I'm quite aware we're on a bit of a roll today, I mean, first, we reviewed sneakers and now we're reviewing anime? What has happened to 1UP Infinite? Is there no shame? What happened to the games!? (bars) Well, gaming is more than the games themselves. It has always been a culture that branched off into other mediums as well as mixed with other communities. When I wrote about the EVO Air Force 1s, I spoke about how close-knit the FGC and Sneaker Culture was. With the release of Tekken Bloodline, the anime highlights the close-knit relationship of the FGC and Anime Culture.
Unless one's been living under a rock, Anime and Video Games have always gone together. There have been countless games based on existing anime that have been and will continue to release. Occasionally, there are anime based on video games although it's not as common. Devil May Cry and BlazBlue are mere examples, with Tekken having several animations based on its source material. Beginning in the 90s with Tekken The Animated Movie and Tekken Blood Vengeance in 2011.
What all three animations have in common is that they are a retelling of the events that transpire in the games themselves. In Tekken Bloodline's case, it seeks to fill in any holes left in between Tekken 2 and 3 while offering a modern reboot. Due to the nature of the series and how it deviates from the path of the games, there are minor spoilers. Tekken Bloodline does its best to not make itself predictable to those familiar with the source material and it's successful in earnest.
The story begins with Jun Kazama raising Jin Kazama as a single parent in the middle of the forest. All goes well until Jin is chased by bullies and is forced to fight to defend himself. Jun, who has told Jin in the past not to engage and give into his anger, chides her son and trains with him briefly. One thing I can say about the fight scenes throughout Tekken Bloodline is that they are choreographed to be as faithful to the characters in-game as possible. Jun's fighting stance that she takes up in Bloodline is comparable to her most recent appearance in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Some of her signature moves are also featured, including her Cloud Kicks.
Another thing to note is that while the English cast consists of an ensemble cast new to the series, with the exception of Jin's which we'll get to later, the Japanese cast reprises their roles from the games. The English cast does an amazing job of bringing iconic characters to life in their own way. Erika Harlacher as Nina Williams and Faye Mata as Xiaoyu worked better for the characters than I had expected. Jamieson Price also reprises his role of Paul, a character he has voiced since Tekken 6!
I mentioned Jin because his voice actor, Kaiji Tang, was known for voicing Lee Chaolan in Blood Vengeance and Tekken Tag Tournament 2. There is a scene where Heihachi's assistant, Miss Miura emphasizes that Lee Chaolan is one of the missing fighters from the tournament. While it could be due to the events following Tekken 3 and Lee not being present, the emphasis on Lee, with Lee's previous voice actor in the room as Jin, is amusing in hindsight.
During the night of their training, Ogre pays an unexpectant visit to the Kazama household. Giving her son's instructions to run and find a man named Heihachi Mishima, Jun fights off the demon the best she could until she succumbs. This is another positive towards Tekken Bloodline, as it continues the ambiguity of Jun's fate. The only thing we as the viewers saw was the house explode and Jun going missing. Considering how the rule of thumb for Tekken has always been "No body, no death," there hasn't been a body so is Jun truly dead? Will we finally figure it out in Tekken 8?
Regardless, fueled with revenge Jin Kazama approaches Heihachi Mishima, complete with Ganryu as a security guard, only to find his gramps ain't the welcoming type. He immediately puts his son through a harsh training regime while having him do his dirty work like muscling a thug who attempts to swindle Heihachi. Jin completes his training, donning his classic Tekken 3 outfit, and Heihachi declares The King Of Iron Fist Tournament (3).
While it's a lot to pack into six episodes, Tekken Bloodline does a decent job of establishing core relationships. The friendly rivalry of Jin and Hwoarang, Xiaoyu's crush on Jin, and others. The writer did a great job of characterizing the fighters and giving them personality. Nina, for example, is deadly but understanding. Paul is the friendliest of the bunch yet a veteran due to his history with Kazuya Mishima. The anime references Tekken 1 as Paul was close to winning the tournament, barely losing to Kazuya. Kazuya is presumed dead much like he was in Tekken 3 and the events of Tekken 2 are briefly recapped.
The fighters all wear their modern appearances as they are shown in Tekken 7 yet keen viewers will recognize their ambitions play close to Tekken 3. King II, an orphan of the original King who was killed by Ogre, wants to win to raise money to build an orphanage. Xiaoyu, in a blink and you'll miss it a moment, says she wishes to build an amusement park much like her Tekken 3 ending. Perhaps the outlier here is Leroy, who is the new contender from Tekken 7.
As the only representative from Tekken 7, a game that takes place several years into the future in-universe, having Leroy present always seemed odd to me. Fortunately, again, I'd have to give praises to the writer for shoehorning a character from the future in a timeline that's centered around an older game. It's simple, he wants revenge on Heihachi for what he's done to his family. His Tekken 7 profile also states the same. I'd assume this was his first attempt at revenge.
Unfortunately, Jin also wants revenge on Ogre as he was told fighting would summon Ogre much like it did when it fought Jun. As such, in quite possibly the most unfortunate coincidence of "real life writes the plot," Jin Kazama would break his leg much like Bandai Namco would break Leroy's legs in the latest Tekken 7 patch. Once upon a time, he was the character only to fall from grace in both the game and the anime. Bummer.
Eventually, Jin makes it to the finals with a spectacle of great choreography and more hole-filling dialogue. It's revealed that Julia has entered the tournament not just to figure out the fate of her mother, Michelle Chang, but to retrieve an artifact that will summon Ogre.
The final bout between Jin and Heihachi reveals that it was the latter who unleashed Ogre to the world. Ogre feeds off of anger and fights, summoning itself to who would be a perfect contender. The night that Jun died, Ogre was summoned because it saw potential in Jin. Knowing this, Jun protected Jin so he wouldn't die from the battle demon.
Fueled by anger, the two fight their hardest until Ogre does indeed appear. Defeating Ogre summoned True Ogre and with the help of his friends, Jin was able to best him. Not before turning into Devil Jin and getting revenge on Heihachi due to the latter...pulling out a gun and shooting him. I'm omitting several pieces of detail, but this was when I felt that the writer had done their homework as this is a direct parallel to Jin Kazama's Tekken 3 ending.
In his ending, Heihachi arrived just as Jin defeated Ogre only to shoot him in the chest, without his motives being clear. In the same ending, this is enough for Jin's Devil Gene to trigger, tossing Heihachi to the side, and flying into the moonlight. I provided photos of both the ending to Tekken Bloodline and Tekken 3 for comparison. In Bloodline, it's explained that this is because "Jin is cursed," but honestly as we would see in future games, Heihachi wanted the Devil Gene for himself the whole time.
Overall, the runtime of Tekken Bloodline totaled around a little less than two hours, not counting the intro and outro. It's about the same length as an anime OVA and it manages to make due on its promise. Give the fans a recreation or an alternate universe of the events of Tekken 3. Pepper in some lore that fans of the series will catch on (including bears getting the devil gene apparently) and you have an afternoon treat to enjoy. While the prospect of a second season sounds enticing, I have one request and one request only.
Please get rid of the triangle filters in the future!