Segata Sanshiro was a mascot for the Sega Saturn in the late 1990’s.
Who is Segata Sanshiro?
In 1997, Japanese national treasure Hiroshi Fujioka was tapped to portray Segata Sanshiro, a new character to be used in Sega Saturn advertisements. The character is a martial arts master who punishes people who do not play the Sega Saturn.
The character’s name is a quirky mix of coincidences. It sounds not only similar to the phrase “You must play the Sega Saturn!” (セガサターン、シロ! Sega Satān, shiro!), but also “Sega Saturn, White” (セガサターン、白 Sega Satān, Shiro?), with white having been the recent new color of the console in Japan at the time.
It also happens not only contain the company’s name, but it is quite similar to Akira Kurosawa’s film Sanshiro Sugata about the character of the same name. Segata is definitely an intentional parody of Sugata, who traveled to the city to learn Jujitsu but ended up learning Judo instead. Segata has seen the light — YOU MUST PLAY THE SEGA SATURN!!
It’s the perfect storm of coincidence!
The character is adored not only in Japan, but has gradually built up a cult following abroad due to the amusing television commercials.
The character Segata Sanshiro was used to promote many Sega Saturn games as well as the console itself.
The following games all received individual television commercials in the campaign:
- Segata Sanshirou Shinken Yugi
- Sonic R
- Shining Force III
- Winter Heat
- Solo Crisis
- Panzer Dragoon Saga
- Burning Rangers
- Greatest Nine ’98
- Saturn Bomberman Fight!
- The House of the Dead
- Dragon Force 2: Kamisarishi Daichi ni
- Deep Fear
- Sakura Taisen 2: Kimi, Shinitamou Koto Nakare
The commercials hit the internet and were copied endlessly during the later 1990’s into the 2000’s. Below, you will find a compilation of all of the commercials with English subtitles for the dialogue.
Segata was also featured on numerous radio commercials! Saturn Memories has also compiled the video below where you can hear them played as they appear in the Sega Saturn game Segata Sanshiro Shinken Yugi.
In October of 1998, Segata received his own Sega Saturn game Segata Sanshirou Shinken Yuugi (せがた三四郎 真剣遊戯), which features a collection of minigames.
Segata Sanshiro Choujin Densetsu (せがた三四郎 超人伝説), a multimedia disc for Mac and Windows was released as well. It contains a few minigames, the commercials, a character bio, some desktop applications (calculator, clock, etc), screensavers, wallpapers, a soundboard, mockup merchandise, and more.
The campaign was so successful that Sega Saturn, Shiro / Segata Sanshiro (セガサターン、シロ！／せがた三四郎), a CD released in February 1998 featuring the character’s theme song sold over 100,000 copies.
Many other Segata Sanshiro merchandise followed. We will fully document them at a later date, but for now here are some pictures to look at.
The character has gone on to make further appearances in several games, including Rent-a-Hero No. 1 (レンタヒーロー No.1), Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, and the most recent Project X Zone 2 (プロジェクト クロスゾーン2：ブレイブニューワールド) in 2015 as a playable character with abilities reminiscent of his ad campaign.
Thanks to a strong cult following, Segata Sanshiro has lived long past the turn of the century.