and Haruka in Ryu ga Gotoku - what do you think? He's also the most straight-laced of the four characters, so we actually gave him a lot of things that involve cute animals and pretty women to create a gap. [Takeuchi]

Q. Please tell us Saejima's design theme.

● He has a wild and rigid image, but that doesn't mean that he's thoughtless and reckless - I wanted him to engender the type of man who puts a lot of importance on his beliefs and creed in life. [Hosokawa]

● We were shooting for a boorishness and beast-like roughness. We settled on his overall image right away, but we spent some time adjusting his eyes to show a sincerity as well as the violence. [Nagai]

Q. What kind of request did you get for Saejima's design?

● My directions were for a power fighter type, and to make him into the kind of person who men would fall for, like Ryuji in Ryu ga Gotoku 2. [Nagai]

Q. How did you end up choosing Mr. Koyama as Saejima's voice actor, and what are the secrets behind his voice?

● We held auditions, but it was decided quite easily. I had a conviction from the start that he would fit perfectly with his background and looks. [Nagoshi]

● His voice fitted my image exactly. It was the recommendation of Yokoyama (or one of his subordinates). [Kikuchi]

● Saejima speaks in Kansai dialect with that sort of face, so when he shouts he gets really scary. His sentence endings and words themselves are strong, but at heart he's the purest and most delicate. In order to get across that delicateness, we had him not raise his voice too much. Mr. Koyama gave us an incredibly attentive performance. I thought it had gone really smoothly, but when I asked him about it, he told me it was the first time he had ever been so detailed about a performance. [Yokoyama]

Q. Please tell us what happened during Saejima's voice recording for karaoke and mini games.

● Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the recording. Saejima is the person I would personally most like to have do the karaoke shouts, so hopefully if we get another chance I'd really like to have him do it. [Horii]

Q. What did you struggle with and focus on with regards to Saejima's movements in battle?

● He's a heroic character, so we worked hard to set the damage for his moves so that they didn't look either too weak or too strong. [Okuda]

● He was created with the image of being this heroic type who relies on strength rather than technique, forcibly bringing in his own moves. [Saito]

● His Power Clothesline. We carefully adjusted the timing so that you would transfer comfortably from a charge attack to a heat action. [Horii]

Q. What elements did you focus on to reproduce the atmosphere of 25 years ago?

● In order to distinctly portray the two times of the past and present, we heightened the contrast using colour filters and increased the red saturation. The adjustments are so slight that I doubt that the players will notice much, but you will unconsciously sense how naturally separated they are when you switch between present and past, past and present. [Hosokawa]

● Since it's 25 years ago, we researched and utilised things like old style vending machines and the designs of shop signs around town; also, to create a worldview that makes you feel the Showa era and reproduce a rainy town, we also adjusted the saturation and brightness to recreate the town as it was 25 years ago. [Someya]

● The things that happened 25 years ago wasn't part of the data creation job, so I can't really comment, but I made a lot of modifications to the environmental sounds of Kamurocho, wanting to make it seem like you were really walking around the town. Occasionally you'll hear whispered conversations of people around town mixed in with the environmental sounds. The things they talk about change depending on where you are. [Fukuda]

Q. Was there anything you focused on with regards to the prison in Saejima's part?

● The prison in this game is completely different from prisons that exist in real life. Instead of basing Okinawa Penitentiary #2 on a real prison, we all wanted to go with a two-stage prison like you might see in a foreign TV show or American entertainment. That was because doing it like this would make it more enjoyable for the average person to watch. We could make a realistic prison, but it wouldn't be interesting, so we went with an illegal prison that you wouldn't find anywhere in Japan. There are no prisons like this in the country. [Yokoyama]

● Having an isolated prison in the middle of the sea was themed after Alcatraz. In the data, it's supposed to be a non-existent prison whose rusticness and coldness contrast with the bright sea of Okinawa, making you feel sad. [Someya]

● I was in charge of the field part of the prison. I strengthened the sound of the wind to make it feel more like an isolated island. [Fukuda]

Q. Please tell us what you concentrated on in the scene where Saejima strikes the ramen shop.

● I whispered into the ear of the person doing the storyboards to do the part where Saejima goes to the ramen shop just as it was. No matter what, I wanted to use that camerawork, thinking of everything up to the choreography of the shooting. It was the first time I had put together the choreography and motion actors. I had them do it there and show it to me, incorporating things I liked. I thought that the scene would become a huge highlight scene, so I was really particular about it. [Yokoyama]

● The shooting at the ramen place is also a very important scene for the game, so I emphasised the dynamism before and after the shooting and used an oriental voice for the BGM, working really hard to distinguish it from the other cutscenes. [Shimohara]

Q. Please explain Saejima's charms.

● He has the good old earnest charm of a Japanese man. The message he holds is that if you push through something, you'll get results that correspond to your own abilities. [Nagoshi]

● He's plain and simple. In terms of living on, he might be the strongest of them all. [Kikuchi]

● His actions and thoughts are all straightforward, and he has the body and spirit to fulfil them. [Orihara]

● His love for his sister and his passionate friendship with Majima. I think Saejima's charm lies in the way that he looks like he would send you flying if you went near him, but actually deep down he has a very human side to him. In this game, he's the one who is toyed with by the cruellest fate, but I hope he becomes even a little bit happier afterwards. [Hosokawa]

● The gap between his reliability and the fact that he's so clumsy that you worry about him. [Kawase]

● He's a man with the heroism and gallantry to kick away small problems and take what he wants by force. [Saito]

● Despite shouldering the karma of being a murderer, it's touching to see how straightforwardly and purely he lives. The realistic performance of his voice actor, Mr. Koyama, is also a sight to behold. [Shimohara]

● The way he's clumsy. [Someya]

● I guess the way he looks the scariest, but is actually the kindest. He probably likes animals. All of the comments he makes after being let back out into the world for the first time in 25 years are charming, too. [Takeuchi]

● I love the gap between his appearance and the things he does, like carving a wooden bear in his revelations. [Nagai]

● His rough image comes to the forefront, but he also has a kindness to him, and a sense of humour, too. If I had to pick a boyfriend, it would be Saejima (laughs). [Fukuda]

● His humanity. He gets passionate, sad, regretful... he expresses a variety of emotions in an honest way, and without realising it you end up becoming attached to him. [Horii]

Q. What is your favourite Saejima scene or line?

● "Killin' a man is like... It's fucking terrifying!!!" His humanity is condensed into these words. [Nagoshi]

● My favourite thing about Saejima are his exchanges with Hamazaki as a whole. Out of them, the best is, "You may be an asshole, but ya didn't stab me in the back. That means something." The only person who could take something that far is someone who has been driven into a corner. I'm sure that Hamazaki is the first friend that Saejima has had in a long time, since Majima. I think that Saejima would have been happy to meet Hamazaki after spending 25 lonely years with no one to talk to, which is great. It made me feel as though he has enough power of persuasion to move even Hamazaki. [Yokoyama]

● When IF7-R is being explained to him and he says, "Shit... I have absolutely no idea what this guy is talking about..." [Orihara]

● The shooting of Ueno scene in the intro is the biggest action sequence in the game, so I recommend that. The scene at the arena where he does his monologue about his fear and regrets about being a killer is one that will stay with you, too. [Hosokawa]

● "Take that!" This is the thing he says when he does my personal favourite heat action, the Bell Ringer. [Okuda]

● His conversation with Kido before he heads to meet Minami from the hideout. The way he tries to cheer up Kido. It's moving how attentive he is towards others in such a situation. [Kawase]

● "I gotta know, brother. I wanna know just how far Taiga Saejima can climb." All men want to test their own ability, but I don't think many go as far as actually doing it. There's something about the words of Saejima, a real man, that draws you in. [Saito]

● The scene where he talks to the spectators about having killed the 18 people after his battle with Ibrahimovic at the arena. It's full of Saejima's human personality, and makes an impression. [Shimohara]

● The scene where he's reunited with his boss, Sasai. Saejima gives off a really robust impression, but this is the only scene in which he expresses his true feelings without trying to be strong, so it leaves an impression. [Someya]

● The final scene in the substory "Green Shadow". With the way it's set in modern times but incorporates offbeat things like this, I think it does a good job of showing the breadth (?) of Ryu ga Gotoku. It has nothing at all do to with Saejima himself, though. [Takeuchi]

● His parting scenes with Hamazaki and Kiryu. They're scenes that let you see the awkward yet pure side of Saejima, so they really leave a deep impression. [Nagai]

● "Ya gotta go balls out." It made me think that he was a real man amongst men. [Fukuda]

● His reminiscence scene with Majima and Yasuko in the apartment. [Horii]

Q. Everyone please tell us the part of Saejima's chapter you managed (or were involved in) that you want people to take note of.

● The scene where Kiryu and Haruka chat beside a sleeping Saejima after his battle with Kiryu. Haruka and Kiryu don't really have many conversations in this game, so I wanted to treat it with importance as I was making it. [Kawase]

● His heroic heat actions are a must see. You also have to see the unique way he has revelations. [Saito]

● I want people to get a taste of the environmental sounds and BGM that give each of the diverse scenes in Chapter 2 - the prison, underground, arena and so forth - their own unique tones. People also really should hear the soulful music that plays during Create a Fighter. [Shimohara]

● The way the Millennium Tower underground and central sewer contrast with the red light district. [Someya]

● We put a lot of hard work into creating the character of Saito. As a result, I think he ended up being a really great character. [Nagai]

● All of the sounds in the prison and around town, all of the mini games, and the revelation scenes. I was shocked the first time I saw them. "He's carving!" (laughs). [Fukuda]

● The dialogue between Sodachi and his apprentice during the Create a Fighter events. Saejima's entire part is full of serious revelations, so we intentionally put in a lot of pop-style conversations. [Horii]