I am a King main, for my sins. There’s something about parading around as a towering slab of hardened meat, topped off with a jaguar mask, that does it for me. Clotheslining a J-Pop icon, repeatedly kicking a bear in the shins, or slamming the soles of both feet into a geriatric sociopath feels good. Mixing up throws and making people rage in lobbies as I spend about 60 seconds breaking all their limbs, one by one, gives me a dopamine hit.
So in the latest trailer for Netflix’s adaptation of Tekken – Tekken: Bloodline – when I see King doing his trademark Lasso Kick and smash Jin’s head in, I’m hyped. I’m thinking “wow, OK, this might be a Netflix anime that doesn’t totally undermine its source material”. Except, it probably will. But that’s fine, because Tekken is big, dumb, and full of fun, anyway – Netflix running with its over-the-top violence, fan-service, and intergenerational trauma is fine.
It’s not like the streaming company has much to butcher; Tekken’s storyline is over-dramatic nonsense as it is. Go wild! Show me a bear fighting a devil with laser eyes. Go nuts. Tekken producer and long-time face of the series, Katsuhiro Harada, claimed Tekken has the “longest-running storyline” in a recent video – and he’s probably right, at this point. I hope the writers draw deep from Tekken’s most idiotic plot points and crafts something absurd, and compelling. If JoJo’s can do it, so can Tekken!
In the first trailer for the show, we saw Paul, King, and Kazuya – and not much else. This new round of marketing introduces more of the ever-growing Tekken crew to the adaptation: we see Julia Chang, Nina Williams, Ling Xiaoyu, Jin, and Hwoarang all present… along with Tekken 7 newcomer, Leroy Smith. Now, from what I can determine, this show is a take on Tekken 3’s plot – where Jin trains with Heihachi Mishima, before competing in the King of Iron Fist Tournament to avenge his mother, Jun, who was killed by an Ogre that’s intent on killing and absorbing the most powerful fighters in the world.
Thing is, Leroy was never a part of that story – and even in Tekken 7, he’s only really been hinted at, since he came to the party late as a DLC character. So whoever is working on this adaptation (Netflix is keeping quiet about the studio involved, for now) is taking liberties with the canon. Good. Because I want to see later characters in this story – what was the secret agent and definitely-not-Wesley-Snipes-alike Raven doing at this time, for example? Where does Lars, Heihachi’s other adopted son, fit into this? Are we going to see an unhinged Dr. Bosconovitch in the early stages of creating a robot daughter? I can’t wait to find out the answers to these questions, even if the whole thing will undoubtedly be a bit pants.
I mean, look at it. The shading alone makes my eyes hurt. Why do all the characters have big triangular shadows on their heads? The series is created with CG animations with a cell shading filter, resulting in a final 2D-like effect… and it’s OK? It looks fine, and you can tell who all the characters are supposed to be, but it looks a little odd. Then there’s the use of the Tekken hit contact effects – it’s hype as hell to see them flash up on-screen, mid-bout, but they’re a little jarring against the rest of the style.
My hopes are high, though. Netflix has been crushing it with its own animated output lately, and this seemingly US-made show could be another feather in the studio’s cap. It's worth noting that Netflix has been laying off a vast number of its animation staff lately – here's hoping the likes of Arcane, Castlevania, and this new Tekken project can prove there's still enough interest out there to make game-based animation worth investing in. The story is there, the characters are there – everything Netflix needs to make this one of the most off-the-wall, brutal, fighting game adaptations has been set up. The studio just needs to finish it off with a perfect round.
Tekken: Bloodline comes to Netflix on August 18.