Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Mystery of the White Leaf | Shenmue Theories Guest Post by Segalacious

It is a great pleasure to welcome Segalacious to the blog for the first time with an intriguing theory post on the ever-mysterious White Leaf! Over to Segalacious.


Shenmue’s universe is one steeped in mystery and intrigue. Secrets regarding the martial arts as well as the secrets of history linger just beyond the reach of Ryo, and therefore the player, every step of his quest for revenge as he walks the path of destiny. Most enigmatic of all is Ryo’s father, Iwao, whose shrouded past contains not only a closet of skeletons, but apparently an entire basement full of them as well. During Ryo’s search for the Phoenix mirror in said basement, he discovers a white leaf inside of an old Chinese zodiac book. After commenting with surprise that the leaf is not even dry, Ryo places it in his inventory where it has remained without another reference and, seemingly, without purpose for the entirety of Shenmue II and III.

In his eternal search for answers, finding this item probably didn’t provide Ryo much re-leaf.

That this leaf remains to this day in Ryo’s inventory suggests that it must have some kind of significance to Shenmue’s story down the road. Is it simply to foreshadow Ryo’s leaf catching training in Wanchai’s Man Mo Temple, a tasty herb meant to be used for tea, or something more? Put on your tinfoil hats, Friendmues, because it’s time for a Shenmue Theory. Let’s get into it!

As is typically the case, some additional context for this element in Shenmue’s story can be found in the Virtua Fighter series. Specifically, in the ninja Kage Maru and his connection to the Hazuki family’s style of martial arts. What connection could that be you ask? Well to start with, having hidden doors and basements full of mystical scrolls and trinkets seems pretty ninja-like. Then there’s also the fact that Ryo told Jianmin in Shenmue II that his fighting style is Jujutsu, however fictional his style may be. It turns out that Kage Maru also practices a fictional martial art known as Hagakure-ryu Jujutsu. This connection runs much deeper than just the word Jujutsu as Ryo’s moves list contains many of Kage Maru’s moves from Virtua Fighter 2 such as Mist Reaper, Back Drop, and Over Throw. 

When Blue Oyster Cult said “Don’t fear the reaper” I don’t think they knew about this grapple move…

In fact, several of Kage Maru’s moves can be found in martial arts scrolls littered throughout the Hazuki residence. The Shadow Reaper, Kage’s running slide kick, is located in Fukusan’s room and the Twin Blades move is hidden in a basket containing Iwao’s gi. There’s also the Stab Armor move which doesn’t seem to be in any official moves list for Kage Maru in Virtua Fighter 2 or 3, but seeing as how Jujutsu was developed in order to defend against the armored samurai of feudal Japan, this move still seems to fit the bill as a reference to Sega’s favorite ninja.

No, not you Joe. Go pout somewhere else.

In light of all the connections to Kage Maru in the Hazuki household, Dojo, and secret basement, it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to ponder whether this leaf is connected either directly to him or his clan. This possible connection appears to be hidden in plain sight because the name “Hagakure”, used as both the name of Kage Maru’s style of Jujutsu and his village, means “hidden leaf”. It is hard to imagine a more on-the-nose reference to the hidden leaf ninja clan of the Virtua Fighter series than a literal hidden leaf discovered by Ryo. Could this mean a possible encounter between Ryo and a member of a ninja clan in the future? What if this leaf is some kind of token that authorizes entry to a specific location or is a means of contact like the Chawan sign? Perhaps a struggle is happening or has happened between the Chiyoumen cartel and the Hagakure Shinobi behind the scenes? If Ryo’s father is connected to a secret ninja clan, perhaps this means his mother was (or is) as well?

Kage Maru’s mother was a powerful kunoichi. Could Ryo’s mother have been a warrior of similar caliber?

Based on the various connections of the Hazuki style of Jujutsu and secrets of Iwao’s past to Kage Maru’s ninja heritage, the hidden white leaf seems to suggest that Ryo’s father has ties to a clan of ninja that may be at odds with the Chiyoumen cartel. That pretty much sums up my thoughts on the mystery of Shenmue’s white leaf. As with most things in Shenmue, this information has left us with more questions than answers. And, of course, this is all just speculation. What do you think of this Shenmue theory? Please feel free to share any insights that either support or debunk my hypothesis. Until we meet again keep fighting the good fight, the Virtua Fight! 

Your Friendmue, 



It has come to our attention via a helpful tweet shared on Twitter that a former Shenmue developer is rumored to have disclosed the original purpose of the white leaf:
"The white leaf found in the basement of the Hazuki residence is said to be the leaf from the Shenmue tree. There was supposed to be a branch [in behavior] whereby if you have it, the Shenmue tree is in bloom, and if you don't have it, it's not in bloom, but this was dropped because it would look plain if it wasn't in bloom."
While this information is quite fascinating, it does not seem to reveal the current purpose of the white leaf since this utilization was abandoned presumably in favor of some other use. However, it does seem to confirm that the white leaf is indeed from the Shenmue tree. As before, the truth behind the mystery of the white leaf remains as elusive as ever.

About the Author

Segalacious is the co-founder of the Virtua Bros YouTube channel. He is best known for his Virtua Fighter Lore video series, Shenmue Video essays, Top Ten lists, and Game Creator documentary retrospectives. Follow him on twitter @Virtua_Bros and check out his video “Why Shenmue was Always Good”.

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