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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, Kiba, 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 Cartoon Express 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.

Defenders of the Realm makes continuity problematic, since Mortal Kombat: Annihilation starts immediately in the same place. However, the cartoon is held in higher regard than Annihilation, so it generally takes precedence.


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.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Scorpion. True, he's no saint in the games, but is more neutral if anything. Here? His very first line in the show 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, Noob Saibotnote , Goro, Kintaro, Chameleon and Khameleon. Baraka and Reptile are also this to a lesser extent.
  • Amazon Brigade: Zara and her female warriors.
  • Ambiguously Gay: invoked 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".
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  • Animated Adaptation: As noted above, 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.
  • 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.
    • Both played straight and averted 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.
  • Battlecry: 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.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Jax when his bionic arms are damaged in "Acid Tongue".
  • Canon Foreigner: Asgaarth (a bird-man from Edenia), Oniro (Grand master of the Lin Kuei), Ruby (red female ninja and possible Expy of Jade), Kiba (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".
  • Composite Character: Stryker has a couple of personality traits from Johnny Cage, who is absent from this cartoon.
  • 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. 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 the American Street Fighter cartoon was one of the other four cartoons in the storyline, making this the closest the two Dueling Games have ever come to interacting.
  • Cruel Mercy: In episode 9, rather than finishing Shang Tsung, Raiden chooses to spare him... so that he can face Shao Khan'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 (but there is a very good chance that he'll return anyway), Kitana's rebellion to restore Edenia fails, and there is no indication whatsoever that Earthrealm's invasions will stop.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Princess Kitana. She is one of the heroes who is trying to stop Shao Kahn.
  • Exposed to the Elements: The characters never seem to dress appropriately in colder environments.
  • Five-Token Band: The heroes of the series.
  • Flat Character: Cyrax and Sektor. They don't much of a personality.
  • 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 Kiba 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.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: Shao Khan and Outworld decided to break the rules of the Mortal Kombat and take over Earth Realm despite losing the tournament. This should mean that the Elder Gods should smite Khan and Raiden should destroy any of his forces that try to enter Earth Realm. 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 levels of horror whenever somebody gets banished there by Raiden.
  • Hate Plague: In "The Secret of Quan Chi", a boy pulls out a gem that temporarily causes most of the heroes to yell at each other.
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • Lighter and Softer: This series tones down the violence considerably.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Most of the robotic Lin Kuei.
  • Mission Control: Nightwolf serves this role for the heroes.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Komodai and Karbrac for Reptile and Baraka, respectively, to the point where "Karbrac" is almost a total anagram for "Baraka".
  • Team Pet: Kiba, 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 Girls' Night Out Episode, it's Sonya who asks Kitana if she ever misses 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!"
  • 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.
  • You Keep Using That Word: The characters use the phrase "Mortal Kombat" as a catch all term to describe their fights and conflicts with Outworld instead of it just being the name of the tournament.

Alternative Title(s): Mortal Kombat