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Episode Recap – Shenmue The Animation S01EP8: Aspiration

Posted on March 30, 2022 at 19:00 PM BST

Back again for an episode recap of Aspiration. This week our hero learned a bit about better appreciating his new Hong Kong scenery.

Paying the Rent

Opening to our protagonist’s recurring nightmare of Shenhua being stalked by Lan Di as ominous thunder claps overhead, he jumps awake on his borrowed sofa in Xiuying’s room to be greeted her cheerful assistant. Fangmei is happy her prediction of seeing him again turned out to be true and passes along a message to meet her master at the temple library. There Xiuying instructs Ryo to carry the library’s books to the yard for an airing out. Feeling this task is a waste of time, he instead tries to ask about Yuanda Zhu, but is rebuffed again. She remains steadfast in her unwillingness to help with Ryo’s quest and advises him to do the simple task as means of paying rent while he stays with her.

Airing out tomes is more tedious than Ryo expected, as he finds himself falling off the ladder with a pile of books to the chagrin of an onlooking Fangmei. The young assistant is forced to intervene and assist Ryo with carrying the remaining books out. Once done, Ryo is relieved to be done with this task he perceives as frivolous, only to be informed he’s be expected to do this every day for a week. At a stopping point, Fangmei gives Ryo a return time of 3pm to carry the books back inside, leaving him a few hours to himself. Ryo starts by expressing frustration to Hanhui about his task. The monk calls out Ryo’s dismissal of his work, letting him know that newcomers to the temple like himself are lucky to even be near the books. He reminds Ryo that he he should be learning the Wude to make himself a better martial artist. The search for practitioners that can teach him the Wude resumes.

Eye of the Beholder

Ryo carelessly bumps into Guixang, the elderly woman that mistook him for a landshark while searching for Xiuying’s apartment, knocking a package she was carrying into the air. Some quick-time reaction allows Ryo to dive and catch the box to avert disaster. Following a verbal lashing from Guixang, the two head to a teahouse with Ryo carrying the package as an apology. The contents are revealed to be a beautiful antique tea set being gifted for use in the shop. While not an expensive set, Guixang notes the value can be seen by the eye of the beholder, noting the aging city Hong Kong itself should be looked at the same way. Ryo is treated to tea in the antique cups after Guixang leaves as thanks for helping to carry it over.

Earlier, Joy visited the Come Over Guest House to check on Ryo, but was disappointed to learn that he’d checked out, presumably because he couldn’t afford to stay any longer. As she was later walking through Aberdeen, the orphan boy Wong attempted a pickpocket that saw himself caught immediately by the savvy redhead. They had a short conversation about Wong’s bad luck running his robbery schemes, and he offered his connections to locate Ryo for a fee, of course.

Wong and Joy catch up to Ryo, learning about his new place to stay and continued obsession with finding Kung Fu masters. Joy seems almost worried about his new sleeping arrangements, perhaps concerned about who he’s staying with. Wong is able to point them to Pigeon Park to find a martial artist named Eileen doing her daily training. She wants a sparring session but Ryo declines, so she presses the issue and goes on the attack. The match is brief but both fighters get to show some skill. Asked about the Wude, Eileen draws a blank but knows someone else that might be able to help. The group takes a trip to the Tomato Convenience Store supermarket and meets Izumi, a Japanese girl working the counter who is studying abroad in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, Izumi is draws a similarly blank stare when asked about Wude, concluding the cameo of these two Shenmue 2 characters.

No Punches Needed

While the afternoon search for Wude is ongoing, Xiuying and Fangmei do some shopping together. Fangmei expresses her dismay at Ryo’s trouble with the books earlier, which prompts Xiuying to encourage her assistant to help whip him into shape. Xiuying is expressing care for the young man here that her colder demeanor does not allow to shine through when conversing with Ryo. On the way back from the store, the two come across a young boy and his sister being harassed by two grown men. One of these thugs takes a kick to the groin from the boy and flies into a rage, preparing to strike with a metal pipe when Xiuying grabs him.

Bag of groceries still in hand, she admonishes the man for threatening children. The two thugs turn their ire toward Xiuying, but lose their determination to fight in the face of her steely gaze. One slight twist of the foot is all it takes to send the two men running in fear, ending the encounter without a single punch thrown. As the scene closes, the young boy just saved expresses his desire to grow stronger so he can make those criminals pay for their actions against him and his sister. The proclamation triggers Xiuying’s childhood memories of her own brother. She insists the boy must abandon these vengeful thoughts, believing they will lead him astray, just as she believes the same is happening to Ryo.

The trio of Ryo, Wong, and Joy return to the tea house to reflect on the trouble finding people that know the Wude. The conversation shifts to the state of Hong Kong when Ryo almost takes action against a landshark harassing a man outside the shop. Joy stops him. The city is in a state of redevelopment and many people still inhabiting the old buildings are victimized to get them out. Hong Kong’s entire identity is changing as the handoff from British rule looms on the horizon, with disturbances like the one being witnessed a daily occurrence everyone has just gotten used to. While thinking on the state of affairs, the clock strikes 4pm and Ryo is now an hour late returning to Man Mo Temple.

Tardiness Is Not Tolerated

He rushes back but a fuming Fangmei has finished the task on her own. She’s unreceptive to his excuses about trying to learn the Wude and admonishes him for being selfish and questioning what he’s even doing there. His response that he’s looking for Yuanda Zhu leaves her spitting that she wouldn’t help him even if she knew who that was, before storming away. Xiuying approaches and Ryo apologizes for failing to return on time. She says Fangmei is a straight shooter, much like himself, and hopes he’ll not think less of her for it. Xiuying then approaches Fangmei and tells her the same about Ryo, seemingly shaking the young girl’s resolve about his character.

Ryo speaks with Hanhui about his stalled quest to find the Wude and again expresses frustration about the lost time finding Yuanda Zhu, as Fangmei listens from the shadows. The monk goes into teaching mode, letting him know that progressing on ones journey is important, but pausing to pay attention to the scenery around is equally important. Hanhui tells Ryo he is lacking in this, causing Ryo to flash back to his father telling him the same. Joy and Wong then rush through the temple gates to let Ryo know they finally found a martial arts master. After he left the teahouse, they overheard a conversation about a master protecting the Yan Tin apartments from landsharks.

No Hesitation

Ryo rushes to the apartments with Fangmei trailing him in secret. He comes upon Guixang surrounded by a bunch of meatheads threatening her. He stand before them and tells the group not to make his mistake in failing to appreciate the value of the people and places around them. They’ll have none of it and attack, allowing Ryo to show his martial prowess and willingness to help to the onlooking Guixang and Fangmei. The elderly woman asks Ryo why he was in the neighborhood and learns of he hunt for the Wude. Ryo tells her that he intervened because he felt protecting the people under threat was the right thing to do.

Guixang reveals herself as the master he’s looking for and tells him he just acted out the third Wude: YI. This Wude means to act without hesitation in doing the right thing. Ryo is surprised again the the elderly woman is the master, leading to a lecture about needing to stop judging people by their appearances, as he’s been told before. The onlooking Fangmei seems happy with the young martial artist’s actions.

Returning to the temple, Ryo confronts Xiuying and expresses his knowledge of YI, asking if she sees him lacking in this teaching. She replies that she’s seen the fires of revenge burning inside him. To her, killing in the name of vengeance is an equal crime to murder and she refuses to help anyone walk that path. Help comes regardless, as a friendlier Fangmei has remembered a book in the library with Yuanda Zhu’s name on it as the author: the Wulinshu. Ryo pulls this book, his first big clue about the mysterious man, off the shelf to close out this week’s episode.

Comparison to the Games:

Tomato Convenience Store: Have to get this one out there first. We’re not going to see this much wanted Easter egg unfortunately, with Izumi’s store being a generic supermarket instead. I’m not sure why it was omitted. Perhaps the showrunners just didn’t understand it’s significance to fans of the games. It’s still a bit odd given the carefully included nods to the game series we’ve seen in the show prior to this.

A Tightly Knit Cast of Characters: The show continues to excel in coming up with new ways to interweave the supporting cast directly into Ryo’s quest. From Joy and Wong finding martial artists, to Eileen and Izumi cameoing for the Wude quest, then again with Fangmei and Hanhui expanding their roles in finding Zhu, everyone has additional value in this show.

Xiuying’s Kindness: Both this episode and last, Xiuying has gotten scenes that showcase her kind heartedness, particularly when she’s around Fangmei. This kindness also extends toward Ryo when she tries to smooth over the tensions he and Fangmei have this episode. She’s always guarded when around Ryo directly, so it wasn’t always possible to show this side of her in the game.

Revenge: The word was finally uttered in a conversation Ryo takes part in, though Xiuying gets the honor of being the first person to declare his intent to take revenge on Lan Di for his father’s murder.

Final Thoughts

This one was an enjoyable from a world and character building front. Cool to see Xiuying get a chance to show off how terrifying she can be. Ryo never seemed afraid of her as a fighter, despite the fact he absolutely should be, so making those two men run away scared was gratifying. The show keeps hinting away at her past with her brother and I’m hopeful they will expand beyond what the games have shown of that history, giving hint as to where he is now.

I have to say I’m a big fan of Fangmei in the anime, more so than I was in the game. The animators do such an incredible job with her expressions. There are times where you can tell the show has to work within budget constraints, particularly populating the city of Hong Kong, but its never the case when Fangmei is on the screen. A big kudos for boosting yet another supporting character.

Next week should have some heavy Yellow Head and Heavens gang action. As the plot to find Yuanda Zhu thickens so too must the danger as Ryo inches ever closer to the Chi You Men. See you next week for a recap of Distinct.

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