REVIEW: ‘Shenmue,’ Episode 9 – “Distinct”

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Shenmue Episode 9

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 learned another aspect of the Wude, Ryo continues to search for the knowledge that will lead him closer to solving the mystery of his father’s killer. But there are still many obstacles in front of him in Shenmue Episode 9.

Ryo’s journey through this episode sees him following a lead that slips from the book he discovered in Master Tao’s library at the end of the last episode. As with previous stories, this journey will find him visiting various local martial artists, between fistfights with local gang members, who will tell him he is not ready. At this point, I feel like it’s fair to say the series has found itself a comfortable formula for its stories that it can execute with adequate skill.

However, despite the solid way each story comes together, the repetitive story beats that come back repeatedly have rapidly become formulaic. If Shenmue Episode 9 were any more similar to its predecessors, I’d start to think the show might be secretly putting Ryo through a Groundhog Day-style scenario.

With only a couple of brief moments of emotion in this episode, this entry lands as the most blase chapter of the story. Ryo may be growing in his understanding of the Wude, but his personality is as weak as ever. And with the more notable personalities the series has featured absent from this entry, he is left with the job of keeping the viewer invested and interested in the story. And he once again finds himself falling woefully short.

Along with the ongoing character struggles the show continues to be dragged down by, Shenmue Episode 9 also features some fairly sloppy storytelling. For Ryo to pursue his newest lead, the protagonist finds himself in need of meeting with a local gang boss. After being forcibly ejected by the guards outside the gang’s hangout, Ryo returns brandishing an item that magically grants him access. The show makes it a point of assuring us that it is the same guards still on duty. They know Ryo isn’t supposed to be allowed entrance. But since he has acquired a new item, they meekly allow him through. This terrible story beat has to be lifted straight from the original games and serves as another example of when you shouldn’t blindly replicate the source material.

The visual side of Shenmue Episode 9 continues to deliver the story to the viewer with a solid level of skill. The visual design tries to lend as much weight to the story’s moments as possible despite the monotony of the over-arching structure, making it that much more difficult to succeed.

When all is said and done, Shenmue Episode 9 struggles with all the problems of earlier episodes while bringing little new to the formula. Unfortunately, this leaves the viewer with little to focus on but the show’s glaring issues.

Shenmue Episode 9 is streaming on Crunchyroll and Adult Swim.


Shenmue Episode 9 - "Distinct"

TL;DR

Shenmue Episode 9 struggles with all the problems of earlier episodes while bringing little new to the formula. Unfortunately, this leaves the viewer with little to focus on but the show’s glaring issues.