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Sega’s Shenmue is returning as an Adult Swim anime – and so far it’s looking promising

Shen Mue, bids farewell to his father in an iconic moment in the game series. The new anime TV version expands on this scene in an interesting way, and it’s a great start to the show’s first season.”/>

Enlarge / Shen Mue protagonist Ryo Hazuki bids farewell to his father in an iconic moment from the game series. The new anime TV version expands on this scene in an interesting way, and it’s a great start to the show’s first season.

Adult Swim / Crunchyroll

For its 23 years of existence, the series of games from Sega, Shen Mue, has undoubtedly experienced many dramas. The series began life with a record budget and industry-changing aspirations, only to found as a victim of its original target platform, the short-lived Dreamcast. While the series returned in the form of a surprising Kickstarter, promoted by Sony in 2015, the result Shen Mue III disappointed (and left some backers furious thanks to an EGS-linked switcheroo).

Yet the first two games in the series, despite their dated mechanics, remain popular with gamers who reveled in Shen Mueblend of substantial martial arts combat, open city exploration, and fully voiced dialogue. (The best ideas from the 1999 original are best realized in the likes of Grand Theft Auto and that of Sega Yakuza.) In addition, Shen Mue games always come with an intriguing detective-like story about family, friendship, and revenge. Forget the drama of the gaming industry. Ryo’s suspenseful search for his father’s killer, Lan Di, was the right thing, and dedicated fans continue to hope that his story might even see a logical conclusion.

I kept all of that in mind while listening to this week Shenmue: the animation, a new TV series co-produced by Adult Swim and Crunchyroll, in hopes that its first season might benefit from letting go of its video game roots. And now I’m a little upset – enough to beg Sega: please don’t make fans hope for such a good anime series premiere, only to shoot it. Shen Mue still far from us.

Cutting down arrogant behavior

An emblematic confrontation for the series <em>Shen Mue</em>.”  data-src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/vlcsnap-2022-02-06-22h10m37s806-980×551.png” width=”980″ height=”551″/ ></a><figcaption class=
Enlarge / An emblematic confrontation for the Shen Mue series.

Adult Swim / Crunchyroll

As fans previously suggested in 2020, Shenmue: the animation is about telling the events of the game series with added color and context, whether it’s adding side stories that were cut from the original games or taking the games’ known stories in darker directions or more violent. The first episode clarifies this intention by focusing on I ShenmueThe dramatic opening sequence of , which introduces series hero Ryo Hazuki and immediately makes him a witness to his father’s murder.

Compared to other games of its time, I ShenmueThe opening cinematic remains memorable for its refined and cinematic feel for its time, with masterful martial arts motion capture and moving facial animations. The teams responsible for this week’s TV rendition are careful to uphold that legacy, and series villain Lan Di delivers the same brutal blows to Ryo and his father before walking away with a all-important “Dragon Mirror.”

Don't mess with Ryo's friends.
Enlarge / Don’t mess with Ryo’s friends.

Adult Swim / Crunchyroll

Still, this week’s new series introduces a whole new wrinkle to Ryo’s character development, and it’s surprisingly for the best. Shortly before his life is torn apart by tragedy, we see him as a carefree high school student… who happens to be a skilled and suave martial arts student. To prove the point, Ryo takes down two types of asshole: an arrogant bully at a rival school who brags before an official tournament; and a pair of bullies who harass one of Ryo’s old friends on the streets of Yokosuka.

S:TA, then, begins as a calm and arrogant Ryo, but after joining his father in a fatal confrontation with a mysterious rival, he is changed. Again, this fight plays out just like the original game, which means Ryo interrupts the fight and then nearly gets killed until his father sacrifices himself so Ryo can live. This time, however, fans get to see a version of Ryo who truly believed he could even the odds in a fight. His failure to do so in this animated, extended version leaves him visibly frustrated and grief-stricken.

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