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Western Animation / Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm

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"Much has changed since the last Mortal Kombat tournament. Dark forces of Outworld have begun invading the Earthrealm. These attacks are seriously weakening Earth's dimensional fabric, enabling not only Outworlders to enter the Earthrealm, but warriors from other domains as well. Only the most extraordinary warriors can possibly meet this challenge: Liu Kang, Princess Kitana, Sub-Zero, Jax, Sonya Blade, Nightwolf, Kiva, Kurtis Stryker. Driven by purpose and bound by honor, these are the Defenders of the Realm."
Raiden's Opening Narration

Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, also known as Mortal Kombat: The Animated Series, is an Animated Adaptation of the Mortal Kombat games. It aired on the USA Network's USA Action Extreme Team animation block from September to December 1996.

Defenders of the Realm follows the events of the first live-action movie. Raiden once again gathers a group of warriors to stand against the forces of the Outworld and various other invading dimensions. The series also introduced a handful of characters, one of whom, Quan Chi, was later a mainstay in the Fighting Games.

Tropes of the Realm:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Jax briefly quits the team in the twelfth episode (“Abandoned”).
  • Accidental Pun: After Sub-Zero makes his appearance, Liu Kang delivers this line:
    Liu Kang: Hey, Sub-Zero's cool! Er...sorry. He's a warrior of honor.
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • Sonya is generally depicted as a serious, no-nonsense character in the games. Here, she's very prone to making quips and poking at people and also shows a somewhat hidden desire to just be a normal woman who doesn't need to be so tough all the time.
    • Jax in the games is depicted as being a strong and reliable leader who's not afraid to crack wise here and there. In this series, however, the sass and snark is heavily played up to the point of him being a Deadpan Snarker. He's also additionally shown to have a complex concerning the bionic augments to his arms, seeing himself as weak and helpless without them, much like the movies. The games, of course, never implied any such thing and in fact featured him fighting without them several times.
    • Raiden is neither the wise sagely leader from the games or the cheerful trickster mentor from the films. Instead, he's portrayed as a Mentor in Sour Armor with barely a word to say at any given time that isn't dripping sarcasm.
    • In addition to now being a tech whiz and mission control — which he is definitely not in the games — Nightwolf is depicted as also being somewhat overreliant on technology, only tapping into the spiritual side of his powers when he needs to fight or when said technology fails him, something completely at odds with every other depiction of him where he's quite possibly the single most spiritually attuned member of the Forces of Light.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Scorpion. True, he's no saint in the games but is more neutral if anything. Here? His very first line makes it clear what team he's playing on:
    Scorpion: By all the powers of evil, I will not rest until I have my revenge!
  • Adapted Out: Johnny Cage, Kung Lao, Mileena, Sindel, Jade, Goro, and Kintaro. Also Baraka and Reptile, to a lesser extent.
  • Amazon Brigade: Zara and her female warriors.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Jax, of all people. He calls Raiden girlfriend on at least one occasion, his first response to defending Sub-Zero is "Hey I don't want to marry the guy!", and flips his lid when you call him "blubberbutt". At the same time, he had a (sort of) romantic relationship with Ruby, isn't sure if being surrounded by women pointing spears at him is a dream or a nightmare, and has some subtext with Sonya.
  • Animated Adaptation: As the title indicates, this is based on the Mortal Kombat series.
  • Animation Bump: The final episode has different animation than the rest of the series.
  • Animesque: The series was animated by Animal Ya, credited here as Animal House, in Japan. The series exhibits shades of this at times, particularly with the effects animation and especially in the series finale.
  • The Atoner: The younger Sub-Zero is on the heroes' side in order to atone for his older brother's actions.
  • Backported Development:
    • When Liu Kang has a flashback about his victory over Shang Tsung, the latter has the beard and facepaint he uses on this series, from Mortal Kombat 3, even though he didn't have them in the live-action movie, which the flashback represents.
    • Zigzagged with Kano. When he's shown in a flashback of Sonya's partner's death, he has his Mortal Kombat 3 design, yet in another flashback scene, their fight and designs therein are lifted straight from the film.
    • During the flashback to Liu Kang's battle with the elder Sub-Zero, Kitana appears in her look from this series rather than the halter top-and-tights combination from the film.
  • Badbutt: Sub-Zero, most of the time. However, on a couple occasions, he uses his ice powers to kill enemies.
  • Battle Couple: Kitana and Liu Kang. They are a couple who fight for the side of good.
  • Battle Cry: Sonya: "Kombat time!" for the whole team, and "Kiss off!" for herself.
  • Battle in the Rain: The opening scene of the episode "Abandoned".
  • Beard of Evil: Kano, Shang Tsung, and Oniro.
  • Berserk Button: Jax hates being called "Blubberbutt", since he was called that as a fat kid.
  • Big Bad: Shao Kahn.
  • Big "NO!": Poor Smoke delivers one right before his Unwilling Roboticization.
  • Back from the Dead: Shang Tsung, as he was killed off in the climax of the 1995 film.
  • Breaching the Wall: During the heroes' attempt to rescue Jax in Outworld, Sub-Zero constructs an ice wall to keep Ermac and his forces at bay while allowing his teammates to infiltrate Kahn's fortress. Ermac melts through it in a matter of seconds.
  • Broad Strokes: From time to time, in regards to the 1995 film:
    • When Sub-Zero introduces himself, he reveals to be the younger brother of the old one, killed by Liu Kang. In the games, the elder Sub-Zero was killed by Scorpion.
    • In the Liu Kang vs. Sub-Zero scene in this series, Kitana sported her outfit from the series, and Sub-Zero (the elder) was finished by Liu Kang throwing a water bucket to him, freezing him. In the first movie, Kitana wears a different outfit while Liu Kang finishes Sub-Zero after the water from the bucket becomes a frozen stalactite that pins Sub-Zero to a pillar before fully enveloping him in ice.
    • Another sanitized Liu Kang kill was that of Shang Tsung. Sure, he's still reduced to a skeleton upon defeat, but one: he just turns into bones, instead of actually emaciating, and two: the bed of spikes where Shang Tsung landed in the movie is absent.
    • The cartoon was made to take place after a second film, which of course was Mortal Kombat Annihilation. However, the sequel was filmed and released a year after the series.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Jax when his bionic arms are damaged in "Acid Tongue".
  • Canon Foreigner: Asgarth (an Edenian humanoid bird), Oniro (grandmaster of the Lin Kuei), Ruby (red female ninja and possible Expy of Jade), Kiva (Nightwolf's pet wolf), and Zara (Kitana's mortal enemy).
  • Canon Immigrant
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Scorpion. His very first line has him swearing by "all the powers of evil".
  • Catchphrase: Because no actual tournament is featured in the series, the characters use the phrase "Mortal Kombat" as a catch-all term to describe their fights and conflicts with Outworld.
  • Cleavage Window: Kitana's outfit has a diamond-shaped one, although it doesn't show any cleavage.
  • Composite Character: Kano's visual designs are from the first game (adapted in the 1995 film) and Mortal Kombat 3, in which he was depicted as a Japanese-born American. However, he speaks with an accent based on Trevor Goddard's Australian version from the movie.
  • Continuity Snarl: Defenders was supposed to take place after Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, but the film opened a year after the cartoon and didn't always line up appropriately.
  • Cross Through: "Resurrection" is the third part of a four-part storyline aired on November 16, 1996 about a "Warrior King" chasing down a powerful MacGuffin through four (otherwise unrelated) USA Network Saturday morning cartoons (alongside Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, the other three cartoons had included Street Fighter, Savage Dragon, and Wing Commander Academy). Two notes regarding this: unlike the other three parts, this episode features only the MacGuffin, with the Warrior King himself only appearing as an unexplained shadow for all of five seconds and because Street Fighter itself was one of the four cartoons that was featured and included as a part of this storyline, this is the closest scenario that the two Dueling Games have ever come to interacting.
  • Cruel Mercy: In "Resurrection", rather than finishing Shang Tsung, Raiden chooses to spare him so that he can face Shao Kahn's wrath.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Raiden.
    "Before you make an even bigger mortal butt out of yourself..."
    (groans) "This day is really heading for the toilet."
  • Disney Villain Death: Scorpion is frozen by Sub-Zero and then dropped into some kind of pitch-black abyss inside a temple.
  • Downer Ending: Due to the series' cancellation after one season. Outworld is in chaos with Shao Kahn gone, Kitana's rebellion to restore Edenia fails, and there is no indication whatsoever that Earthrealm's invasions will stop.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: When Jax was a kid, he had the nickname "Blubberbutt" due to being the fattest kid in school.
  • Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: Well, otherwise this series — heck, Mortal Kombat as a whole, even — wouldn't exist.
  • Excuse Plot: The forces from Outworld often just invade random, unpopulated wastelands without any strategic or military reason, likely for budgetary reasons and so the show can get to fight scenes quicker.
  • Exposed to the Elements: As they are in their in-game costumes for the entire series, the characters consequently never dress appropriately for colder environments.
  • Faceless Goons:
    • The hordes of robot soldiers that attack Our Heroes throughout the series.
    • Kano's Black Dragon thugs in one episode. All are bald — both men and women — and sport the same awful facial tattoo.
  • Formerly Fat: Jax says he was the fattest kid in school while growing up.
  • Fusion Dance: The few times Nightwolf enters battle himself, he will magically merge with his pet wolf Kiva and open a can of whoop-ass on the enemies. However, this happens only a handful of times in the series, as he's otherwise confined to his computer.
  • Girliness Upgrade: In most incarnations, Sonya is portrayed as a tough-as-nails career soldier for whom the mission always comes first. In this series, she is portrayed as more stereotypically feminine, at one point making a facial mask (for which she is mocked by Jax) and complaining that she has to hang out with men all the time.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: Shao Kahn and Outworld regularly attempt to illegally invade Earthrealm despite losing the previous tournament. This should mean that the Elder Gods can intervene while enabling Raiden to destroy any of Kahn's forces, but nope. Instead, Raiden tells the Defenders that it's their job to protect their realm with his (sporadic) assistance.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: It's pretty obvious what the "Realm of No Return" is supposed to be, which adds a level of horror whenever Raiden banishes anyone there.
  • Hate Plague: In "The Secret of Quan Chi", the eponymous antagonist utilizes a magic gem that causes most of the heroes to turn against each another until the spell is broken.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Though Sub-Zero helps the good guys from the beginning, he mentions he was a Lin Kuei who fought for the forces of darkness. A later episode, "Old Friends Never Die", shows how he defected from the faction.
    • Ruby, in the episode "Abandoned". After she aids Kahn's forces in abducting Jax, she later has a change of heart (thanks to Kitana) and helps him escape Kahn's fortress.
  • Hidden Army Reveal: Shao Kahn does this after the Earthrealmers free Jax from captivity in his fortress, but the heroes are saved by Ruby's timely intervention.
  • Hypocrite: In "Acid Tongue", Sonya criticizes Jax for valuing brawn over brains, even though her favorite fighting tactic is rushing blindly into battle while hollering "Kombat Time!"
  • Hypocrite Has a Point: During her suspension, Sonya calls out Stryker on his Good Is Not Nice attitude, even though she herself is just as abrasive to everyone else, most of the time.
  • Humble Pie: Sonya apologizes to Sub-Zero after spending the entire episode being very distrustful towards him. She even admits that this was really hard for her to do.
  • I Gave My Word: Sub-Zero and Smoke once swore an oath to never fight one another. Smoke can't remember this at first due to his automation but he eventually recalls it, though he also informs Sub-Zero that they cannot be friends due to their respective allegiances.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Sub-Zero's fight with Smoke. It does not work, but he agrees not to kill him, nonetheless.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills: The lowly Nomadsnote  and Scorpion's army of undead skeletons are somehow skilled pilots, strictly to allow our heroes to engage in dogfights. Even better, the skeletons' aircraft are actually shaped like scorpions.
  • Jerkass: Raiden. Sonya qualifies as well due to her abrasiveness, but she has her reasons.
  • Knockout Gas: Jax gets a blast from Ruby and promptly drops like a rock, right before it's revealed she's working for Shao Kahn.
  • Kung-Shui: Ermac gets kicked through not one but two tables while brawling with Jax inside the latter's mountain cabin.
  • Leader Wannabe: Stryker regularly acts as if he's the team commanding officer. The team's chain of command, if any, is never established in the show and the others repeatedly tell Stryker he has no authority over them.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Sonya's favorite strategy is rushing into battle yelling "Kombat Time!", even when her teammates try to convince her that it's a bad idea.
  • Licked by the Dog: In the episode "Resurrection", Jax notices Raiden inexplicably losing his powers.note  Raiden is initially flippant at Jax's growing concern and pressure for answers, but ultimately lets down his guard. They confess their feelings to each other about why they've each chosen to protect their realm, and work together in saving their friends from Shang Tsung's chicanery. But when Sonya then questions this unexpected friendship:
    Jax: You kiddin'? Me and Thunderlips? Hah, no chance.
    Raiden: A sea slug would've been wittier company.
    Sonya: That's more like it!
  • Lighter and Softer: Naturally, given this is a kids' show based off of the ultraviolent video game series, this cartoon tones down the violence considerably.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Raiden and Jax bicker a lot between each other. Sonya and Jax too, sometimes.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The robotic Lin Kuei and Shao Kahn's endless supply of robotic foot soldiers.
  • Mildly Military: Sonya and Jax, both former Special Forces agents, regularly act like mavericks, particularly Sonya, while Stryker, a former riot cop, acts like a military commander.
  • Mission Control: Nightwolf, though he does join his comrades on the battlefield on occasion.
  • Naked on Revival: Shang Tsung is nude after he's resurrected by Shao Kahn and the Shadow Priests, made obvious by the Between My Legs view from the rear until he is robed up.
  • Noodle Incident: Sub-Zero seeks revenge against Scorpion for doing something to his clan that's never elaborated on.
  • Not Quite Dead: Kano who was seemingly killed off by Sonya in the first movie.
  • Pungeon Master: Jax, from time to time. For example, after Sub-Zero's first appearance:
    Sonya: What's that sleazoid doing here?
    Jax: Seems like he's putting a chill on the invasion.
  • Science Wizard: This show's version of Nightwolf is this. Like in the games he is a Magical Native American but the show also makes him the heroes' computer expert and Mission Control.
  • Smoke Out: Rain throws a smoke bomb at the Earthrealmers to briefly incapacitate them before he abducts Kitana.
  • Supervillain Lair: Shao Kahn's fortress.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
    • Oniro, the grandmaster of the Lin Kuei, is a blatant Shang Tsung stand-in, right down to possessing the latter's trademark Voluntary Shapeshifting abilities.
    • Komodai and Karbrac for Reptile and Baraka, respectively, to the point where "Karbrac" is almost a total anagram for "Baraka".
  • Taking the Bullet: In "Fall From Grace", Stryker takes a hit from Sheeva as Sonya rushes in to try to help. He blames Sonya for it and decides to suspend her from active duty.
  • Team Pet: Kiva, Nightwolf's wolf. He serves this role for the heroes whenever he doesn't merge into Nightwolf.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: Shang Tsung traps the Earthrealmers inside an underground crevice, then attempts to crush them by magically sealing the crack before the timely intervention of Raiden and Jax.
  • Title Drop: By Nightwolf, in the first episode, "Kombat Begins Again", after communicating with Liu Kang.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Sonya Blade and Princess Kitana. Ironically, during their inevitable Girl's Night Out Episode, it's Sonya who asks Kitana if she ever misses just being a woman, what with all the fighting. Earlier in the episode, Sonya attempted to give herself a makeover, only to receive a sexist remark from Jax.
  • Totally Radical: While the series isn't as bad with it as some others, you know you've seen everything when you see, of all people, Raiden saying "Now kick your jets and jam!"
  • Trap Door: The heroes conveniently stand on one while trapped inside Shao Kahn's dungeon. Ruby activates it — complete with Conspicuously Light Patch — to send them plummeting to their escape.
  • Unreliable Illustrator: This is a given as the series is a cheaply made '90s video game tie-in, and the Bruce Timm-inspired designs don't do the artwork any favors.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Implied between Sonya and Jax. She appears to get jealous at Jax having a girlfriend in "Abandoned" (who turns out to be a spy sent by Shao Kahn).
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Oniro and Shang Tsung have the power to change their appearances.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Liu Kang, Jax, and Sub-Zero.
  • We Used to Be Friends: In "Old Friends Never Die", Sub-Zero reveals the backstory of his friendship with Smoke prior to the events of the episode.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Despite this being a follow-up to the 1995 film, Johnny Cage is neither seen nor mentioned. According to the series bible, this is because he was planned to die in the movie's sequel (as he actually does beforehand in Mortal Kombat 3, from which Defenders borrows many elements), but the sequel was released a year after the cartoon and doesn't really line up with it.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: In "Acid Tongue", Jax loses his cybernetic arms and repeatedly acts like he's weak and useless without them. This is despite the fact that he's still the strongest member of the team and was capable of scaling a mountainside with his bare hands.