REVIEW: ‘Shenmue,’ Episode 4 – “Shackles”

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Shenmue Episode 4 - But Why Tho

Shenmue the Animation (Shenmue) is a Crunchyroll/Adult Swim exclusive action anime based on the video game Shenmue and is developed by Telecom Animation Film. Having discovered his target is in Hong Kong, Ryo decides that he must travel to fulfill his goal. But as it turns out, international travel is expensive. Now, Ryo must earn some cash if he wishes to pursue his agenda abroad in Shenmue Episode 4.

Coming into my watching of this series, I knew only two things about the Shenmue games. The first is that they center on a man that seeks vengeance for his slain father. The second is that at some point in these games Ryo drives a forklift. Seriously. I don’t know what it was about this forklift but Shenmue fans are hung up on it like Final Fantasy VII fans are about Cloud disguising himself as a lady. Regardless, this iconic moment comes rolling in as Ryo attempts to solve his money troubles with some honest work.

Aside from his escapades with the forklift, Shenmue Episode 4 sees Ryo spot an opportunity to learn more about the local gang known as the Mad Angels. As they seem to be aligned with Ryo’s ultimate target, he begins putting feelers out to learn how he can confront them in the hopes of gaining more intel. The situation becomes a bit more complicated however when someone close to Ryo runs afoul of the gang as they strive to aid his cause.

The most noteworthy element of this week’s episode is how it continues to build up the show’s supporting cast members. This is particularly true for Harasaki. As she continues to take note of Ryo’s changing behavior, Shenmue Episode 4 does a great job of developing her place in the story. She stands out as the character who is likely to go above and beyond for her dear friend, even though she’ll shake like a leaf the entire time. I just hope that she is ultimately able to contribute in a positive way to Ryo’s story and not see her role delegated to a “damsel in distress” for Ryo to repeatedly save.

Much like previous episodes, the biggest thing that holds this episode back is Ryo himself. The character continues to be far too subdued to carry a program. I hope that as the stakes rise in the story, Ryo’s personality and energy will rise to meet them.

The visual side of Shenmue Episode 4 delivers on both the story’s drama as well as its combat. The brief throwdowns that occur in this story continue to impress with how grounded and technical their presentation is. It is always a delight to see a few kicks, jabs, and throws happen on screen.

So, when all is said and done, Shenmue Episode 4 manages to pick up a little steam, thanks largely to the ample use of its larger cast. While this bouies the episode some, it can’t fully save itself from its resounding problems.

Shenmue Episode 4 is streaming on Crunchyroll and Adult Swim.

rating 6.5/10