Monday, December 7, 2020

Double Blow: A Glimpse into How Virtua Fighter Continues to Inform Shenmue’s World | Guest Post by Segalicious

Segalacious is back again with a new post, this time an analysis of the background of Yamagishi-san and some intriguing ties to Virtua Fighter lore!


In terms of its history and lore, there is more to Shenmue than meets the eye. Though it retains its own distinct identity as a stand-alone series, Shenmue’s shared history with Virtua Fighter means that its world will forever be inextricably tied to the same backdrop as Sega’s greatest fighting game franchise. Like the Yin and Yang of traditional Chinese philosophy, no full understanding of one can be obtained at the expense or deficit of the other.

Just as an unassuming character like Shigeo Yamagishi once taught Ryo the secret of Yin and Yang, a look below the surface of this character’s past reveals insights that deepen one’s understanding of both Shenmue and Virtua Fighter to such an extent that neither can be looked at in the same way ever again. Prepare for a glimpse into the heart of each series’ deepest lore. Let’s get into it!

Just as Yamagishi-san taught Ryo the secret of Yin and Yang, his past holds the key to some of the deepest lore shared by both Shenmue and Virtua Fighter.

One of the first clues that there is much to discover in the rich universe of Shenmue is the optional cutscene in Dobuita’s Suzume Park. There Ryo begins a conversation with Yamagishi-san where the old man explains that he used to spar and drink sake with Iwao Hazuki, Ryo’s late father. In the character bio of the Shenmue Passport disc, we read that Yamagishi-san was fond of the martial arts since childhood and that he had formed a strong friendship with Iwao Hazuki after moving to Sakuragaoka. He then teaches Ryo a move that he also taught to Iwao years before called the “Double Blow”. This move is similar to Akira Yuki’s Byakko Soushouda, translated roughly as the “White Tiger Twin Palm Strike”. 

While there are some minor differences in appearance, the resemblance between these two moves is undeniable.

However, it is important to note that Akira Yuki uses a martial art style called “Hakkyokuken” or “Bajiquan” in Chinese. Oddly, Yamagishi-san claims his move is derived from a style called Kobujutsu, an old Okinawan martial art heavily influenced by techniques originally developed in China. Upon closer inspection, the Double Blow and Byakko Soushouda seem to differ slightly in terms of hand and foot placement as Yamagishi-san tends to keep his feet together while Akira lunges forward. Once Ryo increase his level of proficiency for the Double Blow later on, he does appear to lunge forward a bit, but his hand placement is a little off as one hand lays on top of the other. In Shenmue II Ryo can learn a move called the Twin Palm Thrust which has the same lunge and hand placement as Akira’s Byakko Soushouda, but a different start up. It seems as though the White Tiger Twin Palm Strike was altered into two moves in the Shenmue games but they are both undoubtedly references to Bajiquan, a style that gains more significance as the Shenmue series progresses. 

Looks like both Double Blow and Twin Palm Thrust are references to Akira Yuki’s Byakko Soushouda. Or that the latter is a combination of the first two.

Here we see Ryo in Shenmue III looking very much like his VF counterpart Akira Yuki as he beats up an old man.

Why all this fuss about Yamagishi-san knowing a move that is a variation of a Bajiquan technique? Something important to understand is that it is unusual for a Japanese person of this era to be a master of Bajiquan rather than something more traditional that better reflects Japan’s national pride. How exactly was it possible for Yamagishi-san to have learned such an esoteric Chinese art?

From the character bio, we know that Yamagishi Shigeo was 75 years old during the time of Shenmue I which takes place in the year 1986. He was born in February of 1911, and was drafted into the Japanese military at age 30, which would have been in the year 1941. Since he served on the front lines and got drafted into the Kanto (Kwantung) army, it seems likely that he would have fought in the 2nd Sino-Japanese War with China spanning from 1937-1945. All of this, it turns out, is crucial to the origin story of the Virtua Fighter universe.

Man, Yamagishi-san must have seen some dark days in his youth. He was mainly a communications expert but still.

The following is an excerpt from the Virtua Fighter storyline: 

“Once in the Era of Showa, the defunct Japanese Army intended to approach Henry Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty in an effort to take advantage of his position. However, they were defeated by the Imperial Guards using the martial art called Hakkyokuken. Later on, the Japanese Army is said to have plagiarized the mysteries of Hakkyokuken to create the strongest infantrymen and based on this art, complemented the ultimate martial art.”

Henry Puyi is a real historical person that lived during the Showa Era of Japan which lasted from 1926-1989 with the death of Japanese Emperor Showa Hirohito. He was the last Emperor of China’s last dynasty, the Qing dynasty. The same dynasty, it turns out, whose treasure is sought by the fictional Chiyoumen of the Shenmue universe. After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1932, the puppet state of Manchukuo was established by Japan and was ruled over by Puyi but the Kanto army, which was known for its maverick behavior, was the real power in charge. His rule ended in 1945 after the Japanese government surrendered. In spite of this, remnants of the defunct Kanto army continued fighting on for several days. 

Henry Puyi above. Not a very nice guy for most of his life. 

As emperor, Puyi would have been surrounded by imperial guards that were trained elites of the martial arts. Bajiquan has gained a reputation throughout its considerable years as a “body guard style” and as such it is likely that some of Puyi’s entourage would have been proficient in this art. Especially since multiple political figures in China had bodyguards that were learned in Bajiquan. According to the Virtua Fighter lore earlier, it seems that members of the Kanto Army sought to approach Puyi and were thwarted by practitioners of Bajiquan. Impressed by this, the Kanto army began to plagiarize this art in order to train their soldiers to be the most powerful infantry on earth. 

Akira Yuki and Ryo Hazuki each learning Hakkyokuken from their parental figures during their respective youths.

This training is how Akira Yuki was able to learn Hakkyokuken from his grandfather in Japan despite it being a traditionally Chinese style. Furthermore, this may be how Yamagishi-san was able to learn a variation of the Byakko Soushouda that he would eventually teach to Iwao and Ryo Hazuki, two Japanese practitioners of Bajiquan. When it comes to delving into the lore of Shenmue, just as Ryo’s left-hand slams into the back of his right during the Double Blow, the lore of the Virtua Fighter series is always right behind it. 

And that is how Yamagishi-san is secretly part of some of the deepest shared lore between both Virtua Fighter and Shenmue. If you have any information to add to or improve the subject matter of this article, please feel free to share. With that everyone, as always, keep fighting the good fight: The Virtua Fight!

Your Friendmue, 


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”.

You can read his previous guest post for the blog here:

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