Shenmue: The Animation Review, Chapter 1 – Ryo Hazuki, (Almost) As We Remember Him

The video games and the anime adaptations have gone hand in hand on many occasions, but few have aroused as much interest in recent times as Shenmue: The Animation, the jump to this format of one of the most beloved (and long-suffering) video game sagas of all time.

Crunchyroll and Adult Swim have teamed up to bring to the anime concept the story of Ryo Hazuki that SEGA and Ys Net (with the legendary Yu Suzuki at the helm) have been conceiving since the days of the Dreamcast. Millions of fans know Ryo’s story of mystery and revenge inside out, so the ballot wasn’t easy.

Subscribe to Disney+

Quick Access

Your favorite movies and series are on Disney+. Subscribe for €8.99/month or save 2 months with the annual subscription, compared to 12 months at monthly subscription price.

Start subscription

The first chapter of Shenmue: The Animation is now available on Crunchyroll (for now, for Premium users, but it will be available to everyone from the 12th) and, after seeing it, we can verify with pleasure that Telecom Animation has decided to be as faithful as possible to the original concept, considering that certain changes were necessary for the television format.

Thus, the start takes us through that memory that we all have engraved on fire next to our Dreamcast: the fateful day in 1986 in which Ryo Hazuki returns home to see how his father dies at the hands of the mysterious and invincible Lan Di. What is that mirror he was looking for? What relationship did his father have with him?

From there, Ryo starts a story to discover his father’s past and, above all, to find Lan Di and avenge his death . All this is identical to the game and we will even easily recognize the hall of Ryo’s house, the dojo, the streets of Yokosuka or even the introductory banners before each time jump.

However, there are some changes that help introduce the character a little more (in the Dreamcast original, everything starts “in media res”) and we see how Ryo attends his institute, where he is a celebrity for his mastery of the arts martial, for example.

This first episode, despite not lasting even half an hour, has time to launch the viewer “to the task” and certain facets that would have taken us many hours of investigation in the game, here they are resolved with a couple of fortuitous encounters. Among them there is the funky Tom, of course!

It makes sense, because seeing how Ryo asks everyone to collect clue after clue would surely have weighed down the rhythm of a series that for now reminiscent of many shonen classics.

Even so, we are left with the feeling that some events are excessively rushed and remixed, like a certain encounter with an enemy that was delayed much longer in the story original.

But there are also changes we liked: in the game, Ryo seems mostly obsessed with getting revenge and understanding his father’s mysterious past, but there’s been quite a bit of focus on the concept of himself as a mentor, as a sensei. To become who he is meant to be, Ryo will learn to see beyond the words his father said. That’s interesting.

Telecom’s animation is enough to complete the file, but it is clear that it is not the most cutting-edge on the market. We have the right frames for the fighting moments and the character design, although faithful to the one we all remember, gives the feeling of being a bit too Spartan.

Yes, we are very happy with the sound section, in which is not missing the iconic main theme of the saga and even repeats the original Japanese voice of Ryo, by Masaya Matsukaze. Some iconic dialogue from the game, such as Iwao Hazuki’s last words, are also here, much to the delight of fans.

And of course, this leads us to the logical question: Shenmue: the Animation is it intended only for those who know and love games or can it be used for any type of viewer? Of course, it is clear that the first ones are the ones that will get the most out of it.

Even so, and although with only one episode it is early to draw conclusions, it seems that this Crunchyroll anime wants to please the general public, by placing certain mysteries and moments just above anchoring the footage or accelerating certain plots that are much more rhythmic in Dreamcast games.

Thus the first episode of Shenmue: The Animation knows how to fulfill what is expected of it , but it does not seem destined to suppose any revolution. On a technical level, it looks like just another anime, with merely functional animation. We will have to wait until Ryo asks about sailors and is encouraged to take ships to see to what extent he manages to relive the epic of the search for mirrors.