Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Yu Suzuki's Visit to Dobuita Street with IGN Japan | Video with ENG Subtitles

As part of the Shenmue the Animation promotional celebrations earlier this year, IGN Japan's Esra Krabbe met up with Yu Suzuki in the real Dobuita, in Ryo's hometown of Yokosuka (April 2022). As the original video was made available with Japanese audio only, for this post we have added English subtitles so fans around the world can enjoy hearing the series' founder reminisce about the development of the games and the anime series.

This is the extended version with extra footage compared to the originally-released video. I hope you enjoy hearing Esra and Yu-san's comments as they soak up the atmosphere and interact with various shopkeepers.

In a future post we plan to cover the concept and storyboard art shown in this video, which was displayed in several shops around Dobuita as part of the event, in detail.

A transcript with still images from the video follows after.

This topic was selected by the Phantom River Stone blog patrons via our monthly poll on the Phantom River Stone Patreon and was available for early access. Thank you for your support!



<Esra Krabbe & Yu Suzuki greet each other outside the Honey Bee restaurant in Yokosuka>

Krabbe: Hello, Yu-san! Long time no see.

So, this is the the "Honey Bee". In the game the name is Funny Bear. This is the place, isn't it. It was the inspiration, so how about we grab a bite?

<Entering Honey Bee>

Krabbe: Wow.

Suzuki: What a nostalgic feeling! [laughs]

Krabbe: It's like we're in the U.S.

Suzuki: The decorations are really distinctive, aren't they.

Krabbe: They're like you'd see in a restaurant over there.

<Examining Shenmue concept art posted up on display>

Here's a display of [Shenmue] materials. This is the scene where you meet Joy.

Suzuki: Right.

Krabbe: Do you remember these illustrations, Yu-san?

Suzuki: Yes, I do.

Krabbe: This might be my first time to see them. It's just like the scene in the game, with her arrival by motorbike.

Suzuki: Yes. This is the storyboard.

Krabbe: This might pretty much be its first public exhibition.

Over here is some character concept art.

Suzuki: [Kenji] Miyawaki's art is great, isn't it.

Krabbe: It has a powerful, casual form that looks really cool.

Suzuki: I really love his drawings.

Krabbe: Would these be from around the time the Saturn version was being made?

Suzuki: Hm... I think they are certainly from early on.

Krabbe: So even at this point, a fair number of characters who would appear in Shenmue 2 had already been created.

Suzuki: Yes, since originally I had been planning to release it as a two-part game, you see.

Krabbe: It feels weird to see something like these exhibited here, in a burger restaurant.

Suzuki: Yes. I'm glad they could be.

Krabbe: This restaurant apparently has quite a long history. When I visited a previous time, they showed me some photos of it back in the day. Dobuita Street in the '70s and so on. It was extremely lively, and there was even a disco.

Neon lighting above the counter

Suzuki: The neon looks great, doesn't it... for Corona beer and so on. Slightly dulled... I really like how it looks.

Krabbe: A retro feel.

<Examining the jukebox>

Suzuki: This is quite an old one.

Krabbe: Oh, really? Probably from around the '60's or '70s?

You'll remember there are some in Shenmue?

Suzuki: Oh yes... of course. [laughs] I like them, so I included them.

Krabbe: When you play a record, it has a proper animation for it, too.

Suzuki: Right, it goes like this... then this... in the same way.

<Taking bites of their Honey Bee burgers>

Krabbe: It looks like it might be too big to manage, but surprisingly it's actually easy to eat.

Owner: Here are your Shenmue postcards.

Krabbe, Suzuki: Thank you. That was delicious.

Krabbe: There's a promotion right now where you can receive Shenmue anime postcards when you eat or make purchases at shops that have a connection with Shenmue.

Suzuki: [shows postcard] It's Lan Di! The coolest one.

Krabbe: [reveals postcard] Harasaki! Mine's a soothing one.

Suzuki: They're polar opposites!

Fans will love these.

Krabbe: Under normal circumstances, fans from overseas would also have been able to come and enjoy them too. I wish they could have.

Suzuki: Yes...

<On leaving Honey Bee>

Suzuki: Back there, there was someone walking along in a cool Sukajan.

Krabbe: Oh, was there? The number of naval uniforms and Sukajan really makes you feel that you're in Yokosuka.

Suzuki: Yes, there are a lot of shops selling Sukajan here.

Krabbe: The area in here to our right is recreated in Shenmue.

Suzuki: Right, right.

Krabbe: The entrance to Dobuita Street.

<Outside the Kanmania souvenir shop>

Krabbe: This shop is called Kanmania. They apparently have some Shenmue materials on display too. The entranceway really suits its name, Kanmania [="Ship Mania"].

<Examining a display of sketches from Shenmue the Animation>

Krabbe: The anime really recreated the opening scene from the first game exactly.

Oh, there's the karate tournament. Had it originally been planned to have the game start from the karate tournament in the Saturn version?

Suzuki: Yes, that was the plan originally. But it would have increased the size too much, so I decided to cut it out.

Krabbe: With its inclusion in the anime, was that made off the original materials from the day that you provided?

Suzuki: Yes... the part that didn't make it into the game. I thought it would be fun to include it. I had the anime staff read through a fair amount of Shenmue materials and they put in a lot of effort to play through the game. I wanted them to understand Shenmue before making the anime. Considerable effort went into not just the characters, but also in particular the scenery, to a level of quality you'd be hard-pressed to find nowadays. I think it turned out well.

<On leaving the store>

Suzuki: You can really feel the Yokosuka atmosphere all over the place.

Krabbe: Shopping streets like this, especially in the region around Tokyo, often feel alike, don't they - but here, there's a really vivid atmosphere. You could find slightly shady-looking bars that feel like Heart Beats.

<Anime art is also on display at the florist Hanamatsu>

Krabbe: These are also from the anime.

The garden of the Hazuki Residence.

Suzuki: It was made with CG. The shape of the roof was wrong - not the dojo, the Hazuki main house. It faced the wrong way.

Krabbe: Oh, really?

Suzuki: I remember correcting it, saying it differed from the original. The background story for it, is that it was a converted Japanese temple building.

Krabbe: Oh, so it's background is that it used to be a temple long ago?

Suzuki: Those ancient buildings have a distinctive construction, don't they. And so... since we had done that in Shenmue One, I had it corrected to match the way it was in the first game.

Krabbe: So it's something you noticed while checking, and pointed out?

Suzuki: That's right.

Krabbe: About it being a converted temple building, was there any particular reason for it having been given that background?

Suzuki: It was to portray a distinctive Japanese character. Japanese temples and shrines are separated into public and private areas, for example. The area for private living is separate.

Krabbe: So research was undertaken and it was properly portrayed.

Suzuki: There's a separation between the area for visitors, and where the family lives its daily life. We wanted to reflect Japanese architecture... it's an extremely small detail though.

<Speaking with the florist's owner>

Krabbe: I'm here with the creator of Shenmue.

Owner: Oh, thank you! It's pretty popular. Some visitors from overseas mention it too.

Krabbe: How long has this shop been here?

Owner: Around 35 years. It's age is really starting to show.

Krabbe: I'm also 35 years old! [laughs]

Owner: About the same age, then!

Krabbe: Do you recall anyone coming to scout out this location, back in the day?

Owner: Well, I don't recall if there was for that, but we have had a lot of movie shoots and so on here, and had a number of visits by Japanese directors.

Krabbe: It has a really special atmosphere, unchanging from long ago.

Owner: The second floor is also classic.

Krabbe: Oh, there's a second floor too.

Owner: Yes, the second floor has bars...

Suzuki: Oh, that's great.

Owner: with jazz... and events like that. There's live music every week at "Blue in Green". And also at the "Brian Bar".

Suzuki: That sounds great.

Krabbe: That sign up there also really has a certain...

Owner: It doesn't light up though. Long ago, it used to flash, but not now.

Krabbe: It has that flashy look of the bubble period.

<After leaving the florist>

Suzuki: Those were some good stories.

Krabbe: Yes, the kind of tales you can only hear at your local shopping street.

Suzuki: It's been there for 35 years, hasn't it.

Krabbe: Yes, I'm also 35 so... it was built in the year I was born. And not only that,
it's now 35 years from the year in which Shenmue is set.

Suzuki: Oh, so it is.

Krabbe: Thinking of that shop being built precisely at that time... gives it a special connection, doesn't it.

<Entering the "Dobuita Station" tourist information center. Inside, Shenmue the Animation art is displayed.>

Krabbe: This is also from the anime, it's...

Suzuki: Heart Beats!

Krabbe: Around the entrance. Ryo's back looks cool.

Here's the interior. It feels like this bar might exist somewhere around here.

<Looking at historical Dobuita photos on the wall>

Krabbe: Oh, these are of the late '30s. the 11th year of the Shōwa era [=1936]...

The E.M. Club seems to have been an important part of Yokosuka's past.

Suzuki: It has a distinctive vibe, doesn't it - the 11th year of the Shōwa era.

Krabbe: Dobuita still had the appearance of being very much "Japan" then.

Suzuki: That's true.

Krabbe: Coming to these ones from 1945 and onwards, there are souvenir shops with the U.S. influence becoming apparent.

There's a sailor riding on a rickshaw there!

<A small sign advertises the Shenmue the Animation online gacha gacha game>

Krabbe: "Looks like fun. Guess I'll try it!" - they've got Ryo's line from the game there.

<Trying the game on a smartphone>

Krabbe: He's turning the gacha! It even plays a video clip.

Aren't they cool! Ryo and Guizhang.

<Looking at a large photo board outside on Dobuita Street>

Suzuki: This photo's a good one. [points at a photo of a man in a room surrounded by family portraits]

Krabbe: The '70s.

Suzuki: I really like it!

That guy there... and also this... and this too!

Krabbe: The whole family makes quite an impact. Oh, they're from the Rose Co. [souvenir shop].

Suzuki: Since they're the family of Rose Co., their portraits remain. I love it! [laughs]

<Outside a familiar-looking shop with a yellow awning further along Dobuita St.>

Krabbe: And here it is! It's Kakita. This shop is probably the one that most resembles one that's in the game. In the game, it's "Kurita".

Apparently this shop has been here since 1952. It must have been founded after the war, just after the U.S. army arrived.

<Shenmue the Animation art (the You Arcade) is hanging inside>

Krabbe: Space Harrier and the others were already out in this era, in reality, weren't they.

How does it compare to the way real game arcades looked back then?

Suzuki: You didn't find arcade games in the smaller shops.

Krabbe: Ah, right.

Suzuki: Just the larger ones. We put in a few of the games I had worked on. For the building inside a game, you have to make it a bit more spacious than in real life. There are a lot of obstacles, so you wouldn't be able to walk around. We made it 1.5 or 2 times larger. About 1.5 times is ideal, as twice the size looks unrealistic.

<Speaking with the store owner>

Krabbe: Do you get a lot of people who come due to liking Shenmue?

Owner: Yes... although after Covid the number from overseas has dwindled. But prior to that...

Krabbe: So there were quite a few before? The shop is in the game as "Kurita"... Even their sign looks identical to the game.

Owner: Albeit dirtier!

Krabbe: That just adds to the charm. You can sense the history.

<Audio over footage of Knock Motor & Dobuita St locations>

Knock Motor (called Knocking Motorcycle Shop in the game, which was originally just off Dobuita St

Suzuki: The game wasn't made to match the real-life map exactly. In reality, you can see too far, which would have needed a lot of polygons. So we had to bend the road at appropriate points. We'd say "Straight sections mustn't exceed 64m" or "Try to put in a bend at 32m". With consoles like the present-day PlayStation, you could just make it as it is.

Krabbe: If you were to make Shenmue One with today's technology...

Suzuki: That would be fun, I think!

Krabbe: Are there any parts you would portray differently?

Suzuki: Since it would be with today's technology, it would probably turn out to be a completely different work. The essence... what I'd be trying to achieve would probably be the same, but expressed in a different way.

Krabbe: A matter of how far you could go in expressing it. There would be a difference in quality and quantity.

Suzuki: This is a place that has strong cultural influences... but that's what makes it feel like Dobuita!

Krabbe: It is surprisingly unchanged compared to the game, isn't it.

Suzuki: It feels like it's undoubtedly Dobuita.

<At the Taisho patches & embroidery shop on Dobuita St, with Shenmue artwork on display>

Krabbe: [reading] "Stage Rendering Images During Development".

This image of Sakuragaoka has slight differences compared with the final version. Like it has a different vending machine model.

In the suburbs, around this time of day is when it's most powerfully moving.

Suzuki: The Magic Weather is effective here.

Krabbe: Abe Store in the final version is called Saito Store here.

Suzuki: Yes, it was Abe Store in the final version, wasn't it.

<Visiting "Jizosan" Buddhist statues on Dobuita St>

Krabbe: Just as they've always looked... Wow, more inside.

Suzuki: It's okay to go in.

Krabbe: What an amazing place.

<Looking at a suspended lantern>

It makes you wonder how long something like this has been hanging here.

It would have been here when you came to scout the location, wouldn't it.

Suzuki: It's probably been here from long ago.

<Reading a poem on the wall>

It says: "78 is one's peak working age." For me, from now...

Krabbe: It means you still have a long way to go! Amazing that somewhere like this is tucked away here.

Suzuki: This will probably remain throughout the ages.

Krabbe: Do you remember it from back in the day?

Suzuki: Mm, vaguely...

<Inside sukajan shop Mikasa Vol. 2>

Krabbe: This shop, called Mikasa... is another one that is modeled in the game.

<Examining Shenmue art>

Krabbe: These are from the game. The initial concept art for the Phoenix mirror and the Dragon mirror?

Suzuki: That's right.

Krabbe: At around what stage were these made? The mirrors were central to the story from the beginning, weren't they.

Suzuki: I don't think they were initially part of it... I think they were added along the way.

<Looking at two small pouches decorated with Shenmue mirrors>

Krabbe: These have been created as limited-release merchandise for this promotion. They're great, aren't they. They have authentic stitching.

Suzuki: They look to be hand-made.

Krabbe: They'd be just right for a smartphone or small tablet... maybe like a Nintendo Switch. A Dreamcast... might be tricky!

<Speaking with the store owner>

Krabbe: Would you mind our asking a few questions?

Owner: Sure, go ahead.

Krabbe: I'm sure you of course know about Shenmue, but is there anything you remember from back in the day? For example, did a scout visit?

Owner: Yes, I think it was probably when the game was still in the planning stages. Someone from SEGA came here, and they were looking for videos or other material about Dobuita. It wasn't much, but we did provide them with some VHS footage.

Krabbe: Very possibly... this may have been the person who visited you. [indicates Suzuki, laughs]

Owner: It was in the 1990's.

<Audio over footage of Dobuita St. and surroundings>

Krabbe: As creator, how does it feel seeing these different things on display around the town, thanks to the influence of a game you created more than twenty years ago?

Suzuki: Well... it makes me happy. And it's fun... Something out of the ordinary is taking place.

-- End of transcription --

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