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…

We only get a brief glimpse of Shenhua this week (with no dialogue) – as the episode opens, we see her standing in a dark, ominous space, and then see that Lan Di is standing behind her, tightly clasping the Dragon Mirror. Shenhua turns, surprised, the camera then zooming in on her implying that she is about to meet her doom at the hands of the cold-hearted Chi You Men member (the scene is somewhat reminiscent of Shenmue II’s bad ending, only without the dialogue and thus Lan Di’s threat that he’ll ‘take Shenhua’s power’). We then cut to Ryo waking with a start in bed, revealing that this was a nightmare. This is interesting, being the first time that Ryo has seen Shenhua in his dreams in the anime, and also because (to the best of my recollection), in the game Ryo is never actually seen reacting to his dreams of Shenhua. (the only exception being the dream triggered on 31st March if the player takes too long, effectively warning him about to hurry before the Bad Ending occurs on April 15th – and this is obviously non-canon) It’s therefore implied that Game-Ryo either only has a faint memory of seeing her in his dreams, or has entirely forgotten, meaning he doesn’t recognise her when he eventually meets her in-person. Given we’ve seen Anime-Ryo react to seeing her in a dream however, does this mean he’ll recognise her when he eventually meets her in Guilin? It will be interesting to see how this is handled…

After the opening sequence, we find Ryo browsing pamphlets at a travel agency -seemingly not the Global Travel Agency as Satoshi Shinoda is nowhere to be seen (and most certainly not the Asia Travel Company – Ryo’s whole ordeal there skipped altogether in the anime, as we’ll come to). An employee approaches Ryo and asks him in Chinese if he is looking for flights to Hong Kong. Ryo seems to understand the gist of what she’s saying and replies he is, prompting her to show him the pamphlet with their ‘best price’ – the princely sum of 150,000 yen (still not quite as much as the 220,000 yen the Global Travel Agency offers him in the game!). Speaking of money, we then see Ine-san sitting at home, seemingly calculating the Hazuki residence finances, sighing glumly as she does so, implying that things aren’t looking so good (this of course raises the question of what exactly the situation is for Ine-san and Fuku-san following Iwao’s death – who is paying for Ine’s employment and for Fuku to continue living there?). Ryo watches her from the hallway and seems to surmise this, thinking better of asking her for help (unlike in the game where he rashly goes to ask her for the money!) Fuku-san spots Ryo, and we then cut to the two of them in Fuku’s room, discussing the price of the Hong Kong ticket. Like in the game, Fuku-san eagerly grabs the piggy bank containing his savings and offers the money to Ryo. While very appreciative, Ryo then glumly realises that even with this he is still coming up short. Unlike the game, Ine-san remains unaware of Ryo’s plans, so we do not have the drama of Fuku-san blabbing it to her and Ine expressly forbidding the trip. Fuku-san’s character seems to be getting through the anime relatively unscathed, given this was probably the key event in the game causing players to dislike him and his thoughtless bumbling!

Ryo is then seen getting off the bus at the harbour, and finds himself immediately greeted with an enthusiastic trademark ‘Yo Bro!’ from Goro. Ryo questions this form of address, with Goro clarifying that it’s just his way of showing respect, believing Ryo to be a ‘big shot’. It’s revealed that Goro believes this after seeing him sneak into the Old Warehouse District last episode, thinking he works for Jiu Feng Co. (Master Chen’s company). I neglected to mention this last week, but we did see a figure hiding behind a wall watching Ryo as he made his way in. It wasn’t entirely clear who this was, but it’s now revealed that it was Goro. Therefore, our lovable delinquent is only too happy to help Ryo with anything at all (who doesn’t bother to correct Goro, I might add!). Ryo shares that he is in need of some money, and after refusing Goro’s suggestion that he go and mug someone for it, asks if he could find him a job somewhere nearby (Goro apparently doesn’t think to question why Ryo would need a job, as he believes him to already work for Jiu Feng, but I guess we’ll just let that slide). Of course, this isn’t Ryo’s motive for wanting a job at the harbour in the game – in Shenmue I, his main motivation is to draw the attention of the Mad Angels, having already gone through the ordeal of being scammed out of the money he thought had paid for a ticket to Hong Kong (therefore, the character of Jimmy Yan is seemingly cut from the anime). While he will of course still draw the Mad Angels’ attention at any rate, it is interesting to see how Ryo’s motivations have changed to handily condense events in the anime and not take up too much time. 

Goro takes Ryo to see Mai to ask if she knows of any jobs , who is working at the Port Mess Hall (seemingly a different establishment entirely from the game’s Harbour Cafeteria). It’s not expressly stated that Goro and Mai are in a relationship here, with Mai merely replying ‘More or less’ when Ryo asks if she is friends with Goro. It’s perhaps also surprising for those familiar with the game to see Mai in honest employment, and indeed we have not seen any of her delinquent behaviour in the anime so far. Goro seems to allude to this however when he claims that she used to get herself in all kinds of trouble before he came along and straightened her out. (Mai refutes this claim however with a sound whack to Goro’s head with a clipboard). She then recalls that Alpha Trading Company based at the harbour were looking for help. While a slightly different route to how Ryo obtains the job in the game, the bare bones of it are essentially the same – Goro claims he will be able to find a job for Ryo no problem, but ultimately has to turn to Mai for help…Ryo just finds that out a bit sooner in this version of events!

Ryo then goes to see Yada-san at the Alpha Trading office, who asks if he can start work right away. As in the game, Yada-san enlists Mark to show Ryo the ropes and how to work the forklift. Mark seems to be a lot colder and more distant here than in the game (none of this ‘I’m sure we’ll get along just fine!’ business here!), and only shows Ryo a very hurried demonstration of how to use this potentially dangerous vehicle, and that he ‘should figure the rest out for himself’. Despite this, Ryo seems to make a decent enough start and comments that he’s getting the hang of it. However, he’s soon proven wrong when he sharply reverses by mistake when asked by another worker to bring some goods across to him. Nonetheless, Ryo still thanks Mark for his ‘help’ as he leaves the office for the day, who is still monosyllabic and distant. Goro then excitedly runs over to Ryo, asking him how the job is going and to hurry up and get the money rolling so they can have a ‘wild party’ (Mark overhears this with a contemptuous look). Goro then offers to show Ryo around the harbour, warning him that he’ll need to tread lightly given that it’s the Mad Angels’ territory – the mention of that gang peaking Ryo’s interest of course. As Goro gives him the grand tour, Ryo happens to notice the number ‘10’ outlined in chalk on the ground. Goro explains that it’s a kind of ‘message board’ where people (presumably fellow delinquents) can write down the number of any vacant warehouses they might find. Ryo respectively declines Goro’s offer to go hang out with his friends in one of them, of course.

Meanwhile, Gui Zhang is seen standing in Warehouse No. 8, deep in contemplation as he remembers Ryo’s passionate words that no matter what happens, he will always be his father’s son. This has clearly struck a chord with Gui Zhang, given the somewhat distant relationship he appears to have with his own father (and not even permitted to refer to him as such). As Master Chen himself descends the stairs, Gui Zhang asks him if he should still be tailing Ryo, given his role as his bodyguard. Chen clarifies this was simply a cover to allow them to keep tabs on Ryo, and now that he’s found the Phoenix Mirror, they cannot afford to get involved any further. As Chen leaves however, he does mutter that it’s a shame to fail Zhu Yuanda. Regardless of whether Gui Zhang heard this part or not, Ryo’s words are seemingly enough motivation for him to consider defying his father. Again, we see here the advantage the anime has of not being confined to Ryo’s perspective here, this scene serving as a nice little character moment for Gui Zhang.

The next day, Ryo is seen working, still seeming a bit rusty with the forklift, while Mark watches on silently. Meanwhile, Nozomi visits the Hazuki residence in hopes of seeing Ryo, with Fuku-san informing her that he just started working at the harbour. As Nozomi leaves, we see her thinking to herself and worrying about Ryo, concerned about him skipping classes and starting a job so late in the school year. Cutting back to the harbour, at the end of another work day, Ryo again attempts to be friendly to Mark, receiving little back in return. Full of enthusiasm as ever however is Goro, who congratulates him on another day’s hard work and gives him a can of coffee. Ryo takes the opportunity to ask why he is being so helpful. Goro then explains that, when he was young, his father suddenly disappeared one day, after claiming he was just going out to buy some cigarettes. (the exact circumstances that fellow delinquent Nelson Muntz’s father is said to have disappeared in The Simpsons – is this just a staple television trope for abandoning fathers?) This appears to elicit some sympathy from Ryo, and Goro further explains that he wanted to get to know his dad, but didn’t have the guts to go out and try to find him. He then apologises to Ryo about what happened to Iwao, having heard about it from Mai. This is interesting, as in the game it is never clear if Goro is aware of Iwao’s murder, and simply never addressed. Goro expresses his admiration for Ryo for not giving up, and that’s why he’s helping him. He even asks if he can visit Iwao’s grave, a surprisingly poignant request from this character! I really appreciate the added depth given to Goro here – while the backstory about his Dad appears to have been written specifically for the anime (there’s no mention of it in his official biography from Shenmue I), it adds more of a motivation for him to want to help Ryo – the motivation not being entirely clear in the game itself (it can be inferred he may have partly been doing it after being impressed by his fighting skills, but there doesn’t seem to be any other easily identifiable reason).  Mark is seen watching this conversation from the stairway above, perhaps now having a change of heart about Ryo. The young Hazuki then asks Goro how he’d go about meeting members of the Mad Angels, elaborating that they’re connected to his father’s death. This instantly gets Mark’s attention.

Later, as Ryo walks home, we see him remember Goro’s answer to his request regarding the Mad Angels, stressing that it’s too dangerous and he can’t help. As he plods on gloomily, he is surprised to find Gui Zhang standing in front of him. Ryo mockingly asks him if he’s back to playing bodyguard, believing that the Chens wanted nothing further to do with him. Gui Zhang only replies ‘Not exactly’ before rushing forward to attack Ryo, finishing with an impressive kick. Gui Zhang then stops and explains that this move is the ‘Swallow Dive’ and that he’d like to teach it to Ryo (in the game, this scene takes place at the harbour) When Ryo asks why, Gui Zhang explains that it’s because, were he in his shoes, he’d do exactly the same, implying that he too would set out on such a quest were something to happen to his own father. We apparently do not have enough time to watch the move demonstration in full however, as the scene quickly moves to MJQ Jazz Bar, where we saw Terry hanging out in the previous episode. Sure enough, the Mad Angel’s leader is there once again, being informed by his subordinates that Ryo has started working on their turf. Terry is then seen standing up decisively, seemingly deciding to do something about this. 

Back to Ryo, as he approaches home late at night he finds Nozomi there waiting for him. The two then sit and talk together at Sakuragaoka Park, with Nozomi asking why he has suddenly got a job. After he explains, Nozomi finally understands that Ryo is trying to find the truth about what happened to his father. While Nozomi expresses her worry, she also says that he should do whatever he thinks is right (a surprising reaction given how she feels about it all in the game). Ryo then asks about the ‘advice’ she wanted before (mentioned in the last episode), but Nozomi shrugs this off, saying everything is fine (but looking downcast while saying this). Once home eating dinner, Nozomi is asked by her grandmother what she plans to do about her father’s proposal. When Nozomi asks what she thinks she should do, Toki says that while she’d hate to see her move away to Canada, but knows that it’d be best for her to be with her parents. Nozomi seems unsure however. She later looks forlornly at photos in her bedroom (featuring cameos from Eri Tajima, Mayumi Mishima, and once again from Ichiro Sakurada and Naoyuki Ito), and once again at the framed photo of her friends and Ryo that we saw back in Episode 2. Again, it’s nice to see things from another character’s perspective and see a bit more of Nozomi wrestling with the momentous decision she has to make.

The next day at the harbour, Ryo is surprised when Mark offers to help straighten up one of the pallets Ryo rather haphazardly placed (apparently warming to him after overhearing he and Goro’s conversation the previous evening). Meanwhile, in yet another unique scene, Goro and Mai are seen visiting Aida Florist – as Goro wants to buy some flowers to put on Iwao’s grave. Nozomi overhears the two talking about Ryo, and as Goro goes on he mentions that Ryo is intending to take on the Mad Angels to get to the bottom of his father’s murder. Concerned, Nozomi asks him who these Mad Angels are. Taken aback by Mai informing him that Ryo and Nozomi are classmates, Goro freaks out and says she didn’t hear it from him, but still blabs about them being ‘the worst thugs in all of Yokosuka’. The conversation is then interrupted by Toki asking Nozomi if she can deliver some flowers to Saijo-san’s bar (who we saw in Episode 2). 

Back to the harbour, as they finish another work day, Ryo asks Mark why he suddenly started teaching him properly. Mark doesn’t answer, simply telling Ryo to get himself home. However, Mark soon finds himself being beaten up by a crowd of Mad Angels members, who are demanding that he bring Ryo to them (slightly different from the game where this occurs on a lunchbreak, and they accuse him of working with Master Chen). Mark protects Ryo by insisting he doesn’t know him, but then sure enough, he turns up just in time. Ryo effortlessly fights off the Mad Angels (a little crudely designed and not based on actual in-game characters this time, slightly disappointingly), causing them to flee. After Mark confirms to Ryo they were the Mad Angels, Ryo asks why he protected him. Mark replies it’s because he reminds him of himself, clarifying that he initially thought Ryo was just some kid wanting to earn some quick cash, but now realising he isn’t, reveals to him that he’s looking for his little brother, who he heard joined the Mad Angels. This is markedly different from the game, where Mark believes his brother to have been killed by the Mad Angels (for leaking information, unsure if it was his brother or the person who first heard the information who was killed). The scene changes before we can hear any more information about this – will Mark’s brother end up being someone we actually meet in the anime? Only time will tell…

Nozomi is then seen delivering the flowers to Saijo-san at Bar Yokosuka. While there, she overhears a customer mention the Mad Angels, turning to see some sort of illicit transaction going on, and then the two men leaving to go elsewhere. Nozomi asks Saijo-san who these Mad Angels are, he initially claims not to know but Nozomi presses him, saying that she is trying to get information to help Ryo. Saijo pauses before reluctantly telling her simply that they aren’t the kind of guys a girl like her should be digging up dirt on. As in Episode 2, we see Saijo holding a lot of knowledge about the criminal underworld (after his previous occupation as a navigation officer), and it’s nice to see this character detail used as a vehicle for Nozomi’s investigation (and also good to see her have the agency to even begin her own investigation!)

Choosing to ignore Saijo’s advice, Nozomi follows the two to what appears to be a Mad Angels hideout. Before she can do much however, she is quickly accosted by one of their members.

As Ryo returns home, he is greeted by Ine-san who asks if he was out with Nozomi. Ryo says he wasn’t and asks if something has happened. Ine-san explains that Aida-san called earlier as Nozomi never came home after going out for the delivery. Ryo runs out of the house in alarm but before he can do anything, a motorcycle’s light is shined on him, the rider asking if he is Ryo Hazuki (a scene we saw in one of the initial trailers). After confirming he’s with the Mad Angels, the rider demands that he go to Warehouse no. 17 at the harbour, or ‘they’ll give the girl something to cry about’. This request is far more direct than in the game, where instead Ryo receives a phone call from Chai with the same demand (in fact, Chai is nowhere to be seen in this episode, the first one where he hasn’t appeared so far). Another somewhat humorous change is how Ryo acquires a motorcycle to get to the harbour – whereas in the game he borrows one from his friend Naoyuki, here he simply runs up and kicks the rider off this one! An inventively humorous way to speed things up for the anime! After commandeering the bike and arriving at the harbour, Ryo finds Warehouse no. 17 (adorned with the Mad Angels logo), going in he almost immediately finds Terry waiting for him, thugs circling him and Nozomi tied up behind him. Terry asks Ryo why he is after his gang and if the Chens sent him. Ryo insists he has nothing to do with them and that he is simply after Lan Di. Recognising the name, Terry comments that Ryo must be ‘going straight for the head of the cobra’ if he’s going after the Chi You Men. He then says that he’ll let Nozomi go if Ryo sends Chen’s son ‘swimming with the fishes’ (a bit harsher than in the game where he simply says to beat him up so badly that he can’t walk!), and only then will he be convinced that Ryo isn’t in cahoots with the Chens (again, the Chen-Angels rivalry appears to be played up a lot more in the anime). He also insists that Nozomi will be staying with them until Ryo has done the deed – proving Anime-Terry is a much better negotiator than Game-Terry, who simply takes Ryo’s word that he’ll do it, and lets him leave with Nozomi there and then!

As Ryo is escorted out of the warehouse by two of the thugs, with a knife poking into this back, he remembers Goro and Nozomi’s words of encouragement from earlier. With renewed determination, he asks to be permitted to ‘take a leak’ at a spot Goro showed him while showing him around the harbour – but we see that he has actually used this opportunity to scuff the no ‘10’ written in chalk with his shoe, changing it that it now says ‘17’ – presumably we’ll have to wait until next week to see if Goro and friends get this message and are able to assist in any way…

Ryo then encounters Gui Zhang and immediately challenges him to a fight. Initially bewildered, Gui Zhang ultimately agrees, and as the Shenmue theme swells in the background the fight begins proper, Terry and his goons watching from a distance. Ryo and Gui Zhang then inadvertently perform the Swallow Dive kick at the same time, knocking them both to the ground. As Terry grins and declares that Yokosuka is now his foe the taking, we come to the end of another jam-packed episode. 

FINAL THOUGHTS: Well, this episode ended up with quite a lot to cover! It appears the writers have taken the decision to combine the last two nights of Shenmue I into one – probably a sensible decision given the limited time we are working with. The question is, will next week (only Episode 5!) be the final Yokosuka episode? I find myself hoping that the next episode will cover the 70 man battle and Nozomi’s rescue, and that Episode 6 will be a slower-paced farewell episode to wrap things up, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Ryo’s time at the forklift job is also breezed through quite quickly – the only real event remaining from the game being Mark’s ambush by the Mad Angels (and therefore none of the constant harassment by the sailors and others in the Mad Angels) Speaking of Mark, will there be any more screentime for him and the search for his brother? It would be a shame for his role to be reduced so drastically. Having said that, Goro ended up receiving some nice and unexpected development here, along with more of a motivation to help Ryo (which makes me wonder if the chalk signal will work and bring in Goro and his friends to help dispatch of the Mad Angels?) Another surprising part was Nozomi taking the initiative to do her own investigating to help Ryo, meaning in this case it is somewhat her own fault for getting kidnapped. For her to be such a strong supporter of Ryo’s quest is an admittedly drastic change from her game counterpart, but perhaps this was needed to make a more engaging character for the anime audience. 

As I am currently unsure entirely how I feel about some of the changes made from the source material, I think I’ll give this one a 3/5 for now.

What did you think of the episode? Let me know in the comments!

Until next week, for Episode 5 – ‘Equal’!

Stuart/Miles

2 thoughts on “Shenmue The Animation Ep #4 -‘Shackles’ recap and review

  1. Nice summary! It seems Terry was satisfied enough with the outcome of the fight, even though Guizhang wasn’t technically left swimming with the fishes… Also after watching this episode, I think Goro’s a strong contender for the identity of person who has the line “You’re my greatest hero!” in the opening theme song (in Japanese it uses the word for elder brother there).

    Liked by 1 person

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