Presenting Yokosuka Through the Shenmue Lens

So I published my first video on Youtube after months of it being in production.
I’ve been intermittently working on this project since January.

Sometime last year, I came up with the this crazy idea of making a video log (vlog) about Yokosuka and Shenmue. It’s like inception, once it was in my head, I knew I had to make my idea a reality. Especially when you consider that I’m constantly surrounded by inspirational people. Actors, videographers and artists. We’re all creative in our own way, and I finally felt ready to express my own. That’s why I created Obsidian Perspective, it serves as a venue where I can exercise my own creativity; starting with Shenmue.

You might be asking yourself, What is Shenmue? It’s a video game. It was released in 1999 for the Sega Dreamcast. Back then, the game was considered a technical achievement. Shenmue combined a variety of gameplay elements into one package, creating a gaming experience that was new to the indusrty. I’m not exaggerating when I say, it was like nothing I’ve ever seen before during that time.

But depending on who you ask, the Shenmue is either a masterpiece, or a tech demo. I consider it in between.

Yes, we had some amazing video games released in 1999, but Shenmue existed in a class of its own. Unfortunately, the video game industry was, and still is, extremely competitive. Shenmue was shelved after two releases, not for any perceived failure on the game’s part, because the company that financed the it restructured and focused on safer projects. Until recently, Shenmue was considered dead in the water, like a cancelled television show or movie series without a proper conclusion.

What’s most fascinating about the game is its setting. Shenmue takes place in a part of the world that’s largely remained unchanged and is easily accessible, Dobuita Street. Something that the city of Yokosuka sought to highlight.

There have been a few tourist guides created and released to promote walking tours in Yokosuka. During their most recent campaign, life-sized character cutouts were displayed at various locations on Dobuita Street. Shops and restaurants in the area distributed drink coasters to customers. Of course, the goal was to collect all the coasters and take selfies with the characters along the route.

Mine were gifted to me from the city of Yokosuka. In passing, I told a friend that I was working on this project, not knowing that she met regularly with representatives from Yokosuka City Hall. After relaying some concerns I brought up regarding a few locations on the map, they gave her a set of coasters to gift to me as a token of appreciation.

That was earlier this year when I was still figuring out my vision.

After committing to my idea of producing the vlog focusing on the real world setting of Shenmue, I knew it had to be different than what was done before. While highlighting the similarities of Yokosuka and its digital recreation, I wanted to present elements of the city I thought were worth mentioning; things that were not in the game. The goal was to create a guide video that would be accessible to those played Shenmue as well as those who haven’t.

Originally, I had so many ideas bouncing around that the video could’ve easily been an hour long.

I wanted to dive into the history of the US Navy in Yokosuka and the cultural significance behind how Sailors were depicted in Shenmue. While there aren’t any uniformed service members in Shenmue, certain foreigners in Shenmue are labelled as being sailors and are presented as displaying more aggressive behavior than other foreigners in the game. I was going to elaborate on where this characterization might’ve came from. But I ultimately scrapped the idea to keep my video short.

Once I locked down a vision for how I wanted the vlog to look and feel, I wrote a script and set out to get the shots I wanted. I knew I was going to provide voiceover narration, which dictated how the video would be presented. I also knew I wanted to capture dynamic shots in Yokosuka, specifically Dobuita Street.

I wanted to convey Yokosuka’s energy, to make Dobuita Street feel alive.

Lucky for me, there was a festival being held in February. While there’s always something going on in the area, this particular festival provided musical performances that was exactly the kind of setting I wanted to capture on Dobuita Street. The street performance shots you see in my video are from that weekend event. I took my daughter on the first day and the second day I was by myself.

I’ve barely taken this hobby and can already see how much work is put into film making. Every element of my vlog is self-taught. Slow-motion, time lapse photography, editing, color correction and sound mixing. It’s addictive.

There’s always a personal risk involved in presenting your passions to the world. I just hope that those who watch my vlog appreciate the work put I into it, and remain constructive with their criticism. For example, it wasn’t until after the fact, that I realized that I had mispronounced sukajan. WAY off…

At times, the internet can be a vicious environment, but when used effectively, it can help foster education, creativity and personal growth.

I used the internet to teach myself how to manually set my camera to make the shutter remain open long enough to allow light to pass through, capturing the streaks of light emitted from cars as they pass by at night. Then I set my camera to continually do that for another 500 shots, creating the light trail portion of my video.

If you’re a photographer or film maker whose established in the field, this might not be a big deal. But for the hobbyist, small achievements matter. The feeling of progression is important.

We need art. Art is the greatest catharsis.

Art is expressed in many forms. Find a hobby. Find a passion project, and pursue it.
We live our lives working ourselves to the point of insanity. At the very least, I hope that my vlog can inspire you to find a new form of expression. Whether it be playing a twenty year old video game, or traveling to lands far away from home. Give it try.
You might like it.

I have many more vlog ideas swirling around in my head. Stay tuned for more.

Take care and stay safe.

5 thoughts on “Presenting Yokosuka Through the Shenmue Lens

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