Saturday, October 23, 2021

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

This is the third part of our in-depth breakdown of the Shenmue the Animation trailer, which was launched recently at New York Comic Con (NYCC) 2021 to a positive reception from fans and the general public. Read the previous parts here:

And now, let's continue with the trailer analysis. One comparison image in particular is sure to astound with the attention to detail and its faithfulness to a real-life location in Yokosuka. Read on to find out more!

Battle with Chai in the Hazuki Dojo

The next clip opens with a strong band of yellow-red light streaming across a polished wooden floor. Its sharply-defined edges suggest sunlight coming in through the narrow opening of half-open doors. A shadow is cast as a figure approaches from behind the camera, pausing briefly after reaching the opening. The figure's speed is steady, with arms held at the side and thus does not appear to be expecting trouble or in a state of high emotion at this point.

The camera switches to a wide-angle shot, which reveals the location to be the Hazuki Dojo, with the light of the setting sun illuminating the interior through one of the open double-doors, and two characters present: Ryo (the presumed owner of the shadow above) and Chai.

Ryo now stands at the far side of the room in a fighting stance as Chai rushes towards him. The rays of sunlight and lens flare add nicely to the visual effect, although a slight discrepancy in the direction of Chai's shadow compared to that cast by the doorway is apparent.

This image is clearly not sequential to the previous image, so presumably a section was skipped for the trailer edit.

The most notable aspect of this scene is that it is not found in the game, where Ryo instead famously fights a ticket-chewing Chai in the You Arcade in Dobuita. It will be interesting to see whether this is a relocated version of that game scene, or whether it is part of a new story element that has been introduced for the anime.

Next, Ryo stands firm as Chai leaps at him in attack, and the camera moves towards Ryo as if from Chai's viewpoint. Something to note is the freshly-bleeding wound under Ryo's eye - perhaps an injury that happened during a part of the fight scene that was skipped.

Ryo deftly deflects Chai's punch, shown from the side:

In the next clip, Ryo is shown throwing a punch at Chai, who dodges, shown from a new heightened angle. The time sequence here comes into question as Ryo no longer has a wound on his cheek.

This would indicate that this part occurs, timewise, prior to the attack by Chai above; and also points to this encounter with Chai being how Ryo receives his legendary wound to his face - and not the martial arts tournament.

Chai dodging Ryo's punch is shown again from two more angles: a close-up showing Chai's expression...

...and again from a low wide angle.

Finally, the glow of the sunlight, camera angles, and close-up on Ryo's face used here are very similar to those in the brief clip spliced into in the trailer earlier (see Part Two) and so we can conclude they were also taken from this encounter scene.
A frame from earlier in the trailer which has strong similarities to this clip.

Ride Through Tunnel

The next clip is brief but will conjure up memories of a certain event in the game for Shenmue players. It shows a motorbike with two figures speeding into a road tunnel away from the camera. At the front, we recognize the leather jacket and jeans of Ryo, and seated side-saddle style behind him is a girl we can suppose to be Nozomi.

If the twin tunnel entrance looks remarkable realistic, that's because it has been closely modeled on a real-world current-day location in Yokosuka, as can be seen in the comparison below from Google Maps. The signs, electric cables, brick patterns and even the house perched above on the hill are all accurately portrayed. The effort that has been made to achieve such realism and detail for this brief moment is impressive. (Note: this tunnel entrance is seen when heading towards Dobuita from the harbor, as might be expected).

Real-life view (above) vs anime (below).

However, although reminiscent of the event in which Ryo borrows his friend Naoyuki's motorcycle and rescues Nozomi from the clutches of the Mad Angels, there are some notable differences.

Most obviously,  the anime clip takes place in broad daylight, whereas in the game Ryo rides home with Nozomi in the early hours of the morning under a full moon. Furthermore, in the game Nozomi wears a white sweater and plaid skirt, unlike in the anime where she is dressed in what looks to be a school uniform, with a bug tucked under one arm.

Riding through a tunnel in the game

Finally, let's have a closer look at that motorcycle as it whizzes past the camera. At the rear we see double exhaust pipes and a thick tyre, while at the front, we see it has a white vertical guard running down to foot level, almost like a Vespa-style motor scooter. (If there are any motorcycle aficionados who may be able to identify the bike's model, leave a comment!). At the very least, the design of this bike differs greatly from Naoyuki's motorcycle that Ryo borrows in the game.

A vertical guard can be seen at the front of the vehicle. Some small details appear missing, such as the number plate lettering and brake light - perhaps these will be added in the released episode.

With these differences, it seems likely that the anime has incorporated Ryo's motorcycle ride with Nozomi into a new or altered event than the one in the game.

Flaming Brazier

This short clip shows a brazier bursting into flame, familiar from the cut scenes at the end of Shenmue 2 / start of Shenmue 3 at the Stone Pit where one is ignited by a beam of energy from the mirror. The rocky cave wall, brazier design and connecting cord match very closely.

Blazing brazier from Shenmue 3, after being struck by the mirror's energy bolt.

We currently do not know how far the anime will take the story, although at the NYCC Shenmue panel there was mention of CG being used for the buildings in Kowloon. In any case, confirmation that part of this Stone Pit scene has been animated gives reason to be optimistic for the longer-term story coverage, given that it occurs even later in the Guilin section of the story.

Heart Beats Bar Fight

Scenes that look faithful to the games keep coming!

Next is a clip of a goon swinging a red barstool at Ryo. Shenmue players will find this immediately familiar from the QTE at the Heart Beats bar in the first game. Ryo's attacker is Jones Henders, one of the sailors that Ryo has been seeking.

In a brief initial shot, Jones is about to swing the stool down at Ryo:

Heart Beats QTE event from Shenmue

The hanging light fixtures are the same shape as those in the game. Jones' clothes resemble those in the game, although he is now bald-headed here. We also that Ryo see has his band-aid in place.

Ryo evades his swing and kicks the stool out of his hands:

The barkeeper stands in the background, watching the action. One question that must be on the minds of all fans of the game is whether he will utter his famous line about schoolboys and milk when Ryo enters the bar!

Ryo's Punch

With the trailer's deft editing, it might seem at first that the next brief clip of Ryo punching towards the camera might be part of the previous scene at Heart Beats bar, but on close inspection we realize that it is not the same location. Let's take a look.

Ryo is shown facing the camera, and uttering a yell as he strikes forward with his right fist. He has a band-aid on his face here.

Behind Ryo we see wooden beams, white interior walls and what look to be doors with slats on the right side. Light falls on his face and jacket from the right. These clues point to this being a fight that takes place in the Hazuki Dojo.

Possibly the last thing Ryo's opponent will see?

However the identity of his opponent is a mystery. In the fight with Chai shown earlier in the trailer, we saw that he did not yet have his band-aid, and similarly for the Lan Di encounter; but here he does, indicating this is a different scene. It is surely not training with Fuku-san, given the ferocity of the attack. Who do you think it is most likely to be?

To be continued...

Continue on to the last part of the series, Part 4.
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  1. Thank you for your detailed and cool analysis of the trailer! I appreciate the time and effort you put into your posts!

    1. Happy to hear you're enjoying them, thank you!