TEKKEN: BLOODLINE Review: An Explosive, Action-Packed Series That Hits Fast And Hard Where It Needs To
At some point during this review, I was almost certain I would end up ranting non-stop in multiple paragraphs about live-action adaptations. I have my reasons – they’re not the ones most fringe fans think it is (if you read my stuff, then you know where I stand on this topic) – especially when it comes to an animated series production like Yoshikazu Miyao’s Tekken: Bloodline, currently on Netflix and streaming in six roughly half-hourlong episodes.
The most important aspect here is the story and the structuring of it. The series takes its cues from the third installment of the game franchise published in 1997, and marks the newest and third animated production based on the franchise. For this, we get a six-part supernatural martial arts thriller that deep dives into young Jin Kazama’s mission of vengeance following the murder of his mother, Jun, at the hands of a superhuman demon entity known as Ogre. Jin is reluctantly taken in by burly and brooding grandfather, Heihachi Mishima, and trained to befit the upcoming King Of Iron Fist tournament for a one shot opportunity at fighting and finishing Ogre off once and for all, although what Jin doesn’t know, is the cost at which victory could come.
There are areas in the show that indicate an extra two episodes would have been great to allow some more character development amid the friendships between a few of the familiar faces of the show, and so the way that it’s executed feels a little more abbreviated than desired. For instance, instead of watching Jin grow up and flourish, everything is more truncated and focused on his harsh training under Heihachi. My guess is the showrunners decided they didn’t want the show tapering off and meandering into territory they preferred it not to be in.
Whether or not it hurts or harms your viewing experience is entirely up to you. Where the show definitely wins, among its numerous areas, is the action, drawing from a concept that is almost purely rooted in the game from technique to choreography, with sweeping camerawork that consumes every thunderous blow between our characters and their matches. The show features a number of familiar characters from the game franchise, while fans may also recognize the addition of Wing Chun fighter Leroy Smith from the seventh installment who, much like Julia Chang and enigmatic masked wrestler King in this series, has his own reasons for partaking in the tournament.
It’s been more than a decade since Yōichi Mōri’s Tekken: Blood Vengeance and twenty-five years since the Tekken franchise landed its first OVA from director Kunihisa Sugishima. In that same period, we saw two live-action adaptations based on Tekken, and with Tekken: Bloodline, we get a series that achieves what both the 2010 film and its unceremonious 2014 prequel don’t: a program that all but successfully captures the spirit and essence of the Tekken universe in which these characters live, with strong characterizations and solid fight sequences, and a story conception and structure that doesn’t try to be anything more than what it needs to.
Looking back on the live-action films, it’s frustrating that the producers of those projects couldn’t even grasp the depth and acumen about how to handle Tekken at all. But, that’s the difference that emerges with Tekken: Bloodline, when you see something that looks as wondrous as it feels, created by people who care about the IP in their possession. I want more of this, and maybe one day we’ll actually have a decent and well-done live-action Tekken feature for a change.
And well, there you go. I’m glad I didn’t rant too much. I could have – believe me – but that’s all I’m gonna throw in the ring for now. Get over to Netflix and watch Tekken: Bloodline today, and get on your nearest Reddit thread or Twitter page and demand a season two already, and feel free to check out the streamer’s Baki animes, or even The God Of High School if you’re up for it.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.