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Episode Recap – Shenmue The Animation S01E12

Posted on April 28, 2022 at 21:44 PM BST

We’re so close to the end. This week brought all the major players together on one rooftop. Here’s the recap of Guidepost.

Scurrying Rats

We pick up right where things were left last week, with Wong narrowly avoiding capture on the streets of Hong Kong by the Yellow Head lieutenant after hearing their plans to spring a trap on Ryo and Ren. Joy saves him and is filled in on the impending doom facing the pair in Kowloon. Inside the Walled City, Don Niu stares down the two men he calls rats, cornering them inside a hallway of his gang’s headquarters and ready to put an end to their interference in his machinations.

Ryo and Ren have to think fast in the face of this ogre-shaped man. Not wanting to repeat the futility of attacking Don Niu again and focused on finding Yuanda Zhu, they instead time a dodge to squeak past his punches and scamper away. He gives chase down the dark hallways of his dilapidated headquarters, putting fresh holes in the walls with the unadulterated force of his mass as he bowls himself after them. The come across a huge hole in the crumbling building that falling through would prove fatal. The pair balance their way on a single board connecting the two sides of the building across this hole. Once Ryo is on the other side, Ren kicks the board that Don Niu’s mass might have broken anyway, leaving an uncrossable gap between them. They leave the scene to continue looking for Zhu while Don Niu rages for the pair to come back and face him.

Changing Hearts and Minds

Back in Hong Kong, Joy’s motorcycle comes to a stop as they’ve finally lost the Yellow Heads chasing after Wong. She asks the boy what he plans to do with the information he overheard and Wong replies he needs to help Ryo. Joy remains unconvinced, reiterating her statement from the previous episode there’s little they can do to assist. Wong steps off the bike and decides at this moment to express his true feelings. He’s weary of the direction of his life, committing petty theft on a daily basis and merely scraping by. He’d convinced himself that as an orphan he had no choice but to live this way and closed off his mind from pursuing legitimate paths to make his way in the world. Wong has found new inspiration and quit making excuses for himself after witnessing Ryo’s determination. The first step in his journey has to be helping Ryo in his hour of need, so he runs forward without Joy, resolute to go make a difference.

Now on her own, Joy seems to regret choosing not to help. She stops her motorcycle in front of the Come Over Guest House where she secured Ryo a place to stay and reminisces about the young man she’s taken such a strong interest in. Three Yellow Heads come across her and recognize the red motorcycle as Wong’s getaway vehicle. They chase Joy and she roars away. The lead Yellow Head steals a bicycle from a local resident passing by and gives chase.

Joy finds Wong sprinting toward Kowloon and motions him to get on her bike, accepting she’s now in the gang’s crosshairs and has to get involved. In a humorous moment, the Yellow Head on the bicycle rattles forward at them on the unsteady contraption, getting left in the dust by Joy’s motorcycle as she burns rubber speeding away. Discussing their strategy to get inside the Yellow Head building, Joy decides to be a decoy while Wong sneaks away to go looking for Ryo. To the boy’s chagrin, he’s directed to pretend he’s her kid brother while she does the talking when upon arrival.

Chainsaw Massacre

Back at Yellow Head HQ, our duo run into Yuan who’s ready to escalate their violent encounters to a whole new level. Carrying a chainsaw he struts before them and takes a swipe at Ryo’s head. Ryo ducks the attack and they high tail away from the crazed Yuan, managing to lose him down a hallway after kicking the beams holding a damaged section of walls in place, collapsing a barrier between them. A few moments later, Don Niu blasts the barrier away with a powerful kick to free his apologetic first mate, when a call comes through that the daughter of the White Thai organization is in the building, demanding to see them. That daughter, Joy, has arrived to provide the distraction critical to buying Ryo more time.

Following Xiuying’s confrontation with the Yellow Heads during the previous episode, Yuan momentarily speculated she could be the daughter of the woman they killed in their bombing ten years prior, returning now to take vengeance against them. The idea was quickly dismissed, but hearing now the real daughter of White Thai leader Chun is actually in their midst now sends a chill down the spines of Don Niu and Yuan, who believe Joy could be there to wreck their deal with the Chi You Men. In the waiting area, Joy sits with Wong and motions him to begin the search, using the classic move of traveling through the air ducts to avoid detection by the gang. Don Niu decides they aren’t going to deal with Joy right now, directing Yuan to lock her up somewhere out of the way.

The distraction has bought Ren and Ryo a few moments of peace as they make their way through the building, ready to focus on finding Zhu. Unfortunately, another distraction takes their eyes off the prize as Ren hears on the radio that Chun’s daughter is to be detained. Recognizing this would be Joy, the pair now need to intervene and save her while the gang refocuses its efforts on finding them. Joy is cornered by her jailers, putting one of them in an arm lock for trying to grab her when the mysterious masked fighter seen last week enters the room. Apparently working with the Yellow Heads, he instructs Joy not to put up any more resistance, knocking her out with a neck chop after she refuses. They take her unconscious body to the basement, with Ryo headed that way for the rescue.

Wong is having success moving through the air ducts, despite a few rats accompanying him and ends up breaking into the room where Yuanda Zhu is being held. He’s overjoyed to have found the wheelchair bound elder, hoping to make the rescue before Yuan returns to take Zhu to the handover. Wong scurries to the air duct and with some quick thinking, uses his lighter to scare the rats out of the duct, straight onto the squeamish Yuan’s head. A freak-out ensues and Wong is able to sneak Zhu out, guiding his wheelchair down the hallways hoping to make contact with Ryo, who’s just reached the basement.

A Masterful Takedown

Knowing they aren’t going to be able to negotiate Joy’s release, Ryo and Ren prepare to engage the Yellow Heads guarding her, when the masked fighter appears and takes an interest in Ryo. Master Baihu says she’s free to go if he’s bested in combat by the young Hazuki and a fight ensues. Ryo opens his mind’s eye to track the powerful fighter’s movement, using the techniques he learned last episode fighting in the dark to dodge Baihu’s incoming onslaught. He then recalls each of the Wude: GON, DAN, JIE, and YI, as he needs to embody all four to win this battle. Ryo takes Baihu off his guard with a punch toward his chest, then follows up with a strong kick to the master’s neck to send him flying to the ground in defeat. Baihu swears to remember the name Ryo Hazuki as he passes out, opening a path to retrieve Joy from her cage.

Hilariously having finally made his way to Kowloon on the bicycle, the sweat drenched Yellow Head lieutenant approaches Yuan, still dazed from his encounter with the rats and pulls him out of his stupor. Realizing the Wong made off with Yuanda Zhu, they signal the entire building to get after them. The trio in the basement hear this on the radio and Joy, who just woke up in Ryo’s arms, explains the boy came with her to the building and yet another rescue is now needed. They rush up to find Wong and Zhu, who are still having success getting through the building utilizing some walking cane Kung Fu moves on incoming thugs. Their luck abruptly ends when Don Niu steps off the elevator they were hoping to take, bringing the boy’s valiant escape to an end.

Encounter with Destiny

An absolutely frantic and wild eyed Yuan stops the trio rushing to Wong’s aid. With a knife in hand, Don Niu’s right hand man takes one last shot at ending Ren and Ryo for good. Ren disarms with a kick to the wrist, and Ryo adds another kick to the gut to send Yuan flying into the elevator. They handcuff him to the arm rails and demand to know where the Zhu handoff is taking place. Yuan relents and reveals the deal is going down on the roof after seeing his neat freak self face to face with a can full of garbage aimed at his head by Ren. They head off in a neighboring elevator to find Zhu and Wong, but not before the devious Ren gives Yuan a final sendoff with a kick of the dreaded garbage can straight to his face.

Reaching the top floor, the trio sprint their way up the last set of stairs to the top of the building. As Ryo bursts through the roof access doors, he takes notice of a helicopter adorned with the Chi You Men insignia, hovering over the building in the sunset sky. Hanging off a rope ladder extended from the chopper is none other than the killer who set his quest into motion. Ryo calls out to Lan Di with rage in his eyes.

Comparison to the Games
Spoilers for Shenmue 2 in this section.

Weaving Joy and Wong In: Joy and Wong’s activities were once again heavily involved in the Yellow Head infiltration story, whereas the games only have the player view their rescues from Master Baihu and Don Niu by Ryo. This was likely done to provide a subplot for the episode so viewers weren’t just watching the duo of Ren and Ryo run through each floor of the building before the Baihu encounter. How Wong and Joy ended up captured in by the Yellow Heads is never addressed in the game, so this is another instance of the show filling in details left up in the air until this point.

Master Baihu Gets Nerfed: No real way around pointing out the incredibly epic fight with Baihu in Shenmue 2 was not portrayed with the same grandeur in this episode. The key story beats of the fight are basically all there, but the action itself failed to portray the mysterious fighter with the gravitas that would inspire decades of fan theories about his real identity. An anime newcomer could easily be forgiven for thinking he’s not an important character.

Yuanda Zhu Got Some Moves: Wong’s rescue let us get a bit more insight into Zhu’s mannerisms and inclination to defend himself. Taking down the Yellow Head lieutenant as they barreled down the hallway gave us a nice contrast to the largely helpless old man we witnessed struggling away from Don Niu at the climax of the Kowloon segment in Shenmue 2.

Final Thoughts

Penultimate episodes often have to run at a breakneck pace and cover a ton of ground before heading into the finale, as was the case here. On the whole I felt this episode did a good job of setting us up for the climactic showdown with Lan Di to close out the season. There was a lot more humor in this episode than we’ve seen up to this point, and I enjoyed it. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the jokes worked for me. I genuinely laughed when the Yellow Head showed up at their headquarters exhausted from the bike ride and the two others followed right behind in a car. Yuan’s antics were just silly enough to work without undercutting his crazy, sadistic side shown when taking on Ryo and Ren.

I do have to express mild disappointment with Master Baihu’s fight sequence. It likely ended up this way from a dwindling budget, but nevertheless It was an oddly edited scene that threw in a ton of flashbacks in lieu of the epic action the showdown deserved. I liked the idea of including the four Wude in the fight. Rather than play flashbacks though, Ryo could have instead used the Iron Palm that Jianmen taught him in the fight while flashing the GON symbol on the screen as a way to show his growth as a martial artist through practice. Repeat that three more times with similar sequences highlight the rest of the Wude and you could have witnessed an incredible fight on the screen.

Looking elsewhere in the episode, I appreciated seeing how Wong expressed his wish to lead a better life to Joy. It was a nice character moment that served to show the positive impact Ryo can have on those he encounters on his journey, despite the temporary danger they’re thrown into. Ren, Joy, Wong, and Xiuying have all had aspects of their life altered by Ryo’s presence and scenes like that one hammer home how the series is about more than simple revenge.

We wrapped on a big moment and next week will be an opportunity to bring a fresh new dynamic to the face off with Lan Di at the top of the Yellow Head building. I’m really looking forward to it and hope the showrunners kept enough of their budgetary powder dry to deliver an epic finale.

It’s kind of hard to believe we’re nearly at the end so quickly. These past 12 weeks have really flown by. This Saturday, the season closes out with the aptly titled Shenmue. I’ll see you one last time next week for a final recap. Enjoy the finale!

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