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It ain't strength. Me and Majima just chose this life and never looked back. That's how a true yakuza lives. People look down on us as criminals, but I'm proud of the life I chose. Honor and duty. That's what bein' a yakuza is to me.
— Saejima to Kido, Yakuza 4

Taiga Saejima (冴島 大河, Saejima Taiga) is one of the main playable protagonists of Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5. He is a former member of the Sasai Family of the Tojo Clan, and later patriarch of his own family.

He became a legend amongst yakuza for carrying out the 1985 Ueno Seiwa massacre, in which eighteen key members of the organization were slain. He is the sworn brother of Goro Majima.

Personality

Saejima is exceedingly blunt, and is never one to beat around the bush in a conversation. This can lead to him sounding harsh or pessimistic, but his words are usually meant with the best of intentions.

Saejima's selflessness surfaces often in the series, especially apparent in his willingness to return to jail prior to the events of Yakuza 5 and Yakuza 6 in order to clear his name for the good of the Tojo Clan, as well as in his speech after the fight in Purgatory's coliseum, refusing to kill his opponent even with the promise of information from The Florist. During his youth, he gave up his dream of becoming an elementary school teacher in order to take care of his step-sister, Yasuko, even though he was just 15 at the time.

Throughout the series, he is shown to be incredibly loyal, seeking out both his old patriarch and his oath brother immediately upon his escape from the penitentiary where he is held during the events of Yakuza 4. He always tries to see the good in people, which can lead to him being somewhat naïve and overly-trusting.

Of all of the protagonists in the series, Saejima is the most sensitive, being described as "delicate inside" in contrast to his outward appearance. He cries frequently, and appears to have some form of PTSD from the trauma of the Ueno Seiwa hit. He recounts the experience as being "terrifying", and says that he has nightmares of the men he killed.

He remains silent in the face of a death penalty after the Ueno Seiwa hit, believing that his brother Majima had betrayed him, he planned to atone for his crime in solitude, only breaking out after Goh Hamazaki provoked him with false information about Majima.

His long stint(s) in jail has not been kind to him, and he often finds himself confused with technology and more recent terminology, famously saying things like, "what the fuck's a cee-dee?".

Appearance

Tiger 1
Saejima is tall, with an extremely muscular build. He uses this to his advantage while fighting, utilizing his bulk to charge into opponents, bowling them over. In Yakuza 4 he has long dark hair that  falls to his shoulders, but when he returns to prison in Yakuza 5, it is shaved off. It remains this way for the remainder of his in-game appearances.

His attire usually consists of a heavy jacket and camouflage pants, with two variations, the former, seen in Yakuza 4, given to him by Kazuma Kiryu after he escapes Okinawa Penitentiary no. 2. His tattoo displays a roaring tiger surrounded by bamboo, most likely as a reference to his given name "Taiga" sounding like the English word "Tiger".

Biography

Saejima was raised by a single mother, alongside his stepsister, Yasuko. In his youth, he hoped to one day attend college and become an elementary school teacher. His future was put on hold, however, when his mother passed away suddenly and he became solely responsible for Yasuko's welfare. The pair ended up getting adopted by close relatives, but feeling as though they were nothing but burdens on their surrogate family, ran away and were forced to fend for themselves.

Saejima, Yasuko and Majima 02

Their situation is further complicated when it is discovered that Yasuko is in need of a kidney transplant, and the only compatible donor is her estranged birth father. Saejima travels to Osaka to find his stepfather - a lowly yakuza thug - who refuses to donate his kidney without being paid for it. With few options left, Saejima turns to a life of petty crime to help finance the operation. It wasn't long before he came into contact with Hideki Sasai, who saw worth in Saejima's talents and offered him a place in his family in exchange for the funds for Yasuko's procedure. It is likely that during this time, he met his oath brother, Goro Majima, who was working with the allied Shimano family.

April 20, 1985, Majima and Saejima are tasked with assassinating key members of the Ueno Seiwa Clan in an attempt to provoke a conflict that Sasai would then mediate, leading to an internal promotion for him, and in-turn, the Sasai Family. Despite Majima's insistence, and his concern for Yasuko's safety, Saejima makes it clear he doesn't intend to tell his step-sister of their inevitable fate, telling Majima that it's "bad luck".

Saejima arms himself
On April 21, Majima is captured by Shibata (who is working with both Katsuragi and Sugiuchi), leaving Saejima to fall blindly into Katsuragi's trap. Saejima anxiously awaits Majima outside of the ramen shop, but he never shows up. Not wanting to miss his chance, Saejima realizes he must carry out the hit alone, and retrieves the six revolvers from the trunk of his car. With a gun in each hand, one tucked into his jacket, two in his waistband, and one in his mouth, Saejima walks calmly up to the ramen shop.


Saejima Ueno Seiwa Hit 01
He is met by the entirety of the Ueno Seiwa Clan; he easily guns down most of the men, before finally aiming his gun at the patriarch, Yoshiharu Ueno, whomst Katsuragi jumps in front of, seemingly sacrificing himself. After finishing the job, Saejima leaves the scene, completely unaware that all of the ammunition in his guns were actually rubber bullets, with the victims having only been stunned. Katsuragi then proceeds to execute all of his unconscious brethren, leaving only himself and chairman Ueno alive.

The police investigation, led by Junji Sugiuchi, identifies Saejima as the assailant, and he is arrested shortly after he surrenders himself at 6:05 p.m., April 21. Saejima refuses to speak with the police, remaining silent through the entire interrogation.

The Ueno Seiwa Clan enters a truce with the Tojo Clan, becoming a subordinate family to Shibata. Katsuragi, having seemingly saved Ueno's life, is appointed to a high-ranking position in the organization and named the eventual successor to the chairman. Saejima is given the death penalty and is sent to Tokyo Penitentiary. Saejima's patriarch, Sasai, disbands his family and disappears shortly after the hit.

Yakuza 4

Regrets? Can't say I got none. I regret every life I took.
— Taiga Saejima
Saejima and Hamazki plan to escape from prison

After serving 25 years, a few days before his scheduled execution, he is suddenly transferred to a secret prison off the coast of Okinawa, where he meets Goh Hamazaki, who persuades him to break out together after telling him Majima is alive and well and now a patriarch of his own family. Wanting to find out what has happened after 25 years and his boss, both of them performs a prison break together as Hamazaki takes a bullet meant for Saejima and has a complete change of heart as he wishes to become a sworn brother of Saejima after he is returned to the good graces of the Tojo and becomes a Patriarch himself, Saejima and Hamazaki was successful in escaping but Hamazaki ends up getting wounded pushing Saito into the sea..

Suzuki vs Kiryu

After falling into the sea, Saejima washes up on the beach where he is found by Haruka. Saejima gives his name as "Suzuki" to Haruka and Kiryu. Kiryu confronts Saejima on the beach about his prison time when he asks for some money to get to Tokyo, saying that the 30,000 yen Saejima is asking for will not get him very far in present-day money. He also says that Haruka told him about how Saejima fell on top of her and supposes that Saejima must not have been with a woman for a very long time. Kiryu challenges Saejima to a fight in return for the money, which Saejima didn't manage to win, but did not lose either. However, after Haruka gives him a briefcase she found alongside him on the beach containing plane tickets to Tokyo, Saejima leaves Okinawa.

Saejima give piece of advices to Kido

Meeting Kido, a member of the Shibata clan and Arai's protege, he offers his help in finding an information broker who knows about the disappearance of his Patriarch. The Florist offers his help but as Saejima lacks the funds, he is forced into a fight to the death with an undefeated fighter in the ring. When told to finish off his opponent, Saejima refuses and calls them out for their disregard for what it is like to truly kill somebody and spares his opponent. The Florist reveals it was a test to show that Saejima was here for the truth of the events and not an excuse to murder those he thought abandoned him and has a tragic reunion with the now demented Sasai. He returns to his hideout to find

Saejima vs Majima

Minami trashing his hideout and offering a chance to meet his oath brother. He proves his worth to Majima and he finally explains to him why he wasn't there that day and more importantly, the man behind everything was murdered. Around that time,

Saejima was attacked by Katsuragi who have made moves against both him and Majima by having Majima arrested with the help of Kido and Katsuragi attacking Purgatory, subduing Saejima who plans on trading him and the audit in hopes of having leverage over Munakata and Arai who have struck a deal with Daigo.Katsuragi explains that Saejima the details of the plans he made to ensure his survival and rise to power and his manipulation as well as learning of Kido's treachery.

Saejima and Yasuko as hostages

Soon after he and Yasuko, his sister were kidnapped by Katsuragi, where they see each other for the first time in 25 years. After Kiryu hands the file over to Kido, Katsuragi orders Kido to kill them both only to have Kido shoot Katsuragi and reveals his allegiance was not to the Shibata but to Arai himself. Arai then shoots Kido to see if he was a plant by the Tojo to spy on Munakata and him and leaves with the file and returns the money back to Akiyama. Turning his attention towards the man he failed to kill years ago and leaves him there to lament his fate as his clan was destroyed like Sasai's. But the warning comes too late and Yasuko is fatally shot protecting Saejima but not before killing Katsuragi for the suffering and pain he had inflicted on both of them and to avenge Tanimura's father's death by his hands. In her dying moments she tells him unlike Saejima she indeed murdered people to find her brother and she never could repay the kindness he has given her and dies in his arms.

After the death of Yasuko, he remains aimless as Majima was arrested and he now has nowhere left to turn.

Saejima vs Kido-0

He was given bad news that Hamazaki, his first oath brother in 25 years has died from his injuries and his final request is to protect the Tojo from the cops, Arai included. With the help of Kiryu, Akiyama and Tanimura they head to the Millennium Tower to avenge those close to them and expose the true culprit. Facing off against Kido who had only learned that Arai was a plant by the police but since have become independent and willing to throw Kamurocho into chaos for the sake of becoming the successor to Kamurocho, he defeats Kido as proof of his commitment to the Tojo and finally bringing the man who exploited the situation to justice. With his name restored, he becomes the new head of his own family at last.

Yakuza 5

Despite his rise to power as a Patriarch, Saejima struggled to reign in the new generation with his traditional ways of running the Yakuza. In his short 6-month stay in Kamurocho the situation for the Tojo had worsened as Saejima had learned in his rule. Hoping to go to finish his prison sentence to fully redeem himself as a Tojo Clan member he enjoys his last day of freedom with Majima. He ends the day by having one last fight with the Majima family before going to prison to complete his sentence, so his brother could be sure he could still handle prison life.

In Sapporo, Hokkaido, Saejima is serving out his sentence. He is attempting to keep on his best behavior in order to get an early parole but is repeatedly beaten by the gang of Kugihara. Kosaka, the Deputy Warden, offers the chance for Saejima to serve out the rest of his sentence in solitary confinement but Saejima declines as he fears Kugihara will turn his attention to his cellmates whom he has befriended.

The following day, Shigeki Baba, one of Saejima's cellmates, is accused of stabbing one of Kugihara's gang members. Saejima believes there is foul play due to Baba's parole hearing being that day. They discover that Kugihara framed Baba to which Saejima confronts him. Kugihara reveals he'd be trying to get Saejima to fight him to delay his parole. Saejima is brought before Kosaka who gives Saejima a letter detailing that he's been excommunicated from the Tojo Clan. Saejima also finds out that Goro Majima has been murdered.

Later that night Kosaka meets with Saejima and Baba. He details that Saejima's parole was denied by the Ministry of Justice and the Warden was murdered outside of Sapporo Airport. He also says that there are one-hundred inmates scheduled for transfer into the prison and they are likely assassins. He gives Saejima to a snowmobile outside the southwest exit and urges him and Baba to escape to figure out why Saejima is being targeted. Saejima and Baba escape after a protracted brawl with Kugihara and the new prisoners but wreck their snowmobile and Saejima is attacked by a monstrous bear called Yama-Oroshi. He and Baba are saved by Okudera, a hunter in the nearby village who has a grudge against the bear.

Saejima and Baba head to Sapporo to meet with Kitakata who is supposedly Majima's killer. They manage to kidnap him during the Snow Festival via the sewer system and he talks with Saejima. Majima was brought to Kitakata to negotiate an equal alliance in spite of the Tojo Clan being the larger entity, however, after Kitakata agreed to it Majima then advised him to decline the offer as he suspected it was being made for foul purposes. Before Kitakata can say who the mastermind is he is shot by Baba. Baba hesitates in killing Saejima, having grown to respect him and they fight.

Saejima is then detained by Serizawa who tells him about the turmoil in the Tojo Clan. With Daigo missing, Majima murdered in Sapporo, and Tojo Lieutenant Azumi murdered in Nagoya, the clan is in an uproar. He hypothesizes that someone is manipulating the whole ordeal and that Saejima is the key. He offers Saejima the opportunity to go to Kamurocho to figure out what's going on if he provides information to the police.

Yakuza 6

After the end of Yakuza 5, Saejima was arrested yet again by the police force to finish up his sentence which only were 2 months left. Majima is infuriated with this, but Saejima reassures him to take care of things while he was away. He was not seen again until the epilogue, where he was freed with Daigo from prison, and talks about how the Tojo Clan almost start a war with the Yomei Alliance and the situation was defused after Daigo was freed by an unknown man in exchange of Kiryu faking his death. They agreed to form an alliance with the Yomei Alliance, who was now headed by Koshimizu after Takeru Kurusu's death.

Fighting style

Yakuza 4

Saejima relies on brute force in battle similar to Kiryu, but lacks the grace that Kiryu has. Relying on a plethora of wrestling moves, Saejima is considerably much more durable in combat than other fighters as his charge attacks make him almost unable to flinch when hit. His Triangle moves can be charged to more damage and can be used to set up Heat Actions in battle when they are knocked midair or against the wall.

Yakuza 5

After a finishing blow, Saejima gains the ability to grab an opponent and swing them around like a rag doll, damaging all who are hit by the swing and the flying enemy. He also gained new Heat Actions.

Gameplay

Yakuza 4

Saejima's attacks have a lot of strength that could possibly finish enemies very quickly, and with bosses taking a quarter or a whole health bar if the combos are charged. Saejima not only has a really strong string of attacks but also gains non-flinching properties for his charges. when his fully charged attacks are released, he gains invincibility frames. He may have strong attacks and impenetrable defenses, but he lacks speed and recovery. It's always important to have Heat as he cannot be sent to the ground when in heat mode (except for grapples and command grabs). He cannot recover quickly from the ground and he can only perform rolls as they are much slower than sidestepping. Saejima has a huge health bar that covers a quarter of the screen. His heat gauge is smaller compared to the rest of the other characters.

Yakuza 5

Some of Saejima's attacks gain more recoil that can send enemies up much higher, allowing more follow up options such as his power slam heat action or following up with another combo. Saejima learns a new special attack called "Tiger Puppetry". Saejima also has his own Tiger Drop move called "Tiger Dragon Drop" this move doesn't send enemies flying but instead stuns them allowing you to land free hits. like the other protagonist, he gains climax heat actions. Saejima's Health Bar is even Bigger which covers almost the whole screen. His Heat gauge still is small, but his initial heat gauge requires more heat before he enters heat more, During heat mode, Saejima has an ability called "Herculean Spirit" Which allows Saejima to never flinch from attacks, as well as being invincible to all grabs.

Trivia

  • Saejima appears as the second playable character in both Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5.
  • Although Saejima doesn't appear in Yakuza: Dead Souls (it is mentioned briefly that he's away on Tojo Clan business), His running animation from Yakuza 4 is reused on Ryuji Goda in Yakuza: Dead Souls' free roam gameplay.
  • Saejima is the only protagonist to fight Kiryu and Majima twice.
    • The first of these fights is also the only instance in the entire Yakuza series where the player character actually has to fight against Kiryu.
  • Shimano's tattoo appears to be a combination of Saejima and Majima's tattoos. Shimano has a tiger on his back (similar to Saejima) with additional pattern similar to Majima (from Shimano's back to both upper arms and chest). It is likely a coincidence and nothing more, seeing as how Saejima was not in Shimano's family, and the two don't seem to have an amicable history according to the 1985 flashback scene in Yakuza 4.
  • In Yakuza 4, the protagonists represent the 4 Eastern Gods. Taiga Saejima as the White Tiger, as the most cynical of the four, and the most strength.
  • In Yakuza 4, visiting certain places (such as the pawn shop) as Saejima will make him reminisce about his younger days. The same mechanic appears in Yakuza 5 when he returns to Kamurocho after his time in jail.
  • His favorite food appears to be tripe, as he orders a good amount of it with Majima in Yakuza 5.
  • He appears to suffer from psychological and emotional trauma after the Ueno Seiwa hit.
  • Saejima is the only other character apart from Kiryu who can lift and fight with heavy objects like motorbikes.
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