Saturday, October 16, 2021

[Part One] Subtle Details from Shenmue the Animation Trailer: Recap & Analysis


Promotional image from the newly-opened official Japanese website

The first trailer for the upcoming Shenmue the Anime trailer, was launched last week at New York Comic Con (NYCC) 2021 and did not disappoint with its montage of recognizable characters, scenes, locations, and fighting action. Already it has generated a great deal of positive buzz, not only in fan forums but in the wider media.

In this post, we will continue the time-honored tradition among fans of picking apart the new trailer in excruciating detail to see what clues and information can be squeezed out of it (with a dose of speculation thrown in for good measure).

Related link: to read some background about the anime, we posted this translation of a Famitsu interview last year with creator Yu Suzuki and producer Yu Kiyozono:

  • Shenmue the Animation: Famitsu Interview with Yu Kiyozono & Yu Suzuki: Part One and Part Two
Let's get started with the play-by-play recap and analysis of this trailer!

First, below is the full trailer (English voicing), which is just over a minute long:

Ryo on the Boat

The trailer starts with low, ominous notes playing as the camera pans downwards across a surprisingly-realistic backdrop of clouds, set against a darkening blue sky and tinged with the pink of a setting sun. A ship is revealed, moving across the ocean toward the camera.

Simultaneously, Shenhua's voice reading the words of the prophecy can be heard, albeit with slightly different wording to the game versions, matching with the visual scene: "Coming across the sea, from a distant land in the East..." (We'll spend some time examining the new prophecy wording later).

There is a clear parallel with the cut scene that plays at the end of the first game as Ryo makes his way to Hong Kong onboard the passenger-cargo ship Genpu Maru, which was also set in the evening and was set against a reading of the prophecy.

Ryo's leaves for Hong Kong (ending cut scene from Shenmue)

Then a cut to a close-up shows three items in a person's hand (soon revealed to be Ryo).

The items are:
  • The amulet that Nozomi gives Ryo before he leaves for Hong Kong, shown in a flashback as Ryo boards the boat. On it are written the characters 祈願成就 which is a wish that one's dreams be fulfilled.
Nozomi gives Ryo an amulet (ending cut scene from Shenmue)
  • A letter with international markings on the border. Ryo is holding it with the sender's name showing on the reverse side: 朱元達 (Zhu Yuan Da) - this is the coded warning letter Zhu sent to Iwao at the beginning of the first game, only for it to arrive too late. One minor visual difference is that, in the game, Zhu's name has been stamped with his personal seal in red ink.
Ryo examines the letter from Zhu (Shenmue 1). Zhu's red ink stamp can be observed over his name.
  • A book with a brown cover. The book is rather thick, and has some writing on at the top, although most is obscured by the amulet. The characters are rather blurry, but appear to be place names in China: 香港 (Hong Kong) followed by 萬里… (these are the first characters of the Great Wall, but it may refer to another place name here), and on the next line the character 東 (east). At the very bottom of the cover is what appears to be the publishing company name: 東部書店 (Eastern Publishers). It appears Ryo has sensibly brought along a guidebook.
The camera then cuts to a wide shot of Ryo on deck, dressed in his patched leather jacket and white T-shirt, staring with intent at the items in his hand. (From this angle we can see the front of the letter and the characters 先生 (sensei) which fit with it being addressed to Iwao Hazuki). 

One interesting aspect of this scene is that Ryo chooses to focus on the letter from Zhu Yuanda, rather than the last clue he received, from Master Chen, which was a letter of introduction to Tao Lishao. This may be to emphasize Ryo's larger goal of tracking down Zhu to find out about his connection to his father.

Ryo then lowers his hand and stares purposefully out to sea, toward Hong Kong, expressing his desire to avenge his father's death.

Ryo Walking

A brief clip follows of someone walking along a road at a medium pace - this is presumably Ryo, based on the similarity of his shoes and clothes to those in the game.

Ryo's shoes in the game: similar in color and design

Concrete slab walls like the one in the background can be found around Dobuita and the Yokosuka suburbs, suggesting this may be depicting a scene of Ryo exploring. The one below near Yamanose Shrine is one example. 

A similar concrete wall in the game. Running alongside is a covered drain.

The trailer shows a white painted line running alongside the wall, whereas the suburban roads in the game tend to have covered drains running along the edges and no line.

Karate Tournament

The next clip shows a karate match taking place inside a large stadium, being watched by a large seated audience. One of the participants thuds to the floor...

...then the camera pans to show a black-belted Ryo as the one who has thrown his opponent. Notably, he does not have a band-aid on his face, indicating this took place at an earlier time.

The characters on Ryo's gi are a challenge to recognize due to their simplified form, but Japanese fans have identified these as 横須賀, Yokosuka. Ryo belongs to a karate club at his school, as referred to by Ine-san during the game in an optional conversation, so indications point to the karate tournament potentially taking place at Ryo's school, Yokosuka High.

The inclusion of the high school karate tournament will please many fans, as Yu Suzuki mentioned this in a #YouAskYu event when asked about how Ryo got his iconic band-aid, saying "It didn’t appear in Chp.1, but there was a martial arts event, and the scar is from the final match". (We shall examine evidence later to see whether this holds true for the anime).

Harbor Fight with Guizhang

The next scene has the always-suited Guizhang rushing toward Ryo, who is waiting in a fighting stance. Ryo blocks Guizhang's initial punch and roundhouse kick.

As the clip plays out, we see that the location is the harbor at night: the two are fighting beneath a starry sky surrounded by dark warehouses and electric lights. A large crane like the ones in the game can also be seen in the background:

Guizhang lands his next punch on Ryo's upper body, leaving a visible depression on his T-shirt, and with this camera angle we see that their fight is being observed by a large group. One figure, standing in front with his arms folded, is notable for his similarity to the leader of the Mad Angels in the game, Terry:

This appears to be a scene from the first game where Ryo deliberately starts a fight with Guizhang, to fulfill his promise to Terry in exchange for Nozomi's freedom.

Finally, as the clip fades out, the word "ABALONE" can be seen written on a shipping container near the gang members - presumably just background dressing.

The Sword and the Handguard

In the next clip, Ryo leans forward towards the camera and lifts up a sheathed Japanese sword. Unlike in the game, where Ryo retrieves the sword from a locked chest the dojo, we see from the bookshelf and sliding doors behind that he is in a room, so for the anime the chest may have simply been placed in Iwao's room for convenience. 

The equivalent scene from the game, which takes place in the dojo

Next Ryo stands in the dojo with sword and handguard, and their respective slots in front of him on the wall, just as in the game.

The location in the game

As in the game, Ryo places the handguard in its slot, and we see a close-up of its design. Compared to the one in the game, its shape has been simplified, however this is understandable given that it now must be hand animated.

The more intricate handguard design in the game

End of Part One

At this point we are around a third of the way through the trailer.

The trailer break-down continues in Part 2.

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