The Yakuza series might have some of the most fun and memorable protagonists around. From the beloved Ichiban (who definitely would be friends with another beloved franchise’s protagonist) to the serious Kiryu, the characters you follow in the series stick close to our hearts…especially when you watch one grow up before your eyes like Haruka Sawamura.
This spirited yet level-headed young girl offers a humanizing look into the terrors that Yakuza life can bring to those otherwise uninvolved, but despite her hardships, Haruka ages with fierce kindness and a great understanding of her values. Watching a character grow up like this is bound to leave players missing some little details about her, as there’s just so much to keep track of.
Her Age Is Inconsistent
Haruka’s progression and position in the series centers around being the daughter — the little girl turned grown woman. However, there is a discrepancy in her age from game to game.
In Yakuza 6, she is stated to be 19 in December 2016. In Yakuza 5, she states she is 16 in 2012. She is also supposedly nine years old in 2005 during the original Yakuza. There’s one mysterious year that keeps changing in Haruka’s timeline.
Haruka’s voice actors in both the English and Japanese versions have some hefty achievements and famous characters in their repertoire. Japanese voice actress Rie Kugimiya has credits in Hamtaro, Inuyasha, the Shin Megami Tensei series, and Fullmetal Alchemist (as the well-beloved Alphonse, specifically).
If Japanese series aren’t your style and you know more about American TV, Debi Derryberry has voiced characters in Jimmy Neutron, The Addams Family, and Monster High.
Like Adoptive Father, Like Adoptive Daughter
Though Kiryu is not biologically related to her, the influence her adoptive father has on her is obvious. She shares Kiryu’s willingness to sacrifice for family, determination for truth, and loyalty to her loved ones despite the cost.
This might be most apparent at the moment where Haruka gives up her dream of being an idol in order to maintain her relationship with Kiryu and avoid lying to the public.
Mature Despite Her Age
Trauma can harden anyone into someone cold and distant, and while Haruka’s maturity isn’t common for someone so young, the trauma didn’t make her mean.
Surviving an assassination attempt in her own right, countless dangerous dealings with her connection to Kiryu, and becoming a semi-caregiver for the other children in the Morning Glory Orphanage have made Haruka grow up quicker than most. Her head is level, but despite these traumatic experiences, she remains kind.
Haruka’s position as the adoptive daughter has been her primary role in the Yakuza games, but the temperature shifts when Haruka has a child of her own. Haruto is a bouncy little boy born of a one-night-stand with a member of another Yakuza family named Yuta.
Haruka risked her life to save Haruto’s, and Kiryu risked his life to save both. While the baby doesn’t do much, Haruka’s transition from daughter to mother signifies a change for Kiryu as well.
Her Name Meanings
Haruka is a Japanese name with various interpretations depending on the kanji used to write it. The name can mean “distant or remote”, perhaps implying her demeanor or maturity in her young age.
If the kanji leans toward two symbols, Haru is the word for “spring or springtime,” and in tandem with Ka, it can mean “spring flower, spring fragrance, clear weather flower” or other variations.
Haruka’s Model Is Shrunken
You’d think that a child model might be based on actual child proportions, but for Haruka, that’s just not the case. Haruka’s character model is, in reality, the same proportions as Kiryu! Can you imagine a Kiryu-sized nine-year-old Haruka? Or a Haruka-sized Kiryu? Not even the modded female version of Kiryu takes this into account!
Haruka’s model is shrunken and stretched depending on her age in the game, so if her proportions look a little floppy sometimes, it’s because she has been shrunken.
Haruka’s style changes as she ages, but her color choices remain consistent. White and red appear prominently in her wardrobe (usually red bottoms with white tops).
She reflects the same colors as her beloved father figure Kiryu. It doesn’t fall into the same cartoon trope of characters wearing the same outfit in every episode, but considering she’s a young girl with changing fashion, it’s unusual for colors to remain that consistent.
As if being bullied in real life wasn’t enough, now our video game characters are being bullied in our video games!
After Haruka rejects her dream of becoming an idol and explains to the crowd her relationship with Kiryu, the internet explodes and Haruka becomes the victim of intense social media backlash. She goes so far as to deactivate her social media to be rid of the barrage of cruel words. Wow, Yakuza, you didn’t have to go that far!
The First Female Playable Character
Yakuza’s protagonists lean heavily into male identities, as the genre usually does. Haruka broke that mold by becoming the first female playable character in the franchise.
According to some of the writers who created Haruka, she serves as a protagonist to counter Kiryu, so indirectly, she has earned herself the title of the first female protagonist in the series.