Hello my dear Saturn brothers!
Yes 'tis I the long absent Father Krishna, back from the brink and ready to contribute to this most hallowed site again! I have conducted a little experiment recently. I wanted to leave the SJY to fend for itself, like a parent giving their child a gentle push out of the family home. I wanted to see how the site would fair without me and I'm pleased to say, my baby has become a fully functional adult, independent of it's Father and thriving in the blogosphere, thanks to the wonderful team that keep it alive. So first of all a great big thank you to elend, Caleb, Nebacha and Arugulaz (particularly elend!)
But what kind of dad would I be if I didn't come by every once in a while, to check up on my offspring every once in a while, bringing the odd present every now and then? So here I am with a present for you all. For I'm now going to present you with a five page article from 'games TM'. magazine, lovingly typed and transcribed word for word by myself. The article is in celebration of a very special man. In fact to us lot here at the SJY, he's more than a mere mortal, he's a shining golden lord. A deity of mythic proportions...
The one, the only, SEGATA SANSHIRO!!!!
Without any further ado, here we go... I've got a lot of typing to do, so I better get on! As usual
I'll use the quotation scarlet coloured text. I would credit the journalist who wrote the article, but he/she is not named personally....
" Hello Segata Sanshiro!" from games tm. No. 74 (August 2008)
Hiroshi Fujioka is a burly chap and he seems fully committed to everything he does, even if that means answering the questions of pesky journalists like us. He made his movie debut in a1965 flick called Anko Tsubaki Wa Koi No Hana aged 19. born in Ehime, Shikoku, the actor then went on to star in dozens of Japanese cinema classics, but he achieved even greater fame throughout Asia in the early Seventies for his role in the Kamen Rider TV series. With his renowned skills in the martial arts,it seemed like the most obvious choice, when Sega decided to employ Fujioka as a fearsome judo master of a Saturn promoting character during the late Nineties.
Fujioka began his work with Sega mid-1997, once the Saturn had been established as moderately successful in Japan. On the 28th of November that year, when the advert for Sonic R was broadcast on national television, he made his first appearance as Segata Sanshiro, a martial arts specialist whose reason for being, was to command people to play Saturn games. He also performed in 16 radio commercials, which ran on local Japanese stations between 1997 and 1999, some of which were in the promotion of specific Saturn titles, while others were image building exercises and chances for the Segata Sanshiro message to be heard. A classic example from the winter holiday of 1997, aimed at school and university students,went like this: "This is Hiroshi Fujioka, Segata Sanshiro. All of you students who are preparing for exams, soon you will be on the home stretch. Those of you who like games, resisting games may be painful, but your future prospects are precious. That's why you should resist games and focus on your studies. It's difficult for me to say this, but when spring comes, you will be free to play... Play Sega Saturn."
Even away from his working life, Fujioka is intensely focused on the martial arts, so in many ways his role as Segata Sanshiro was a perfect match. Fujioka is a first dan in karate and iaido, as well as a third dan in judo, fourth in battado and kotachi goshindo, and a seventh dan toudo master. "(Since I was) six years old my father saw to it that I was trained to use a Japanese sword, through practising the ancient art of bushido," he explains "so having been accustomed to the martial arts for such a long time, I felt in harmony with (the Segata Sanshiro character)." Fujioka had been immediately in tune with Sega's ideas for the most visible and enigmatic of marketing characters.
"I thought it was good that they wanted to send a strong message to children in an age when young people had no direction," he explains. The creation of the Segata sanshiro character work of Sega's PR machine. "I contributed some serious ideas myself," Fujioka reminds us, but his parody of 'Sugata' Sanshiro had already been decided upon when Fujioka turned up at Sega HQ one day in the summer of 1997. Sugata Sanshiro, incidentally, was the fictitious and eponymous lead character in the first film directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa. Sugata Sanshiro learns to rely on judo, and the actor cast as the original Sanshiro, Susumu Fujita, bears a vague resemblance to Fujioka. For the Japanese public , Segata Sanshiro would be an obvious reference-in-parody to the first hero delivered by Kurosawa.
Then there was the name itself, cleverly constructed to sound a lot like 'Sega Saturn , shiro' - an imperative that means 'play Sega Saturn' - but which can also be interpreted as referencing the white colour of the then standard Japanese Saturn SKU. After accepting the proposed role, Fujioka was as determined as ever to exceed his employer's expectations. We ask about his motivation, other than his stern professional resolve and the obvious but unspoken financial benefits. "There were various motivations for me, but one enjoyable feature was that the role enabled me to influence society for good" he says without any irony. "My schedule was incredibly busy, but (Segata Sanshiro) had an effect on all sorts of people. The reaction from young people was particularly strong."
The bulk of Fujioka's work as Segata Sanshiro centered on starring in TV commercials to promote Sega's latest games. The scenarios of these adverts were always related to the games they promoted, but set in a hyper dramatic reality in which Sanshiro had scope to be active and heroic. The Burning Rangers advert was set inside a burning building (obviously), while the Winter Heat commercial showed Sanshiro racing a professional speed skater across an ice rink. Sometimes there was no clear connection to anything: one of the earliest Segata Sanshiro appearances sees him beating up a group of "young punks" who "weren't focused", before reminding them, as would be his wont, to "play Sega Saturn". The ad then cuts to promotional footage of Sonic R.
Fujioka has some fond memories of the production of these highly effective commercials: "Running around a skating rink barefoot without using a stuntman, breaking ten roof tiles with my head, punching an extra large (Saturn) controller until my fist was bloody... I did all of these things seriously focused: I have strong memories of (performing those stunts). I wanted to convey to the younger generation that whatever they do, if they make a serious effort, afterward they can enjoy this great sense of exhilaration. But to do so, I felt that I first had to charge into this experience myself, in order to make the idea understood. The staff and cast, all of us were united and putting in great effort. That's why on location, when we were filming the commercials, there was a good level of tension. I think that everyone could see that in our productions."
The adverts' recurring theme song, Sega Saturn Shiro, which is sung throughout most of the television slots Sega produced, eventually became worthy of a release as a CD single. Fujioka sang the Kamen Rider theme song, 'Let's Go!! Rider Kick', for the first 13 episodes of that series , and released a handful of singles between his big break in 1971 and 1985 , dabbling in love songs and pop, but this challenge was something else. While the version used in adverts and elsewhere had been sung by Ichiro Tomita. Fujioka was determined to do his own work in the studio when a CD single was at stake. "I was nervous when recording (the Segata Sanshiro theme song)," Fujioka openly admits. "But even today I love that song. If you listen to it, your blood will begin to flow and you'll start to feel courageous and brave. I'm grateful that I was able to sing such a powerful song."
Fujioka's workload also included appearances at promotional events, and he seems, characteristically, to have relished playing the Segata Sanshiro role in such circumstances. "Yes I performed at various events", he reminisces. "Each time I turned up, there were many fans gathered to greet me, and I was happy to hear their comments and receive their support. At those events, the message of the TV commercials was repeated to make sure it was clearly understood. I really looked forward to such opportunities."
By 1998, Segata Sanshiro was a sufficiently popular and well recognized character for Sega to produce an entire game starring Fujioka as Sanshiro. The result of this collaboration was a title called Segata Sanshiro Shinkenyugi, the 'Shinkenyugi' bit meaning 'serious sports', which is appropriate enough when the mini-games in this compendium are based on Fujioka's daring stunts from Sanshiro's television appearances. Of Shinkenyugi, Fujioka tells us: "I was happy (for the Segata Sanshiro game to be developed.) I thought it was something worth doing, but I also felt some responsibility. Of course I've heard various things about the game...."
We'd venture a guess that Fujioka is tacitly admitting that it wasn't a great game - and he'd be right - but it's not without his own inimitable charm, and we'll always have time for head chopping slates or pulling judo-disc shapes... Happily we can report that Sanshiro wasn't a hypocrite. While he was admonishing everybody to "play Sega Saturn" the man behind the message Hiroshi Fujioka himself, was a genuine fan of Sega's output. "I played and even really enjoyed (Sega's games)," he tells us. "I think they put out a message to the world." Fujioka likes to emphasise the ideological resonance of his Segata Sanshiro character. He believes it was necessary to convey "the message" to the younger generation in the late Nineties.
The most obvious reason that Sanshiro is so well loved and so well remembered, however, is his sense of humour, which carries through every in-character appearance he made during his tenure as the fearsome face of Sega. When he's surrounded by zombies in the TV ad for TheHouse Of The Dead, he scowls and says "these aren't humans", as though he has only just realised the fact and is outraged that he hadn't been informed of their ghastliness some time earlier. Another time, on the scene of the Burning Rangers advert, Segata Sanshiro is giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a woman and doesn't seem to troubled by the inferno around them - by the end of the ad he seems to have completely forgotten the notion of escaping the building. Meanwhile, the commercial for Pro Baseball Greatest nine '98 placed Sanshiro in a batting centre scenario, but instead of using a bat to slog the incoming volley of baseballs, he kicks one for a home run before showing off his masculinity by revealing a bare chest and allowing half a dozen balls to pelt him in the midriff. Without flinching.
By the end of 1998, the Dreamcast krunch was imminent and virtually all Saturn development had been terminated, leaving the obviously Saturn-tied Segata Sanshiro with just one last obligation: to go out with a bang by ushering in the Dreamcast era. And how he did it. Sanshiro leaped from the roof of Sega HQ to prevent the company building from being hit by an incoming missile, as the inspirational Segata Sanshiro theme song blared away and Sega employees looked in awe from their office windows. It was the last great sacrifice in Segata Sanshiro's quest, although Fujioka showed up in character at the Dreamcast launch and looked alive and well. Hiroshi Fujioka later provided the voice of Ryo Hazuki's father in the Japanese versions of Shenmue and Shenmue II, but the Segata Sanshiro character had at last been retired. He was brought back for a one off special progamme on Fuji TV at the end of 1999, but other than that appearance, it was game over.
In the place of two Saturn game-packed years in Japan, Sanshiro had left a marketing legacy that included books, T-shirts, action figures, CDs and games, all of which are sought after by local Sega fans. We ask Fujioka to confirm that Segata Sanshiro is as dead as Elvis. He concurs, but remains positive: "I'm not contracted (to Sega) at present, but if there's some new project then I'd definitely like to participate. I think Segata Sanshiro still delivers a good message even today, so a revival would be interesting..."
Phew! That took a while! Hope you all enjoyed it! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to don my Elvis Wig and judo suit and retire to the SJY dojo, to light some incense and bow down in prayer! Goodnight my brothers!