Anime Review: Tekken Bloodline (2022)

TL;DR – the lore of video game Tekken brought to the anime screen.

Review (warning: spoilers)

Movie and TV series of video games are always fraught with danger. There is a market and audience for telling stories based on fans’ favourite video games. Yet, time and time again, the high expectations placed upon those adaptions are rarely met. Critics, who aren’t video game fanatics, usually end up rolling their eyes at the incoherent plot that is used as the foundation for the story telling. And fans generally find themselves preferring to play the video game rather than watch the characters act out on the screen.

Nevertheless, studios continue to develop and release films and TV series based on video games because there’s an audience even if the work itself ends up royally panned.

Tekken is a side-view style fighting game where players get to choose one of the characters and then go head-to-head against an opponent.

This type of game is straight forward. You compete in a tournament and if you win all your rounds, you’re the champion. So, I was surprised to discover there is a significant amount of lore behind the video game, even if a lot of it is crazy. For example, one of the characters you can choose is a grizzly bear (yes, while most of the characters are human, there are animals and even robots, that you can choose, and they are just as good at martial arts as the human ones). The story behind the bear is that he was adopted by Heihachi Mashima (a supreme fighter and big bad boss in the video game). Heihachi raised the cub and taught it martial arts and how to communicate in Japanese. Silly but impressive right?

The richness of the lore is drawn out in varying degrees in Tekken Bloodline and delivers enough to satisfy fans but will likely fall flat with everyone else.

The animation is solid. With the best scenes and the most money poured into the fighting, the distinctive style of the video game is captured in all its glory in the TV series. Outside of the fighting, the animation is rudimentary and in some parts appear like filler rather than plot progression.

The story is about Jin Kazama, who is taught by his mother, Jun Kazama in the Kazama-style martial arts. Jun also teaches Jin to be a kind person and to use his abilities for good. Stock standard type of introduction to a character who secretly has great power (‘with great power comes great responsibility’ and all that jazz).

One day, when Jin fights back against bullies, he almost goes too far and is admonished by his mother for not controlling his anger. His blood lust triggering the appearance of the Ogre, a giant demon that wishes to acquire Jin’s power.

The Ogre is temporarily defeated by Jun, who sacrifices herself in order to save her son. Thus, Jin vows revenge on the demonic beast.

He ventures to meet his grandfather, Heihachi Mashima, who teaches Jin in the rutheless Mashima fighting style. Heihachi then tells Jin that in order to attract the Ogre, Jin must enter in the Iron Fist tournament, and if he becomes champion, the Ogre will surely appear to fight him.

While the Mashima training transforms Jin into a deadly martial arts fighter, the philosophy of Heihachi greatly contradicts all the lessons Jin’s mother taught him. This ends up being a continual source of internal conflict for Jin as he progresses through the tournament.

For those familiar with both the video game and the lore, it will come as no surprise that Heihachi is actually a very bad man who unleashed the Ogre in the first place. His goal is to harness the Ogre’s power by capturing it, and he uses Jin to accomplish this. However, Jin successfully kills the Ogre when it appears.

This causes a portal, which I assume is from hell, to open that sends out a second demon that is even more powerful than the Ogre. The demon is a Chimera type creature, and the only way that Jin is able to defeat it is to activate the “devil gene” (this is the great power contained within him).

Heihachi then shoots Jin, explaining that the “devil gene” would consume Jin into an evil being and needed to be stopped. However, Jin revives and transforms into a demon-like creature and beats Heihachi into a pulp. Giving in to the darkness, Jin lets go of his mother and all her teachings and flies away.

The series suffers from some glaring plot holes. The largest of which is at the beginning. When Jun is about to be killed by the Ogre, she tells her son to go to his grandfather Heihachi who will teach him. It does not make sense that Jun would send her son to Heihachi knowing how much of a bad person he really is. So, one can only assume Jun does not know Heihachi’s true nature, which is a stretch to say the least given how rich and infamous the man is. Someone as wise, compassionate and caring as Jun surely would know that Heihachi is not a good family influence. But with her dying breath, she instructs Jin to go to him anyway.

There is meat to the Tekken lore, but we only get the bare bones. Better to go off and play the video game rather than watch the anime.

5 out of 10

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