Iori Yagami is a central recurring character in the King of Fighters series of classic brawling video games.
He is the sworn enemy, then eventually main rival, of the hero Kyo Kusanagi. But he eventually came into his own as the series progressed.
He’s a tragic character, born of the cursed lineage of the demon-tainted Yagami bloodline.
During his time in the series he’s been an anti-hero, a hero, and a villain. Yagami-san is a complex character that can been dropped in to meet various story needs.
- Real Name: Iori Yagami.
- Other Aliases: Unbridled Instinct.
- Known Relatives: Unnamed Yagami ancestors.
- Group Affiliation: Iori’s Team, Rickenbacker, Sacred Treasures Team.
- Base Of Operations: Mobile.
- Height: 6’ (1.82m). Weight: 168 lbs. (76 Kg.).
- Eyes: Brown. Hair: Red.
Powers and Abilities
Iori fights using the Yasakani style of ancient martial arts – an aggressive form incorporating use of claws. He uses his instincts to fight as well, and most of his moves are in the form of clawing strikes. His Yagami ancestry also allows him to control fire.
Gameplaywise he is a powerful rush down character with great damaging combo potential. But to make him truly useful he needs to be fully mastered. A lot of his moves can leave him open, and his walking speed is extremely slow.
That said, like a lot of fighting games’ main protagonists, he is still very much in the vein of standard uppercut brothers. He has the signature anti-air uppercut and a projectile in addition to his rush down move set.
Like a lot of the enduring main characters he’s changed over time – and gained quite a few moves over the years.
History (part 1)
To fully understand Iori one needs to understand his clan’s history and lineage.
1800 years ago, a powerful child of Gaia called the Orochi threatened humanity. Orochi was a sort of god of entropy.
Though he had been created to keep balance, the rise of humanity led him to rethink his position. Their wars, havoc and frantic consumption of resources would destroy the world if the Orochi didn’t wipe them out first.
The Orochi was foiled by the allied clans of Kusanagi and Yagami, plus the mysterious mystics of the Yata Clan. They sealed the power of the Orochi away, but that didn’t destroy him. Furthermore, he had mortal descendants. The immortal demon could still plan and influence, and eventually the seal would get broken.
The Kusanagi Clan rose to prominence as their bloodline powerd over red fire were an impressive symbol of their status. The Yagami Clan, however, had more defensive and less flashy powers. They weren’t as considered, even though they had lost far more people in sealing the Orochi – and the Kusanagi went on to claim most of the credit.
A dark step for the Yagami
660 years ago, the Yagami Clan harnessed some of the Orochi power to further their own selfish ambitions. They could now wield the purple Oroshi flame, but at the cost of great pain that shortened their life.
Clan Kusanagi declared war on their former allies. The two clans slaughtered each other, to the Orochi’s glee.
More influential and proficient with their red flame, the Kusanagi largely wiped the Yagami out. The few survivors were scattered to the wind. Most of the world would eventually forget that they had even existed.
History (part 2)
It was heavily implied that Iori Yagami had a rough life, which turned him into a hard and bitter man.
He was the heir of the Yagami and as such harbored a grudge against the Kusanagi. Particularly against his opposite number Kyo.
King of Fighters ’95
Iori had given the 1994 tournament a pass. But he learned that Kyo Kusanagi would defend his title in 1995, giving Yagami a golden opportunity to face him in the ring.
However, the tournament featured three-man teams – and he didn’t really have friends. Searching for a spot led him to Billy Kane. The enforcer would be participating at the behest of his boss Geese Howard. Mr. Howard was investigating the mysterious Orochi power that was rumored to be behind the tournament.
Iori’s fighting prowess was enough to land him a spot on the team. The last spot was taken by Eiji Kisaragi, a ninja with a comparable blood feud against the Sakazaki Dojo.
This team reached the finals. But before they could have their showdown they were gassed and kidnapped by tournament host Rugal Bernstein. Iori found Kyo, but Kusanagi was locked in combat with Rugal. Rugal clearly had the upper hand, and it didn’t look like Kyo would last much longer.
Iori angrily went to join the fray as he felt that Kyo was his and his alone to kill. But as he approached them, he felt something in his body change and he started vomiting blood. He then blacked out.
Rugal had secretly been granted a portion of the Orochi’s power by Orochi leader Goenitz. This triggered Iori cursed bloodline and he entered the Riot of the Blood state of mind which turned him into an animalistic homicidal beast. Iori badly beat his own teammates Billy and Eiji, then fled.
Kyo narrowly survived as Rugal’s body couldn’t contain the newfound power of the Orochi.
King of Fighters ’96
Iori trained day and night in the hopes that he would be able to fight Kyo in the next tournament.
He was then unexpectedly confronted by Rugal’s former aides, Vice and Mature. Yagami was about to escalate into violence when they recruited him to be on their team for the ’96 tournament. This trio made it to the finals to face Kyo and his wingmen.
The furious match ended in a draw, with the fighters exhausted and the clock having run out. Iori still attempted to kill Kyo, but tournament host Chizuru Kagura stopped that. The heir of the Yata clan of mystics, Kagura-san wanted a new Yagami/Kusanagi alliance as the Orochi’s threat was on the rise.
The tournament stadium was then torn apart by a tornado, leaving only Kusanagi and Yagami standing. This attack came from Goenitz, one of the four Heavenly Kings of the Orochi. Mature and Vice, secretly Orochi bloodliners, killed themselves to further empower him – and Iori entered the Riot of the Blood once again.
Against the Orochi King
Kyo engaged Goenitz – but as their previous fights had demonstrated, he was no match for Goenitz’s wind manipulation powers. However, Iori still doggedly believed that Kyo was his to kill. This single-mindedness allowed him to override the Riot of the Blood and attack Goenitz.
The Orochi King lost the upper hand, and attempted to regain control over Yagami’s mind. About to lose his free will, Iori grabbed him and held on long enough for Kyo to land a killing blow.
Goenitz’s defeat resulted in a stunning explosion that separated both fighters. Once again their blood feud would have to wait for the following year.
King of Fighters ’97
A solid bass guitar player, Iori also participated in a “battle of the bands” event. His band won, even though their rivals of CYS were the favourite.
CYS’ Yashiro Nanase was enraged by this. Seeking revenge, he and his bandmates Chris and Shermie stole an invitation from the American Sports Team and entered as the New Face Team.
They didn’t progress that far, though.
Iori still didn’t have any friends, and Billy Kane wouldn’t have him after the Riot of the Blood incident. Yagami therefore participated as a single entry, which meant that he wouldn’t get to face Kyo.
During the tournament he dreamt of the Orochi, who told him the curse of the Yagami bloodline would be cleansed if he killed Kusanagi. Though Chizuru Kagura again tried to have Iori join her anti-Orochi effort, he angrily blew her off.
Riot of the blood
Towards the close of the tournament, Orochi influence triggered a new Riot of the Blood. The affected Orochi-tainted fighters included:
The remaining fighters were eventually able to subdue them, but that left most of them incapable of continuing the fight.
Yashiro and Shermie then killed themselves. That along with all of the blood previously unleashed by their rampage was enough to finally break the Orochi seal. The demon possessed the remaining New Face member, Chris.
The heirs of the Kusanagi, Yagami, and Yata clans combined forces. After a furious battle they could once again seal the malevolent entity.
With the final blow, a huge explosion separated the fighters. When Iori finally awoke Kyo was nowhere to be found. Their blood feud would once again be postponed.
King of Fighters ’98
This game was a non-canon dream match – and thus not part of story continuity.
In this story, Iori was still hell bent on ending his and Kyo’s blood feud now that the threat of the Orochi had passed. He had spent the last year furiously searching for his archnemesis.
He was eventually able to track down a lead to a lab. Yagami was shocked and enraged to find that it was making Kyo clones. He lashed out and started destroying the facility.
Unbeknowst to him Kyo was indeed a prisoner there, but he had been heavily sedated for the last year. Iori’s sudden attack knocked the power grid offline and equipment keeping Kyo unconscious was shut down. Though groggy and confused, Kyo awoke and manage to escape the facility.
King of Fighters ’99 and onward
Iori, Kyo, and the rest of the prominently featured characters essentially were pushed aside to make way for K’ and his team as the new main characters. There’s also a tonal shift in the game’s storyline here as K’ and his crew were more gritty anti-heroes.
SNK was arguably reinventing the wheel. Iori could’ve easily filled that role and was much more established. But I guess that’s what happens when your company goes bankrupt and gets bought out by another company with debatable writing practices.
Over the following years and a lot of drama Iori and Kyo have a few fights here and there. They are then apparently brought together by Chizuru Kagura where they fight on the same team – it’s not clearly stated, and these fighters have little impact on the plot.
After a few fights and some motorcycle races the two of them more or less patch things up and grudgingly come to respect one another. Though neither is mature enough to admit any wrongdoing – and both are too weighed down by their family’s rocky history.
Iori is a handsome Japanese man with long flowing red hair and a permanent scowl affixed to his face.
He typically wears a black jacket with his family’s crescent logo on the back and a long white button shirt underneath, which he never seems to tuck in.
He also wears red pants and, uhm, has his knees loosely bound together with a black cord for some reason.
Iori is serious, rude and direct-and-to-the-point.
He seems to want to kill his rival at every opportunity they meet, but deep down inside he doesn’t want to.
Creators have stated that Iori’s personality starkly contrasts other characters in KOF as well as other fighting games at the time of his debut.
He tends to laugh maniacally after winning.
In various drama CDs, Iori is frequently tormented by an Orochi identity that resides within him, which mocks and belittles him as its master. Iori answers it with irritation until it angers him, causing him to physically react in a usually violent manner.
This may be partially the reason why he sometimes acts withdrawn towards others.
In the non-canon HK King of Fighters comics, Iori states that he despises the color of his crimson flames. Whether this is due to his feud with the Kusanagis or a matter of personal preference after wielding Orochi-tainted purple flames for so long is not known.
But he does mention at some point during the games that he no longer cares about the feud between the Yagami and the Kusanagi clans.
He also seems to be extremely lonely and misunderstood. Athena pointed out in the KOF: Kyo manga that when she read his thoughts during his fight with Kusanagi, all she saw was a crying child inside.
“Look to eternity ! Look to the moon and me !”
“Are you afraid of me ?”
“Only those of the bloodline can control such power ! You didn’t have a chance !”
“But nobody touches Kyo, he’s mine ! Mine only !”
DC Heroes RPG
|Dex: 07||Str: 04||Bod: 05|
|Int: 06||Wil: 07||Min: 06|
|Inf: 05||Aur: 04||Spi: 08|
|Init: 022||HP: 090|
Adrenaline Surge: 05, Claws: 06, Iron Will: 03, Jumping: 00, Running: 03
Bonuses and Limitations:
- Adrenaline Surge only works with Martial Artist, Running, and Claws.
- Misc.: Wielding the cursed purple flames is said to be extremely painful for him. While this doesn’t represent a Limitation it might go a long way to explain why he’s so full of angst all the time.
Acrobatics: 06, Artist (Bass guitar, singer): 05, Martial Artist: 12
Attractive, Iron Nerves, Language (Japanese), Lightning Reflexes.
None. He considers other people bothersome.
Enemy (Billy Kane, Eiji Kisaragi), Serious Rage, Socially Inept, Misc.:
- Iori’s life is said to be dramatically shortened due to his family’s unholy pact with Orochi. It’s more a story not than an actual Drawback, but if you want a mechanic for him then you could give him an Attack Vulnerability (aging).
- The Riot of the Blood is treated more as a plot device than anything else (see below).
Anti-heroic Seeking Justice.
Yagami clan heir.
Prior to his last two appearances Iori had Flame Project: 08 (with his signature purple flames) with the Diminishing Drawback, and Mystic Freeze: 04, Contingent on Flame Projection.
Dex was 08, Claws was 05, Jumping was 01, and Running: was 04. Adrenaline Surge of course worked with Flame Project and Mystic Freeze.
Stats in “riot of blood” mode
He has not demonstrated these since his flame powers were taken so it’s possible that he no longer has his power complication.
|Dex: 10||Str: 05||Bod: 06|
|Int: 05||Wil: 06||Min: 05|
|Inf: 04||Aur: 03||Spi: 08|
|Init: 023||HP: 100|
Adrenaline Surge: 07, Claws: 07, Flame Project: 09, Iron Will: 05, Jumping: 02, Running: 05
Bonuses and Limitations:
- Adrenaline Surge only works with Martial Artist, Flame Project, Running, and Claws.
- Flame Project is Diminishing.
Acrobatics: 07, Martial Artist: 14
Attractive, Iron Nerves, Language (Japanese).
None. He considers other people bothersome.
Creepy Appearance, Enemy (Billy Kane, Eiji Kisaragi), SIA (death and violence), CIH (Kyo Kusanagi), Catastrophic Rage, CPI (homicidal maniac), Socially Inept, Misc. – as above.
Source of Character: King of Fighters video games.
Helper(s): Sébastien Andrivet, SNK wiki .