So, I’ve been critical of a bunch of anime based off of video games this month. As such, it seems fair to talk about something American as well. The eternally miss-spelled Mortal Kombat franchise has had a lot of adaptations. Films, card games, & several television series. This was the first television adaptation.
Now, you might think it’s a patently bad idea to make a children’s cartoon out of a series that’s notorious for its extreme violence and was instrumental in making rating systems happen. Of course, you only think that because you’re objectively smarter than anyone who was instrumental in making this project a reality. So, give yourself a quick golf clap on that one.
The basic story behind this is that our world is being invaded and the “heroes” of Mortal Kombat, Sonya Blade, Liu Kang, Jax, Subzero, Kitana, Nightwolf & that former cop no one likes band together under Raiden’s guidance to seal the portals that open up into our world and repel the invaders by ripping out their spinal columns or just by punching them a lot. That’s the experience people think of when they think of Mortal Kombat.
So, beyond the premise and this being a very poor fit for a children’s cartoon, what’s wrong with the writing in this series? well, the first thing is the pacing. This cartoon basically has long, boring conversations of exposition while quickly glossing over things like “should we trust this guy who seems suspicious?” Seriously, any time something comes up that could lead to anything remotely interesting the writers quickly lose interest and jump to a shit action sequence. Then we have the series’ efforts to be “cool.” They’re just really cringe-worthy. They try to make “combat time” sorry, I mean “kombat time” into a major catch phrase for fuck’s sake. And if you thought wearing the other peoples’ outfits and just relying on them having no security was a stupid strategy, this cartoon gives us such gems as “run directly at the killer robots and punch them.” And let us not forget the “nice, wholesome” lessons that Mortal Kombat has to teach us. Like how much leverage and force you need to tear someone’s jaw off of their skull or there’s the lazy, tepid stuff you can get from this cartoon. Like that teamwork is good or that being evil and stubborn can make you immortal. Thanks, Defenders, that’s a great lesson for the little kiddies.
Take the most generic heroes and villains you can think of, cover them in faecal matter and leave them to rot for a couple decades and you’ve got a reasonable facsimile of the characterisation in this cartoon. It doesn’t even have the decency to be basically consistent. You get Raiden flip-flopping over whether or not he’ll actually fight or Nightwolf deciding that he needs to rely on his instincts more and his machines less only to go back to the way things were and never mention it again.
I don’t know if there’s time to actually cover everything wrong with the artwork without writing a fecking novella. I’ll try to cover the big issues. First off, the facial expressions in this barely change. Everyone has their default look that just stays largely stagnant and it results in a lot of situations where their expressions don’t match what’s happening. Secondly, the action sequences are shit. They’re very slow and deliberate. So, you get scenes where someone will take a hit and very slowly fall back like they’re the world’s worst wrestler and they almost forgot they were supposed to get knocked over. The backgrounds are really lazy too.
Then we have the character designs. Most of the characters in this have their navels exposed, but none of them have navels. Did the studio think showing a belly button would be considered lewd? For that matter, a bunch of the guys have their chests showing but none of them have nipples. It’s like looking at really badly made dolls. Then we have Kitana’s boob situation. Instead of just using her MK II design, they decided to give her a toned down version of the MK III boob window. But, they decided to do it without showing any actual breasts through it. Are Kitana’s boobs supposed to be triangular and pointing off to each side?
In all fairness, they did get some people who can act. I mean, Cree Summer is in this. Voice of Penny Gadget, Elmyra Duff, Hyena & She Hulk, to name just a few. Unfortunately, the director seems to have given them all explicit instructions to not show emotions or act. So, it sounds really terrible. Even the music is bad, and the film this is supposed to be a follow up to had some stellar music. So, you’d think that would be the one thing they could manage to get right.
Defenders of the Realm is outright terrible. It’s a cartoon that took an idea that was already bad and did everything wrong when executing it. It’s a surprise it managed to even last thirteen episodes. My final rating is going to be a 1/10. If you’re going to watch it, get some snarky friends together and get your enjoyment out of incessantly mocking it.