Several brief interviews have been uploaded to the Shenmue 3 official YouTube account, and among them are a few with Kenji Miyawaki, the lead character designer for the Shenmue series. In one video, Miyawaki talks about how he designed the series’ main character, Ryo Hazuki.
“It’s probably alright to talk about this now, but, this project began as a Virtua Fighter RPG centering around Akira,” Miyawaki says. “At the time the design came from one of many portraits of Akira, with him simply wearing Jeans and a T-Shirt. Looking over the design I’d made with him in the jeans and t-shirt and bag over his shoulder… we all thought it was a little too plain.”
Miyawaki goes onto note that one part of the worldview that drove the project was its historical background; when they thought what a character like Ryo would be like in the game’s historical context, they added a leather jacket to his design (in no small part inspired by the look and character of “Howling” Mad Murdock from the A-Team television series).
“Even though it didn’t look cool,” Miyawaki says, “it was a really cool look for people to have back then.”
Miyawaki then turns to the portrait of the female character in the background.
“This is Ming Ming, she appears after Shenmue 2. I have a lot of myself invested in her as well,” he says. “She’s free-spirited and very upfront, somewhat different from the female characters in Shenmue and Shenmue 2, who were mostly well-behaved. She’s expressive, and somewhat reckless, but she’s full of life. She’s a character that becomes involved with Ryo, and what’s more, she’s a master of martial arts.”
Miyawaki goes on to mention that he’d love to see the character on the game screen some day. Miyawaki landed his job leading the art design for Shenmue when a friend of his dropped by a bookstore he worked at, and asked him to draw up some characters for a video game. At the time, Miyawaki wanted to break into the manga scene. He landed the job with Sega after being asked to illustrate a scene where the main character was traveling in Tibet at a pre-production meeting for Shenmue. Yu Suzuki took a liking to his work and asked him to stay on as a designer for the project.