Monday, February 28, 2022

Shenmue The Animation vs Real Life: Mikasa Park

Night has fallen, and the workers have finished a hard day's work at the harbor in Yokosuka. Other, less savory, characters are also on the move as they gather in the local bars - their meeting place of choice.

This location is shown briefly in Episode Four, setting the scene of an area where the notorious Mad Angels ("I didn't say nothin' about them being the worst thugs in Yokosuka!") are said to hang out.

In real life, it is a waterfront park called Mikasa Park, where the battleship Mikasa that was built in the late 1890s has been preserved on display as a memorial ship. The part is about a 10 minute walk from Dobuita Street.

Other Shenmue The Animation vs Real Life comparisons:

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Friday, February 25, 2022

Shenmue the Animation | S1E4 Sneak Peek: Ryo Seeks a Job

The fourth episode of Shenmue the Animation is coming up this weekend on Crunchyroll & Adult Swim! A new sneak peek trailer & a shorter promo clip have been released, and can be viewed tomorrow.

*** Spoiler Warning ***

In the sneak peek trailer, which has a good 3-minute runtime, the cost of a flight to Hong Kong forces Ryo to go off in search of employment, where he runs into a recent acquaintance who is eager to please.

A shorter clip has also been posted on the official Toonami Facebook page, with something fans of the game will have been waiting for - forklifts! Ryo seems to be still getting to grips with its operation during his first day on the job.

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Monday, February 21, 2022

Shenmue The Animation Easter Egg: Xuhe Hall | Episode 3

 *** Minor Spoiler for Episode 3 ***

In Episode 3, when Master Chen is telling Ryo about the Chi You Men, a flashback plays showing Lan Di and his henchmen in an empty restaurant, and shaking down the manager for information.

This is another great example of the way the anime fleshes out the story to add additional details that are not seen in the game.

Hidden within this flashback is a small easter egg that may not be apparent at first sight, except to viewers who are able to read Chinese writing (not unlike a certain Shenmue plot point!) The front exterior of this multi-level building bears a large sign above with the characters 須賀楼, translated onscreen as "Xuhe Hall" - note that they are read from right to left, being in traditional order on the sign.
Xuhe Hall entrance: the characters are read from right to left.

The last character, 楼, is a suffix that means "building", which in this case has been translated as "Hall". This is the same character the buildings 

Now let's take the first two characters, 須 and 賀.

Although their Chinese pronunciation has been given as "Xuhe", these characters also exist in Japanese  where they are pronounced "su" and "ka" respectively. This combination of characters most frequently occurs in the names of people or places.

In fact, there is one very familiar placename in which they are found, as they are the "suka" part of the name of Ryo's hometown of Yokosuka! This can be seen in the comparison below of the characters on the sign board compared to those on the sale banner on Dobuita Street.

As Xuhe Hall seems likely to be a one-time location that will not appear again in the anime, it was the perfect place for the creators to have a little fun with the naming and put in this small Easter Egg.

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Sunday, February 20, 2022

Shenmue the Animation | S1E3 Promo: Ryo Meets Goro

 *** Minor Spoiler for Episode 3 ***

Episode Three of Shenmue the Animation will be releasing very shortly on Crunchyroll and Adult Swim!

In this promo clip, Goro severely underestimates Ryo's threat and ends up making a fool of himself at the harbor. (We shall see whether Ryo will get to use his famous line in the anime version of this scene...)

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Friday, February 18, 2022

Shenmue the Animation | S1E3 Sneak Peek: Translating the Letter


The third episode of Shenmue the Animation is coming up this weekend on Crunchyroll & Adult Swim!

*** Spoiler Warning ***

This new sneak peak trailer shows Ryo decoding the mysterious letter from Yuanda Zhu with the help of the owner of a neighborhood antiques shop, a scene that will be familiar to players of the game.

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Thursday, February 17, 2022

Shenmue The Animation vs Real Life: Ryo Farewells His Teammates

We join Ryo again just after he has left the high school karate tournament shown in Episode One. The real-life model for the venue is a multi-purpose sporting facility called the Yokosuka Arena, and we have previously seen likeness comparisons for both its interior and exterior.

Outside, although his teammates talk enthusiastically about going out to celebrate, to their surprise Ryo declines, saying the he has training this evening, and that he'll have to pass.

This is the location where Ryo waves farewell to the group as he jogs off along a side road.

Ryo farewells his teammates: real-life location (top) vs anime (bottom)

Check out these other Shenmue The Animation vs Real Life comparisons.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Opening Theme "UNDEAD-NOID" Lyrics & Analysis | Shenmue The Animation

The opening theme for Shenmue The Animation goes by the intriguing name of "UNDEAD-NOID" and was written and performed by Kashitaro Ito.

We have taken a stab at transcribing and translating the lyrics to help those who wish to sing along and get into the Shenmue spirit! As a general disclaimer, though: some differences may have crept in compared to the actual lyrics as these have been transcribed by ear.

Commentary on each of the lines, and possible references, follows the video.

Video: Opening Theme with Lyrics

Artist Profile: Kashitaro Ito

Here is brief profile of the artist:

"He started his career performing music covers on the Internet and made his major label debut in 2014. Since then, he has released three albums, all in the top 10 of the Oricon rankings. In parallel with his own activities, he also provides music and production work for other artists. He has also published a novel selling over 60,000 copies, and his talents include singing anime songs and voice acting.

He does not show his face in the media, with a fox mask being his trademark."

One other note of interest is that the artist also has a great admiration for the Beatles, and has previously written a promotional song inspired by John Lennon's Imagine.

Analysis of the Lyrics

While at first glance the lyrics may not seem to bear much relation to Shenmue, I believe this song was written specifically for the anime as there a few definite, though subtle, connections that exist within. 

Let's take a closer look.

"Hesitating before the criminals"
The lyrics open with a mention of "criminals" in the first line, which is rather general but but in the world of Shenmue the most likely suspects are the members of Lan Di's dark organization. When we have moved to the next line, we will see a hint to the location of Ryo's home town of Yokosuka, and so this line would fit a description of the confusion and uncertainty felt by the 18-year old Ryo when he enters the Hazuki Dojo and encounters Lan Di and his men.
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Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Shenmue The Animation vs Real Life: Karate Tournament Venue Exterior

Early in Episode One of the anime, Ryo and his team mates compete in a high school karate tournament for Kanagawa prefecture, the district in which Ryo's school, Yokosuka High, is located. The real-life model for the venue at which the event was held is a multi-purpose sporting facility called the Yokosuka Arena.

We saw in a previous post how closely the interior was recreated for the anime, and the exterior shot showing Ryo, his team mates and a teacher crossing the road outside the facility after the end of the tournament also matches up perfectly, from the criss-crossing electric wires strung overhead to the building shape and detailed features.

Outside the event venue: anime (left) vs actual location (right).

The project team have clearly been thorough in their location scouting, and made every effort to represent the real Yokosuka with as much care as in the games.

Check out these other Shenmue The Animation vs Real Life comparisons:

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The Hazuki Family Altar | Shenmue The Animation

The Hazuki Family Altar contains memorial tablets for Ryo's deceased father, Iwao Hazuki, and his mother.

In a close-up shot, the kanji characters for "father" and "mother" can be seen on the left and right memorial tablets respectively, written in a cursive-style script that has quite a different appearance from standard lettering.

His father's name, Iwao, can also be found written there.

Yamagishi-san visits the family altar (Shenmue The Animation Episode Two).

In the game, the kanji of his mother's name, Akane, is also present but interestingly this does not seem to be the case in the anime's portrayal. It should be noted that the deceased's worldly name is not always written on such tablets.

In a previous post, we wrote about the Hazuki Family Altar and the significance of the various elements. Read about it here.

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Sunday, February 13, 2022

Shenmue The Animation Promo: S1 Episode 3 [Ryo & Guizhang]

  *** Minor Spoiler for Episode 3 ***

Following the release of the second episode, a new promo clip is out for next week's episode of Shenmue The Animation: Episode 3, which is called "Yin-Yang". This scene shows an encounter between Ryo and Guizhang in a suburban street - something that also occurs in the game.

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Shenmue The Animation Promo: Episode 2 [Bar Fight]

 *** Minor Spoiler for Episode 2 ***

A new short promo clip for today's upcoming release of Episode 2 of Shenmue The Animation, entitled "Daybreak", has been shared on Adult Swim's Twitter channel. It shows a little more of the bar fight scene at Heartbeats Bar that has been previously glimpsed in a previous trailer.

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Saturday, February 12, 2022

Shenmue The Animation vs Real Life: Karate Tournament Venue - Interior

Today's location comparison is the interior of the gymnasium where Ryo and his team compete in the high school karate tournament for Kanagawa Prefecture.

The real-life venue is the Yokosuka Arena, and is a multi-purpose sporting facility, hosting competitions throughout the year - including martial arts tournaments! The facility is run by Yokosuka City and does not belong to Ryo's high school.

As can be seen below, the interior shown in the anime matches the actual layout perfectly.

The anime venue (left) vs the actual hall at the Yokosuka Arena (right)

Check out these other Shenmue The Animation vs Real Life comparisons:

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Friday, February 11, 2022

Shenmue The Animation vs Real Life: MOUNTAIN Shop & Tunnel #2

Many of the backgrounds in Shenmue The Animation have been faithfully recreated from actual places in Yokosuka. Here are a couple of these.

Tunnel #2 on Route 16

Early in Episode One, a mysterious black car is seen speeding out of a road tunnel in Yokosuka...

The tunnel location in Shenmue The Animation (left) matches closely with real life (right).

We previously posted about another road tunnel entrance shown in a scene from the anime trailer which also matches a real-life location and it would have been easy for the production team to reuse the backdrop; but instead they have chosen to recreate this second tunnel, which lies further along Route 16 towards Dobuita Street.


A glimpse of this shop can be seen in our previous Dobuita Street comparison, and it is viewed here from another angle. In the anime, the sign above the door reads "MOUNTAIN", while the current-day name is "GREEN", a jeans shop.

Also featuring in the photo are the Dobuita Street street lamps, which are used in the anime as supports for the "Yokosuka Appreciation Sale" banner that is familiar from the game. The shape of the lamp post heads change every few years; the design in the anime matches the ones used around 2010.

Beneath the lamps are promotional Dobuita Street flags. The design of these changes annually; in the anime it has an anchor symbol representing the nearby naval base and "DOBUITA" in block lettering split across two lines - the lettering style used is very similar to that of a 2014 flag design, as shown below.

Lastly, in the anime frame a red box-like shape can be seen at the lower left: this is a fire extinguisher box which can be observed also in the present-day photo.

The MOUNTAIN shop (anime) vs GREEN Jeans Shop (real-life)

More real-life comparisons to come!

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Shenmue the Animation | S1E2 Sneak Peek: Ryo Looks for a Translator

*** Minor Spoiler for Episode 2 ***

The second episode of Shenmue the Animation will be released this weekend (Crunchyroll and Adult Swim)!

While we've seen the appearance of Charlie in a short promo for the upcoming episode, this new sneak peak trailer shows Ryo on the hunt for a Chinese speaker to help deduce the meaning of the mysterious letter from Yuanda Zhu.

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Thursday, February 10, 2022

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for February 2022

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the winning topic that has been voted this time is:

"Cut Content: Screenshots of Miao Village"

Following the release of Shenmue II on the Dreamcast, a number of intriguing screenshots were revealed by the development team on the website that appeared to contain content that had been cut from the game before release. They showed an unfamiliar village and temple, and even subtitles of dialogue with an unused character.

Fans later also managed to uncover unused loading screens, one of these showing the name  "Miao Village" - this is the name by which the location of these screenshots came to be known by the community.

Various theories have been put forward over the years, although even today, little is known about these screenshots.

Some of the screenshots apparently showing content cut from Shenmue II

In this post, we'll be examining not only the content of these mysterious screenshots, but also as many mentions and references as we can find from available sources from the day and later, in order to build as comprehensive a picture as possible.

Coming soon to the blog!

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Monday, February 7, 2022

Shenmue The Animation: Episode One Releases & Opening Theme

At the time this post is being written, the first episode of Series One of Shenmue The Animation, called Thunderclap, has now been released worldwide - outside of Japan - on CrunchyRoll, which has the Japanese voicing with English subs, and on AdultSwim in the US with the English dub.

The opening theme sequence is impressive, with a dynamic flurry of characters and images set to the catchy beat of the official Opening Theme by Kashitaro Ito, which is named "UNDEAD-NOID" - we are curious about the meaning behind this name! This was in fact played at the end of Episode One, but will presumably play at the start of each episode going forward, together with the (yet-to-be-heard) official Ending Theme called Sympathy.

From our point of view, the Japanese-voiced first episode did not disappoint! All the key story beats were covered, while much of the slower-paced exploration scenes were condensed or skipped to keep the story flowing smoothly, and this worked well for an anime. Noticeably, Ryo's human side was allowed to show through more than in the game, including some nice additional interaction with his father. 

For a deep-dive review of the first episode, check out Stuart's great post on Shenmusings.

Shenmue Forever has also produced this summary of the overwhelmingly positive reactions in a poll on Twitter. A great deal of positive feedback has been reported from the wider anime community.

Episode Two, which is called Daybreak, will follow within the week:

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Sunday, February 6, 2022

Shenmue The Animation Promo: Episode 2 [Charlie]

*** Minor Spoiler for Episode 2 ***

A short promo for next week's Episode 2 of Shenmue The Animation, entitled "Daybreak". The scene with Charlie, in which the presence of crates suggested a possible industrial location, is revealed to be in the suburbs after all, in keeping with the game.

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Shenmue The Animation Premiere Mini-Promo: Karate Tournament

Building anticipation for the premiere! With the premiere now just hours away, a short clip with new footage of Ryo at the karate tournament has been released by Adult Swim.

View it below:

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Friday, February 4, 2022

Shenmue the Animation Premiere Sneak Peek: Ryo's Journey Begins | Video

A new "sneak peek" trailer has been released showing Ryo & Shenhua in the iconic cave scene from the second Shenmue game.

Watch below:

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Thursday, February 3, 2022

Messages from the Japanese Voice Cast: Shenhua, Nozomi & Guizhang | Shenmue The Animation

The official Japanese website for Shenmue the Animation has been updated with an announcement of three more of the voice cast for the Japanese version, for the characters of Shenhua, Nozomi and Guizhang. The announcement includes a revelation of the ending theme song for the anime. We've translated the messages and announcement below.

Further character voice casting for Shenmue the Animation has been announced! Haruka Terui will be playing Shenhua, a mysterious and enigmatic girl who lives in a remote village. Haruka Fushimi will play the role of Nozomi Harasaki, a girl who secretly adores the main character Ryo, and Ryuichi Kijima will play Guizhang Chen, a man who is always calm and collected but also has a passionate side. Official messages from each cast member have also been received, expressing their joy at participating in the production.

In addition, the anime's ending theme will be Sympathy by rock band Narudora, who are known for their unique Japanese sound and enchanting interpretation. Please look forward to this creative ending theme!

Cast Announcement (Round Two) & Messages!

■ Haruka Terui (as Shenhua)

■ Haruka Fushimi (as Nozomi Harasaki)

■ Ryuichi Kijima (as Guizhang Chen)

About the Ending Theme artist: Narudora

Ryohei Iwata (drums), Kazuya Miwa (vocals/guitar), Kaba (guitar/bass/vocals)

From the band's website:
"Narudora is a Japanese rock band from Gifu formed in March 2013. As a songwriter and a lyricist for the band, Kazuya Miwa controls the Japanese language in a very unique way and perfectly fits it into his own music with his great love, respect, and understanding for the Japanese language itself. Inspired by his songs, the band members come up with their own approach to boost the songs, which in turn allows them to give the audience the one-and-only world of Narudora. The winner of one of the biggest band contests, RO69JACK 2014. Major event appearances: ROCK IN JAPAN FESTIVAL, OOPARTS, MINAMI WHEEL, SAKAE SP-RING, TOKYO CALLING. Narudora has played with: ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, [Alexandros], SHISHAMO, THE BACK HORN, 04 Limited Sazabys, LACCO TOWER, My Hair is Bad, and so on. Their 2nd EP "Bunmei Kaika" won the Tokai division award on the ninth CD shop awards."

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Tuesday, February 1, 2022

[Part Two] Twenty Striking Observations from the 2022 Shenmue the Animation Main Trailer: #10 to #1

View of Yokosuka, discussed in Observation #1

We continue on with our trailer analysis, presenting #10 to #1 of the twenty observations that impressed us most! See our previous post to review those in Part One.

Observation 10: Opening Theme Music "UNDEAD-NOID"

Music is an integral part of the Shenmue experience, and the music in the trailers show that this facet has not been neglected either.

The backing music in the action-oriented trailer is instrumental, with atmospheric tones and percussion that set the mood well but without tunes or melodies.

The story-oriented trailer, on the other hand, breaks into a catchy drum-backed piece of vocal music called "UNDEAD-NOID", performed by Japanese singer-songwriter Kashitaro Ito, that is the anime's official opening them music.

Towards the end the sound of what may be an erhu, or Chinese violin, can be heard. This is a nice additional link to Shenmue's world.
The music from the original games has not been ignored, either, as the trailer starts with a tension-filled arrangement of the classic Shenmue theme.

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