Yakuza 3 and Happiness

One of my favorite new series of games is Yakuza.  I had heard about it a long time ago, but never got around to playing it until Yakuza 0’s US release a few years back.  The series is basically a combination of a serious, manly Japanese crime drama main story and a bunch of super goofy side quests.  Recently, the Yakuza 3, 4 and 5 collection released on PS4, giving me a chance to play the last few games in the series I’d missed (I had already played 6 since it released on the PS4 earlier).  I just finished up Yakuza 3 as I’m writing this and it’s ending stuck out in my mind. So today I’m going to discuss the ending of Yakuza 3 and how it relates to happiness (spoilers obviously).

For the final showdown in Yakuza 3, the main character, Kazuma Kiryu is rushing to a hospital to rescue his protege and the current leader of the Tokyo underworld, Daigo Dojima (who is recovering after being shot at the start of the game) from Yoshitaka Mine, who is planning to kill him and take over the crime organization.  After fighting his way through a hospital filled with Mine’s underlings and black market partners, he finally reaches the depressed Mine on the roof with the unconscious Daigo.

Mine explains his backstory. He became an orphan at a young age, with his father’s last words encouraging him to use his bright mind to make something with his life.  Mine then spends his childhood and young adult life working extremely hard to become a super successful and rich investor. Having accomplished all his goals, Mine realizes that despite all his achievements, he still isn’t happy with his life. He then decides to join the Yakuza, figuring that the power that comes with being part of the underworld will make him happy.  Now a super successful leader in the Tokyo underworld, Mine realizes he still isn’t happy. He decides that maybe the honor and respect that will come with replacing Daigo as the leader of the Tojo Clan will finally make him happy. To accomplish this, he has to kill Daigo, the only man he truly respected (which is why he’s so depressed when you finally reach him). Kiryu insists Mine is wrong, and the two have their dramatic shirtless fight to finish the game (as is tradition in the Yakuza series). 

After being defeated, Mine realizes the error of his ways and sacrifices his life to protect Kiryu and Daigo from his black market partner that decided to betray and kill all three of them. Yakuza 3’s story isn’t necessarily as good as some of the others in the series (I feel it had higher highs and lower lows), but this was probably my favorite set up for a final fight in the series. But what does it have to do with Catholicism? To answer that, we have to look at what exactly is happiness.

So what is happiness?  St. Thomas Aquinas discusses this in question 2 of the first part of the second part of the Summa Theologiae (here’s a link if you want to read it yourself, but be warned it can be tough if you aren’t familiar with Aristotelian Metaphysics: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2002.htm).  St. Thomas’ answer is ultimately God, which explains why we can’t be truly happy until we are in heaven (even if we can get some degree of happiness on Earth).  He then discusses various possible sources of true happiness and why they are wrong. The four you typically hear on this topic are wealth, power, honor (which should sound super familiar after finishing Yakuza 3) and pleasure (which Mine wasn’t interested in so I’ll skip it for today).  Wealth can’t make you happy because artificial wealth (money) is just a shorthand to make acquiring natural wealth (things you need to live) easier while natural wealth will only make you happy to the point your basic needs are met. This argument has been backed up by modern studies, which show that more money will increase your happiness until your needs have been met, and any additional money after that won’t increase happiness.  Power can’t make you happy because power just enables you to accomplish other things, which may or may not lead to happiness. To put it another way, having power won’t make you happy, but using power to do good things will lead you towards happiness (which wouldn’t really help Mine anyways since he’s getting underworld power). Finally, honor won’t make you happy because honor isn’t a good, it is merely others recognizing a different good within you.  The good itself may lead you to happiness, but others respecting it ultimately doesn’t make a difference. All of these alternate possible sources of happiness (pleasure included) are super common in today’s world and it’s all too easy to see that none of them work. Looking at it from a more Augustinian angle, people are trying to fill the infinite need for God with various finite things, so they are never satisfied. Happiness ultimately comes from being with God, not with various items in the world.

As you can see, Mine is looking for happiness in the world that will never be able to truly make him happy.  When I was first watching that ending, I remember being amused that not only was he going through the classic happiness substitutes, but he was even doing it in the same order as the Summa I linked before.  I honestly wasn’t expecting to come up with any ideas for this blog while playing the Yakuza games, so it was a nice surprise. I hope you can learn from the example of Mine and remember that true happiness ultimately comes from God.

Song of the Post-

Fly (Final Battle Version)

Yakuza 3

A cool new intro can turn a normal battle song into final boss music

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