Antiquity Trees and Flower Girls: Symbolism in Shenmue (Part 2 of 2)

shenmue-tree

In Part 1, we discussed the meaning of the name, ‘Shenmue’, the various examples of the meaning being foreshadowed before it’s reveal, as well as how flowers are often used as a symbol within the series. In Part 2, we will be exploring the other trees besides the titular tree of the series, (as well as nature in general) and how they represent Ryo’s character development and growth across the two games.

NOTE: This post will contain plot SPOILERS for both games in the series, so it is highly recommended you only read if you have completed both games. It also assumes you have basic knowledge of the two games and the series in general.

So, trees in Shenmue then. Given what we have learned about the meaning behind the name of the series, it only makes sense there would be other trees besides the all-important titular one outside Shenhua’s house. And we see this almost immediately in the very opening moments of Shenmue I – I refer to of course, the cherry tree outside the Hazuki Dojo; where the Dragon Mirror is buried (before Lan Di takes it, of course).

iwao-and-ryo-cherrytree

Now, I’m not sure if there is meant to be any deeper meaning to the Dragon Mirror being hidden under a tree, and the Phoenix Mirror being hidden behind a far more labyrinthine series of secret doors and passageways that lead to the Hazuki Dojo’s basement – but the tree’s narrative importance itself cannot be denied. If the player focuses on the tree the first time they approach the Dojo when first gaining control of Ryo, it triggers a flashback of him as a young boy being trained by his father – at a time the cherry blossoms have bloomed and are falling serenely to the ground. Iwao tells him to ‘find his centre of balance’ – an early indicator of something that becomes a recurring theme throughout the series – Ryo being encouraged to concentrate first instead of acting rashly or wasting his energy. While something merely hinted at here in the first game, this theme becomes far more prevalent in the second game, which we will come to…

Continue reading “Antiquity Trees and Flower Girls: Symbolism in Shenmue (Part 2 of 2)”

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Antiquity Trees and Flower Girls: Symbolism in Shenmue (Part 1 of 2)

shenmue tree

NOTE: This post will contain plot SPOILERS for both games in the series, so it is highly recommended you only read if you have completed both games. It also assumes you have basic knowledge of the two games and the series in general.

As all fans of the series will know, towards the end of Shenmue II’s Guilin scenario (Disc 4 of the Dreamcast version), there is a pretty significant plot reveal – namely, that ‘Shenmue’ is actually the tree outside Shenhua’s house in Bailu Village, and that she herself is named after the flower of the tree. I remember being surprised by this reveal on my first playthrough of the game – it works so well because I had never really thought to question what ‘Shenmue’ meant before that point, or even if it was relevant within the series’ own story and mythology. And obviously for any players who had been eagerly awaiting an explanation, I expect it would have been satisfying for them as well. The other really great and clever thing about it is that there are actually several hints and foreshadowing to this reveal before this point – some admittedly not within the main narrative, but they are there nonetheless – and there are many examples of trees and nature being used as symbolism before Ryo even sets foot in Guilin – which I will be exploring in this post.

Continue reading “Antiquity Trees and Flower Girls: Symbolism in Shenmue (Part 1 of 2)”