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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.

This series has examples of:

  • Accidental Pun: After Sub-Zero makes his appearance, Liu Kang delivers this line:
    Liu Kang: Hey, Sub-Zero's cool! Ah... 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.
  • Adaptational Skill: Nightwolf is the heroes' computer expert and Mission Control. He shows no such skills in the games.
  • 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. Baraka and Reptile are also this 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 "blubber butt". 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 aforementioned, this is an animated series based on the Mortal Kombat series.
  • Animation Bump: The final episode has different animation than the rest of the series.
  • Animesque: As 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.
  • The Atoner: The younger Sub-Zero is on the heroes' side in order to atone for what his older brother did.
  • 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 wears his Mortal Kombat 3 outfit, yet in a flashback to their fight in the movie, both Sonya and Kano have their movie looks.
    • During the flashback to Liu Kang's battle with the elder Sub-Zero, Kitana appears in her look from this series rather than the tank top and pants she wore in the movie.
  • Badbutt: Sub-Zero, most of the time. However, in two episodes, one of them being the last one, he uses his ice powers to kill enemies.
  • Battle Couple: Kitana and Liu Kang. They are a couple who fights for the side of good.
  • Battle Cry: Sonya: "Kombat time!" for the whole team, and "Kiss Off!" for herself.
  • Beard of Evil: Kano sports a goatee here.
  • Berserk Button: Jax hates being called "blubber butt", since it was what people called him when he was a fat kid.
  • Big Bad: Shao Kahn, as he is the ruler of Outworld.
  • Big "NO!": Poor Smoke delivers one right before his Unwilling Roboticisation.
  • Back from the Dead: Shang Tsung, as he was killed off in the climax of the first movie.
  • Broad Strokes: From time to time, in regards to the first movie:
    • When Sub-Zero introduces himself, he reveals to be the young brother of the old one, killed by Liu Kang. In the games, the elder Sub-Zero, who would become Noob Saibot, 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 wore a different outfit, and Liu Kang finished Sub-Zero by throwing said water bucket to him, but the water became a big spearhead, and nailed Sub-Zero to the wall and then got himself frozen.
    • Another Liu Kang kill that was softened for the cartoon was 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 movie - however such second movie was only made and released after the cartoon! The most notable "carry-over" was Johnny Cage being dead.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Jax when his bionic arms are damaged in "Acid Tongue".
  • Canon Foreigner: Asgaarth (a bird-man from Edenia), 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: Quan Chi. He made his first appearance in this series prior to his appearance in Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero.
  • 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.
  • Composite Character:
    • Stryker has a couple of personality traits from Johnny Cage, who is absent from this series.
    • On the villainous side, Kano uses his original visual design from the first/third games, where he was Japanese-American, but speaks with an accent based on Trevor Goddard's Australian version from the movie.
  • Continuity Snarl: Defenders of the Realm makes continuity problematic, since it was supposed to take place after Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, but that film was made and released after the cartoon and doesn'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 a bigger Mortal BUTT out of yourself..."
  • Disney Villain Death: Scorpion gets frozen by Sub-Zero, then thrown into some kind of pitch-black abyss inside a temple by Raiden.
  • 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 "Blubber Butt" due to being the fattest kid in school.
  • Excuse Plot: The forces from Outworld often just invade random, unpopulated wastelands without any strategic or military reason, likely so that the show can get to fight scenes quicker and doesn't have to pay detailed backgrounds.
  • Exposed to the Elements: The characters never seem to dress appropriately in colder environments.
  • Formerly Fat: Jax says he was the fattest kid in his school growing up.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: A closer inspection of the Dragon Jets reveals decals patterned after the riders' Animalities.
  • Fusion Dance: The few times Nightwolf enters kombat himself, he will magically merge with his pet wolf Kiva and open a can of whoop-ass on the enemies. This happens exactly twice in the whole series. Why the others keep him in front of a computer screen all the time is unknown.
  • 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 much more stereotypically feminine, at one point making a facial pack and complaining that she has to hang out with men all the time.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: Shao Kahn and Outworld decide to break the rules of the Mortal Kombat and take over Earthrealm despite losing the tournament. This should mean that the Elder Gods should smite Kahn and Raiden should destroy any of his forces that try to enter Earthrealm. Instead, Outworld is allowed to repeatedly attempt to invade without consequence and Raiden tells the Defenders that it's their job to protect their realm, with him only occasionally helping.
  • 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 somebody gets banished there by Raiden.
  • Hate Plague: In "The Secret of Quan Chi", the eponymous character/antagonist of the episode utilizes a magic gem that temporarily causes most of the heroes to yell at each other and argue against one another.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Even though Sub-Zero helps the good guys from the beginning, he mentions he was a Lin Kuei and fought for the forces of darkness. A later episode showed how he came to join the team.
  • Hypocrite: In "Acid Tongue", Sonya criticized Jax for valuing brawn over brains, even though her favorite fighting tactic is rush blindly into battle while screaming "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, which Smoke can't remember at first due to being a cyborg, but he ends up remembering it and tells Sub-Zero that it's impossible for them to be friends, but he will honor their oath now that he remembers it.
  • "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.
  • Jerkass: Raiden. Sonya can qualify as well due to her abrasiveness, but she has her reasons.
  • 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 if the others try to convince her that it's a bad idea.
  • 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, long before Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. The harshest thing to appear in the series was a flashback to Shang Tsung's death as shown in the movie, but even that was softened.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Raiden and Jax bicker a lot between each other. Sonya and Jax too, sometimes.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Most of the robotic Lin Kuei.
  • 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 serves this role for the heroes, though he does head out to the battlefield with his friends every now and then on a few occasions alongside his pet wolf Kiva.
  • 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 back, and a Shadow Priest approaching him with a folded up robe, which he then drapes over the sorcerer's body.
  • Noodle Incident: Sub-Zero seeks revenge against Scorpion for doing something to the Lin Kuei that's never elaborated on.
  • Not Quite Dead: Kano who was seemingly killed off by Sonya in the first movie.
  • Off-Model: This is a given since the series is a cheaply-made '90s video game tie-in, and the Bruce Timm-inspired designs don't do the artwork any favors.
  • Pungeon Master: Jax, from time to time. For example, after Sub-Zero's first appearance:
    Sonya: What's that sleaze doing here?
    Jax: Seems like he's putting a chill on the invasion.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Stryker, Nightwolf, and the younger Sub-Zero are treated as if they've always been there despite not being in the first movie.
  • 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.
  • 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. He was presumably created due to the show loosely following the canon of the first movie, where Shang Tsung was killed by Liu Kang.
    • 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.
  • Title Drop: By Nightwolf, in the first episode, "Kombat Begins Again", after chatting with Liu Kang.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Lieutenant 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 get herself a makeover, only to be given 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!"
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Implied between Sonya and Jax. She seems very jealous when Jax gets a girlfriend in "Abandoned" (who turns out to be a spy sent by Shao Kahn).
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Oniro and Shang Tsung have to power to change their appearances.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Liu Kang, Jax, Sub-Zero don't wear shirts.
  • We Used to Be Friends: In "Old Friends Never Die", Sub-Zero reveals the backstory of his and Smoke's friendship prior to the events of the episode.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Despite this being a follow up to the movie, 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, but such sequel was only released 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 most musclebound member of the team and was capable of climbing up a mountainside with his bare hands.