Shenmue: The Animation – Growing Up and Slowly Understanding

This is another show that I watched on Adult Swim every Saturday for a while airing and wrote some short episodic posts about. Admittedly, I don’t know much about the game besides watching other people playing it. I saw Team Four Star’s Shenmue Let’s Play a long time ago. So I had background knowledge, but I had no sort of personal connection compared to a lot of other people. But, I really liked it for the most part. There has been a niche in my mind about more grounded shonen action series that I’ve really been wanting for a long time, and Shenmue really filled the space I had in the back of my mind for a while. It was so good. Maybe I overlooked some things in the series because of that want, but I don’t see anything wrong with that.

Which is interesting because the reception of this anime from people who have played Shenmue was all over the place. At least from what I watched. Some people really felt like that it did capture some of the feel of the game and its appeal in animation form while also progressing things in a more sleek and interesting way. Then there are those people who I think had unrealistic expectations of hours and hours of video games in one cour of anime. Yeah, if you want the most boring anime experience possible, sure. I didn’t really have to add this part into this post, but I felt it was something interesting and absolutely worth commenting on because of how funny this was all to me. Outsider privilege? Maybe.

The Woes of Ryo Hazuki

Ryo Hazuki has lived a very simple life that feels very easy for him in a little place called Yokosuka Japan. He has been trained in martial arts ever since he was younger by his father to the point where he is just too good. Having just left a martial arts tournament where he just destroyed everyone and having helped a certain girl by the name of Nozomi Harasaki with some bullies on the way home with barely any tension, everything changes when he comes home. Especially since he saw his father, Iwao Hazuki, being murdered by a member of a Chinese Syndicate by the name of Lan Di.

Why has this happened? Who is Lan Di? What did his father do?  Did he really murder someone Lan Di knows or something else? What about those two mirrors Lan Di talked about? What’s up with all of these things? Ryo knows nothing about his father and this event leads him to search for the truth of who he and his father are.  He starts to leave his normal life behind to search for this truth wherever it takes him. It’s a long sort of a natural journey where he goes from place to place finding that truth from the very edges of his home town of Yokosuka to eventually Hong Kong itself where even more hints arise.

Ryo in Yokosuka

I have to admit that I find Ryo Hazuki himself a little boring in this half of Shenmue. I do think he has shown a lot of character by helping a lot of people when he can while also investigating little clues to see whatever means in this mystery. Or him literally going as far as working as a forklift driver because it brings Ryo closer to learning more mysteries and where to go next to find some sort of truth. So he isn’t a bad character, just a very simple one that has some charisma that makes people want to help him in some way because the guy is a himbo that needs all the help he can get because he is helpless otherwise. But I find that great and enduring in its own way too. 

Ryo wandering from one corner of Yokosuka to another really helps to flesh out the city too. You can see all the look of it from him wandering from one place to another in small shops to that very dock area he worked at. A lot of good characters, even in singular moments, were spread throughout the city and were very enduring Or people were apart of the Mad Angels who have a connection to Lan Di’s larger organization and were upset that Ryo just going from place to place beating people up shook up their world by quite a bit even if Ryo did it accidentally.

Ryo had a pretty good relationship with Nozomi who was his attachment to the world of the normal, but I feel like Chi You Men were the most interesting crew because they knew something about Ryo’s Father and the mirror leading to that push of Ryo finding his way to Hong Kong itself even if they didn’t want to at first. The father’s story really did mesh with Ryo’s Yokosuka boyfriend Guizhang which helped the two to save Nozomi and help Ryo to endure himself to the leader of Ch Yo Men too. With everyone’s support, Ryo Hazuki’s search for the truth moved to Hong Kong with some hints about people he can talk to.

Ryo in Hong Kong

From Ryo’s very appearance in Hong Kong onward, this is where the series went from good and fun to something I really dug into every week. There are a lot of reasons, but the main reason was the new and expansive setting. Hong Kong is very big with a lot of opportunities for things to happen and more interesting. Same with the more layered characters than the last time that Ryo has come into contact with. Ryo entering Hong Kong and immediately getting robbed by a young boy named Wong is a cliche, but it’s a cliche that works because it forces him to talk with other people and see the city to get his stuff back. This is why cliches work sometimes.

There are a lot of really cool people living in the city that are just so unique that I couldn’t help but like. One of them is Wong, the young boy I mentioned. Hot motorcycle chick with a lot of connections, Joy, helps out Ryo on his journey when she can and is really cool. Ren is a cool bandanna’d bad ass who shows up later to help Ryo in combat scenarios. Xuiying is a master that has a lot of the hints of where Ryo should go to and she is an absolute bad ass, but she doesn’t want to because she doesn’t think that Ryo is ready yet. Not to mention a lot of the different cool martial arts masters and a street gang Ryo has to fight once again.

A lot of the plot behind this part and the other part are almost the same as when he was in Yokosuka, but this time we dig deeper into Ryo’s psychology. Xuiying constantly refuses to tell what Ryo is missing and doesn’t give him any clues, so the impatient Ryo searches for thigns himself. He thinks that Xuiying means the four wudes of martial arts, which allows Ryo to meet all sorts of Hong Kong Masters and get involved in their stories, but it’s the temperament and stubbornness and bullheadedness. Ryo is a himbo, but he refuses to look at some more inner meanings or examine himself to where he is flawless because Ryo is still a teenager after all.

The ending of this Hong Kong portion was so good. A bit cliched because it was the classic action movie ending on top of a roof top, but it had everything. Ryo did have a chance to face Lan Di again and failed, but that’s ok. With everything Ryo learned from Xuiying and the four other masters, Lan Di defeated a stronger opponent and found the next location with Xuiying’s help. Not to mention that every cast member that Ryo came onto their own and even Ryo himself matured a bit by taking on this journey to the next location which feels much more interesting and mystical. Too bad we will probably not see any of it.

Wrapping Up The Details of Shenmue

In general, I really like the way Shenmue looks. I know this is a series that has its setting in the 1980’s, but I love the older style setting of the buildings in Yokosuka and Hong Kong. Some really question the sort of CG crowds that I don’t like, but every character that has a voice has some really cool and distinctive character designs that I really like. Lots of personality being put on display in interesting ways. Same with the martial arts skills. Very good choreography over all with some very good flourishes that show how strong Ryo has gotten and how good some masters really art by making them seem very, very strong. Such impeccable stuff going on.

I am going to give Shemune a good today. It wasn’t always a super hit for me, but it was a show that I had fun watching every week. I’m glad that Crunchyroll and Adult Swim had a collab to make this show come into life and really work out. It feels like something that we won’t see for a long time. Another piece of anime on the category of video game adaptations that are of actual quality. Really solid piece of one even if you haven’t played it before, because while there are some bits of fanservice in it for people who have played the game, those feel like bonuses to people have played it rather then being a small gate keep for those who haven’t. That means a lot. 


  1. I think I definitely enjoyed this one more than most. It really does work as a low key action title and it felt nostalgic in that sense. I’ve never played the games or anything so I couldn’t speak to what was cut or not but at least as an anime only it was satisfying for me. I hope we do get that second season to continue the story at some point.

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