Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Shenmue the Animation Ep 3: Yin-Yang - Summary/Review

We continue the journey as the story races on. This is only the 3rd episode and we are already half way through the first games content. This leaves me very hopeful that this anime will finally give us the Shenmue conclusion. So, lets not waste any time, click "read more" and may the analysis begin.


This episode begins by once again showing Shenhua in Bailu Village reciting the prophecy about the man from a "far eastern land across the sea". This time, we see she is lost in thought trying to figure out what it means. A little more background on this prophecy, it is one of their villages oldest poems. Cut to intro!

I still appreciate these extra bits of information. 

One theme song later, we are back in Japan where some tough looking guys at a bar are talking about Charlie's fight with Ryo. They are quickly identified as the gang called The Mad Angels and now they have got Ryo on their radar. Things are getting real really fast!

Elsewhere, Ryo visits the Pottery Shop to get his letter translated. The store is closed, but the child Ryo saved from Charlie lives there because the owner is his Grandma, so he invites Ryo in. Turns out, the letter is written in mirror characters the require a mirror to read. So, it is written backwards?

Beware of those who pursue the mirror. If need help, seek the aid of Master Chen. Fathers Heaven, Nine Dragons. Mothers Earth, Comrades. 0468-61-5647. That is the translation from the games, unless you played the HD version in which case they took off the 7 at the end. Apparently people tried calling the number in real life. 

The letter was an attempt to warn Iwo about Lan Di, but it arrived too late. With no other leads, Ryo seeks out Master Chen who is listed. Ryo dials the number within the letter only to be hung up on because he didn't know the response to Warehouse Number 8. However, the help line tells him that the number is registered in the Harbor's area, so Ryo takes a bus there. 

I will never forget how long it took me and my brothers to get past that point in the game. Although, like any puzzle in a game, if you know the answer it can go by this fast. 

Once at the Harbor, Ryo saves a guy from muggers that consist a man named Goro and 2 nameless grunts.

Goro is quickly beaten and the 2 others run off. Afterwards, Ryo gets Goro to tell him where Warehouse number 8 is, and he also tells him that the security guards get off at 7. It then cuts to Ryo at night sneaking into the Old Warehouse district. Looks like they are skipping past the part where there are two Warehouse number 8s and the homeless man's appearance will have to wait.

This is probably the first change I am not too fond of. I understand skipping all the filler, but this made Ryo look like he immediately would resort to illegal actions. I know that he is not shy about bending the rules, but the Ryo I know at least always tried to do things legit before doing stuff like this.

Here is a big change, upon sneaking in past the guard house, Ryo is grabbed with a bag over his head and wakes up inside Warehouse number 8 with Master Chen and his son Guizhang.

Since when do the Chens have henchmen? 

Ryo shows them the letter. After this, Chen tells Ryo about how Yuanda Zhu had a hand in smuggling the Mirror into Japan and that Lan Di is most likely one of the leaders of the Chinese cartel known as the Chi You Men. Also, since Lan Di only stole the Dragon Mirror, Master Chen informs Ryo that the Phoenix Mirror is still in his house somewhere. 

A new scene is in the anime between Guizhang and Master Chen where the latter scolds Guizhang for calling him Father. He wants to maintain a professional relationship while they still work in the smuggling business and are not to return to being Father and son until they die. Lastly, Master Chen gives Guizhang an assignment. 

Really not a fan of this personality change for Master Chen. In the game he was depicted as wise, friendly, and strict but there was no sign of tension between him and his son. It was generic old martial artist character, but they replaced that with a generic bad Father character. Not a change for the better. But, I wonder if this was Yu Suzuki's original plan for these characters.

Ryo begins frantically searching his house and Dojo for the Phoenix Mirror to no luck. However, Ine-san informs him that Iwo had something placed into an antique store's care days before his death. This turns out to be a sword handguard with the Hazuki family crest on it.

We are getting very close to my favorite moment from the first game.

While this is not the Phoenix Mirror, the antique broker does inform Ryo about Master Chen and that he has a small fortune that was acquired by smuggling Chinese art into Japan and that he is not safe company. Again, I really don't care for the anime changing Master Chen into an antihero.

On the walk home, Ryo calls out someone who he has noticed is following him, only for it to be Guizhang. After displaying some martial arts, he reveals that Master Chen assigned him as Ryo's bodyguard because if Lan Di finds the Phoenix Mirror than he will become unstoppable. All the while, The Great Chai has been eavesdropping. 

After talking with Nozomi and a girl named Mai, Ryo gets the idea that the Phoenix Mirror may be hidden in a secret room. On that note, after sparing with Fuku-san, he tells Ryo about two holes behind the scrolls in the Dojo and one of them resembles the family crest and the other just a line hole.

We never saw Fuku-san's reaction to this secret in the games, so this is a great opportunity. 

Ryo instantly puts together that the slots must be for the hand guard and a sword he finds in his Father's room. There is no hunting for a key. After inserting them, a secret door is revealed. 

Finding this hidden room was an awesome experience back on the Dreamcast.

This room has a ladder going down to a hidden basement. In there appear to be several scrolls, pieces of art, and most importantly, a box containing the Phoenix Mirror.

Seriously? It's just out in the open like that? In the games it was hidden in the wall as an extra means of security. But, this has it proudly on display? I don't like this change. But, I still wonder why the Phoenix Mirror was so much better hidden then the Dragon Mirror? Possibly, the Dragon Mirror was meant to be more easily handed over in case of such events like Lan Di.

Ryo picks up the mirror and a light shines that draws Ryo's attention to a picture that says it was taken at Bailu Village. It is of his Father when younger and an unknown man.

Anyone who played the games will remember this photo. Although it looks like the White Leaf won't be present.

The episode cuts immediately to Ryo showing the Phoenix Mirror to Master Chen. He tells Ryo that it is crafted from Phantom River Stone. Nope, no reaction about the secret room from Fuku-san or Ine-san. Also, the entire basement sequence is just skipped over. Terrible!

Side note! I need to address the Mirrors in this anime. While they look good and are faithful to their iconic designs in the game, they are CG which really clashes with the animation of the rest of the show. This image looks like a bad photoshop, but I promise it is completely unaltered from the episode.

Master Chen explains the legend that Yuanda Zhu explained to him. When the dragon and the phoenix meet, the gates of Heaven and Hell will open and Chi You will resurrect himself on Earth. Obviously, this means that the Chi You Men that Lan Di is part of must be planning something with the two mirrors. However, before anything can be discussed further, The Great Chai appears and snatches the mirror. Guizhang trades a few blows with Chai and even gets a big hit in before Chai jumps up and nearly escapes. However, just like the game, Master Chen points out the lift control button on the wall the Ryo presses which causes Chai to drop the mirror. That scene was an improvement. 

From Master Chen, Ryo learns about the gang The Mad Angels and their connections to Lan Di and that Lan Di has most likely already left Japan to head to Hong Kong. Ryo requests help getting to Hong Kong from the Chens but is turned down because Master Chen does not want to Ryo enter the enter the criminal world like himself. But, despite their attempts to dissuade Ryo, he is determined to see his journey through with no fear of death. He gives a speech about how he will always be his Fathers son and that any fear would prevent him to seeing him for who he really is. His words have an obvious impact on Guizhang. To be continued!

Final Thoughts

This episode had some problems, but ended on a strong note. Up until now, I have been okay with the faster pace of the anime compared to the games, I would even call a lot of it an improve meant. Also, while I am not a fan of the decision to change Master Chen into a criminal, it does not actually hurt the narrative of the anime as a stand alone entity. However, this episode as a whole felt like it was in way too much of a rush. The biggest offense to this is the hidden basement at Ryo's house. In the game, this room was filled with clues and mysteries about his Fathers past and really served to increase the overall mystery of the story before he find the Phoenix Mirror in it. 

However, all of that was completely skipped over except for the Photo of his Father at Bailu Village. A lot of great dialogue potential was wasted there, especially with how Fuku-san and Ine-san did not get any reaction to the room. However, it is still a solid and enjoyable episode. It ends with Ryo giving a speech about how determined he is which makes him sound a lot more confident and cool than his usual arrogant and air-headed image he had in the games. Overall, almost a lack-luster episode, but it redeemed itself enough. 3/5

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