The Yakuza series has been one of extremely contrasting styles: the main story is filled with deception and deep-rooted lies while the side activities are fun and lighthearted, almost to a comical level.
One of the activities the player can partake in is karaoke. As a well-respected and feared member of the Yakuza, it’s expected that series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu would be well-known for his exploits among gamers.
However, perhaps he is arguably most known for his rendition of “Baka Mitai,” a ballad on lost love. After listening to the song numerous times, I’ve come to a simple conclusion: “Baka Mitai” is a really good song.
For those who may not know, “Baka Mitai” – roughly translated as “I’ve Been a Fool” – is a song players can sing in the various karaoke bars in Yakuza 0, Yakuza: Kiwami, Yakuza 5 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Although the player controls different characters throughout the series, each of them will go through a similar pattern of longing for a lost love, at least when singing this song.
With the lyrics being strictly in Japanese, it’s not necessarily known if the character is singing for themselves or someone else. However the message is clear: whomever the singer is singing to, they are reminiscing over a lost love and no matter what they do – mainly drinking – they can’t get over it. For a game about the Yakuza, having a sentimental ballad about heartbreak is definitely a unique choice, and it all starts with how the song begins.
The song starts with an accompaniment of strings and drums before shortly being joined by a harmonica and piano with some bass thrown in there for good measure. This culminates in a quick crescendo before switching to strictly a guitar, bass and drum pattern as the singer joins in at about 15 seconds.
Throughout the next few seconds, the singer is on full display as the instruments take a backseat. Every now and again, the strings mimic the singers’ melody as both go through the ebbs and flows of the song, seemingly akin to the ups and downs of a relationship.
Around 41 seconds in, when the singer gets to the one English phrase – “I love you” – the strings match the melody and continue throughout this section of the song before the climax. At around 50 seconds, the strings start rising to a crescendo, even culminating in perhaps the most recognized part of the song: when the singer belts out “Dame Da Ne” as a wall of music explodes behind them at 1 minute, six seconds.
Following the climax, the strings and voice slowly come together and the song closes out with the singer softly singing “Baka Mitai” as the strings, piano and harmonica come together for the conclusion, at least in game. The actual song is almost five minutes long and features a few more verses and an interlude.
Initially one of the many songs available in the Yakuza series, “Baka Mitai” skyrocketed into public consciousness as a deepfake meme. Dubbed “Dame Da Ne,” videos popped up of various faces and people – among others – pasted onto a template mimicking Kiryu’s facial expressions, with his voice in the background, during the climax of the song.
The original video was first released in 2017 but gained popularity and ultimately exploded in July 2020. Since then, there has been renewed interest in the Yakuza series and even Kiryu’s voice actor, Takaya Kuroda, took notice. On Sep. 7, he tweeted out that he was “very happy the world is singing his song.”
So good has “Baka Mitai” been that it spawned multiple musical breakdowns – by reputable YouTube channels – marveling at just how well-composed the song is. Especially for a game series that’s centered around the dangerous Yakuza life, having a song like “Baka Mitai” is a surprise, but a welcome one.
Overall, “Baka Mitai” is a fantastic song. The song’s message of heartbreak and lost love will resonate with everyone at some point in their lives and there’s a version for everyone, whether it’s Kiryu’s version, the remix from Kiwami or all the characters singing it together in harmony.
“Baka Mitai” is the perfect song to listen to when you feel down and could potentially be cathartic for players to sing along to during a tough breakup. However, more than anything, it is a stellar song.