They're basically made for each other
On April 23, 2019, Mortal Kombat 11 was released. The latest in a series of fighting games that basically serve as lessons to medical students about what happens to the human body when you light it on fire and kick it enough, it immediately enveloped my whole life. I dove into the tutorial and then the story mode and have been replaying through the various battle towers in order to unlock stuff and get slightly-better-than-mediocre at it. I don't need to become good, mind you. I just need to know that, if I was challenged to a round of Kombat by a stranger or a cat or a house plant, I could stand a chance of winning.
But what do I love about it? I love the array of characters - ninjas and demons and conquerors that take themselves super seriously even when they're carrying around comically-sized hammers and spouting off so much complicated lore that it would make J.R.R. Tolkien blush. And speaking of the lore, I love the mythology, which has expanded from "there's a tournament and ya just gotta win" to "YOU MUST SAVE (INSERT REALM HERE) FROM (INSERT NEW VILLAIN HERE) WHILE WATCHING OUT FOR AND POSSIBLY TEAMING UP WITH (INSERT OLD VILLAIN HERE.) BUT FIRST, SOME MORE BACKSTORY." There's so much of it, and I adore the fact that everyone has a grudge against everyone else. No one in Mortal Kombat is anything less than nine levels of pissed off at someone, and they handle it all through conflict resolution courses and admitting mistakes.
Ha, no. They handle it through fighting. Characters have different styles that range from "I'm a fiery guy that knows martial arts and can throw a spear attached to a chain" to "I'm drunk, I'm Australian, but most importantly, I'm the worst." But what does this have to do with anime? Everything, actually, because I think it's a crime against humanity that we haven't gotten an anime based on Mortal Kombat yet.
Why? Well, let's go through the points that I laid out. First, the character selection in Mortal Kombat reminds me a lot of Naruto, except with more beheadings. There are various warring clans and legendary fighters and everyone, somehow, is pretty good at doing spinkicks. Sure, the lead character of Mortal Kombat can be a little bland (Liu Kang is a good guy! I just wouldn't want to watch his stand-up comedy special,) but luckily there's dozens of others that pick up the slack. It's one of the best things about Naruto and Dragon Ball Z (when you get sick of Goku or Naruto, there's always Vegeta and Rock Lee,) and it's one of the best things about Mortal Kombat. If you get tired of Liu Kang or sick of Johnny Cage, you can always find solace in whatever Bo Rai Cho or Kitana is doing.
What's more is that these characters come with an absolute avalanche of backstory and mythology. I know some of you are saying "What's the point of story in a fighting game? I just want to do punches!" and I get you. I don't do it with Mortal Kombat, but I've visited the cutscene hell of fighting games where I'm desperately pressing "A" through a bunch of buff dudes yelling "NO, you CAN'T be my REAL FATHER." And with 11 main series titles in the Mortal Kombat franchise so far, the current stories can feel less like complicated tales that have been built up over time and more like a bunch of guys in masks babbling with each other about the various fates of the universe.
But while I recommend just Wikipedia-ing it if you don't understand what Shao Kahn's going on about, imagine, for a second, if Mortal Kombat had an anime like One Piece. In One Piece, the lore is massive and threatens to crush its readers on every page. But...it doesn't. And Mortal Kombat, with the right kind of pacing and arc structure could do that, too. Distill the main game stories down to their best parts (the tournament from MK1, the fight against Emperor Shao Kahn in MK2, the battle with disgraced Elder God Shinnok in MK4, the team-up of Shang Tsung and Quan Chi in Deadly Alliance, etc.) and you have plotlines that are tailor made to be rad anime arcs. I just want to say that I'm watching the "Deadly Alliance" arc but I'll be getting to the "Deception" arc soon to someone. At least give me that, Ed Boon and Pierrot Studios, probably.
And what about the fighting? Well, remember the granddaddy of all tournament arcs, the Dark Tournament from Yu Yu Hakusho? Mortal Kombat is a lot like that, except with an even wider cast of heroes and villains. Even when it's not specifically about a tournament, you still get a bunch of people that are eager to rip heads off and look entertaining while they do it. You have the swaggering, sadistic style of Kano and the animalistic, creepy style of Reptile (my two favorite characters.) You have Johnny Cage's flash and Baraka's brutality. You have Sonya Blade's efficiency and Jax's power. You have Goro's might and Jade's slyness. You have Raiden's supernatural abilities and Sub Zero's freezing powers. And finally, you have Scorpion yelling "GET OVER HERE!" a bunch, along with, like, 40 more.
I don't use "This should be an anime!" very freely, because 1) I don't know what else an anime could do for the franchise some times. For example, I've had my fill of action-packed Batman cartoons with an anime-esque style. And 2) I don't want to confuse my lust for an anime adaptation with my primal lust for more anime in general. Honestly, I think my last trip to the grocery store would be a cool anime ("EPISODE 147: DANIEL VS CASHIER! THE MANGOES WEREN'T ON SALE.") But with Mortal Kombat, the stars kind of align. Will it ever happen? Maybe! I must admit, the announcement that Crunchyroll is now streaming Mortal Kombat would be pretty sweet.
Oh, and go play Mortal Kombat 11! 9 out of 10 doctors recommend it as a cure for, um, not playing Mortal Kombat 11.
Would you want to see a Mortal Kombat anime? Who is your favorite Mortal Kombat character? What other games would make for cool shows? Let us know in the komments!
Daniel Dockery is a writer for Crunchyroll. You can find him on Twitter.
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