Shenmue is emerging from the shadows once again, this time as a 13-episode anime airing on Saturday nights during Adult Swim’s Toonami block.
In a surprise announcement, Crunchyroll and Adult Swim have confirmed co-production of a 13 episode anime series based on the Shenmue video games. Originally debuting on the Sega Dreamcast, the Shenmue series was a highly influential adventure title that was planned to span 16 distinct chapters. It tells the story of Ryo, a young martial artist who must set out from his hometown to seek revenge against Lon Di, a mysterious man who murdered his father. The game only ended up getting one sequel with Sega, released after the fall of the Dreamcast on the original Xbox. Following that, the series went dormant for many years.
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In 2015, during what some refer to as the E3 Conference of Dreams, Sony helped series creator Yu Suzuki launch the Kickstarter for Shenmue 3. The game raised far more than its initial goal, cashing in on the nostalgia that fans held for the groundbreaking original games. However, the game’s final release late last year elicited a mixed response. The game was set in its ways, not progressing with the rest of the industry, and many fans were disappointed by a story that didn’t progress things as much as they’d like. There is still an obvious love for these characters, but video games suddenly seemed like a poor medium to tell their story.
Enter the world of anime. As part of Virtual Crunchyroll Expo 2020, the anime distributor announced a partnership with Adult Swim to produce an anime based on Shenmue. The announcement was originally scheduled for a special panel on Saturday, September 5th, but it leaked out early online, prompting an unusual late-night announcement that was confirmed by Adult Swim Creative Director (and Toonami co-founder) Jason DeMarco via Twitter. He also confirmed that the show was greenlit following the release of Shenmue 3 and that the series will mirror the plot of the existing trilogy.
Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki is onboard to produce the project, which will be directed by One Punch Man Season 2 director Sakurai Chikara. The series will both stream on Crunchyroll and air on Adult Swim Saturday nights in the Toonami block. This is the third collaboration between the two companies, who are also working on a Blade Runner anime and an original work entitled Fena: Pirate Princess. There’s no set date for the premiere of the anime rendition Shenmue as of yet, nor is there any indication if the show will exceed where the games left off in the overall narrative.
Anyone who is still on the Shenmue boat after the release of the third game deserves some joy in their lives, and this new Toonami series might just do it. The series has always focused on narrative over gameplay, often to a fault, so the transition makes complete sense. If Yu Suzuki ever wants to tell the whole story of Ryo and his quest to play Lucky Hit and avenge his father, the world of anime could provide an answer that the world of video games cannot. Hopefully, this initial run does well so fans can finally see if Ryo gets his vengeance.
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