Tuesday, October 19, 2021

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

In this post we continue with Part Two of our in-depth breakdown of the Shenmue the Animation trailer, which was launched last week at New York Comic Con (NYCC) 2021 to a widely-positive reception.

  • In case you missed it, read Part One here.
Our analysis continues below.


A new scene shows the figure of Shenhua standing on a mountainside in a rural location at night, facing a full moon that bathes the landscape in its glow.

Although the scene is dimly-lit, details such as the winding path, fence at the side, rock formations, houses and outline of distant mountains can be distinguished. The biggest clue to the location is the tall tower, matching the bell tower in Bailu village as depicted in Shenmue III. Interestingly, the anime has chosen a more natural-looking moon size compared to its oversized appearance in the game.

Bailu village at night in Shenmue III

The design and colors of Shenhua's costume seems to be a blend of the various renditions throughout the years: she wears a long scarf wrapped around her neck as seen in the original concept art, brown sleeves reminiscent of her appearance in Shenmue II, and a knee-height dress with brown leggings below that is rather like the one in the first Shenmue III Kickstarter trailer.

Shenhua's costume as seen in: the anime trailer (top-left), early CG render (top-right), Shenmue II (bottom-left), Shenmue III Kickstarter trailer (bottom-center) and Shenmue III release (bottom-right).

As the prophecy line "As it written upon the stars, from long, long ago" is spoken, Shenhua's solemn face is shown in close up, the moonlight reflecting in her unblinking eyes.

Dragon Mirror Carving

As the prophecy reading speaks of a dragon, the mirror carving from the Stone Pit is shown in close-up, exactly as seen in the Shenmue III trailer and cut scene. During the NYCC panel talk and in a past interview, mention has been made of incorporation of CG in certain places (namely the Kowloon skyscrapers and crowds of people on the street), so would not be unexpected for the anime to include assets such as this when convenient. 

The dragon mirror carving as seen in the Shenmue III Prophecy Trailer

The image of the dragon is used to transition into a scene with the Chi You Men leader associated with this Heavenly Beast: Lan Di.

Iwao's Battle with Lan Di

A crash of thunder marks the transition to a new scene, showing Lan Di facing Iwao Hazuki in the dark interior of the Hazuki Dojo. The dramatic lightning flash from the storm outside lights up his imposing robed figure and casting shadows across the wall and heightening the tension. This is clearly the pivotal prologue scene that opens the first game.

The camera then switches to a wider angle, revealing Ryo against the wall, being restrained by two black suits. There are small indications that this is not consecutive to the previous clip, as Lan Di now has his arms held away from his sides (whereas they were behind his back) and the left-most black suit is standing in a position where he would have been visible from the previous angle.

We also see that the dojo entranceway is open, and snow is falling outside.

The bare-footed Iwao rushes at Lan Di, who responds with a kick to the head...

...followed by an even more powerful kick that propels Iwao backwards through the air. The camera sweeps around to follow the action, and the intricate dragon embroidery on Lan Di's robe contrast with the characters of the Hazuki family name 芭月 on the lapel of Iwao's gi.

In the next shot we see Iwao on the floor in the foreground, and Ryo rushing forward as the black suits try to prevent him doing so. At first it appears to run on seamlessly from the previous action, but looking more closely there are some signs that this clip is being shown out of order in the time sequence: one being that the black suits here are positioned at the doorway, not in the interior of the dojo as seen in the previous shot.

Another indication is in Ryo's actions: he seems to be rushing inside without being aware of what is going on, then a few paces later he stops in shock when he sees Iwao lying on the dojo floor. 

This fits with the way Ryo burst into the dojo after hearing from Ine-san and Fuku-san in Shenmue I, so it is likely the time sequence has been chopped up for the trailer, and that this is not the final interaction Iwao has with Lan Di.

Another point of note is that we can see that Ryo does not have a band-aid (or wound) on his face here, unlike the game where his band-aid was visible from the opening prologue. Another scene later in the trailer provides more clues.

Phoenix Carving & Ryo's Face Wound

The Phoenix mirror carving in the Stone Pit is shown as the prophecy reaches the words "A Phoenix will descend from above", in a parallel manner to the first mirror carving.

This is quickly followed by a side view of Ryo in a fighting stance, with a fresh wound beneath his left eye, followed by a close-up of his eye narrowing and glinting in determination. The orange glow and the wooden trimming on the wall behind identifies this clip as part of a longer scene that is shown later in the trailer.

Warehouse Fight

In the next clip, we see a thug restraining someone's arms, immediately identifiable as Ryo from the patch on the jacket sleeve. In a flurry of action, Ryo firstly slams an elbow behind, connecting with the side of the thug's face...

...and whirls around sharply, sending a total of three more thugs flying across the room. Fittingly, the action is paired with a line in the prophecy describing the Phoenix "delivering purple wind, with a flap of its wings".

From the heavy metal beams, tarpaulins and shelving racks the location appears to be the interior of a warehouse, most likely at the New Yokosuka harbor.

We can also spy two familiar figures from the first game: Tony Abrams, in the greenish T-shirt, and Smith Bradley, in purple, looking somewhat astonished (The first thug can also be seen standing in front of Smith, still clutching his face, which is a nice detail).

This may be a reworking of the event from the first game where Tony and Smith lead Ryo into an ambush at a warehouse.
Fight with Tony and Smith at the harbor from the first game.

Terry and the Mad Angels

Next, tall concrete warehouse walls frame a large group of figures striding towards the camera, under a dark and cloudy sky. On closer examination, stars can also be seen, fixing the time as late at night.

A cut is made to a close-up of walking legs...

...and finally, we see the gang's leader: it is Terry Ryan, the leader of the Mad Angels, and his appearance is remarkably close to how he was modeled in Shenmue I. His gang stands behind him, some carrying weapons such as baseball bats and metal rods, and this clip points to the 70-man harbor battle being recreated in some form in the anime.

Terry in Shenmue I

To be continued...

Continue on to read Part 3 here.

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