I think it would be safe to assume that if you’re here on SEGA Nerds, you have no doubt at least heard of Segata Sanshiro. If not, then no problem. You’re in for a treat.
Let’s begin with a little history …
In 1997, SEGA Japan had the task of coming up with a hot new TV advertising campaign to help sell its latest 32-bit video game system, the SEGA Saturn. SEGA had tough competition, taking both the Nintendo 64 and Sony’s new PlayStation head on in an all out battle to have the best 3D games console on the market. To achieve this, SEGA needed a commercial that would connect with people. Something that would reach out and grab the Japanese public, then toss them over their shoulder and slam them head first into the ground. That is exactly what they did.
Segata Sanshiro. The jujutsu-loving lunatic would appear out of no-where and beat people up until they purchased a SEGA Saturn. Despite his harsh nature, the Japanese public adored Segata Sanshiro. Not only was he determined and traditional in his ways, he had the ability to throw people from cliff tops only for them to explode when hitting the ground!
Unfortunately, Segata made his sorry departure from our world during an early SEGA Dreamcast commercial, in which he sacrificed his life to save SEGA headquarters from a remote missile by jumping on top of it and riding into space. It was there both him and the missile exploded. Many tears were shed.
But why was this bizarre advertising campaign so popular in Japan? Who is Segata Sanshiro, and why does he have the constant need to beat up innocent people? We take a look at this and more in the six quick SEGA facts listed below.
Segata Sanshiro is played by Japanese TV legend Hiroshi Fujioka
Fujioka is best known for his role in the Japanese TV series, Kamen Rider. The show began in April 1971 and has become an iconic piece of Japanese TV culture, with it consistently airing new episodes for more than 40 years.
Fujioka played the first rider for a total of 98 episodes, performing his own stunts and defeating the evil Shocker gang by transforming into the grasshopper inspired Kamen Rider using his devastating rider kick. It was because of this, Fujioka was instantly recognisable as the Segata character and it was no doubt a big factor of his popularity in Japan.
Sanshiro is a parody of a 1940s Japanese martial arts film
It’s quite obvious the name “Segata Sanshiro” is a play on the title Sanshiro Sugata, but similarities don’t end there. Both Segata and the main character of the film, Sanshiro, have an obsession with jujitsu.
Unlike our much loved SEGA mascot, Sanshiro is young and must undergo much training until he is able to master the art. The film had various remakes and is originally based off a book written by Tsuneo Tomita, son of Tomita Tsunejirō (one of the earliest disciples of judo.)
Fujioka has a minor planet in his name
Just when you thought this guy could not get any more awesome, he has a planet in his name! 12498 Fujioka is a main belt asteroid and was discovered by astronomer Akimasa Nakamura.
It’s said that the minor planet was named in his honour due to his portrayal of the first Kamen Rider, but we know what really happened after that SEGA Dreamcast commercial!
Segata clearly survived the explosion, landed on a nearby planet, beat up the inhabitants and crowned himself as king. That’s how we see it, anyway.
He voiced Iwao Hazuki in Shenmue
Fujioka has had various voice acting roles throughout his career, but there’s no doubt that his performance as Ryo Hazuki’s father in the Shenmue series is the one that stands out the most to SEGA Nerds.
He also starred as Mulan character Shan Yu in the Japanese dub for Kingdom Hearts II.
Fujioka helped promote the 2008 SEGA arcade title RAMBO
Eleven years after his début as Segata Sanshiro, Fujioka returned as popular movie character Rambo for a new partnership with SEGA. Advertising the 2008 arcade title with the same name, Fujioka’s serious face can be seen pictured next to pretty ladies while posing in front of the cabinet.
As silly as it sounds, it’s still extremely cool to see Fujioka continuing his partnership with SEGA over 10 years after the Segata campaign, and he clearly appears to be enjoying himself.
Segata Sanshiro received his own music video
In 1998, Warner Music Japan released their own music video starring the unlikely hero. The video mainly consists of clips from the various SEGA advertisements running between 1997/1998 and even includes footage of some SEGA Saturn titles (including Sonic R, Burning Rangers and Panzer Dragoon).
We have no idea how the music video came to be, but one thing is for sure. It’s awesome.
So there you have it. Hopefully, you learned something new about this heroic man and about the man behind the man! We have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of Segata Sanshiro, and we will welcome his heroic return with open arms.