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.

Observation 9: More Lan Di Screen Time

It looks like we will get to see a lot more of Lan Di during the anime than in the first two games, where he was not on screen for the vast majority of the time.

Along with the Hazuki Dojo fight with Iwao, the trailers feature snippets of several other Lan Di scenes, including some that don't appear in the game:
  • Lan Di in the back of a car; undoubtedly the black car in which Lan Di and his henchmen speed through the Yokosuka streets. As he is not holding the mirror in his hands, he may be on his way to the Dojo.
"Lan Di: voiced by Takahiro Sakurai"
  • Lan Di approaching a misty Hong Kong cityscape by sea at night, a scene not in the games. This may be his arrival from Yokosuka after seizing the mirror.
  • Lan Di turning toward the camera from his position at a window (a reflection of himself can be seen) staring out into the night from a high vantage point over a dark landscape dotted with the light from several large buildings. What looks to be the sea lies beyond, with a further land mass in the far distance. This may be Lan Di's mountain base in Hong Kong.
  • Further on in the trailer, we see a similar shot at a wider angle. Lan Di is again standing at the large window, and we can now see that the room is furnished in a luxurious manner with red curtains and seating - as would befit a leader of the Chi You Men.

Observation 8: Mysterious Plate

For a brief moment, the camera zooms in on a large gilt-edged plate on display, that has the drawing of a distinctive creature. 

The drawing is an ancient representation of Chi You (after which the Chi You Men organization is named), once a tribal leader who is today worshipped as the God of War and one of the three legendary founding fathers of China. According to legend, Chi You had a bronze head with a metal forehead. He had 4 eyes and 6 arms, wielding terrible sharp weapons in every hand.
An ancient motif of Chi You

The plate itself, together with the camera zoom-in, is reminiscent of the large plate that Ryo picks up (and accidentally drops) after sneaking into Warehouse #8 in the game, with a different illustration - perhaps one that may go unremarked in the anime, or may even serve to prompt an explanation from Master Chen.

Observation 7: You Arcade Upgraded

The You Arcade is another familiar location from the first game, albeit with some changes in lay-out. Hang-On and Space Harrier sit on a raised platform, with a Fantasy Zone poster on the wall behind. 

Bikers Shingo Mochizuki wearing a red bandana and his muscly friend Koji Yabe are seated at their favorite cocktail cabinet and they do not seem to be happy at Ryo's interruption. We shall have to wait until the actual anime to see whether they snarl "Kiss off, twit!" or something equally insulting.

The arcade interior has been expanded in size compared to the game, and there is now a partition wall beyond which the room extends with further arcade machines.

Ryo interrupts Koji Yabe (left) and Shingo Mochizuki (right) at the arcade

The cocktail machine has Fantasy Zone installed, as in the Shenmue re-release of the games.

In the next part of the clip, we see that these additional machines are a double row of classic Astro City multi-purpose cabinets, with their large 29" monitors. Virtua Fighter is installed on all visible machines closest to camera. The fight in progress on the machine being played is Akira vs. Jacky, while the demo fight next to it shows Jacky vs. Pai Chan.

This is a nice meta nod to Yu Suzuki's Virtua Fighter RPG concept from which Shenmue was born. 

This gamer seems to be using the right-hand Player 2 joystick, but he's doing well!

The Astro City cabinet itself, which also makes an appearance in Shenmue III, is one of the cabinet models on which Virtua Fighter was installed when it was first released by SEGA in 1993.
Astro City cabinet with Virtua Fighter

Observation 6: Dojo Basement Redesign

From brief clips scattered throughout the trailers, we see that Ryo accesses the entrance to the basement area in the same way as the game, by placing the Hazuki handguard and sword in hidden slots behind the scrolls to trigger the opening of the secret entranceway.

Ryo isn't shown holding a source of light such as the game's flashlight or candle as he explores, but the anime has handled the lighting in another clever way: as Ryo pushes the rotating wall, note the bright rays of sunlight from the other side of the dojo stream through that cast a shadow in front of him. After descending the ladder, the strong beams of sunlight illuminate the gloom below, indicating that the top of ladder sits directly in the path of the light; it can also be seen that the ladder connects directly to a basement room, without the passageway that exists in the game.

The room looks to be smaller than in the game, but carries a similar atmosphere: the eagle carving and vase that Ryo is able to examine in the game can be seen sitting on a shelf nearby.

Some familiar items from the game can be seen on the shelf (image brightened for visibility).

A large wooden box sits on a red platform; perhaps this is where Ryo discovers the various artefacts that Iwao Hazuki brought back with him from his trip to China, including the photo taken with Zhao Sun Ming.

A separate clip shows Ryo lifting out the Phoenix; it is not clear where it has been kept, although wooden shelving can be seen nearby. Perhaps in the anime version, Ryo won't need to break open a wall to locate it.

Ryo lifts out the Phoenix mirror

Observation 5: Sneaking into the Old Warehouse District

This scene appears only in the Toonami promotional trailer, so is easy to miss: it shows Ryo ducking low as he attempts to sneak past the window of a security guard gatehouse. A flashlight stands at the far end of the counter suggesting that a similar QTE scene from the game may be recreated - or will the anime put a different twist on it? We shall have to wait for the episode to find out.

Ryo sneaking past the window. He is traveling in the opposite direction to that in the game; perhaps the office is placed at the other side of the gate.

Sneaking into the Old Warehouse District: game QTE scene

Observation 4: Shenhua's Prophecy 

The prophecy is an ancient poem that describes the path laid out for Ryo and Shenhua and is an integral part of the Shenmue story. It plays at various points, including a recital by Shenhua in the prologue before the start of the first two games, and it is displayed onscreen in Japanese text (with the addition of voicing for English only) at the end of the first game.
The trailers contain a scene showing a hawk soaring high against the pinks and yellows of a morning (or evening) sky, with Shenhua standing on the edge of a cliff.

Screengrab from the story-oriented trailer (English sub version)

This bears a strong resemblance to the prophecy prologue that plays before the start of the first two games. The tall mountains in the distance and tree growing on the cliff seen here are perhaps closer to the scenery depicted in the second game, although neither contains precisely the same angle.

The prologue from the games: Shenmue (left) and Shenmue II (right)

The no-subs version of the story-oriented anime trailer also overlays the words of the prophecy, something not present in the trailer that has English subs.

Screengrab from the story-oriented trailer (no subs version)

This is evocative of the ending of Shenmue I, which displays the prophecy wording in a similar manner.
Shenmue 1 ending with the prophecy wording

The anime has nicely incorporated elements of the prophecy's telling from the games to retain the same spirit.

Observation 3: Forklift Ram Raid

Not only are forklifts now confirmed, but there is a dramatic forklift-related clip hidden in the story-oriented trailer, which only lasts for a few brief frames and is dimly lit. Some key frames are shown below, after contrast adjustment:

Forced entry by forklift (contrast adjusted for visibility)

We see the interior of a warehouse with a closed steel shutter that is being warped by immense pressure from the outside. In an instant, a cloud of debris flies through the air and we see a forklift truck being driven at high speed toward the camera, its forks lowered and being used as a battering ram to gain entry to the warehouse. The final frames show a rear view of the forklift as it speeds away from the camera.

As the driver is not visible, who is at the wheel is up for speculation. What purpose could they have for breaking into the warehouse?

Observation 2: The Moment Ryo's Face Wound is Inflicted

In the first-look trailer, we weren't able to pinpoint when Ryo received the wound to his face (subsequently covered by a band-aid) but footage in the new trailers provides a definitive answer.

Although Yu Suzuki once revealed that his original intention had been that Ryo was injured in the high-school karate tournament, in the anime he has no band-aid on his face as he runs home towards the Hazuki Residence.

In fact we are able to observe that the injury is inflicted by Lan Di, who repels Ryo who has rushed towards him in anger; a spurt of blood can be seen as the contact is made.

Blood spills as Lan Di makes contact

Confusing matters slightly is the fact that the trailers also show a later encounter with Chai, which also takes place in the dojo, in which Ryo's newly applied band-aid is ripped off by Chai's attack. No wonder his wound never has a chance to heal...

Ryo's band-aid is torn off by Chai

Observation 1: Homage to the Legend of Akira

Yokosuka Harbor Panorama

Briefly shown at one point is a view from a vantage point on a hillside, looking down the roofs of houses, with larger buildings and a harbor visible in the distance, under a cloudy sky infused with golden hues from the sun.

This view perfectly matches the first line of the first two pages that have so far been revealed in public of the script on which Shenmue is based. (Technically, these pages are from the set of pages representing the "Project Berkley" edit, which is itself based on the Legend of Akira bound volumes).

It starts as follows: 
"Looking down from a hill with a view of a bay whose surface glistens in the distance, and the town of Yokosuka below. Standing here is a dojo, once an old temple that has been turned into a place of training for martial arts..."
A view of Yokosuka: the opening of Yu Suzuki's written script brought to life

Yu Suzuki's original scripts for The Legend of Akira

As Yu Suzuki has been closely involved in the anime project as executive director, and has made these scripts and a wealth of other Shenmue material available to the anime project, this is surely no coincidence, but is another element of Yu's original script that has been seamlessly worked into the anime.

Closing Comment

From our examination of the trailers, all the signs point to a great amount of care and respect for the source material in creating the Shenmue anime. Fans will be delighted not only at the many characters, locations and cut scenes that are instantly recognizable from the games, but also at the inclusion of new parts of the Shenmue story originally planned by Yu Suzuki but left out of the games. At the same time, the streamlining of certain scenes to help the story flow coupled with dramatic action sequences should maximize appeal to newcomers to the franchise. The music side has not been neglected either, with a new pop-style opening music theme promising to infuse the anime with a modern energy, balanced by atmospheric tracks that include an arrangement of the Shenmue theme. 

Other aspects of the anime will become clearer on viewing the full episodes, such as the portrayal of Ryo's personality (the trailers indicate that he is less reserved than in the games) and how the relationships with his friends are portrayed.

With the premiere of the first episode coming up in just a few days on 5th February 2022 (on Crunchyroll & Adult Swim / Toonami), we do not have long to wait to find out!

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