Netflix’s Tekken anime looks terrible and I can’t wait to watch it
I am a chief king for my sins. There’s something about parading around like a towering slab of cured meat, topped with a jaguar mask, that does it for me. Dressing up a J-Pop icon, repeatedly kicking a bear in the shin, or slamming the soles of both feet into a geriatric sociopath feels good. Mixing up throws and making people rage in lobbies while 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 do his trademark Lasso Kick and crush Jin’s head, I get hyped. I’m thinking “wow, OK, this could be a Netflix anime that doesn’t completely subvert the source material”. Except, it probably will. But that’s okay, 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 a lot to offer; Tekken’s story is overdramatic nonsense as it is. Go crazy! Show me a bear fighting a devil with laser eyes. Go crazy. Tekken producer and longtime face of the series, Katsuhiro Harada, claimed that Tekken has the “longest history” in a recent video — and he’s probably right at this point. I hope the writers draw deeply from Tekken’s most idiotic plot points and create 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 team to the adaptation: we see Julia Chang, Nina Williams, Ling Xiaoyu, Jin and Hwoarang all in attendance…along with Tekken 7 newcomer, Leroy Smith. Now, from what I can tell, this show is a reimagining of the plot of Tekken 3 – 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 which intends to kill and absorb the most powerful fighters in the world.
The thing is, Leroy was never part of that story – and even in Tekken 7, he’s only really been hinted at, since he came late to the party 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, for example, was the secret agent and definitely-not-Wesley-Snipes-alike Raven doing at this time? Where does Lars, Heihachi’s other adopted son, fit into this? Will we 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, although it will undoubtedly be a bit of a pantser.
I mean, look at it. Just the shadow hurts my eyes. Why do all the characters have big triangular shadows on their heads? The series is made with CG animations with a cell shadow filter, resulting in a final 2D-like effect… and that’s OK? It looks good and you can see who all the characters are supposed to be, but it looks a little weird. Then there’s the use of the Tekken hit contact effects – it’s hype as hell to see them flash up on screen, mid-fight, but they’re a bit jarring against the rest of the style.
However, my hopes are high. Netflix has been crushing it with its own animated production of late, and this apparent USA team could be another feather in the studio’s cap. It’s worth noting that Netflix has laid off a large number of its animation staff recently – here’s hoping the likes of Arcane, Castlevania, and this new Tekken project can prove that 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 it’s put together. The studio just needs to finish it off with a perfect round.
Tekken: Bloodline coming to Netflix on August 18.