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…

We start the episode where we left off last week, with Ryo discovering that Tao Lishao is none other than the mysterious woman he had earlier spoken with at Man Mo Temple. She proceeds to give quite the lecture to Ryo, claiming to know what he is currently thinking, i.e. that can Tao Lishao really be a woman, and that surely he could win a fight against her. Ryo denies this, and claims he would not fight a woman full stop. Hanhui, however, encourages him to spar with her, seeing this as the only way to convince Ryo that she is Tao. He relents, launching forward to attack, but of course every strike he attempts misses completely. He attempts the ‘Swallow Dive’ kick (learned from Gui Zhang back in Episode 4) against her, but she effortlessly evades this, proceeding to grab him by the wrist, pinning him to the floor as applies her fingers to a ‘pressure point’ in the back of Ryo’s head, explaining that if she wished to kill him, he’d already be dead (echoing a chilling line of hers straight from the game). Letting him up, she tells him plainly to go back home, and that she cannot help him (somehow she is even harsher and unforgiving than her game counterpart, who actually does agree to help him at this point!). Ryo can only look on in bemusement as she strides out of the temple, and we launch into the opening sequence.

As Ryo leaves the temple, he encounters a young girl with a broom seemingly working in the temple grounds, who fans will instantly recognise as Xun Fangmei. She teases Ryo, claiming that his skills just aren’t up to the challenge, and that even the strongest fighters can’t defeat Master Xiuying. Hanhui steps in to chide her, telling her to get back to work. As she departs, she counters Ryo’s doubt that he’ll be coming back, cheerily assuring him that he will. This is a much earlier point than she is introduced in the game, but I think this might actually be a change for the better, as it feels organic for Ryo to encounter her as she is working at the temple, rather than her being nowhere to be seen until the story calls for it. Hanhui then asks him how he found sparring with Master Tao, to which Ryo gloomily admits that he felt ‘like an open book’. Hanhui claims this was due to him judging her just by her appearance, doubting her strength just because she was a woman. Ryo can only clench his fist in frustration in answer to this. When he expresses that he doesn’t know what to do now to find out more about Zhu Yuanda, Hanhui suggests that he visit the Guang Martial Arts School, so that he can begin learning about the ‘Four Wude’ (Ryo learned one of them, GON, in last week’s episode). As Hanhui explains the road to his goal may not be as straightforward as he thinks, we flashback to Xiuying’s words to Ryo from the previous episode, warning him about becoming consumed by his desires, and ending up blind to everything else. As he remembers this warning, Hanhui reassures him that the master may yet change her mind and assist Ryo in due time. Ryo accepts this for now, but before leaving asks Hanhui why he is helping him. The monk simply replies that it is not for his sake. This is an intriguing line, as it appears to suggest that he is aware of Xiuying’s inner struggle – which will be hinted at a bit later in the episode. It is also a notable change in itself seeing him more willing to help Ryo, who in the game has to find out about the martial arts school on his own after being given a vague hint from Xiuying about finding martial artists. I do like how Hanhui is a far more active character here, and the suggestion that he is indirectly trying to help Xiuying is very intriguing.

Ryo finds the Guang Martial Arts School, the scene playing out much like it does in the game at first – the two assistant instructors, Mingzhen and Linjian, instantly try to block him from entering with their broadswords – until their master instructs them to let Ryo through, as he appears to merely be a guest. As the two speak, the master introduces himself as Xuan Zhoushan – Ryo introduces himself as well and explains that he wishes to learn about the Wude. Zhoushan however, claims he is not worthy to speak about such a thing, due to ruining a man’s life. We do not see him elaborate any further before we cut to the next day in Aberdeen, as we see Joy speeding by on her motorcycle before she spots Ryo questioning a local, who apologises that he can’t help. As Joy approaches and comments that his Cantonese seems to be improving, she asks what he’s looking for. Ryo asks her if she knows of any strong martial artists – claiming not to, she takes the opportunity to ask if he would like to hang out and for her to show him around the city, which is predictably rebuffed by Ryo. Briefly irritated by this, Joy then suddenly remembers that she’d heard something about a street performer at the Golden Shopping Mall, who was able to effortlessly fend off some thugs. In the game, Zhoushan told Ryo directly that this street performer was the man whose life that he ‘ruined’, and where to find him, but it appears he wasn’t so willing to divulge this here. 

Ryo heads to the mall to investigate, the location being another very accurately recreated from the game. He spots a disheveled homeless man lying on the floor, who immediately asks Ryo if he’s with the ‘Yellow Heads’ when he approaches him. When it becomes clear that he’s not, and merely a Japanese tourist, the man simply asks Ryo to go and fetch him a beer. A confused Ryo reluctantly obliges. Suddenly energised by his ‘first drink of the morning’, the man eagerly stands up, picking up a rock as he does so. He then proceeds to shout to the crowd that a karate expert from Japan will now shatter the rock with his bare hands! Realising the futility of questioning what’s happening, Ryo goes along with it, and with steely determination shatters the rock on his first try (not the experience of most players attempting this part in the game for the first time, I dare say!). Suitably impressed and pleased with the generous tips received from the crowd, the man introduces himself as Zongquan and suggests that the two of them continue to ‘work’ together. Ryo respectfully declines, explaining that he is trying to find a martial artist that can teach him the Wude. While visibly shaken by this, Zongquan simply claims he’s not worthy to speak of it and that he should try somewhere else. When Ryo comments that this is exactly what the master at Guang Martial Arts School said, Zongquan expresses surprise but then quickly brushes this off, leaving Ryo with a share of their profit as he makes a quick exit. This is a lot different from the game where Zongquan essentially spills his emotional guts very quickly to Ryo, allowing the player to quickly return to Zhoushan, but it appears the anime wishes to grant a little more time to develop to our fallen-from-grace street performer…

We cut back to Joy, still riding through the city, only to be interrupted by a knife thrown straight out on the road in front of her! As she swerves and narrowly misses, she quickly realises that is none other than Ren Wuying, who we are properly introduced to this episode following the shadowy tease of him last week. Again, this is much different from the game where we do not see him until Ryo is trying to hunt him down, but it is perhaps a good move to introduce his character earlier here, given the important role he ends up playing. Ren tells Joy that he heard from Wong about how she’s been helping ‘some badass Japanese dude’, and wants to know more about him. While Joy recalls Ryo’s words of determination to achieve his goal no matter what, he simply tells Ren that he should go and meet him for himself – and suggests he try and find him at the Golden Shopping Mall. As well as being introduced far earlier, another intriguing change as far as Ren is concerned is that he is actively seeking out Ryo and eager to meet him- in the game, Ren is not even aware of him until Ryo is searching for him, and considers him a nuisance until he learns of the potential money involved in helping him. The roles are very much reversed here, which is certainly interesting. Can Ren already sense that he may profit from this Japanese stranger, or is he just looking for a bit of excitement, becoming bored with the same old routine of running his gang? I look forward to seeing how these two interact when they do eventually encounter one another…

Ryo is then seen back at the Guang Martial Arts School, telling Master Zhoushan of his encounter with Zongquan, quickly working out he is the man that Zhoushan referred to before. Zhoushan explains he was a former disciple who he banished, being a promising martial artist in his youth but then misusing his skill to make a spectacle of himself, which he still does now in the role of a street performer. Zhoushan blames himself for this, feeling he failed to guide him properly, and still considering himself unworthy to speak of the Wude. Ryo then tries to find Zongquan again at the shopping mall, but he’s nowhere to be seen. He’s then approached by a motley gang of thugs who ask if he knows Zongquan, quickly becoming aggressive with him. It soon becomes apparent they are members of the Yellow Head – and indeed at least two of them appear to be depictions of two of their thugs from Shenmue II, namely Dian Wei and Chun Zheng. They demand that Ryo should pay Zongquan’s ‘protection fee’ in his absence, to which Ryo of course refuses. As a fight breaks out we see Zongquan exit from the toilets nearby, who then investigates the commotion, a crowd now gathered to watch Ryo’s attempt to fend off the Yellow Heads. The street performer quickly intervenes, encouraging Ryo to make a run for it. As the two dash into the streets they pass Ren – unaware that the Japanese tourist he’s seeking was right there…

We now see a far more peaceful scene at Man Mo Temple, as Xiuying sits and reads in the temple garden – however she seems to be distracted by a certain childhood memory. Fangmei interrupts her contemplations however, as she cheerfully informs Xiuying she’s finished cleaning the worship hall. As her master suggests she clean her room next, Fangmei informs her its already been done, as she ‘had a feeling’ it would need to be cleaned, much to Xiuying’s surprise. It appears that like Hanhui, Fangmei knows her master will eventually relent and help Ryo. It’s actually nice to see a scene between these two, as surprisingly you never see them interact with each other at all in the game! The only other example of this occurring so far is in Volume 3 of the ‘Shenmue Side Story’ comics (unlockable in the Xbox and HD versions of Shenmue II).

Back at the shopping mall, the police appear to have intervened following the earlier incident. They question an onlooker who says that he saw what appeared to be a foreigner fighting the Yellow Heads. Ren overhears this and curses to himself, annoyed that he missed out on the opportunity to meet Ryo. He, meanwhile, is sitting with Zongquan in Pigeon Park, having finally eluded the thugs. Zongquan explains that the Yellow Heads are a gang that controls the underworld in Hong Kong – and that they continually harass him due to his refusal to pay their ‘protection’ money. When Ryo points out they didn’t seem very tough, Zongquan simply states he doesn’t like any hassle, and asks him what he came to the mall for. Ryo explains he heard about his past as a martial arts student from Zhoushan, who blames himself for what happened. Zongquan says very little in response, instead being spurred to call out to passers by to buy the vintage books he was carrying. Ryo then returns to the Come Over Guest House for the night, where the owner expresses his annoyance at him staying for free another night, demanding that he start paying tomorrow, regardless of him being a friend of Joy’s or not. In his room Ryo looks at his wallet dejectedly – suggesting he’s still short on cash, despite not losing it all from his bag like did in the game. At any rate, he then sees Joy on the street below, who asks if he wants to grab a bite to eat. As the two eat together, she asks if he found the street performer and if he’s met anyone else recently. Ryo explains about his run in with the Yellow Head gang – a name Joy is visibly shaken by. She comments that while it’s impressive he’s drawn so much attention, that a ‘tough cat’ shouldn’t show its claws right out in the open. Ryo remembers Zhoushan’s words about Zongquan making a spectacle of himself, and the latter’s desire to avoid any ‘hassle’, causing him to suddenly understand. He makes his apologies to Joy and quickly dashes off to the mall.

At the Golden Shopping Mall, we see a bigger group of Yellow Heads crowded round and threatening Zongquan – some being familiar faces from Shenmue II such as Li Shaoqi and An Zifeng – and the ringleader appearing to be Yuan Guanguan (indeed, the character is named as such in the end credits for this episode). Zongquan still refuses to cough up any money, spurring the thugs to attack him – who find themselves overwhelmed by the street performer’s flashy martial arts skills. As Ryo runs into intervene, he tells Zongquan not to attack them – revealing that he now understands that Zongquan keeps his true strength to himself, seeming to still adhere to Master Zhoushan’s teachings – and that he wishes him to stay true to those virtues. After knocking out one of the thugs who tries to come at him with a knife however, Zongquan claims he’s just ‘horsing around’, and not putting on a show or doing any martial arts. The Yellow Head ringleader appears amused by this, he orders the others to retreat for now, but taunts Ryo that he’ll expect they’ll meet him again soon. As Ryo reveals to Zongquan how he figured out he was holding back, the street performer gives him a letter that he wishes for Ryo to pass onto Master Zhoushan. Ryo heads to the school the next day, and upon reading the letter Zhoushan explains that Zongquan’s words still follow the lesson to keep your heart free of conceit, to never use force blindly or flaunt your technique – which is one of the Wude, ‘JIE’. Zhoushan is contented knowing that Zongquan still follows the path of the martial arts, albeit in a different way. 

Ryo then returns to Man Mo Temple, reciting the lesson of JIE to Xiuying. She is unmoved however, unwilling to justify her decision not to help, and not willing to change it. Undeterred, Ryo states that he refuses to give up until she changes her mind. This causes her to remember the words someone said to her as a child, that they were not willing to give up either. This appears to stir something in Xiuying, as she asks Ryo to follow her to her room, where she says she will allow him to stay. She will still not help him with anything else, but feels she must do something considering Master Chen sent him in good faith. As Ryo thanks her by the name Master Tao, she allows him to call her Xiuying, her real name. Hanhui and Fangmei are meanwhile eavesdropping in the hallway, with the former advising the young girl not to get too excited yet. As we end the episode, we see Shenhua standing in Bailu Village, looking up at the night sky with an intense gaze.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I was honestly surprised by the decision to focus an entire episode on Zongquan and the teachings of ‘JIE’ – given the pace of the anime so far, I naturally assumed Ryo would learn all of the remaining Wude in this episode. However this does allow for Zongquan to be given a little more depth, and I think the decision to introduce some characters such as Fangmei and Ren a little earlier does make a lot of sense. As Ryo has already been granted lodgings with Xiuying (in the game this doesn’t occur until after he’s learned all the Wude), perhaps they will skip over the book carrying that she puts Ryo through, as the process of her slightly softening towards him seems to have begun already. I just wonder with the remaining six episodes we have left just how the remainder of Shenmue II’s story will pan out, and have a slight fear of latter events in the story being condensed too much or excluded altogether (I am especially surprised to see Eileen of all characters feature in the preview for the next episode, considering encountering her and all the side quests associated with her in the game are entirely optional!), due to the unexpected amount of time the early parts of the Hong Kong story seem to be being given. Don’t get me wrong – I very much enjoyed the episode! But due to the slightly mixed feelings I have about the pacing and how it will go from here, 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 8 – ‘Aspiration’!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s