When Netflix first came out with the teaser for Tekken I was pretty stoked. From all of the fighting game series Tekken tends to have the best storylines. I may be more of a Street Fighter fan with the gameplay but the stories had less of a strong continuity than Tekken. Tekken was always going to give you a very solid cinematic experience and that translates well into a game. This one may be ultra short at only 6 episodes long but in a way you can just treat it as a 2-2.5 hour movie. It’s really quite elite and succeeds at everything it tries to do.
The show starts off by introducing us to Jin and his mother Jun. She is training him how to fight but only in self defense as might doesn’t make right. Jin tries his best to keep to these teachings but its tough with so many bullies around. Well, one day a mysterious being known as Ogre appears and murders Jin’s mother. He swears to avenge her and goes to meet his grandfather Heihachi to achieve the strength he will need. Jun had said to seek this man out and while Heihachi makes it clear that he doesn’t care about Jin, he agrees to teach him. Jin will have to enter the next King of Iron Fist Tournament and win. The more he wins, the more Ogre should be tempted to come out as he has been destroying powerful fighters across the world. What better bait than a fighting tournament right? Does Jin really have what it takes to beat all of these guys?
I mostly grew up with Tekken 4-6 so I don’t know too much about the earlier games outside of the bullet points. So it was nice to have more of an adaption for Tekken 3. This always felt like the beginning to me so I wonder what the first two games’ story was. Or maybe they were old enough so they didn’t really have enough of one to fill a whole show. Regardless, the decision was a good one because the story here is most excellent. Right off the bat you have a big villain and a tragic hero death. The main character losing a parent to a powerful foe may be something that happens a lot but when executed well it still hits you emotionally.
The show is in CGI but fortunately it keeps the cool visual effects that the games had when someone is hit. You really feel the power behind every blow and I would say the graphics work here. The show looks a whole lot like a video game throughout its run. The fight choreography was on point as well so I was not surprised when I saw Rooster Teeth in the credits. This is some of the better CGI on the market. Would hand drawn have been better? Yes, but they definitely did all that they could with the CG and it didn’t hamper the story. You’re still going to be having a blast with all of the fights. You may wonder how Jin can keep on fighting at times, particularly near the end when it feels like he fights in numerous battles with no break, but I guess we can chalk that up to the “Devil Gene”.
The Devil Gene is a big point of emphasis in the show because it ties into the Ogre mystery and why he attacked in the first place. Any Tekken fan will definitely recognize this as something that will be important in the future as well. It plays a part here and is referenced a lot but I would say it’s more of a preview of things to come. I certainly hope we get a season 2 or some kind of continuation. Keep this going because Tekken has a ton of potential!
I also liked the soundtrack but I think the opening is a huge missed opportunity. There is virtually no animation in the opening at all and the song is really dead. It doesn’t help get you pumped for the episode or anything. It just feels like a bit of a waste and is the only weak element of the show. Not a big deal since it’s just an opening but still, you’d expect better than that.
One of the main reasons why the show is so amazing is because Jin is a great main character. That is always the starting point when you want to make a show successful after all. He is motivated by revenge but hasn’t lost himself in it yet. He sill wants to be a great fighter and he’s made some friends along the way. The show doesn’t have time to dwell on this much but you can see that he does have a fairly stable life built around him. He always goes about things the right way and even by the end Jin still feels like a hero. Perhaps he is someone that the others will have to be careful around but I’d trust Jin at this point in time.
I also liked his fighting style a lot. It’s certainly more basic than most of the other characters but it shows how he relies on fundamentals. If the show was longer I would have liked to have seen more detail into the Kazama fighting style so we could really compare it to Mishima. That’s a big subject in the show as Heihachi wants Jin to learn his Mishima style over Jin’s mother’s style but we technically don’t see too much difference between them. Jin does get one KO move from his mother which was nice to see though.
Then Heihachi works really well as the main villain. He may be the CEO at the top of his company, but by no means has he gotten lazy in the slightest. His fighting abilities are just as deadly as they ever were and he gets to show them off at different points here. There is also a shocking moment involving a gun that was incredible. Heihachi really gets a lot of respect here and earns it not only as a fighter but as a strategist as well. His fans should definitely be very pleased with how he looks.
Jin’s friend Xiaoyu also looks really good. She is determined to be a fighter in the tournament and is tired of people treating her like a kid or thinking that she’s too weak for being a girl. Well, Xiaoyu does prove herself here and does better in the tournament than I was expecting. She’s just a fun character and brings a little light hearted cheer to the tournament as everyone else is fairly serious.
This hype does come at the expense of Nina to an extent though. It’s incredibly hard to believe that Nina would lose to Xiaoyu. I thought they were going to pull a twist where Nina lost on purpose to do some sleuthing in the background or something but instead she actually lost. Well, it’s an effective twist in that I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m still a little skeptical. Nina is fun in her brief appearance though and I expect we’ll see a lot more of her in future installments.
Next up is Paul who is a likable guy. He gets to talk tough and goes far in the tournament. It also feels like his fighting style is rather ordinary like Jin but it takes him far. He doesn’t get a whole lot to do here but I’d say the role was good enough. There is only so much time for each character after all and you get the feeling that Paul’s a good guy. He’s experienced and has been around the block a few times so he can give Jin some advice as well.
Leroy is more of an annoying character. He’s one of those guys who has a big grudge with Heihachi and wants revenge. Fair enough, but once you start taking that out on other people then it becomes a bit of a problem. He just wants to start trouble whenever he is around and that’s not a good idea without a good reason. Just taking out your revenge on someone else doesn’t cut it and so I found him to be one of the weaker characters here.
King was a solid fighter here. Now, there’s one moment where he defeats someone rather brutally so everybody gets upset, but I technically didn’t think he was crossing the line or anything. It’s not a Neji vs Hinata situation or something where it looks like the fight’s about to go beyond the match. King II just flat out won with his techniques and stopped once the opponent was down. We also find out why he is fighting later on and it tracks with him not being a bad person.
So I thought he was good, but the show tries to throw in a little mystery that deflates before it starts. So during the tournament the characters suddenly realize that this isn’t actually the original King. That’s cool and all but in the first or second episode they had already mentioned that Ogre destroyed King or at least that King vanished after the fight. So from the jump we knew that this wasn’t the same King even though it’s treated as a twist of sorts. I thought that was a bit odd.
Usually I’d be talking about Kazuya more by now but he really ends up missing out in this show. He’s still missing after the fight with Heihachi but unfortunately we didn’t see the scene of Heihachi throwing him off the mountain. We did get the reverse though. Those two always have an incredible rivalry so I’m ready to see him in the sequel. He also becomes more of a true rival to Jin. Right now Hwoarang has to fit that bill and it’s harder to take him seriously.
Hwoarang is a good character and I do like him but the victor is never in doubt when he goes up against Jin. It feels like those two are just in different leagues at this point. The fight appears closer than it really was. It’ll be nice to see him stick around but I feel like he probably won’t get many more big fights like the one in this season. As we wrap up the characters, we have to talk about Jun. She’s a lot of fun even if her screen time is quite brief. She helped train Jin the right away. While she does tell him to only fight in self defense, it’s to a reasonable angle at least.
My only issue with self defense is when characters take it to the extreme like letting people throw drinks on them or even land a hit. As long as you can fight back when you’re attacked then it’s all good. She reminds me a lot of the mentor character in Shenmue. Jun is really at the top of her game here and you can see why she is known as such a powerful fighter that even Heihachi gives respect to. She did well in the fight against Ogre too. I thought it was a good showing of how skill can let you keep up with a more powerful fighter for a while even if it won’t ultimately change the outcome.
Finally there is Ogre and I thought he was great too. He’s got a very Doomsday kind of vibe to him. He just shows up out of nowhere like a natural disaster and murders whoever is in front of him. As the show goes on we learn more about the logic of when and why he appears but either way you don’t want him to appear. Almost nobody can fight this guy 1 on 1 and hope to survive. The show even gets a little more out there than you’d expect with the final battle. Ogre does not hold back that’s for sure.
One thing the show could probably tone down for season 2 is the flashbacks though. This show is only 6 episodes long and yet there are a considerable amount of flashbacks. They seem to come in almost every episode over and over again. Some of the scenes we see multiple times and it’s not like the audience will have forgotten. Even ignoring the binging format, it’s only 6 episodes. You really don’t need flashbacks like that. If you want to use 1 or 2 to build up the emotional appeal then that’s fine but more than that is just excessive with no real benefit to doing so.
Meanwhile one unique thing the show did that I thought worked really well was having everyone talk very slowly. At first I thought it would just be something Heihachi did but it works for the entire cast. It’s like everyone is trying really hard to enunciate every syllable no matter how long it takes. I feel like this is either a tribute to the original game’s dubbing or that’s just the custom within the Tekken world. There’s no way it’s a coincidence and all of the VAs just talk like that. Whatever the reasoning behind it was, I thought it worked well. That slow way of talking wasn’t obnoxious like how it’s handled in other titles but just feels very regal here.
It also helps with the very cinematic style of each episode. Each episode feels like part of a grand movie. The characters are expressive, the backgrounds are memorable, and the music raises the tension. With the characters speaking slowly, you also feel like they could lunge at any moment so everyone has their guards up at all times. Some characters aren’t too smart and like to take their chances like the one guy who thought he could cheat Heihachi out of their deal, but for the most part everyone plans things out carefully. You have to in this kind of world or you’ll vanish pretty quickly.
Overall, Tekken is a superb show. At the end of the day it really did everything right. It would have its super hype moments and it would also get very emotional at times. Not making any big mistakes is enough to get you to a 7 but if you want to go beyond that then you have to also be strong in all areas. That’s what Tekken does here. The fight scenes are really excellent and the story is great. The character cast is very strong and this is really a superb adaption. Any Tekken fan should be proud of how it came out and even if you don’t know Tekken, you can easily enjoy this as a solid action show. The plot is fairly straight forward with the tournament and you can follow along from there. In a lot of ways it feels like the anime version of Mortal Kombat and that’s always high praise. Hopefully a sequel comes sooner than later.