Shenmue Themes ~ Revenge ~

~ Shenmue Themes ~ Revenge ~

Yu Suzuki: Shenmue focuses on themes like love, courage, friendship and family, which are understood around the world.


Shenmue weaves a captivating narrative enriched with a multitude of compelling themes, including Revenge, Friendship, Love, Family, among others. Throughout this series of posts, i will delve into the various themes prevalent in Shenmue. To kick off this exploration, I'll begin by discussing the theme of revenge.

At the heart of Shenmue lies the theme of revenge, a powerful motivator that drives the actions of several key characters. Within the narrative, three pivotal characters stand out with their own tales of vengeance: Ryo Hazuki, Lan Di, and Ziming Hong.

In this post, i aim to share my personal perspective on the theme of revenge as depicted in the storyline.

~ 3 Avengers ~


~ Ryo Hazuki ~

Ryo serves as the central character in Shenmue. Lan Di's actions took Ryo's father life right before his eyes, leaving Ryo consumed by a fervent desire for revenge.

~ Lan Di ~

Lan Di's conviction revolves around the belief that Iwao Hazuki, Ryo's father, was responsible for the death of his own father, Sunming Zhao, in Meng Cun. Seeking retribution, Lan Di orchestrated the demise of Ryo's father, successfully fulfilling his quest for vengeance. As one of the leaders of the organization known as The Chi You Men, Lan Di wields significant influence.

~ Ziming Hong ~

Ziming Hong stands as the brother of Xiuying Hong. Tragedy struck when their parents were murdered, igniting an unrelenting need for vengeance within Ziming.

Ziming asserts that the Chi You Men hold knowledge regarding the incident. Driven by his desire for revenge, Ziming distanced himself from Xiuying, ultimately joining the Chi You Men, as revealed in the manga "Shenmue Side Story." The questions lingers: who killed Ziming and Xiuying parents? has Ziming attained his sought-after revenge? The answers remains elusive.

~ 3 Scars ~


These three characters share the role of avengers, but there's another common thread that binds them together – they each bear a similar scar on their left cheek.

Ryo acquired his scar during the finals of a karate tournament preceding the events of the first game. Yu Suzuki confirmed this, although in the anime depicts Lan Di inflicting the scar on Ryo. Ryo conceals the scar with a bandage.

As for Lan Di's scar, its origin remains elusive. However, I speculate that it harbors a profound backstory, possibly rooted in events within Meng Cun.

Regarding Ziming's scar, details are scant. My theory is that Ziming and Xiuying saw their parents dying right before their eyes, feeling angry Ziming tried to confront the person who killed their parents, in this fight i think the person did the scar in Ziming's cheek.

Notably, all three scars are situated on the left cheek – a fact that has long captivated my interest. Ryo stands as the sole figure among them who wears a bandage over the scar. The rationale behind this distinction intrigues me deeply. Is it a mere stylistic choice in character design or does it possess a more profound significance? Personally, I lean toward the latter.

Ryo's emotional wounds remain unhealed due to his father's demise, and his thirst for revenge persists. I believe the bandage symbolizes his ongoing anguish and gradual recovery from the burden of anger, sadness and sorrow.


My conviction is that Ryo will eventually abandon his pursuit of vengeance. When he experiences this transformative shift, the bandage will fall to the ground. This gesture would signify his release from the grip of revenge, marking the culmination of his healing process. Although the scar on his cheek would remain, its appearance without the bandage would denote his readiness to move forward.

This theory resonates with me due to its poetic, meaningful, and emotional nature. It's further enriched by Shenmue's ties with Virtua Fighter.

Interestingly, Akira Yuki also have a scar on his left cheek, albeit without a bandage. I love imagining Ryo as a younger version of Akira, so this theory adds a layer of depth to the narrative. Imagining Ryo shedding the bandage in this manner holds a certain beauty. Such an evolution would deepen the connections between Shenmue and Virtua Fighter.

~ Revenge is a Destructive Path ~


Throughout the Shenmue storyline, certain characters have attempted to guide Ryo towards the realization that revenge is a destructive path, one veering towards darkness. They emphasize that he should not squander his time fixated on vengeance, Ine-San and Fuku-san tried to change
Ryo's mind and are really worried about Ryo, but Ryo still want revenge.

Two characters come to mind who've made such attempts: Master Chen and Xiuying. Despite their efforts, Ryo remains resolute in his pursuit of revenge.

From my perspective, Ryo still stands to glean two vital lessons – one imparted by his father and another underscored by Xiuying:

1. Keep friends... those you love... close to you.

2. You still don't understand. Martial arts are used to protect people's lives. If you use your fists otherwise, you will walk on the path of evil, too.

In the current phase of the narrative, Ryo's attention is locked onto anger and vengeance, overshadowing considerations of friendship and love.

I anticipate a turning point in the story where Ryo finally internalizes these two significant lessons, and let go of his thirst for revenge.

Yu Suzuki even confirmed that Ryo will forget about revenge, Yu-san confirmed this in a interview held by Kenji Seang from the french website Shenmue Master.


It tantalizes me to ponder the circumstances that will precipitate Ryo's embrace of these lessons. I foresee deeply emotional moments that will catalyze Ryo's growth as a character.

Turning to Lan Di and Ziming – depending on the unfolding revelations – Lan Di might find himself regretting that he
killed Iwao, possibly steering him toward revenge against the Chi You Men. It is even possible for Ryo and Lan Di
to join forces to destroy The Chi You Men, of course depending on the revelations about what happened in Meng Cun, but
i really love this theory.

With Shenmue III we know now that after Suming Zhao's death Lan Di was raised by the Chi You Men, my theory is that
The Chi You Men twisted with Lan Di's mind since he was a kid, i can imagine Lan Di when he was a kid, feeling sad
and angry about the death of his father, so depending on the revelations about what happened in Meng Cun Lan Di
can even want revenge against The Chi You Men, i really love these theories.

The truth about Meng Cun's events could shift the trajectory of his character, including the possibility of a heroic end.

In Ziming's case, whether regret dawns upon him remains uncertain. Given his association with the Chi You Men, can Xiuying salvage him from his perilous path? The outcome is unclear, but the potential for Ziming to experience remorse and have a heroic end exists.

Personally, I'm eager to witness more of Lan Di and Ziming's narratives in Shenmue IV.

I even have a theory that The Chi You Men organization is to blame for the tragedies involving Lan Di and Ziming.

This leads me to speculate that other members within the organization may harbor similar revenge stories.

That maybe The Chi You Men wanted more members so the organization killed the parents of lots of young people, these young people wanted revenge and joined The Chi You Men organization, in my opinion it is possible that maybe The Chi You Men did that, it is possible and i really like this theory.

Perhaps when Ryo defeats the Chi You Men organization it will break the cycle of revenge and animosity once and for all, not just for Ryo, but for many characters as well.

~ Final Thoughts ~

Revenge is a prevalent theme in many stories; numerous narratives center around the concept of seeking vengeance. However, what sets Shenmue apart is its potential to deviate from the norm. In this unique tale, Ryo might not choose to kill Lan Di.

Instead, he could win a fight against Lan Di and after that let go of his desire for revenge, and there's a possibility that Ryo and Lan Di might even find a mutual understanding.

This ending, if realized, would hold a profound beauty, given the history between Iwao Hazuki (Ryo's father) and Sunming Zhao (Lan Di's father). Their friendship casts a poignant light on the potential for Ryo and Lan Di to come to terms with each other in the story's conclusion.


In my upcoming post within this series, I'll likely delve into the theme of friendship, a truly captivating element in Shenmue. It's a theme that adds a remarkable layer of depth and beauty to the narrative.

What are your thoughts on the theme of revenge in Shenmue? what about the scars? Will Ryo eventually let go of his desire for revenge? Do you believe Ryo and Lan Di will find mutual understanding? Can Ziming and Xiuying also come to an understanding? What direction do you think the story's revenge theme will take next? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments section below.

Thank you all for taking the time to read, and always remember the importance of keeping your cherished friends and
loved ones close. Until my next blog post, take care, bye bye. ~ Hiki ~


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