Friday, February 23, 2024

(Part 3/3) Concept Art From the 2022 Shenmue The Animation Promotional Event

Today is Part Three, the final part, of our exploration of the art from Yokosuka City's Shenmue anime celebration! 

Links to the previous parts:

Special thanks: thanks again to も_なお Mo_Nao for kindly providing the source photos from the event, to which cropping & straightening has been applied. Be sure to follow her on X (Twitter) at @greed_air for a heap of original Shenmue content!

Hong Kong Locations

"Come Over Guest House, Wan Chai (night)"

"Wan Chai (morning)"

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Monday, February 5, 2024

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for February 2024

Every month, Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the winning topic that has been voted for this time is:

"Influences & parallels of the 1980s manga Kenji on Shenmue"

Kenji is a popular martial-arts based manga series in which several similar elements to those in Shenmue can be recognized.

Published in the years prior to the development of Shenmue, from 1988 to 1992, it follows the journey of a boy named Kenji, a teenager passionate about the Chinese martial art Bajiquan. The series encompasses a wide array of martial arts styles, drawing inspiration from the author's own expertise.

Kenji explores other martial arts to enhance his skills, and his journey takes him to Hong Kong and China, where he encounters various martial arts masters, forms friendships, and faces challenges.

Given the overlap in the subject matter with Shenmue and the period in which it was published, it would not be surprising to find its influence within the game. However, mention of Kenji is not readily found among past interviews with Yu Suzuki.

In this post, we will be examining parallels and similarities between this popular manga and Shenmue, and tracking down any interviews available with development staff in which its influence may have been mentioned.

Coming in a future post on the blog.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

(Part 2/3) Concept Art From the 2022 Shenmue The Animation Promotional Event

Welcome back to our exploration of Yokosuka City's Shenmue anime celebration! In Part One, we delved into some intriguing concept art and sketches from the game's early days and the anime's creation. 

Now, in Part Two of this mini-series, we'll uncover more captivating art from the streets of Dobuita that were on display during the event.

Let's continue our visual journey through Shenmue's world.

Special thanks to も_なお Mo_Nao for kindly providing her photos taken at the event, to which cropping & straightening has been applied. Be sure to follow her on X (Twitter) at @greed_air for a heap of original Shenmue content!

Hazuki Residence

"At the Hazuki Residence gate"

"At the Hazuki Residence gate (night)"

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Friday, January 26, 2024

(Part 1/3) Concept Art from the 2022 Shenmue The Animation Promotional Event

Concept art displayed at the entrance of the Honey Bee restaurant

In April to June 2022, Yokosuka City ran a promotional event in celebration of the Shenmue's adaption anime form, which was run in collaboration with IGN Japan. There were various activities arranged including give-aways of Shenmue The Animation themed postcards at participating stores and an online gacha-gacha game.
During the event, exhibits of concept art and sketches from both the early days of the game's development as well as during the anime's creation were put on display inside a number of stores around the Dobuita Street area.

The event was divided into three periods or "phases" that lasted 3 weeks each. The artwork selection was completely refreshed at the start of each period, rewarding those visitors lucky enough to be able to visit Dobuita St multiple times across the event period.

As only a limited number of fortunate fans would have been able to attend the event in person, we have gathered together as many photos of these art pieces as possible, with adjustments applied for perspective and/or contrast. There was a mixture of sketches and art from Shenmue The Animation, as well as from development of the first Shenmue game.

This first post focuses on images displayed during the Phase One of the event.

Special thanks to も_なお Mo_Naomi (@greed_air on Twitter / X) for providing her photos for the art displayed during Phase Two and Phase Three. The Phase One photos were sourced from my own visit. 
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Monday, January 15, 2024

Muecas Dan: Sega's Official Shenmue Fan Club

Muecas Dan logo and slogan ("We are the Muecas Club!! ~We Deeply Love Shenmue~")

What Was "Muecas Dan"?

"Muecas Dan" (ムーキャス団) was a Shenmue fan club that regularly published Japanese-language Shenmue content online. It ran from early 2001 to 2004, and its founding members consisted of staff from the official Shenmue project team.

Shenmue Cast FAN

Muecas Dan was formed by the official Shenmue team to communicate with fans. Fans who made contributions to their web magazine were recognized as Muecas Dan members.

Muecas Dan was introduced in the January 2001 (Vol. 60) edition of the Weekly AM2 online magazine, in a section initially called 'Shenmue Cast Fan' - here 'cast' referred to members from the Shenmue project team.

"Yes! We are Shenmue's Cast Fans!" - the logo for the Shenmue Cast FAN page

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Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Unofficial Fan Meet-Up in Yokosuka, January 2024 | Photo Report

Last weekend, an adventure with fellow Shenmue enthusiasts took us on a journey through Ryo's stomping grounds in Yokosuka. Our mission was to uncover the secrets behind Ryo's father's demise, help children name any stray kitten found... and generally have a fun day out exploring the setting of the first game in Yu Suzuki's epic series with other fans.

Grab your leather jacket and join us as we dive into a report on the day's escapades of this unofficial Shenmue fan meet-up!

Harbor Vista

The initial gathering point on this sunny afternoon was outside JR Yokosuka station, at one end of Verny Park. This was a perfect place to wait and soak up the atmosphere, as the park stretches along the harbor and provides magnificent views of ships and submarines belonging to the bases of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force on one side and the US Navy on the other.

Verny Park, Yokosuka (image credit: 怪猫)

It was fun to see all the Shenmue and Sega themed items being worn or carried - replicas of Ryo's leather jacket (including one with exquisite hand-stitched patches), Ryo's Timex watch, jeans and white sneakers, custom-made Ryo and Ren figurines, official and unofficial Shenmue T-shirts, and even a complete "black suit" cosplay that would fool Lan Di himself. Other items included Shenmue guide books and photos of prized Shenmue merchandise and items signed by Yu Suzuki and other Sega legends. The copies of SkillJim's Shenmue World magazines that I brought along also received a lot of interest from those who had not seen them before (Issue One is available for viewing online).

Two special guests (image credit: 怪猫)

A wonderful memento from EREN(echo) Small treats and gifts were shared out, and one of the group had kindly visited the tourist office beforehand to gather Shenmue guide maps. The generosity of Shenmue fans knows no bounds!
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Friday, January 5, 2024

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for January 2024

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the winning topic that has been voted this time is:

"Yu Suzuki on Arcade Game Development at SEGA + Keiji Okayasu on the Virtua Fighter Port to the Saturn"

A TV interview with Yu Suzuki on the Japanese TBS channel in February 2022 will form the basis of this upcoming post, in which he discusses several of the arcade games he developed while at Sega in the 1980's through to the 1990's, such as Hang On, R-360 and Virtua Fighter.

Comments from Keiji Okayasu (who later went on to become Game Director for Shenmue I and Director for Shenmue III) will also be included on the technical process and challenges involved with the much-lauded port of Virtua Fighter for the Sega Saturn.

Coming in a future post on the blog.

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Saturday, December 30, 2023

Yu Suzuki's Key Theme for 2024: "Creating Games I'd Want to Play Myself" []

"163 Game Creators' New Year's Resolutions" from Famitsu (the dragon represents the 2024 animal sign of the Chinese Zodiac: the Dragon) has unveiled its yearly survey of individuals within the Japanese gaming industry, engaging with a noteworthy 163 game developers. As customary, the survey prompted them to select a "keyword" or phrase encapsulating their focus for the upcoming year. Additionally, participants were asked to share their New Year's Resolution and provide a comment regarding their present circumstances.

Yu Suzuki, CEO of YS Net.
(This archive photo was seen in 4Gamer's developer survey last year)

Yu Suzuki's responses for the coming year in 2024 were as below, translated from the original Japanese:

Q: Your Key Theme for 2024?

YS: Creating games I'd want to play myself!
Q: Your New Year's Resolution / Aspirations for 2024?

YS: Collaborate on a project with scriptwriters and musicians from different industries.

Q: Status update

YS: In 2023, we successfully released a fantasy shooting game called Air Twister on home gaming consoles and PC. Feel free to enjoy the year-end and New Year holidays with the casual fun of Air Twister!
Q: What will you be keeping an eye on in 2024?

I believe that clever and compelling stories like those found in Spy × Family*² and The Apothecary Diaries*³ could be beneficial in game development. By the way, I recently got my hands on the Juzo Itami Film Collection Blu-ray Box* and have been grinning happily ever since.
  1. In Japanese the first question translates more literally as "your keyword(s)", however it is a versatile term that can refer to both a single word or a phrase that encapsulates a main theme, idea, or concept. Taking this into account, here it is translated more broadly as "key theme".
  2. Spy × Family is a Japanese manga series that was first published in 2019 and was subsequently adapted to an anime television series, and has been described as "an action-packed comedy about a fake family that includes a spy, an assassin and a telepath." It has received widespread acclaim, having won several manga prizes and awards. An anime film adaptation and a novel were released in Japan earlier this month.
    Spy × Family

  3. The Apothecary Diaries (Japanese name: Kusuriya no Hitorigoto) is a fictional series set in Ming-era China that was originally published as a novel, and has been subsequently adapted to a manga series as well as an anime television series.  

    The Apothecary Diaries

  4. The Juzo Itami Film Collection Blu-ray Box is a collection of all 10 movies by acclaimed director Juzo Itami who made his directorial debut at the age of 50 with the film "The Funeral" in 1984. The movie gained popularity in Japan and received numerous awards, including Japanese Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. However, it was his second film, the 1985 "Tampopo," with the story of a woman's quest to create the perfect bowl of ramen, that brought him international recognition and praise.

Yu Suzuki's response to his theme or concept for the year - "creating games I'd want to play myself") - suggests a personal and passion-driven approach to game development. Throughout his successful career, he has often developed games based on concepts suggested by others, particularly during his earlier years at SEGA. In this later part of his career, he has the freedom to create games that he finds personally engaging, as an initial benchmark for their broader appeal. It may also reflect his desire to continue to bring innovation and creativity into the development process and explore unique ideas and gameplay mechanics that resonate with him personally.

His mention of involving scriptwriters and musicians from other industries (i.e. outside of games) recalls his response to Famitsu's survey held in December 2021 in which he expressed a similar desire to "bring a different style to game making" by working with people from other industries. And indeed, this has already been seen in Air Twister, collaborating with Dutch artist Valensia who provided the amazing soundtrack for this game.

Suzuki ends by emphasizing his appreciation for "clever and compelling stories". He has mentioned in previous interviews his admiration for a scene in director Juzo Itami's "The Funeral" that depicts the everyday life of the Japanese culture in a humorous way - in one scene a guest staggers from "pins and needles" (the tingling feeling in one's limbs) when trying to stand after sitting with his legs folded underneath for a long period of time. It is pleasing to see his affirmation of the importance of story-telling, something that is an important component of the Shenmue series.

The "pins and needles" scene from the movie "The Funeral", directed by Juzo Itami

Related Links

Yu Suzuki's end-of-year interviews from recent years:

Source (Japanese):

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