FEATURE: Shenmue the Animation Is A Perfect Introduction To The Franchise

The 20-plus-year-old series is now ready for its anime audience

Shenmue

 

In 1999, the video game world was introduced to the first-ever FREE (full reactive eyes entertainment) game Shenmue, now nearly 23 years later, we have the first-ever FREE anime with Shenmue the Animation. The Shenmue games have been a controversial spot within the medium, as there really is a love it or hate it mindset to them when it comes to certain fans. How does the anime adaptation (that covers the first two games in the series) lend itself to folks who might not have played these games originally? Could it give people who might not have liked playing the games a new opportunity to see the story?

 

The Shenmue series has always had a strange following overseas, with some people whittling the games down to simple jokes, but at the same time, it’s garnered a cult following that allowed a third game to get crowdfunded in a phenomenal way. Due to that reputation and the games only being available on their original systems, people who hadn't played the games tended to stay away from them. On top of that, the games don’t necessarily play like games that were coming out in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s.

 

Shenmue

 

Despite the influential nature of these games within the history of video games, they can be very intimidating and tough to go back and play without a walkthrough or guide. Since these are essentially 3D Japanese adventure games, which were not games that often came out overseas at the time, it can be difficult to understand the patient nature of Shenmue and what exactly you need to do. These are games that if you can wrap your head around its systems and slower style, are worth playing, but if that is not something you want to do, then thankfully, Shenmue the Animation is here for you to experience this story for the first time.

 

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Despite the influential nature of these games within the history of video games, they can be very intimidating and tough to go back and play without a walkthrough or guide. Since these are essentially 3D Japanese adventure games, which were not games that often came out overseas at the time, it can be difficult to understand the patient nature of Shenmue and what exactly you need to do. These are games that if you can wrap your head around its systems and slower style, are worth playing, but if that is not something you want to do, then thankfully, Shenmue the Animation is here for you to experience this story for the first time.

 

Shenmue

 

By combining the first two games in the anime, Shenmue the Animation uses a straightforward approach when it comes to the main story. The unfortunate aspect of that is that you miss out on some of the weird and goofy side content that can be found in these games. Ryo doesn’t get to hang out with Tom as much, you don’t have to continuously feed a cat to get it back in good health, and there isn’t an episode devoted strictly to trying to collect all the Sonic gacha toys. Although, two of those aspects do end up within episodes, so they’re not gone completely.

 

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The story of Shenmue is that of a traditional martial arts revenge story with Ryo attempting to avenge his father’s death at the hands of the treacherous Lan Di. Along the way, you meet a slew of characters that appear to help guide Ryo through his journey ranging from wacky to serious. Since the anime is retelling the main story of the games, it allows for some added scenes to help accentuate the main plot and provides more context for several different characters that show up. Not only does this help newcomers get a better understanding of the story, but it allows fans of the series to see things in a new light.

 

Shenmue

 

One of the key components of Shenmue was the fighting, in which creator Yu Suzuki utilized aspects of Virtua Fighter — another game he helped make — to make the fights in the games stand out. That system has not aged the best when you go back and play the games, but the anime really makes each of its fight scenes seem incredibly impactful. Every blow carries a weight to it that makes them seem devastating and dangerous, which is what you’d want for this kind of martial arts show. This allows for the fight scenes to really excel in the anime in a way that they do more so than in the games themselves. Plus, you don’t have to worry about a fight getting interrupted by a quick time event popping up.

 

After years and years of being lambasted or cherished by fans, it’s nice to see the Shenmue series have a new avenue for people to approach the franchise and its story. Shenmue the Animation is a fun adaptation of this series and if you’ve never played the games, but have been curious about them, it’s the perfect way to dive in.

 

Were you a fan of the Shenmue games before the anime, or did the anime make you want to seek out the games to try? Let us know down in the comments below!

 

 


 

Jared Clemons is a writer and podcaster for Seasonal Anime Checkup and author of One Shining Moment: A Critical Analysis of Love Live! Sunshine!!. He can be found on Twitter @ragbag.

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