From the company that brought Kengan Ashura (2019-present), Netflix brings forth another anime adaptation with the plot centred on a fighting tournament.
Based on the best-selling video game franchise, 2022’s “Tekken: Bloodline” centres its story on the third instalment, Tekken 3, the game that introduced Jin Kazama to the gaming world.
When one man carries the flames of anger in the quest for vengeance, the true test of strength awaits him in the King of Iron Fist Tournament! (Images courtesy of Netflix)
Isshin Chiba once again provides the voice of protagonist, Jin Kazama, the young martial artist with a burning desire for revenge. Mamiko Noto voices Jun Kazama, Jin’s mother and mentor, and Taiten Kusunoki plays Jin’s grandfather, Heihachi Mishima.
The King of Iron Fist Tournament wouldn’t be complete without a whole cast of challengers to boot; Toshiyuki Morikawa plays Hwoarang, Jin’s rival and friend; Maaya Sakamoto plays Ling Xiaoyu, a student and participant in the Iron Fist tournament; and Yumi Toma plays Nina Williams, a cold-blooded assassin
Hōchū Ōtsuka plays Paul Phoenix, a hotshot brawler determined to prove to everyone he is the best; Seiko Yoshida plays Julia Chang, the adopted daughter of Michelle Chang who aims to retrieve a stolen artefact from the Mishima Zaibatsu, while Krizz Kaliko plays Leroy Smith, a kung-fu specialist accompanied by his pet dog, Sugar.
With the death of his mother at the hands of Ogre, Jin Kazama must train the Mishima fighting style and participate in the third annual King of Iron Fist Tournament to exact his revenge.
In his quest to lure Ogre to fight, Jin must also learn to keep his inner demons in check whilst enduring gruelling training regimes, fighting his way through the tournament, and dealing with Heihachi’s schemes.
Living with his mother, Jun, in the forest, Jin Kazama is taught in the Kazama-Style of Self Defence. It isn’t until he starts to train with his grandfather that our protagonist is taught in the Mishima art of karate.
This six-episode OVN series is chock-full of fight scenes and the studio, Larx Entertainment, is at the helm. The team behind Kengan Ashura (another Netflix anime adaptation) would once again provide 3D modelling for the battles, blending well with traditional style and giving the showdowns a fighting game feel to it.
Jin vs. Leroy Smith
In the first round, Jin’s opponent to welcome him into the Iron Fist Tournament is Leroy Smith. This dog loving loner is a practitioner of the art of Wing Chun, a Chinese fighting style that prioritises countering an opponent’s offence with precise, and deadly strikes.
Favouring a high narrow stance, Smith manages to establish near solid defence whilst utilizing elbows, kicks and open-hand strikes to attack various parts of the body, making him the most versatile fighter in the tournament.
Despite Smith’s sheer unpredictability and near impenetrable guard, Jin is able to find gaps in Smith’s defence and follow up with dynamic combos. Even with no chance of victory, Smith just keeps getting back up, until Jin ends the fight with a kick to the leg that shatters Smith’s leg. Jin would advance, but nearly crippling his opponent leaves him and his conscience conflicted by his actions.
Jin Kazama vs. Hwoarang
In the second round, Jin faces his friend and rival, Hwoarang, a South Korean hot head who Jin once fought before the tournament began. Hwoarang is trained in the Korean martial art, Taekwondo, a striking art focusing on creative and flashy kicks in unpredictable fashion.
Due to recent actions in his previous match, Jin struggles with the responsibility of the power he possesses. It’s only when he remembers the reason for fighting that he stops holding back, resulting in a more competitive affair.
Jin manages to overwhelm his rival, yet for a moment, he looks like he is ready to strike down an already beaten Hwoarang. Luckily, Jin comes to his senses and helps his friend up. In his second fight Jin succeeds in exercising reasonable force and keeps his anger in check, honouring his mother’s teachings.
Jin Kazama vs. King
It’s the finals of the Iron Fist Tournament, as Jin faces masked wrestling champion, King. Although their goals are different, both warriors are willing to give their all on winning the finals. With King’s Pro Wrestling background, the fight features no shortage of enthralling moves and holds.
While King’s well-rounded, and intensive style spells trouble for our protagonist, Jin’s power and focus wins out.
After winning the finals, Jin hands the prize money over to King for his orphanage, for he had other reasons to fight and thought the money could be put to better use.
Jin Kazama vs. Heihachi Mishima
Not content with Jin’s performance, Heihachi challenges his former apprentice in a last-ditch effort to lure Ogre. Angered by the revelation of his grandfather’s involvement in his mother’s death, Jin accepts Heihachi’s challenge.
Although Jin manages to connect with powerful combos, like any good teacher, Heihachi is familiar with his apprentice’s manoeuvres and responds with sharp counters, impenetrable defence, and overwhelming combos, devastating an already battered Jin.
Once Jin regains consciousness, he adopts the Kazuya fighting method, striking in all directions, catching Heihachi off guard. This change in method helps Jin regain momentum, by making good use of the best parts of both Kazuya and Mishima fighting styles.
This six-episode anime is a noteworthy adaptation of a beloved fighting game. Although the 3D models take time to get used to, they give the fight scenes a real video game combat experience with the same amount of hard-hitting style.
Jin Kazama is a likeable protagonist with a sense of loyalty and determination. His moments with Jun in the first episode are heart-warming as you really get the sense of a mother/son relationship.
With his brutal training under Heihatchi Mishima, which would mould him into the perfect warrior, Jin’s story is a cautionary tale of learning to control one’s impulses while facing those who corrupt the martial arts and exploit their followers for their own personal gain.
The only thing that lets it down is the wasted potential battles and development with fan favourite characters. Nina Williams is a big example, appearing to be a major supporting player, but is easily dispatched in the first round and is quickly forgotten about.
It’s understandable when it comes to adapting a video game with a huge roster that corners are going to be cut and the plot needs moving forward, but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing when most of the fights happen off screen.
The show has its fair share of missed opportunities, but it still stands on its own by adding more depth to the characters while remaining faithful to the fighting spirit of the franchise.
- “Strong Mind, strong body” – Jun
- “What is it that haunts you? Whose eyes peer at you from the dark?” – Tekken narrative
- The was the first Anime series adaptation of the video game franchise out of two animated (Tekken: The Motion Picture & Blood Vengeance) and live-action films (Tekken, Kazuya’s Revenge).
- Tekken: Bloodline is a retelling of Tekken 3. Yet, Leroy Smith who debuted in the recent game in the series, Tekken 7 makes an appearance in the story.
- Isshin Chiba has been voicing the character of Jin Kazama since Tekken 3 in 1998.
- The actor who plays Paul Phoenix in the dub, Jamieson Price, has been the voice actor for the character since Tekken 6.
- Japanese voice-actor, Toshiyuki Morikawa who plays Hwoarang in Bloodline has voiced the character in Tekken 3, Tekken Tag Tournament, and Tekken 4.
- The voice actor for Ling Xiaoyu, Maaya Sakamoto has played the character since Tekken: Blood Vengeance in 2011.