REVIEW: ‘Shenmue,’ Episode 8 – “Aspiration”

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Shenmue Episode 8 - 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 been granted a place to stay by Master Tao, Ryo struggles with how best to continue his quest. When one of Tao’s staff suggests that the master might be willing to help him if he deepened his understanding of the Wude, Ryo sets off to learn all he can in Shenmue Episode 8.

As the series progresses, its video game origins become clearer with each entry. Ryo’s quest to learn about the Wude feels like it is lifted straight out of a game. The way he manages to stumble into the knowledge he seeks time and again, followed by a convenient fight scene, and then is rewarded by his newest lesson feels like video game narrative design 101. And while Shenmue Episode 8 does a good job of coloring the proceedings with some solid character moments from Ryo’s supporting cast, it cannot hide the fact that such a narrative structure is far weeker in implementation without the interactive nature of the video game medium.

Beyond this fairly repetitive narrative structure, this latest episode delivers a solidly entertaining tale. As Ryo searches for the next martial artist to teach him about the Wude, the episode does a great job of drawing Ryo into the world of Hong Kong. The struggles facing the city as it approaches the turnover from Britain to China (the story takes place before 1997) are brought into light through some solid world-building moments.

The supporting cast that the story has assembled around its lead provides the best source of entertainment in Shenmue Episode 8. While Joy continues to be the most outgoing personality in the show, I find myself growing more intrigued by Master Tao. The show is doing a great job of building the martial artist into a character that has many of the classic trappings of the wise master we have all seen in martial arts stories before while managing to breathe some elements into the character that make her feel like more than a cut and paste generic kung fu master.

The visuals’ biggest strength here is in the level of detail and care it continues to put into its setting. Hong Kong always looks and feels alive with many different styles of structure and types of people present within the city. It’s nice to see the variety of city life captured so. Rather than having a city of millions reduced to one single visual aesthetic.

When all is said and done, Shenmue Episode 8 manages to deliver a solid amount of entertainment, even as its larger narrative structure begins to show some cracks.

Shenmue Episode 8 is streaming on Crunchyroll and Adult Swim.


Shenmue Episode 8
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Shenmue Episode 8 manages to deliver a solid amount of entertainment, even as its larger narrative structure begins to show some cracks.