REVIEW: ‘Shenmue the Animation,’ Episode 1 – “Thunderclap”

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Shenmue the Animation Episode 1 - But Why Tho

Shenmue the Animation is a Crunchyroll/Adult Swim exclusive action anime based on the video game Shenmue and is developed by Telecom Animation Film. Roy Hazuki lives a fairly ordinary life going to school and training in the martial arts under the stern tutelage of his father. Till one day, when a mysterious man appears in their family’s dojo and murders Ryo’s father. Now Ryo must decide what he must do next in Shenmue the Animation Episode 1.

There is an odd dissociation within this opening episode’s story. Repeatedly throughout the narrative, a recurring voice-over makes it a point to remind the viewer that the journey Ryo is about to embark on will be a “long and winding one.” It is literally one of the first lines the viewer hears. It feels like the story wants to establish itself as a grand sweeping epic that is going to take its time in how it presents its protagonist’s tale. And then proceeds to stomp on the gas to get the story going.

The viewer catches a scant glimpse, accompanied by a single line of dialogue, from Ryo’s dad in Shenmue the Animation Episode 1 before he has been felled by his assailant. And while the viewer has spent more time with Ryo himself, not nearly enough has been given to elicit any form of meaningful reaction to the son’s suffering over his father’s death.

To make matters worse for the show, it feels like the creators decided that the best way for the show to compensate for the quickness with which it delivers its first key plot points is to ratchet up the intensity. This effort falls astray. Rather than making the moments impactful, it simply washes them with a thick coating of melodrama. It feels like many of the characters are simply trying too hard to make the audience care.

Aside from the rushed main plot, Shenmue the Animation Episode 1 does do a good job at introducing viewers to its main character. We see Ryo in several different scenarios that allow his personality to come through nicely. The character is portrayed in a way that makes him likable and easy to root for. If the show had allowed even one full episode to elapse before pulling the trigger on his father, I’m confident the moment would’ve landed better.

The animation in Shenmue the Animation Episode 1 delivers the story to the viewer with reasonable skill. The character designs are solid and the fight animation delivers the quick, hard-hitting fight scenes well. This keeps the visual side of the story entertaining through most of the episode’s run time.

When all is said and done, Shenmue the Animation Episode 1 delivers a bit of a mixed bag. While there are elements that don’t land for me, I wouldn’t write the series off completely. If the show can continue to develop its likable lead in a compelling way, the series could yet become something more than it is now.

Shenmue the Animation Episode 1 is streaming on Crunchyroll and Adult Swim.


Shenmue the Animation Episode 1
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Shenmue the Animation Episode 1 delivers a bit of a mixed bag. While there are elements that don’t land for me, I wouldn’t write the series off completely. If the show can continue to develop its likable lead in a compelling way, the series could yet become something more than it is now.