Thursday, December 27, 2018

Shenmue Fan Meeting in Yokosuka: Summary & Highlights

Earlier this week, on December 24th, a group of Shenmue fans packed into a venue in Yokosuka, Japan for a Shenmue fan meeting, organized by Yokosuka City and IGN Japan.

Interest shown during the pre-registration period was so high that the originally-planned 80 places was increased by 50% to a total of 120, with attendees being selected by a draw.

The MC of the event was Esra Krabbe from IGN Japan, with on-stage guests including Masaya Matsukaze (the voice and motion-capture actor for Ryo Hazuki in the Japanese versions) as well as guests Eigo Kasahara and Hiroshi Noguchi.

Various Shenmue themed stand-up cut-outs (Ryo, Nozomi, Kurita-san, and a forklift truck) were set up at the venue. They are also part of the Shenmue Sacred Spot campaign and on other days are stationed at shops around Dobuita.

The talk show was also live-streamed to IGN Japan's YouTube channel (link to video). The chat took place in Japanese - and happily, English captions are being prepared.

In this post, we will summarize the live-stream footage from the event, with some highlights.

Event Summary & Highlights

Esra Krabbe (IGN Japan) and voice actor Masaya Matsukaze
Before the main event got underway, Esra warmed up the venue with a spot of audience interaction, namely a test of the correct responses Ryo Hazuki needed when phoning Master Chen at Warehouse #8: "Father's Heaven...?" "Mother's Earth...?" After recovering from their initial surprise, the audience responded in force. (And we're sure readers of this blog have no trouble in reciting the correct responses!)
One fan even had a happi coat made in the style of Managing Director Yukawa, the star of the What's Shenmue demo (link to tweet). The coat lapels read "Welcome back, Ryo hazuki. Welcome back, Shenmue."
Satisfied that the audience were indeed true Shenmue fans, Esra and Matsukaze then called onto the stage guests Eigo Kasahara and Hiroshi Noguchi. They had roles as planning director and cut scene producer respectively for the original Shenmue games, and they also recently oversaw the localization of Shenmue I & II for Japan.

Kasahara-san mentioned that he had spoken with Yu Suzuki recently and received his blessing to share anecdotes from when they were working on the original Shenmue games. Regarding Yu Suzuki, with his focus on the development of Shenmue III, it wasn't possible for him to attend the event.
Special guests Eigo Kasahara (left) and Hiroshi Noguchi (right)
It was then time to get the event underway with a toast - but not with a glass of champagne. Everyone was asked to stand and raise their provided paper cups of milk: "Milk's perfect for a schoolboy, I'd say!".

Matsukaze-san also drew the audience's attention to the layout of the coasters on the table... which turned out to be in the form of the Chawan Sign from Shenmue II.
The Chawan Sign on the tables was a nice touch! (Photo via Reimei_games)
Next a special guest was brought on stage: Kakita-san, introduced as "the real-life equivalent of Kurita-san" who runs the military surplus shop on Dobuita Street in the first Shenmue game. Upon Matsukaze-san's persistent probing questions, Kasahara-san admitted that permission had not in fact been obtained for including a likeness of his name and shop in the game. This resulted in the hilarious sight of Noguchi-san grovelling on hands and knees in abject apology.
Noguchi-san apologizes to the "real-life Kurita-san" (Kakita-san) for Shenmue's inclusion of his shop without permission!
Kakita-san admitted he had not originally been familiar with Shenmue at all, but he thanked all the Shenmue fans for their interest (and gave his retroactive permission for Shenmue to use his shop's image in the game!). He mentioned also that in fact he does have a relative by the name of Kurita...

Section 1: Let's Ask Ryo

In the first section, "Let's Ask Ryo", gave fans the chance to ask Matsukaze-san any questions they might have wondered over the years since the original game was published on the Dreamcast. Fan-submitted questions were drawn at random from a reconstruction of the lucky-draw box that featured in Shenmue.

The answers given here represent shortened summaries.

Q: What is your martial arts background?
MM: My grandfather was a kendo master, and I also practiced it.

Q: Which female (or male!) in Shenmue would you most like to go out with?
MM: Hm... it would be tough to go out with someone like Xiuying, in fact same with many of them, I think I'll concentrate on revenge!

Q: Have you ever met anyone else in the industry (apart from those who worked on it) who has played Shenmue?
MM: A recent example is the voice actor playing the lead of (anime series) "Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans," Kawanishi, who gives me feedback about all the little things in the re-released Shenmue I & II, as well as news on III. Also, when I'm involved with other game titles these days, the producer often turns out to be someone who played Shenmue originally. When they realize I was involved, their somewhat arrogant attitude completely changes: "Oh, you're the guy from Shenmue!"

Q: Ryo has a lot of skills apart from martial arts - which of them would you most like to acquire yourself (choice of three): [A] Superior communication ability, able to approach any passer-by without hesitation; [B] A mysterious pocket, capable of holding anything from capsule toys to ducks; [C] A hunky aura that all the girls fall for without fail.
MM: Um, am I being dissed here, or are they compliments? Well they're all good but it would have to be the communication ability. A must for going on adventures.

Q: Have you ever met the voice actor of the overseas version, Corey Marshall? What did you (or would you like to) talk about?
MM: Actually, I haven't. I've been invited to various anime and other events in the US over the last several years, but I've never had the chance to.

At this point, a special video message started playing on the screen. It was a special message from Corey to Matsukaze-san; from one Ryo to the other!

Video (at correct timestamp):

Matsukaze-san commented that (although this was the first time he had seen Corey's face) he is familiar with his voice from having played US Shenmue, a version of Shenmue I that was released for the Dreamcast with English voices and a choice of English or Japanese subtitles.

Q: Do you have any unforgettable story, or something somebody said, from the time you were making Shenmue?
Noguchi-san: For me, being involved in the motion capture and working together with Matsukaze-san, his dedication to producing the best product possible really inspired us to follow his lead and do the same.
Kasahara-san: Along the way we often had to make changes to the story or the lines, and so I often had to go back to Matsukaze-san and tell him "Sorry, we've got to record this part again" and he was always so accommodating about it.
MM: For me, the phrase "Keep friends, those you love, close" has a wonderful meaning. And Fujioka-san (Hiroshi Fujioka, who played Ryo's father Iwao) actually had a lot of input into that. Back then, unlike today a lot of communication was done through fax. One morning Yu-san (Yu Suzuki) came along to my cramped dressing room with a fax with the words "Keep friends close" that he had covered in red corrections and the three of us - me, Fujioka-san and Yu-san - spent around 2 hours discussing the main themes of Shenmue. Discussions like that used to happen with various people every morning.

Q: If you were to fall onto the wrong path, which of these would be the first thing you would do (three choices): [A] Shave Tom's head [B] Search Xiuying's clothes drawers [C] Snap back at Delin "What! Just you dare say that again!"
MM: Another multiple-choice one! ...Shave Tom's head.

Section 2: Keep Overseas Shenmue Fans Close

Esra commented that as well as the many passionate fans in Japan, there are also many overseas Shenmue fans, who have made Shenmue fansites, YouTube podcasts, and even a Shenmue documentary which is in the process of being created. And so, wanting to share this enthusiasm with fans in Japan at today's meeting, here is a video with messages from overseas fans - several familiar faces from the Shenmue community!


Matsukaze-san commented how impressed he was when he was at an anime event recently in Washington, where he met a fan cosplaying as Ryo who had even brought along some replica mirrors for him to sign. He also said that when he spoke with Yu Suzuki a few days ago, Yu mentioned that it was hearing fans around the world asking for Shenmue III that convinced him that he had to make it happen somehow.

And at the time it was made, it had never crossed his mind that Shenmue I would ever be considered as an in-depth simulator of Japanese culture; it was merely the prologue to an epic journey set in China - one that will now continue on with Shenmue III.

Section 3: "How About Trying a Mega-Tough Quiz?"

Four members of the audience were picked at random and invited up on stage (one of these turned out to be the fan who had supplied the humorous multiple-choice questions to Matsukaze-san above!).

The winner was awarded a number of Shenmue items including a Shenmue I & II poster signed by Matsukaze-san, a set of Shenmue coasters, a Shenmue telephone card and a Shenhua Christmas Card (these last two dating back to the time of the original Shenmue games).

We will cover the quiz questions in a future blog post.

Section 4: "Hazuki Style" Martial Arts Basic Lesson by Master Matsukaze

In the next section, Matsukaze-san explained (with demonstrations) how the Ryo's stance and movements were decided.

Ryo's moves took into consideration that he learned these from his father, who had trained in Bajiquan in China, but Ryo himself was not directly aware of the Bajiquan influence. His fighting stance is a blend of styles from karate and Bajiquan.

Ryo's distinctive bow also hints at the movement of sheathing a sword, something that was suggested by Hiroshi Fujioka (who plays Iwao Hazuki).

Matsukaze-san demonstrates a move.
For Shenmue, Matsukaze-san himself trained in Bajiquan under Tetsuya Hattori, who is credited in the Shenmue games. During the making of Shenmue he took lessons twice a week, with motion capture recording three times a week, and voice recording twice a week.

Shenmue Christmas Cake

Before the main event drew to an end, a splendid decorated Shenmue Christmas cake was unveiled, with Santa Maeno in one corner.

Photo courtesy of ふかざー @ムーキャス団No.18
Members of the audience were offered the chance to cut the cake with Matsukaze-san, in the style of Ryo and Ren when they were handcuffed together in Kowloon. Staying with the "Ryo & Ren" theme, the winner was selected by means of a coin-toss elimination.

Yes, the lucky winner got to be handcuffed to Matsukaze-san for the cake cutting!
The live-stream ended with the completion of the cake cutting, but the fan meeting continued on afterwards with fans chatting and sharing stories. Noguchi-san even appeared in cosplay as Dou Niu!

Twitter was flooded with photos and comments from fans who had attended the event, and by all accounts it was a fantastic success.

The smiles say it all.

Full Video (English Subtitles)

Below is full footage of the event. Yokosuka City will be providing English captions in the New Year (we will update this post with confirmation once they are available).

25 March 2019 update: English captions are now available in the video! 

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  1. Fantastic, Switch. Many thanks!

    I believe, BTW, his name is Santa Maeno :)

    1. Glad you enjoyed it!

      And you are of course correct about his name being Santa Maeno - fixed, thanks!