Shenmue The Animation Ep #13 -‘Shenmue’ recap and review

NOTE: This is a recap/review of the Japanese audio & English subtitled version of the episode, viewed via Crunchyroll. It is currently not possible to view the English dub where I am, in the UK.

SPOILER WARNING: This review assumes you are a fan familiar with the source material, and that you have seen the episode in full.

So here we are, at the end of the road (for now?) of the anime, after 13 weeks that feel like they’ve just flown by. I suspect fans will have mixed feelings about this finale, specifically about the pacing and just how much is packed into this episode, but I must say I am mostly satisfied with the result, as I am with the series in general. A sizeable portion of Shenmue II has been cut in order to get this episode where it needed to go, but I think it still works well, and won’t be such a heavy loss if we do get a Season 2 (I’ll go into this more in my final thoughts at the end!) At the end of the day, a Shenmue anime of all things was something I never thought would have existed, and I think they did a fantastic job on it on the whole. This episode has a lot of ground to cover and I think it mostly does it very well. So without further ado, let’s get into the recap of the final episode!

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Shenmue The Animation Ep #12 -‘Guidepost’ recap and review

NOTE: This is a recap/review of the Japanese audio & English subtitled version of the episode, viewed via Crunchyroll. It is currently not possible to view the English dub where I am, in the UK.

SPOILER WARNING: This review assumes you are a fan familiar with the source material, and that you have seen the episode in full.

One of the anime’s greatest strengths so far has been keeping events exciting and engaging, even for hardcore fans who have played both games countless times and know the story inside out. Nowhere is this more evident than this episode – I was genuinely gripped this week, despite having played through the Yellow Head Building scenario in Shenmue II countless times! A lot of this is due to Ryo’s allies being given a far more active role in proceedings; it was genuinely interesting to not know what was going to happen next in some scenes. Their motives for wanting to help Ryo are also a lot better defined than in the game – particularly in the case of Wong, who has a surprisingly moving scene early on in the episode. While of course certain parts are shortened or excluded altogether, I feel this can be forgiven due to the extra ‘meat’ that other aspects are granted instead. I must admit I really did think that the Yellow Head Building infiltration would be covered in a single episode, so it was a somewhat pleasant surprise to see this week’s end where it did, allowing things a bit more time to breathe. However, the title of next week’s episode (we’ll come to that!) does suggest that next week’s finale will have quite a lot to pack in – it remains to be seen how well that works out, but first off, let’s recap this penultimate episode…

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Shenmue The Animation Ep #11 -‘Entangled’ recap and review

NOTE: This is a recap/review of the Japanese audio & English subtitled version of the episode, viewed via Crunchyroll. It is currently not possible to view the English dub where I am, in the UK.

SPOILER WARNING: This review assumes you are a fan familiar with the source material, and that you have seen the episode in full.

After having some mixed feelings about the pacing of last week’s episode, I was a lot more satisfied with this week’s offering. We’ve gone back to the anime putting a different spin on things and elaborating on certain character details (Joy and Ren especially get some nice added meat to them this week, which I very much approve of), as opposed to the ‘speeding through the game events’ feel we had last week. While a lot of Shenmue II’s scenarios in this point of the story are cut down or left out altogether, I feel this episode still does a good job of keeping the pace lively while still remaining coherent. It arguably does a better job of emphasising the point that Ryo has got himself tied up in an extremely dangerous criminal underworld than the game does, with both the threat of the Yellow Heads and the Chi You Men having a lot more weight to them than the slightly vaguer presence seen in Shenmue II. I am therefore extremely excited to see how the storming of the Yellow Head Building is handled next week – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves – let’s recap the events of this excellent episode first!

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Shenmue The Animation Ep #10 -‘Comeback’ recap and review

NOTE: This is a recap/review of the Japanese audio & English subtitled version of the episode, viewed via Crunchyroll. It is currently not possible to view the English dub where I am, in the UK.

SPOILER WARNING: This review assumes you are a fan familiar with the source material, and that you have seen the episode in full.

Like last week, this episode zips through Shenmue II’s events at lightning pace, but still allows time for some extra context to be given, that was not made apparent in the game. This ends up resulting in some slightly mixed results this time however, as (towards the end of the episode especially), credibility is slightly stretched as to how certain characters could get from one place to another so quickly – as in the game, there was naturally some gameplay time in between. Because of this this episode arguably suffers a bit, very nearly skirting the line of not being entirely coherent. I did find myself wondering if viewers who had not played the game would be able to keep up with what was going on. Nonetheless, this is hardly a bad episode by any means – with plenty of nice action and gorgeously realised locations as per usual – but for me it was the first episode where the time crunch is apparent to the point of distraction. Perhaps I’m just hard to please – just a few episodes ago I was worried they were going too slow, after all! Let’s get into my issues a bit more once we have recapped this episode’s events…

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Shenmue The Animation Ep #9 -‘Distinct’ recap and review

NOTE: This is a recap/review of the Japanese audio & English subtitled version of the episode, viewed via Crunchyroll. It is currently not possible to view the English dub where I am, in the UK.

SPOILER WARNING: This review assumes you are a fan familiar with the source material, and that you have seen the episode in full.

After the fairly sedate pace of the last few episodes, things kick up a notch this week. Most of the events of the latter half of Disc 2 of Shenmue II are breezed through with abandon in this episode, whilst still masterfully incorporating the learning of a Wude as well. The pace rarely lets up, with not as much room for quieter, introspective moments as the first few Hong Kong episodes have had. That isn’t to say there isn’t any meaningful character work at all however – Xiuying’s emotional core continues to be slowly unravelled, and there’s a little added dimension to Ren as well. The main takeaway I have from this episode is that I’m no longer fearful of events being rushed or condensed as we head into the final weeks of this marvellous anime – it still remains to be seen of course if we will get as far as Guilin by the time the credits roll on Episode 13, but for now let’s focus on the events covered in this extremely packed and fit to bursting episode!

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Shenmue The Animation Ep #8 -‘Aspiration’ recap and review

NOTE: This is a recap/review of the Japanese audio & English subtitled version of the episode, viewed via Crunchyroll. It is currently not possible to view the English dub where I am, in the UK.

SPOILER WARNING: This review assumes you are a fan familiar with the source material, and that you have seen the episode in full.

I had some concerns last week about the pacing of the Shenmue II part of the story as it has been adapted so far – mainly that they possibly seem to be spending too long on the ‘Wude’ portion, and how this would affect events later down the road. I still have some nagging thoughts about this, but I think this week’s episode mostly quelled them – I can now see that latter parts of the story appear to be running parallel to Ryo learning the Wude, which allows some time to be saved while still focusing on what is an important part of Ryo’s teachings and development as a martial artist. I still find myself wondering if we truly will reach the end of Shenmue II’s story by Episode 13, but I guess part of the fun is in the finding out! At any rate, let’s get into this week’s episode, which has a nice balance of scenes familiar to fans as well as some added depth…

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Shenmue The Animation Ep #7 -‘Future’ recap and review

NOTE: This is a recap/review of the Japanese audio & English subtitled version of the episode, viewed via Crunchyroll. It is currently not possible to view the English dub where I am, in the UK.

SPOILER WARNING: This review assumes you are a fan familiar with the source material, and that you have seen the episode in full.

After the breakneck pace of the anime so far, I was quite surprised just how little was covered in this episode, and I certainly wasn’t expecting a particular character to get a whole episode’s worth of focus. On the other hand, it arguably actually covers quite a lot of ground, mostly due to some rearrangements and changes in events causing some characters/plot elements to be introduced earlier than they were in the game. It remains to be seen of course how the rest of Shenmue II’s events will pan out in this adaptation, but perhaps I can see it as a positive how much this episode surprised me. It’s certainly more interesting than a beat-for-beat recreation of the game’s events would be! Hopefully I can better articulate my feelings about this one as we dive into the recap…

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Shenmue The Animation Ep #6 -‘Dignified’ recap and review

NOTE: This is a recap/review of the Japanese audio & English subtitled version of the episode, viewed via Crunchyroll. It is currently not possible to view the English dub where I am, in the UK.

SPOILER WARNING: This review assumes you are a fan familiar with the source material, and that you have seen the episode in full.

And so we find ourselves this week thrown headfirst into Hong Kong, otherwise known as the beginning of Shenmue II. The events of the first game, the Yokosuka chapter, were breezed through in merely 5 episodes, now leaving 8 episodes left to presumably cover the entirety of the sequel – where arguably the saga and plot truly begin. Events predictably move at a fast pace in this episode, but are also cleverly reworked or reshuffled to add a bit more depth to Ryo’s journey and the characters he meets. Speaking of characters, this episode wastes no time introducing a lot of Shenmue II’s new faces, with one even teased early at the very end. The episode even arguably better conveys the concept of one of the Four Wude than the game actually does, but I’ll elaborate on that when we get there! So without further ado, let’s step off the Genpu Maru and set foot on the grimy metropolis that is Hong Kong…

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Shenmue The Animation Ep #5 -‘Equal’ recap and review

NOTE: This is a recap/review of the Japanese audio & English subtitled version of the episode, viewed via Crunchyroll. It is currently not possible to view the English dub where I am, in the UK.

SPOILER WARNING: This review assumes you are a fan familiar with the source material, and that you have seen the episode in full.

WOW. This may have been my favourite episode yet. I don’t wish to give too much away before the ‘Read More’ break, but I was really impressed with how they handled this episode. It managed to get to where it needed to be without feeling rushed, and was also able to provide plenty of action and tension while also allowing time for quieter, more emotional moments. I commend the writers of this show for respecting the source material while also letting it do its own thing in places – after all, who really wants to watch a 1:1 recreation of the game itself? I feel the best part of this episode is how it constantly surprised me despite playing Shenmue I to completion countless times. So without further ado, let’s get into the recap and allow me to emphasise just why I liked this one so much…

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Shenmue The Animation Ep #4 -‘Shackles’ recap and review

NOTE: This is a recap/review of the Japanese audio & English subtitled version of the episode, viewed via Crunchyroll. It is currently not possible to view the English dub where I am, in the UK.

SPOILER WARNING: This review assumes you are a fan familiar with the source material, and that you have seen the episode in full.

After last week’s episode ended with Ryo determined to travel to Hong Kong to pursue Lan Di, and the preview for episode 4 showing him working the forklift job, I found myself wondering just how events would unfold to get us to this point, considering there is a fairly large gap between these events in Shenmue I. As expected, the anime condenses the plot quite a lot, but also makes some surprising – and mostly welcome- changes. Once again we also see characters being fleshed out a lot more than their game counterparts, which seems to be a recurring theme in this series. I still found myself surprised just how much ground this episode covered, as we are seemingly very nearly at the end of the Yokosuka chapter now; will next week be the last episode before we venture to Hong Kong? Before we get to that, however, let’s recap the packed events of this episode…

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