What’s it about? Kazama Jin lives on an island with his mother, Jun, who is training him in martial arts and self-discipline. But when the house is attacked by a strange, powerful monster, Jun is lost in the fray, and Jin ventures out to seek his relatives and his revenge.
I’m a bit conflicted on this one, and it mostly comes down to the character of Kazuma Jun. She’s honestly pretty damn cool, and leaves a subtle but effective first impression. Her backstory is mysterious, but she does have a backstory, establishing her as a character with her own detailed past rather than suggesting she popped into existence as the main character’s mother. She’s clearly a badass who has developed her own strict moral code. And it’s still relatively rare to see male protagonists with female mentor figures, making her training sessions with Jin refreshing and fun by their own merit.
But Jun dies before the end of the episode, setting up the quest for vengeance that will presumably propel both Jin’s character growth and the plot to follow. She’s backstory fodder, relegated to this first episode. She’s not even “Jun” until the very end: according to the subtitles, she’s just “mom”, which, while definitely done just for functionality, does tell you something about her role in the story.
Now, according to a quick look around, Jun actually appeared as a character in the Tekken games before Jin. Her Wikipedia says that “Following an ambiguous relationship with Kazuya Mishima, she became the mother of Jin Kazama” and Tekken fans, I would love to know what on earth this means. In any case, Jun is a pre-existing character, rather than having been invented for this anime for the sole purpose of being fridged to expand an established hero’s backstory, so that’s definitely something. But maybe it’s not, since she also dies in Tekken 3 for the purposes of kicking off Jin’s rampage of revenge, so… around and around we go.
I have to say, as someone not acquainted with the source material, I’m not super compelled by the premiere to Bloodline. Jun is, to me, infinitely more of an interesting character than her son. Which is not to say that Jin is badly written, he just… slots very comfortably into a very familiar archetype. Again, this this article can’t cover the characterization in the actual games (I gesture towards our submissions guidelines, if anyone more familiar would like to!) and it’s entirely possible that Jin is a fantastic, layered, likeable character in his point of origin. But here, he comes across as somewhat generic. The series would have to do a lot of work to convince me that this plucky, hot-headed young male fighter is more compelling than the mother who died for his character motivation.
Bloodline also doesn’t blow me away visually. I understand the utility of the hybrid 2D and 3D animation they’re using, especially for fight scenes, and certainly want to encourage animators to do anything they can to make their stressful lives easier. That being said, while it doesn’t look as clunky as it does in some other shows, it looks a bit off. The 3D-rendered characters have an uncanny plasticky quality to them: shadows move over them in unnatural ways, and things like clothing folds don’t move at all. Technical aspects like this don’t help when some of the characters already feel a bit flat and wooden.
With Jun being my favorite aspect of this episode, I unfortunately don’t have too much hope for, and interest in, the rest of Tekken: Bloodline. Maybe there’s more to offer further down the track—and maybe there’s more to offer if you’re familiar with what’s being adapted—but as of this stage, I’m not hooked in.