Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Interview with Singer of Shenhua's Theme IOLI | Dreamcast Magazine 1999

In early 1999, to mark the upcoming release of Shenhua's Theme as a CD single, Japan's Dreamcast Magazine featured this interview with IOLI (derived from her surname 伊織 Iori), the singer who performed the moving vocals on the track. She also sang live at the Shenmue Premiere in Yokohama in December of 1998.

There is not a great deal of information to be found about this singer online, even on Japanese-language sites, so this is a short but rare snippet of history.

Special Report! Shenhua Theme Releasing on April 1st (CD Single & Album)!


  • SEGA
  • Release scheduled for this Spring
  • Price: TBD
  • FREE (Full Reaction Eyes Entertainment)

This Couldn't Wait For the Tokyo Game Show!

With the Tokyo Game Show just around the corner, new information about Shenmue is emerging thick and fast. Going forward, we'll get to see things like the Free Battle introduced in the previous issue, the release of the Original Soundtrack CD, the distribution of VMU "Shenmue Goodies", and even the announcement of the official release date (!). And this week, to commemorate the upcoming release of the CD, we've got an interview with IOLI!

Shenhua ~Song of the Bay~
  • Release date: 1 April 1999 
  • Price: 1,000 yen (incl. tax)
  • Polygram PODX-1044
Shenhua ~Song of the Bay~ (front)

The rear cover with a photo of IOLI

Shenmue Orchestra Version
  • Release date: 1 April 1999 
  • Price: 2,500 yen (incl. tax)
  • Polygram POCX-1116
The album includes the Shenmue theme song created to express the world of the game, as well as the Shenhua song performed by IOLI. Look out for this jacket!

Shenmue Exhibiting at the Spring '99 Tokyo Game Show on March 20/21!

Experience Shenmue and Bring Your VMU to Collect Shenmue Goodies!

BREAKING! At the Spring '99 Tokyo Game Show, which will be held on March 20-21, not only will Shenmue be on display and actually be playable, but a "Shenmue Goodies" service has been announced which will allow visitors to download and collect Shenmue characters' graphical data onto a VMU.

Hazuki Ishigaki, who plays Shenhua, has also promised that she'll be there, so the atmosphere at the Sega booth is sure to be electric. Bring your VMU with you to the Makuhari Messe convention center on the day! If you want a lot of characters, you might want to bring a few VMUs! More details on how to download on the day will be in a future issue of Dreamcast Magazine!


"I was only approached about singing it about three days before the premiere."

Shenhua's theme song, Shenhua ~Song of the Bay~, was first performed at the Shenmue premiere event in Yokohama on December 20 last year. We asked the song's singer, IOLI, about how she came to sing it, and her experience of it.

IOLI: In actual fact, it was about three days before the premiere in Yokohama that it was decided the song would be performed there (laughs). I got the demo tape shortly beforehand, went to the audition the next day, and then went straight on to the venue right after that. I didn't really have time to feel overwhelmed or under pressure, I was so focused on making sure I sang it properly (laughs).

Q: What was it like singing at the Yokohama premiere?

IOLI: It was the first time I had sung with a live orchestra backing and that kind of dress, so it felt very new and it was a great experience. As for my singing, the conductor told me that I could sing at my own pace, so I was able to sing as I liked. It felt really good (laughs). The venue was completely dark and I couldn't see anything, so I didn't feel particularly nervous and could immerse myself in the world of the song.

Q: What impression did you get from the song after listening to it?

IOLI: It's an open and honest song, a song that feels good just to sing. The beauty of the song and the lyrics are a perfect match for each other, so it was easy for me to pick up on the impression of a girl living in the great outdoors. Yu Suzuki told me that he wanted me to sing the song sweetly, as if I were Shenhua.

Q: As a singer, was there anything you were particularly careful about?

IOLI: I tried to sing about the grandeur of nature as I felt it. It's a song that anyone can sing because of its simple notes, but it may be one that's difficult to sing when thinking about things like the repetition of certain phrases, or how to express the subtle rise and fall of feelings when the lyrics come in.

Q: Finally, could you give a message to readers?

IOLI: I don't know yet where the song will be used in the game, but when it's played, it would make me happy if the players feel twice as much emotion in that scene. Just like in movies, when a good song is played at the end, it can have the same power as the story itself. I hope that when this song is played, you will feel that kind of heightened emotion. It's a really good song, so please have a listen.

"Gamewise, I like RPGs, but I can't stop playing, so I've quit them (laughs). But I'm curious about Shenmue's battle scenes," says IOLI, who is full of vitality and has quite a different look than the time of her performance at the premiere. "Which look do you prefer?" the 20-year old asks us mischievously.

At the Yokohama Premiere on 20th December, 1998

IOLI charmed the audience with her bright red dress, graceful gestures and calm singing voice. "It was the first time I've worn such a dress," she says, sharing a surprising behind-the-scenes anecdote. "I didn't know how to act at first. The hem kept getting caught and I kept tripping on the stairs, so it was very difficult (laughs)." Nevertheless, her singing voice and ability, praised by Yu Suzuki, are the real thing. Please listen to the CD and hear for yourself.

IOLI's Profile

Date of birth: 6 February, 1979

Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan

Height / weight: 165cm / 51kg

Bust / waist / height (cm): 87 / 63 / 90

Hobbies: Reading, Singing, Reciting the Heart Sutra, Illustrating


Incidental song for Detective Conan movie: "Kimi ga Ireba", released April 23, 1997

Detective Conan TV Anime Image Song: "Boku ga Iru", released September 26, 1997

Detective Conan Song Album: "Boku ga Iru", released on Oct 22, 1997


Usen440 Shin-Kobe OPA Mini Concert

Usen440 15th Yokohama Port Festival (guest)

Mt. Tenpo Rotunda Stage Mini Live

IOLI First Live in KANSAI


Guest on TVK "Otsumu's Diapers"


Guest on TBS "Anime EXPRESS"

Guest on TOKYO-FM "Anime Bara Dice

Guest on TOKYO-FM "Music Bird"

Guest on "BEST EXPRESS" on Osaka YES-FM

<Cable TV>

Guest on Usen440 "WHO'S NEXT" (Artist Message Board)

"In the future, I'd like to sing acoustic songs, songs that can be listened to naturally while relaxing, and songs that feel good to sing," says IOLI. She has many interests, including illustrating and memorizing the Heart Sutra. Watch out for her future activities!

Editor's Comment

In any case, I was surprised when I met IOLI for this interview. The thing that surprised me was that she looked completely different from the impression I got from the audience seating at the Yokohama premiere. The impression I got at the premiere was that she probably had an active career as a singer in an opera or something, aged around 25 or 26 years old, but instead she turned out to be a trendy and modern young woman. "I usually don't even wear skirts," she tells me. I informed her that Hazuki Ishigaki, the voice actress who plays Shenhua, said she always sings Shenhua's theme song when she's riding her bike or taking a bath, and she gave a bright smile: "That makes me super happy".

So, about IOLI. She is involved with the popular anime Detective Conan, and is also responsible for an incidental song for the movie version that will be released during Golden Week. I hope that everyone who is involved in Shenmue goes on to make it big. Her singing performance was so good that it's hard to believe the decision to sing Shenhua's theme song was made just three days before the show, and it is worth a listen.

Hazuki-chan is great, but you should also check out IOLI!

Shenhua Theme ~Song of the Bay~

Live Performance

Rare footage of Ioli performing live at the Digitaliland event (May 1999) has been obtained by a Shenmue Dojo forum member derplayer, with permission from an attendee at the event.

Source: Dreamcast Magazine (19 March, 1999)

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