Saturday, October 31, 2020

Part 2/2: Shenmue the Animation: Famitsu Interview with Yu Suzuki & Yu Kiyozono [ENG Translation]

This is the second and final part of Famitsu's interview with two of the key people behind the project: producer Yu Kiyozono and executive producer Yu Suzuki.

This translation continues from Part One.

Famitsu: It really is a creation with many passionate fans; did you feel any trepidation about your decision to make it into an anime?

Kiyozono: Yes, of course - a lot!

Famitsu: [laughs]

Kiyozono: First of all, there was the hurdle of whether I would be able to get an OK from Yu-san, and since I was wanting to make Shenmue, I would also have to obtain permission from the publisher, Sega.

Even though we belong to the same company group, I still felt pressure. Among the high-ups who were in a position to give permission for the proposal for the anime project, were many who once worked alongside Yu-san when they were younger, you see. They said to me, "Will you really be able to pull this off?"...

Famitsu: Immense pressure! [laughs]

Kiyozono: They told me I mustn't let Yu-san down. While feeling a bit of pressure at the way they asked "Can you make something that's respectable?", they responded to my desire to make it by allowing the project through.

Famitsu: I'm glad.

Kiyozono: Projects to turn something like Shenmue into an anime aren't that common in today's anime industry. Even so, with our team, I'm confident that we can make something worthy. It will be challenging and substantial, but I'm grateful to be able to take it on.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

[Part 1/2] Shenmue the Animation: Famitsu Interview with Yu Kiyozono & Yu Suzuki | ENG Translation

Following the recent announcement of Shenmue the Animation, arranged an extensive interview with two of the key people behind the project: producer Yu Kiyozono and executive producer Yu SuzukiThis is Part One of our two-part full translation of the article.

Mystery and Anticipation: How "Shenmue the Animation" Came About

1999: the action-adventure game Shenmue was released for the Dreamcast. Its sequel Shenmue II was released in 2001 and then, after a long blank period, Shenmue III in 2019.

On 5 September 2020 an announcement was made for an anime, which was received with surprise and delight by Shenmue fans in Japan and around the world. It will be the first time an anime for the Shenmue series has been produced since its initial release.

Even with that being so, what prompted Shenmue to be made into an anime now in particular? With a view to learning how it came to be and the aim of its 2021 transformation to anime, we spoke with two Yu-san's: Yu Kiyozono, CEO of Telecom Animation Film and producer of this anime, and Yu Suzuki, creator of the Shenmue series.


President and CEO of Telecom Animation Film. Producer of Shenmue the Animation. Recently he has been working on TV movie versions of the Lupin the 3rd series.

Yu Suzuki

President and CEO of Ys Net. Creator of the Shenmue series. When at (then) Sega Enterprises, he worked on projects such as the Virtua Fighter series and Hang On, bringing into the world numerous revolutionary new games.

Why is Shenmue Being Made into an Anime Now?

Famitsu: I was extremely surprised to learn that Shenmue, the first part of which was released in 1999, will be made into an anime. Why is it that the "Shenmue the Animation" project has come about now, in 2020?

Kiyozono:  Well, to give a little explanation about the current state of the anime industry for background, it is partly because nowadays streaming-based services have grown immensely.

Famitsu: The Shenmue anime will be a joint production between the US anime streaming site Crunchyroll and the anime channel of the Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, won't it.

Kiyozono: Yes, with Telecom Animation Film creating the animation. These days, Japanese anime are watched not just in Japan but all over the world.

In the old days, an anime would be localized for overseas broadcasting: things like the music, the intro song, and even the content would be altered. It was normal for such "filters" to be applied before its overseas showing.

But the growing trend with streaming recently is to watch with on-screen subtitles, with the voices left as the Japanese of the original voice actors. Viewers overseas have started to want to enjoy them the way they were made by the Japanese creators.

Famitsu: Mm, mm.

Kiyozono: I had been wanting to further strengthen our overseas content delivery, and was looking for a strong title for overseas. I thought that Shenmue would be one contender. The game has sold well globally, and when we were getting the project off the ground it was also when Yu-san was working on making Shenmue III, so I was aware that it had a lot of passionate fans.

Regarding taking the animation project proposal to the original creators, I thought that with the content being from Sega Group, of which Telecom Animation Film is also a part, it would likely make it for a relatively smooth discussion, so I thought I'd make an initial enquiry... and that's how this project began.
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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Shenmue III Soundtracks Announced | Summary of Editions

Just as Shenmue fans are recovering from the excitement of the announcement of a Shenmue Anime comes news of an upcoming release of... the Shenmue III soundtrack!

Recent Shenmue soundtrack releases have been for the first two Shenmue games, such as the vinyl releases by Data Discs, and the Shenmue I & II Sound Collection that originally accompanied the Japanese Limited Edition release and has more recently been made available digitally.

While those releases comprised a limited selection of the soundtrack music, the Shenmue III soundtrack release will make available a huge 195 music compositions - some original to the game, and some that were also present in the two earlier games. This collaboration between YS Net, Brave Wave Productions and Limited Run Games will allow fans to fully enjoy the music that permeates the game, and each track has been remastered for maximum audio quality.

A number of options have been prepared to suit different budgets and formats, with the vinyl sets in particular offering a diverse selection:
  • Formats: Digital, CD and Vinyl
  • Vinyl editions include a Complete Collection, a curated 33-track "Music Selection" set, a "Bailu village" set and a "Niaowu" set.
The physical editions include a booklet of liner notes (in both English and Japanese) by Yu Suzuki and "other members of the Shenmue community", as well as archival artwork. In the case of the vinyl editions, these also come with a digital download key.

Of particular interest to collectors will be the special limited-edition Complete Collection vinyl set (500 units only) which includes an exclusive A4 poster signed by Yu Suzuki. These are likely to be snapped up when pre-orders commence for them on November 20.

Here's a handy summary table we put together to help compare the various options at a glance, based on the current details on the Brave Wave site.

Which to choose...?

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Friday, October 16, 2020

Yu Fractures a Rib: Yu Suzuki's 1994 China Research Trip, Part 7 | Translation

A continuation of our series on Yu Suzuki's 1994 Research Trip to China. This topic was selected by the Phantom River Stone blog patrons via our monthly poll on Patreon and was available for early access.

In the early 1990s, Yu Suzuki made a seminal trip to China. His objective was to research and gather material for his upcoming Virtua Fighter 2, and this research also influenced his concept for a "Virtua Fighter RPG" which eventually came to be known as Shenmue.

Previous posts in this series of blog posts:

  • In Part One, we translated blog entries about the trip by Kazunari Uchida, the person who accompanied Yu Suzuki.
  • Part Two is a magazine article in which Yu Suzuki gives own comments about his trip, and how his findings would be useful for the development of the Virtua Fighter series.
  • In Part Three, Yu's traveling companion, Kazunari Uchida, talks about how he first met Yu Suzuki and his curiosity to learn about the genius behind the man during the upcoming trip.
  • Part Four is Kazunari Uchida's journal entry for the start of the trip itself: Day One - Beijing.
  • Part Five is Days Two and Three of the trip in which Yu travels to Luoyang, Xi'an and Dengfeng, and arrives at Shaolin Temple.
  • In Part Six (Days Four through Six) Yu observes fighting demonstrations at Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng county.
Now we continue from last time, when Master De Li at Shaolin temple has just offered to teach Yu Suzuki the "essence of Shaolin Kung Fu" if he stayed for two months at the temple...

The route Yu follows this time, from Luoyang to Cangzhou.

Yu, who was deeply impressed at his martial arts demonstration, took his words seriously and even muttered "After I'm back home I'll adjust my schedule right away...". After the ever-busy Master De Li left, his students demonstrated variants of Shaolin Kung Fu styles, one after the other: Xing Yi Quan, Piguazhang, Seven Star Fist, Bodhidharma Style and Eagle Style Boxing. Every one of them was a style Yu was contemplating implementing in new characters.

Yu was particularly taken with the Eagle and Seven Star styles and, asking the student that had demonstrated these to teach him how to counter-attack, he once again launched a strike.

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Friday, October 9, 2020

The Legend of Akira Scripts: Two Pages Translated

Last year in 2019, shortly before the release of Shenmue III, Game Informer made a trip to Japan where they visited YS Net and spent time with Yu Suzuki. One of the highlights was a viewing of the early set of 1996 scripts named "The Legend of Akira", which make up the initial chapters of the "Virtual RPG" that was to go on to become Shenmue.

During the relevant section of the video, the camera pans briefly across a couple of pages of text, and so for the first time ever we have the opportunity to translate these pages for fans to enjoy!

The pages displayed are actually from a document printed on white paper that Yu-san hands to the interviewers to flip through. I believe that these white pages hold an exact copy of the text contained in the blue books - but with the name of Akira updated to Ryo throughout (with one exception found, which we will get to later).

The two pages are from near the start of the story:

The first page is an introductory flashback showing Ryo as a boy (age uncertain) being lectured by his father in the dojo. It starts with cinematic views of Yokosuka and the Hazuki residence, ending in the dojo interior. Elements of this scene can be felt strongly in the dojo flashback from the release version.

The second page can be recognized as being part of the cut scene that starts the release version of the game, where Iwao is killed by Lan Di (who is called Cang Long in the script). There are some interesting points of difference compared to the release version, not least of which is that the dojo becomes engulfed in flames (perhaps set deliberately by Lan Di's men), with Ryo barely managing to escape. This may have posed a problem had it been kept in the final game, as it would have rendered the dojo unusable!

There is also a dream sequence in which Ryo relives the fight with Lan Di.

Right, let's get into the translations! I have added some small additional notes in places.

The translations start below.

First Page Translation

Chapter 01: "Yokosuka"

● Flashback:

Looking down from a hill with a view of a bay whose surface glistens in the distance, and the town of Yokosuka below. Standing here is a dojo, once an old temple that has been turned into a place of training for martial arts.

The majestic gate is a remnant from the time it was a temple. Above it is a sign bearing the words "Hazuki Dojo" in ink, written with powerful brush strokes. Through the gate is what was originally the main temple building, now the Hazuki residence. Moving to the right around the house, a cherry tree stands imposingly, like a god protecting the grounds. The raucous singing of cicadas pours down from its lush green foliage, along with piercing midsummer rays of sunlight. Going further along the side, there is a dojo. The camera moves inside its wide-open entrance-way. 

Footage from the Saturn (unreleased) version of Shenmue reflects the description in the script, with the cherry tree being shown in full foliage on a sunny summer day. The tree is located nearer the house rather than being at the far end of the garden as in the release version.

Inside the dojo. In complete contrast to the heat outside, cool air drifts over the floorboards, which are polished to the point of reflecting one's face.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Switch on FriendmueCast Episode 5 hosted by Segalicious

I had the pleasure of being invited to join an episode (#5) of FriendmueCast, the Shenmue podcast series hosted by Segalicious. We spent an hour or so chatting about various Shenmue-related topics, including how I got started with this blog, Shenmue's roots in Virtua Fighter, some theory talk from Segalicious, thoughts on Shenmue 3 & 4 and a "name the character" mini pop quiz.

The episode is embedded below.

The Shenmue Passport fan-made app, Suka Pass, that we talk about can be downloaded for Anrdoid & iOS from the app's website.

The FriendmueCast podcast series features various guests from the Shenmue community (including even voice actor Corey Marshall) and I highly recommended them - they can be found on the Shenmue Fans channel. Segalicious has also produced some great theory and analysis videos on Shenmue as well as Virtua Fighter, which you can find on his Virtua Bros channel on YouTube.

Segalicious holds a number of intriguing Shenmue theories that I'd love to hear more about. I hope to be able to twist his arm for a guest post on the blog about one of these in the near future.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for October 2020

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 for October is...

"Where did the road past Sumiya-san's house in Sakuragaoka originally lead?"

Sumiya-san is the housewife who can often be found sweeping the road in front of her house in Sakuragaoka in the first game of the Shenmue series, with a key role in providing Ryo with information as to what happened on the day of "the incident"...

Sumiya-san's house is situated on a dead-end road, with a solid rock wall at that point. But the way the road ends so abruptly with a wall built across it does feel a little peculiar, almost as if it is hiding a secret...

In fact there is evidence to be found that there originally were other plans for this part of the game map. 

Watch for the article coming to the blog in the coming weeks!

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