Sunday, December 4, 2022

World Cup Ambitions: Yasuo and Kota

* Idea for this entry suggested by Patrick Fuller

Football (soccer) fever has struck Japan again with the national team having advanced to the final 16 in the FIFA World Cup! The first Shenmue game also starts in a year in which the World Cup had been played in Mexico, with Diego Maradona leading Argentina to victory in 1986.

It is not surprising, then, that there are two young soccer fanatics living in Ryo's neighborhood: Yasuo Ito and Kota Mitsui, aged 7 and 8 years when introduced in the game, but with only a couple of months separating them.

Near the start of the game, their practice in the street triggers a QTE sequence when Ryo approaches, putting the player's reactions to the test to avoid the awkward outcome of making Yasuo's little sister Kayoko burst into tears!

Kota and Yasuo are gently reprimanded by Ryo after the QTE

The official character profiles also make mention of their love of the game, with specific reference to the World Cup.

From Kota's profile:
"Kota likes playing soccer and video games. He loves talking about soccer with his best friend Yasuo. Influenced by a popular comic book, he wants to become an ace striker in the All Japan League and enter the World Cup." 
Character profile for Kota Mitsui (screenshot from Suka Pass)

Back in 1986, Japan's national football association league was called the Japan Soccer League (from 1965 and 1992) and was the precursor to the present-day J.League professional league.

The influential comic book referred to in the profile may have been Captain Tsubasa by Yoichi Takahashi, as it has been in circulation since 1981 and is one of the longest-standing and most famous soccer manga. The series follows a boy named Tsubasa, who - just as Kota does - dreams of winning the FIFA World Cup playing for Japan.

Cover of the first volume in the Captain Tsubasa manga series

Where Kota dreams of success as a striker, Yasuo is set on being a goalkeeper:
"Like his friend Kota, he is crazy about soccer and the two of them never get tired of talking about it. His dream is to be a goalkeeper and play in the World Cup with Kota."

Character profile for Yasuo Ito (screenshot from Suka Pass)

In Shenmue's world, we hope Yasuo and Kota did eventually make it into the national team and fulfill their dream of representing their country in the World Cup.

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Saturday, November 19, 2022

Interview with Shenmue Martial Arts Advisor Tetsuya Hattori and Masaya Matsukaze (Feb 2000) | Translation

Translation of a four-page feature interview from early 2000 with Tetsuya Hattori, Bajiquan master and martial arts director for Shenmue, along with Masaya Matsukaze, the Japanese-language voice and motion capture actor of the game's protagonist Ryo Hazuki.

When younger, Hattori had studied under Bajiquan grandmaster and friend of Yu Suzuki, Master Wu Lian Zhi, and went on to found his own Bajiquan school within Japan called Kaimon Kensha.

This topic was selected by the Phantom River Stone blog patrons via our monthly poll on the Phantom River Stone Patreon and was available for early access. Thank you for your support!

Tetsuya Hattori and Masaya Matsukaze: The Two "Ryo"s Talk About What Makes Shenmue Great

Tetsuya Hattori, martial arts supervisor for the huge Shenmue project, and Masaya Matsukaze, who plays the leading role - two people for who you could say the story's main protagonist, Ryo Hazuki, is like their other self - talk about what makes the world of Shenmue so captivating and about what lies in future.
Instructor Hattori corrects the stance of the Elbow Assault.

The photo above shows how Hattori taught Bajiquan (Japanese: hakkyoku-ken) during Shenmue's development. He also took part in a number of other activities, including the motion capture for everything relating to Bajiquan and Chinese martial arts, checking the form of moves, adjusting the game's battle system, and creating the scenarios and descriptions for all move scrolls in the Shenmue Passport. Despite this, he is usually a very mild-mannered person. He is also a big fan of the Sakura Wars series.

About Tetsuya Hattori

Born in Tokyo in 1959. He has been interested in martial arts since his youth and began practicing Chinese martial arts, mainly Xingyiquan, in his early 20's. In 1986, he commenced training in Bajiquan under the 7th generation master, Wu Lian Zhu upon the master's first Japan visit, and studied the Wu family's Bajiquan in Mengcun, China. In 1996, he founded Kaimon Kensha, an association specializing in Bajiquan, under the official approval of Master Wu Lian Zhu. In Mengcun he was certified as an 8th generation master of Bajiquan and is currently the only Japanese official disciple of Master Wu.
Tetsuya Hattori

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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for November

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the winning topic that has been voted this time is:

"Weekly AM2 Vol. 7: Mini-Interview with Eigo Kasahara"

The topic selected this time is a translation of the next issue of the official online magazine published by Sega's AM2 team back in the day, the Weekly AM2. This magazine published content about the Shenmue series from December 1999 through to around the release of Shenmue II in 2001, and a link to issues of the Weekly AM2 thereafter became a regular feature of the website.

This edition, from January 2000, features a mini interview with Eigo Kasahara, whose chief role was Planning Director of the original Shenmue games. He was also in charge of the Shenmue Passport disc that came with the first game, and many years later was later responsible for the localization of Shenmue I & II.

Coming soon to the blog!

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Monday, October 24, 2022

Tak Hirai Comments on the Shenmue Saturn Version

Lead programmer for the first two Shenmue games, Tak Hirai, has shared some insights into the development of the games in some tweets today. Since they were in Japanese, we have provided English translations.

When asked about the legendary Shenmue Saturn version, he responded:

"The rendering was created by me with much effort. The program was quite revolutionary with a branchless structure. The source code - as well as the graphics - is something I'd love to show the coders of the day".

He also shared a photo of himself during development of Shenmue around 1998 / 1999 at age 27. As lead programmer on the project, Tak said that his dev environment was sizeable but the air conditioning didn't work properly (note the paper fans ready for use!).

Regarding the Shenmue Saturn version, Tak Hirai's prefaced his comment with a light-hearted note that he thinks the "statute of limitations" (on discussing the Shenmue Saturn version) should have expired by now - so hopefully we will be able to hear more from him in future on this topic.

Source tweets: Tweet1, Tweet2

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Monday, October 10, 2022

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for October

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the winning topic that has been voted this time is:

"Tweeted anecdotes from former developer on the original Shenmue project, Morio Ashizuka"

"Morio Ashizuka" is the pseudonym used on Twitter by a former developer who was deeply involved with development of the first two Shenmue games, in particular character animations and motion capture. He tweets prolifically about video games, SEGA and other topics - along with occasional fascinating insights and anecdotes from the day.

Some of the amazing details from Morio Ashizuka's tweets that we have included here on the blog in the past include:

Cover of one of the "The Legend of Akira" script books (Chapter Four: Guilin) tweeted by Ashizuka. Source tweet
In this upcoming post we'll be translating a selection of other Shenmue-related tweets from Ashizuka that shed further light on the game's development process.

Watch for it to come!
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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Shenmue Anime Real-life Location Photo Report: Yokosuka Arena

The depiction of the high school karate tournament that Ryo attends in Shenmue The Animation was based on a real-life multi-purpose sporting venue known as the Yokosuka Arena. Previous posts on this blog have shown how remarkably closely the stadium interior and building exterior were reproduced for the anime.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Yokosuka Arena and obtained permission to go inside the main hall itself. I was pleased to discover that even minor backdrops in the anime such as the stairs leading up to the seating were faithfully portrayed in the anime, as you will see in the additional comparisons below.

Although this view was not shown in the anime, the Yokosuka Arena complex consists of several buildings, with a futuristic elevated pedestrian skybridge joining separate areas together. The main stadium, where the karate tournament took place, is at the far side behind the skybridge:

When I visited, there was a Tai Chi class taking place in the main stadium, which helped to provide a suitable Shenmue atmosphere:

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Saturday, September 10, 2022

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for September 2022

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the winning topic that has been voted this time is:

"Yu Suzuki's Dobuita St Visit Video with Esra Krabbe: English Subtitles"

Earlier this year (2022), a promotional campaign was held in Yokosuka to celebrate the Shenmue anime, with a livestream event, guide maps, postcards, merchandise and gacha gacha games.

Yu Suzuki also traveled down to Dobuita to take part in the celebrations, and explored the area with IGN Japan journalist Esra Krabbe. Together they visited several shops in and around Dobuita, chatting with shopkeepers and examining some of the anime art that was on display as part of the promotion.

It is heartwarming to see the creator himself returning to the actual location on which the first game was based, and hear him reminiscing about the creation of Shenmue I and the anime.

As many fans outside of Japan may not be able to follow the Japanese conversations, we'll be working on translating the conversations into English to create subtitles for the video. 

An announcement will follow on the blog once the subtitles are complete!

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Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Who is Yoshio Goto? | What's Shenmue

The What's Shenmue demo was released in June 1999 in Japan as a preview of some of the characters and gameplay gamers could expect prior to the main game's release. You may recall that it has the simple premise of Ryo having to locate Sega executive Mr. Yukawa somewhere in Dobuita, and to protect him.

Ryo's notebook starts filled with an entry indicating that "Yoshio Goto" (後藤喜男) has entrusted him with this mission, which Ryo also mentions in his short conversation with his friend Tom at the hot-dog truck.

What's Shenmue: the first page of Ryo's notebook (2014 fan-translated version)

Ryo explains his mission to Tom.

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