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Segata Sanshiro is cult-classic fictional character created by SEGA for an ad campaign for the Sega Saturn video game console system in Japan in order to improve unit sales.
He was portrayed by iconic Japanese actor Hiroshi Fujioka, who until that point was most known for his role of Takeshi Hongo, aka Kamen Rider 1. Segata Sanshiro’s name is a pun of Sanshiro Sugata, the title character from Akira Kurosawa’s film from 1943, and the phrase Sega Satan Shiro! which translates to “You must play Sega Saturn!”, which is a phrase he uses in every commercial.
In the commercials, Segata is depicted as a master of multiple forms of martial arts, living atop a mountain, carrying a giant Sega Saturn and controller on his back for training purposes to fulfill his duties towards “serious gaming”. In the ads he tracks down and punishes those who do not play the Sega Saturn.
The ad campaign was an immense success in Japan and the character ended up starring in 20 commercials from 1997 to 1998, becoming an national phenomenon. Thanks to him, while everywhere else in the world the Sega Saturn was a financial flop, in Japan it sold really well, to the point of even surpassing the sales of the original Playstation for some time. It is quite possible, that without Segata Sanshiro, SEGA wouldn’t be able to produce their last console, the Dreamcast. When the CD music single of his theme song was released, it sold more than 100,000 copies. Today, Segata Sanshiro is most widely known on the internet as either being an equivalent of or far superior than Chuck Norris in terms of “bad-assery”. His most viewed ad on Youtube (over 373,000 views) is the Saturn Bomberman Fight!! commercial.
When the Saturn was phased out with the release of Sega Dreamcast, SEGA decided that Sanshiro deserved to be properly send off. In his last commercial a missile was fired at the Tokyo headquarters of SEGA, which just finished working on the Dreamcast, implied to be launched by Sony and Nintendo. Sanshiro heroically jumps off the roof of the building, onto the missile, deflecting it into the atmosphere while riding it. He spends his last moments chanting out “Sega Saturn Shiro!!” for one last time, before he dies when the missile explodes. This is followed by a voiceover, who narrates that “Segata Sanshiro will live on in your hearts,” and an announcement for Segata Sanshirō Shinken Yūgi, a Sega Saturn game in which Sanshiro is the main character.
One of the most known tributes to the character is the translation/parody of the Segata Sanshiro theme song by DruoxtheShredder. It was published on Newgrounds in 2009. It gained over 31,000 plays and was downloaded 2000 times.