Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Who is Yoshio Goto? | What's Shenmue

The What's Shenmue demo was released in June 1999 in Japan as a preview of some of the characters and gameplay gamers could expect prior to the main game's release. You may recall that it has the simple premise of Ryo having to locate Sega executive Mr. Yukawa somewhere in Dobuita, and to protect him.

Ryo's notebook starts filled with an entry indicating that "Yoshio Goto" (後藤喜男) has entrusted him with this mission, which Ryo also mentions in his short conversation with his friend Tom at the hot-dog truck.

What's Shenmue: the first page of Ryo's notebook (2014 fan-translated version)

Ryo explains his mission to Tom.

We are not given any further information about Yoshio Goto for the rest of the game, although at the end Mr. Yukawa appears to recognizes his name:

The demo's ending cut scene: that name again!

So who is this Yoshio Goto? A search of the names of Sega executives at the time brought up no matches, so I decided to hunt around for more clues, and happily, was able to answer this question in case anyone else has been wondering the same.

Let's continue on to find out more about this mysterious figure.

Yoshio Goto TV Commercials

Back in June 1999, during the run-up to Shenmue's launch in Japan, a price reduction for the Dreamcast console was announced, with new TV commercials aired to promote this.

One of the commercials that was aired featured a middle-aged man named - yes! - "Yoshio Goto" trying to liven up a party. The commercial must have resulted in a lot of puzzled viewers because all it amounted to was a song emphasizing the name "Yoshio Goto".

Another commercial in this series showed workers at a factory assembling and packing Dreamcast consoles into boxes, stamping them with the new reduced price of 19,900 yen as they chant the catchy lyrics of the song:
(Do you know my name?)
(I'm Yoshio Goto!)
("Behind", "Wisteria", "Be Happy", "Man”)*
(I'm Yoshio Goto!)
*The third line explains the meaning of each of the kanji characters in his name.

One young worker is so mesmerized that he murmurs in a voiceover that he felt like he was at a party. An onscreen overlay announced the "Yoshio Goto Price Reduction Campaign".

This is the commercial:

Yoshio Goto CD Single

This was followed up with merchandise released in the form of a CD single, on November 3 of the same year.

Named "Yoshio Goto and His Bad Friends", it was released by MCA Victor and contained the original commercial song ("Do You Know My Name?") along with some remix versions.

The cover featured a picture of the afore-mentioned middle-aged Yoshio Goto wearing only underpants (?!) - they even have his name marked along the waist band.
The "Do You Know My Name?" CD single was up for sale at 1,067 yen.
Rear of the CD single cover

Joyman Co. Ltd

It turns out that the character of Yoshio Goto in the promotion was indeed based upon a real person: the founder and producer of TV production company Joyman Co. Ltd - this would explain why one of the CD song versions has "Joyman Super Mix" in its name.

The Dreamcast Link

The pieces of the puzzle finally come together with the fact that producer Yoshio Goto was also an acquaintance of Yasushi Akimoto, the person at Sega in charge of the Dreamcast console's ad campaign in Japan. That's right - the same person who came up with the equally-quirky Mr. Yukawa storyline concept, involving a Sega managing director being demoted due to poor Dreamcast sales.

So Akimoto was the one who devised the new "Yoshio Goto" campaign, working together with the actual Yoshio Goto's production company to produce the new TV commercials to promote the Dreamcast (as well as the unorthodox CD single).

Fading to Obscurity

Whether or not gamers at the time would have recognized the reference to Yoshio Goto from the TV commercials is unknown. Despite their efforts - at least, according to the recollection of this Japanese blogger - unlike the Mr. Yukawa promotion, unfortunately the Yoshio Goto commercials did not catch on at all...

What's Shenmue demo: Mr. Yukawa napping at his desk.

The What's Shenmue demo fan translation patch can be downloaded from here (at the old Shenmue Dojo forums).
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