Saturday, January 29, 2022

[Part One] Twenty Striking Observations from the 2022 Shenmue the Animation Main Trailer: #20 to #11

The official main trailer for Shenmue the Animation has been released, along with announcement of its premiere date coming up very soon on 5th February, 2022 on Crunchyroll and Adult Swim - for all countries except Japan, for which the trailer specifies "Coming in 2022".

In this post, we have gathered together 20 observations from the trailer that impressed or astonished us most, starting with the simpler ones and ending with those that are more subtle. Read on to find out what they are! In this first part, we count down #20 to #11.

Observation 20: Multiple Versions of the Trailer

Although one might expect a single main trailer, in fact it has been released in multiple versions, with each aimed at a different audience. We'll differentiate them using the following naming:
  • Action-oriented trailer, which has English voicing and focuses on adrenalin-filled fight scenes. This version may be effective at attracting newcomers to the franchise.
  • Toonami-specific variation of the action-oriented trailer which contains identical footage for the most part but a brief scene showing Ryo removing the sword from a box is replaced with one of him sneaking past the security office in the Old Warehouse District.
  • Story-oriented trailer (Japanese voicing, no subs). This trailer mixes in even more material, cutting quickly between numerous scenes, events and characters and has onscreen text in Japanese introducing the characters and story outline. With many recognizable faces and places, this trailer does a good job at appealing to existing fans. The text does tend to cover up the artwork however, so the following version with English subs is recommended for a better view.
  • Story-oriented trailer with English subs: as well as adding subs, at the same time much of the Japanese onscreen text is removed. One other small difference with this trailer compared to the non-subbed one is that in place of the title screen for Shenmue the Animation, which shows the exterior of the dojo with lightning flashing above, instead there is a plain screen with the Crunchyroll/Adult Swim logos.

Watching all the trailers is recommended to fully enjoy the content!

Observation 19: Move Instruction Confirmed

In the game Ryo has the opportunity to learn the Double Blow move from Yamagishi-san at Suzume Park, and part of a recreation of this scene can be seen in the story-oriented trailer. (There has been no sign yet of Tom or his hot-dog truck so far however, so whether Ryo will acquire the Tornado Kick from him remains to be seen...).

Yamagishi-san and Ryo at Suzume Park

Observation 18: Calling Master Chen

The distinctive pink 10-yen coin telephone located at Hirata-san's tobacco shop in the game makes an appearance. A hand, presumably Ryo's, can be seen dialing.

The position of his finger, on the fourth hole of the dial, corresponds to number 7. This matches the last digit for the number of the familiar phone number 0468-61-5647 (although the final digit of all telephone numbers in the games was truncated in the rereleases) that Ryo uses to set up an appointment with Master Chen at Warehouse #8 in the game. It appears that this part of the story too has been recreated faithfully in the anime. 

Pink telephone: the position of the finger corresponds to 7 on the dial.

Observation 17: Photo of Father Now in Color

The photo of Ryo's father with Zhao Sun Ming at Bailu village in the game is sepia-colored and shows the two standing in front of a tree trunk. This can be readily recognized in the trailer, with one difference being that it is now in color rather than being sepia-colored, and the backdrop shows blooms rather than a tree trunk. This closely resembles a piece of official artwork that was published in a Japanese gaming magazine around the time of the first game's release (image credit: Shenmue Master).
As a small easter egg in the anime, the words "SEGAFILM" and "SEGACOLOR" can be seen lightly imprinted on the back of the photo.
Iwao Hazuki with Zhao Sun Ming in the first game (top left), promotional artwork (top right) and anime trailer (bottom left). The back of the anime photo is imprinted with SEGA lettering (bottom right).

Observation 16: Zhu Yuan Da's Letter

The action-oriented trailer has a brief clip that shows a folded document falling to the ground. The written characters that are visible show it to be the coded letter of warning addressed to Iwao Hazuki from Zhu Yuan Da. But why has it fallen - or was it thrown?

A hint as to the location can be had from the smooth concrete with grooves cut into it, as a similar concrete surface appears in another scene of Ryo and Guizhang after their battle at the harbor. Hence we can assume the clip of the letter is also at the harbor.

Observation 15: Faithful Recreation of Iconic Scenes from the Game

Fans of the games who were worried that the anime might stray too far from the games will be pleased to see that the anime is strongly linked to the games, with several scenes being readily recognizable from the game, as well as retaining many small details. Some of these we have touched on above.

An extended example is the intro scene which appears to closely resemble that from the first game: Ryo runs home on a bleak and snowy afternoon to find the Hazuki Dojo sign broken in two, and witnesses his father struck down by Lan Di.

The two black suits at the door closely resemble those in the game, and as he cradles his mortally wounded father and gives an anguished cry of "Fatheeer!", a flash of lightning outside the dojo reveals that the snow has indeed turned to rain. (Whether Fuku-san and Ine-san will also be part of this recreated scene is something to look forward to in the first anime episode!).

Stills from the game's introductory scene

Observation 14: Familiar Faces

Several other characters from the game can also be spotted:

Goro and Nagashima: Goro and his distinctive hairstyle make an appearance in what looks to be the extortion scene seen in the game at New Yokosuka harbor as Nagashima exclaims "You're that guy!" to which Ryo replies "Yeah, so what if I am?". This is the scene in which Ryo utters his much-quoted line in the English version of the game: "Don't you know that blackmail is waaaay uncool?" - we have previously written an analysis examining how this compares with the Japanese line. It will be fun to see how this plays out in the anime.

Goro Mihashi & Testuya Nagashima

Mark: a character who also featured in the tutorial videos on the Shenmue Passport disc, is shown driving a forklift as he instructs "Follow me!"; possibly a scene from Ryo's first day training on the job at the harbor.

Mark Kimberly

Master Chen & Guizhang: in this clip, Ryo is consulting with Master Chen about the mirrors, as Master Chen warns him that Lan Di has some kind of plan with them. In the background, the various crates and vases of his Warehouse #8 importing business can be seen.
Master Chen & Guizhang

Tony and Smith: these two troublemaking sailors from the game also make an appearance as they attempt to accost Ryo in the alley leading to Heartbeats Bar, as seen in the QTE in the game. They loom imposingly over Ryo, emphasizing their superior heights; their official biography profiles reveal that they are 1.93m and 1.91m tall respectively, compared to Ryo's lesser height of 1.75m.
Tony Abrams & Smith Bradley

Young Ryo: an indication that the anime will even include flashback scenes from the game, as we see a recreation in sepia of the scene of Ryo as a young boy being trained by his father under the cherry tree as petals drift down around them.
Young Ryo flashback

Charlie & the Mad Angels: another familiar figure to players of the game is Charlie, one of the leading members of the Mad Angel gang, sitting atop a pile of crates with a soccer ball in hand. This recalls the QTE scene in the game where Ryo strikes a soccer ball at Charlie to rescue a child he was threatening; here the soccer ball may have been included in homage rather than playing a role in the scene. The location is not clear, but unlike in the game, where Ryo faces the gang at the construction site in Sakuragaoka, the crates and utilitarian-looking building behind suggest this may be at the harbor.

Together with him are four other Mad Angel members, and these too have been faithfully recreated from actual NPCs in the game. They can be identified as Murasaki (green headband), Okayasu (short brown hair, although wearing different-colored clothes from the game), Hatanaka (green beanie) and Hama (glasses).

Charlie Grant, Shingo Murasaki, Minoru Okayasu, Yoshihide Hatanaka and Tadashi Hama.

Charlies group of Mad Angels (from the Shenmue Passport app Suka Pass).

Finally, although Ine-san does not make an appearance herself in the trailers, what sounds to be her voice can be heard saying "You would be putting yourself in great danger", reminiscent of the interaction in the game where she attempts to dissuade Ryo from going after his father's killer.

Observation 13: Cut Story Elements Resurrected

At the time of the anime's announcement last year, it was rumored that in addition to telling the main story of Shenmue it would also aim to bring "previously scrapped story elements to realization".

After the School Karate Tournament

One example of this is the scene of Ryo's participation in a high school karate tournament before he returns home on that fateful day, a scene not present in the game. We have seen this previously in the anime's first-look trailer, but this time a further snippet is revealed with Ryo shown leaving school with the members of his school karate team (together with an older man, perhaps a teacher who supervises the team). Amusingly, Ryo is dressed in his standard of jacket, t-shirt and jeans while the other students are in school uniform.

Ryo excuses himself from after-match celebrations to go straight home.

Observation 12: Some Small Changes of Note

The anime makes good use of its hand-drawn nature to portray fights and confrontations, lending them even more grittiness and a greater sense of mortality than in the game: spurts of blood can be seen from Iwao's face as Lan Di attacks; sweat glistens on Ryo's face as he grimaces; Ryo's sneaker is shown grinding a smoking cigarette butt into the ground as he approaches sailors blocking his path through an alleyway.
Ryo's sneaker extinguishes a carelessly-discarded cigarette butt

The English dialogue phrasing uttered by the characters sound natural with no sign of any "cheesiness" factor, even employing swearing at an appropriate moment ("You bastard!" as Ryo charges toward Lan Di after witnessing his father being struck down, compared to the "Why, you-!" of the game) that serves to heighten the shock he feels at the moment.
Ryo rushes toward Lan Di

Small changes or additions have been made to some of the events to help the flow; for example we see a figure on a motorcycle outside the Hazuki Residence entrance gate at night, and calling to confirm Ryo's identity. This scene is not in the game, but would make for a more dramatic way for the Mad Angels to inform Ryo that they have captured Nozomi, as compared to the phone call from Chai in the game. 

An unhelmeted visitor on a motorcycle visits the Dojo

Observation 11: A Change of English Voice Cast

In an interview last year, Yu Kiyozono of Telecom Animation Film indicated that "with respect to the core characters, basically my intention is to go with the game's voice actors", which has been confirmed for Japanese voicing with the reprisal of the original voice actors for Ryo Hazuki (Masaya Matsukaze) and Lan Di (Takahiro Sakurai).

For the anime's English voicing, however, an all-new voice cast has been taken on, many with extensive careers in the industry. Fans of the original cast may feel some initial disappointment (particularly with respect to those like Corey Marshall, Eric Kelso, Paul Lucas and Lisle Wilkinson who have continued to support the community and franchise since it was first released); but viewing the anime as its own separate medium, we look forward to seeing in what direction the anime take the English voicing as something that exists alongside the game series.

Some of the confirmed names of the Shenmue the Animation voice cast are shown below:

Shenmue the Animation English cast currently listed on

Another is voice actor Seán Patrick Judge who has tweeted that he will be playing "about 4 or 5" characters throughout the series".

Update Jan 30th: Seán has confirmed he plays the following characters from the first game: retired tailor Liu Gong Hui (father of Liu the barber) and trouble-making sailor Jones Henders; and from the second game: Master Baihu and Yang, owner of Great View Herbs. In addition he plays "a few other thugs and another older gentleman, who helps Ryo with some info along the way".

Based on the lines heard in the trailers, the English voicing sounds high-quality and natural (and the Japanese voicing sounds as good as ever).

Continue to Part Two: #10 - #1

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