Review for Tekken: Blood Vengeance
It's 2012, the era of high-tech, and Tekken: Blood Vengeance is the latest 3D CG anime movie to come via the auspices of Digital Frontier, the studio behind the similar Appleseed and Vexille movies. You're wondering why Manga Entertainment aren't releasing it on Blu-ray; you're wondering why you aren't watching this in high definition. Well, that's because you clicked on the wrong department of your entertainment emporium of choice. Click on video games, go to the Playstation 3 aisle, and place Tekken Hybrid into your virtual basket. Not only will you be able to play the game, but Tekken Hybrid offers you Tekken: Blood Vengeance as a bonus to the game, on Blu-ray disc. The last time I played a video game, they still came out on cartridges, so I don't know if that HD release of Tekken: Blood Vengeance will only work on PS3s, or if it will also play on standalone Blu-ray players. If you are as technologically inept as I, then this DVD only release will come as a godsend.
Then again, if you're as technologically inept as I, maybe Tekken: Blood Vengeance isn't for you. I played the original Tekken on Playstation way back when, and for me it was just a pretty looking beat-'em-up. Consider my shock when I learned that the series is now past Tekken 6, and that Tekken Blood Vengeance is set in between Tekkens 5 and 6. Consider further my shock at this implication that Tekken has a storyline running through its games. Despite several examples to the contrary, I still have a mistrust of movies based on videogames, and I have to admit that I didn't approach Tekken: Blood Vengeance with anything approaching enthusiasm, especially given the passing of the buck when it comes to who is responsible for its release here. Manga Entertainment are releasing it on DVD in the UK on behalf of Kazé Entertainment who have the European release rights, so the format of the disc is down to them. Except that they are acting as agents of Namco Bandai, so the content of the disc is their responsibility. I suppose none of that matters if the movie is actually any good. Of course me being completely out of touch with the Tekken franchise, I haven't the slightest idea what was going on when the movie started.
Mishima Zaibatsu and the G Corporation are in competition for the M gene, the key to immortality, although that competition is apt to get violent when sisters Nina and Anna Williams are on opposing sides. They track down the gene to a high school student named Shin Kamiya, and in order to get close to him, Anna enlists a female student to join his elite school and spy on him. Ling Xiaoyu has to be 'persuaded', but the operative that Nina finds only has to be programmed, as Alisa Bosconovitch is an android. But as the two rivals investigate Shin for their respective employers, they uncover conspiracies and plots that point to something dark and ominous, a relentless lust for blood vengeance that involves three generations of the same family. To counter this darkness, Ling and Alisa will have to join forces against their employers.
Tekken: Blood Vengeance gets a pretty smooth 1.85:1 anamorphic PAL transfer. The image is clear and colourful throughout, and the animation comes across well. There is a slight softness to the image, especially in the fine detail and edges, and there are spots of moiré and moments of jerkiness, but it isn't enough to diminish the viewing experience.
However, the animation itself lacks a little something when compared to Appleseed or Vexille. Maybe I'm biased by the source material, but other than nods to movies like The Matrix or Terminator, Tekken plays very much like a feature length videogame cut scene, with action dominating, and character development non-existent. It's just flashy visual upon flashy visual. The character designs no doubt match their videogame equivalents, and while the voice acting couldn't be faulted, the motion capture actors who provided the source of the character movements tended to overact, with every gesture ending up like a pose from a catalogue.
Audio comes in Dolby Digital 5.1, with English, Japanese, French, and Italian options, while subtitles are available in English, Italian, French and Dutch as well as signs only tracks for Italian, and French (The video has burnt in English text translations for all versions). The audio is fine, the dialogue is clear, and the action comes across well, although greater emphasis is given in the audio balance to the action, rather than the music score. Because the lip movements of the characters are motion captured, the sync fits the Japanese dialogue precisely, but the other language audio tracks aren't as smooth a fit.
This should make the subtitles indispensable for those choosing to watch the original language audio because of this, but alas Namco Bandai have only provided dubtitles, that is subtitles that follow the English dialogue track exactly. When you have watched as much anime as I have in the original language, you'll have picked up just enough Japanese to get you into trouble if you actually try to use it, but also enough to notice when what's said on screen varies wildly from what is written down below, both in terms of content and timing. That happens here. Unfortunately for our European brethren, it looks like their subtitles are word for word translations of the English dubtitles.
It's a Kazé Entertainment disc, which means that its content is locked away behind UPOPs, you can't change the audio or the subtitles on the fly, and neither can you see how much time has elapsed or remains depending on your player. Of course software players like VLC defeat all that, which was how I was able to confirm my suspicion of dubtitles.
Anyway, place the disc into your player, and a panda appears, offering you the choice of French, English, Italian, or Dutch menus. Choose English and you can watch the film in English or in Japanese with subtitles. Choose French or Italian, and you can watch the film in Japanese or in English with French or Italian subtitles, or you can watch the film in French or Italian, with that language's signs only track. Choose the Dutch option, and you can watch the film in English or Japanese, with Dutch subtitles.
Only by choosing the French menus will you find all of the Kazé Entertainment trailers that are available on this disc, and there are plenty of them to peruse, although not all titles will be available to buy in the UK. You can get a heads up at the forthcoming Roujin Z (whose trailer alone blows away my US DVD in terms of quality), while there is also a trailer for Princess Jellyfish on this disc.
Not For Me! If that wasn't made clear enough in my opening paragraphs, then I'll repeat it again. Tekken: Blood Vengeance is aimed at a wholly different demographic than mine. Watching this film was a chore for me, not a pleasure, and I lament those 90 minutes I spent in its company. I haven't the slightest idea what was going on. I only recognised one character from the original Tekken game, that spiky haired bald fellow, who here looks like a steroid enhanced OAP. Despite none other than the illustrious Dai Sato in charge of the script, Tekken Blood Vengeance's tale of factions competing for some ultimate genetic secret gets buried under eye-candy and action fetishism.
It's a case of videogame makers making a movie rather than filmmakers, and that tells in a movie that just doesn't let up long enough to make the narrative stick, or the characters grow. Everything has to be big, bright and explosive, while exposition is kept to a minimum. Were these human actors and not CGI creations, I'd suspect them of competing with each other as to who could overact the most, such is the un-subtlety of the character animation. Also the realism of the character designs clashes awkwardly with the cartoon and video-game physics applied to the action sequences.
Worst of all, the whole plot of the movie, the genetic secret, the two girls spying on the cute boy, the mystery behind it all, is all there just to set up a big three-way battle at the end of the movie, to which this plot is only tenuously connected, tenuous to the extent that you're left wondering what the point of it all is. As for someone as disconnected from the Tekken franchise as myself, I'm left asking what the big deal between sisters Anna and Nina is, what's with the camp schoolteacher, what's with the supersonic panda, what's with the fighters turning into devils, what's with the giant glowing rock monster?
Actually I would be asking this, if I actually cared about this movie. Instead I'm left asking, why me? Why'd it have to be me who had to review it? Tekken: Blood Vengeance is one for Tekken fans only. I do get the feeling that there are more Tekken fans in the UK than there are anime fans, so it'll still fly off the shelves.