Video Game Theme Week: Tekken: The Motion Picture

This is a Japtoon so mediocre, it doesn’t even deserve vitriol.

No, the appropriate response to Tekken: The Motion Picture is almost certainly a simple sigh and a shake of the head. The last thing it deserves is for someone to acknowledge its existence in the form of a review, but it’s Theme Week here on Colony Drop, and I pulled the short stick.

I didn’t know a whole lot about Tekken coming in, to be honest. My entire Tekken knowledge base comes from an experience I had as a Hollywood intern. We all worked long hours, and we liked to play video games at the end of the day to blow off some steam. My boss, specifically, would emerge from his office and demand that someone “fight the bear.” See, in Tekken, you can fight as a bear.

In whatever variation of Tekken we’d purchased, though, the bear was an unlockable character, and one had to beat the game some insane amount of times to get him. Therefore, one of our interns was given the task of unlocking the bear. Film students, this is the lesson: yes, sometimes interning is a pain in the ass. Other times, you can play Tekken all day.

In any case, that little story you just read? About ten times more interesting than Tekken: The Motion Picture.

Tekken opens with a narrator making some martial arts-related claims designed, I believe, to pump you up. For example, he notes that “flesh is the door to the truth.” First off: I don’t believe this for a second. The works of Plato, sure, but flesh? Not buying it. Secondly, it sounds suspiciously like the tagline from David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. Debbie Harry got naked in that movie, as I recall, which was pretty awesome.

(The mind wanders when trying to review this shit.)

There is a nude scene in here too, actually, which was the saving grace of many other mediocre OVAs throughout the years. The character designs in Tekken are so awful, though, that you just kind of squint through it, waiting for it to be over.

The nude scene, I mean. Not the entire thing. Oh, wait.

I guess you might want to hear about the plot? There’s a guy named Mishima, who both makes bio-weapons and really loves fighting. He has ridiculous hair. One day he discovers his disturbingly muscled pre-teen son, Kazuya, talking to a girl, which isn’t nearly manly enough to meet Mishima’s exacting standards. So he throws his son over a cliff.

It’s okay, though, because Kazuya survives, though he emerges with scars on his chest and on his soul. Years pass, Kazuya’s hair becomes even sillier than his dad’s, and he plots to kill his father and get revenge. Convenient, then, that Mishima is holding a fighting tournament on his private island (where he also makes his bio-weapons, natch).

Meanwhile, Jun, the girl who got Kazuya thrown off the cliff in the first place, is all grown up. She’s a government agent trying to bust Mishima, and she’s also a martial artist. I guess everyone is, in Tekken. Flesh is the door to the truth, etc.

Jun enters the tournament, and she’s shocked to meet the adult Kazuya, who, unlike his childhood self, is bitter and full of rage. She asks, showing real potential as a psychologist: “Why are you so angry? Is it because your father threw you off that cliff?”

Uh, yeah.

Some other stuff happens. Do you care? The various fighters in the tournament fight. The designs are terrible, and the animation is choppy. Mishima’s motivation turns out to be Bad Guy Cliche #17: he created bio-weapons to wipe this disgusting world clean and start anew. Eventually the island blows up. Kazuya gets over his rage and spares his father, which, I understand, does not happen in the game. Not only is Tekken: The Motion Picture terrible, it’s not even canon.

I need to pause the sarcasm for a moment and really tell you why I didn’t like this cartoon (aside from the terrible nu-metal soundtrack – thanks ADV). It’s got mediocre writing and animation, but numerous other Japtoons have survived that and ended up in the plus column anyway. It’s also got weird, implausible plot twists and bizarre characters, but hell, that practically defines anime.

It’s all about suspension of disbelief. Give me a world where things are upside-down, but give it to me from frame one, don’t stray from that world’s rules, and I’ll follow you to the end with a grin on my face. Tekken gives us a world not unlike ours for a good 20 minutes. Then a dude with a cat face shows up.

It’s broken, it doesn’t work, and look, it inspired some vitriol in me after all. Better go take some Tums.


  1. The sad part is this *isn’t* the worst adaptation of Tekken. There’s this HK production with Sammo Hung was supposed to be the Hollywood Tekken movie, until Namco pulled the plug on endorsing it during production. And for good reason, as the story is absolutely dumb, and only saved by not being as shoddily-produced as Dragonball Evolution. You probably already know it, but it’s called Avenging Fist, if you don’t.

  2. Tekken: The Movie is a staple of the cool “bad anime” panels run at anime conventions, namely ones run by me, but despite that only a few scenes truly stand out:

    Heihachi catches a thrown hatchet with his teeth and BITES THROUGH THAT SHIT.

    Invisible dinosaurs.

    Punching invisible dinosaurs in the face.

    To think that a cartoon exists where people bite hatchets in two and punch invisible dinosaurs that still fails to be entertaining.* Tekken: The Motion Picture, what a frightening apparition you are.

    * just like the videogame source material itself, OH SNAP I WENT THERE

  3. That “flesh is the door to the truth” bit just sounds like a lot of the kind of pompous, posturing cod philosophy that anime screenwriters rushing to meet deadlines for projects they don’t care about vaguely remember from the bits they could understand of Nietzche’s fictionalised version of Zoroaster/Zarathustra. It’s a statement with great provenance but zero real meaning, and given that this anime is based on game featuring a bunch of entirely electronic, polygon-based fighters pummelling the crap out of each other, it’s also a slogan pregnant with a criminal amount of unexplored irony.

  4. I’m pretty sure that whole “flesh is the door to the truth” thing has come up in a few adult films I’ve seen in the past.

  5. Damnit Daryl I was gonna mention the hatchet scene. Anyways, this article would benefit from an animated gif of it.

    On another note I’m kinda sad that none of the Fatal Fury Anime made it into this series.

  6. Long time ago, before ADV released this in the states, I found a bootleg fansub VHS of this at one of the first comic cons I ever went to.
    I remember being so excited about seeing King and Yoshimitsu, my two favorite Tekken characters, kick some ass. Instead I got a piece of shit anime, and my two favorite characters reduced to a brief cameo.
    Good thing I also snagged a tape of Do You Remember Love at that con.

  7. ‘Then a dude with a cat face shows up.’

    To be fair, it’s a wrestler wearing a mask.

  8. I’ve been waiting for someone to call me out on that. I was pretty bummed out when I discovered it’s just a dude in a mask. I figured I should change the line, but my CD brethren all got a good “lol” out of it, so it stayed.

    But yeah, it’d probably be more accurate to substitute the cat line with one of the bizarre things Daryl mentioned.

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