Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm (also known as Mortal Kombat: The Animated Series) is an animated series based on the popular Mortal Kombat fighting game series. It aired on the USA Network’s “USA Cartoon Express” animation block for one season of 13 episodes from September to December of 1996.
The characters and their back-stories are mostly continuous with the movie Mortal Kombat albeit with some minor differences. The characters’ designs are modeled after how they looked in Mortal Kombat 3 the Arcade game. The series takes place in Earthrealm, Outworld, and various other realms after the events of the first movie and the plot has very little to do with the plot of any of the games. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the show was that it provided the debut appearance of Quan Chi, who became a key character in the MK series, namely in Mortal Kombat 4 and Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.
The show was focused on a group of warriors assembled by Raiden to defend Earthrealm from invaders of various other dimensions that entered through portals. The assembled warriors included Liu Kang, Kurtis Stryker, Sonya Blade, Jax Briggs, Kitana, and the younger Sub-Zero, with Nightwolf functioning mostly as tech support. The warriors operated out of a hidden base from where Nightwolf and Raiden monitored portal openings; the warriors would fly dragon-shaped jets to deal with disturbances. Shao Kahn was something of an arc villain throughout the series, being responsible for allowing other realms to invade Earthrealm. The finale involved Kitana leading a rebellion from Outworld against her stepfather, Shao Kahn.
The defenders of Earthrealm
- Michael Des Barres – Kano, Shao Kahn (normal voice), Captain
- Josh Blyden – Komodai
- Clancy Brown – Raiden
- Nick Chinlund – Quan Chi
- Olivia d’Abo – Sonya Blade
- John Garry – Zenkaro
- Dorian Harewood – Jax Briggs, Sektor
- Dawnn Lewis – Sheeva
- Nancy Linari – Zara
- Ron Perlman – Kurtis Stryker, Scorpion
- Luke Perry – Sub-Zero
- Brock Peters – Ramath
- Jeremy Ratchford – Smoke
- Peter Renaday – Shadow Priests
- John Rhys-Davies – Asgaarth
- Kevin Michael Richardson – Ermac, Kabal, Black Dragon Thug
- Rino Romano – Rain
- Neil Ross – Shang Tsung, Motaro
- Cree Summer – Princess Kitana, Ruby, Computer
- Tod Thawley – Nightwolf
- Brian Tochi – Liu Kang
- John Vernon – Shao Kahn (normal voice)
- Frank Welker – Six-headed Creature, Energy Creature
- Defenders was produced by Threshold Entertainment, who also worked on the first two movies. Therefore, elements of the first Mortal Kombat movie were used in flashback scenes, such as the elder Sub-Zero’s defeat at the hands of Liu Kang (seen in “Kombat Begins Again”), Liu Kang’s victory over Shang Tsung (seen in “Skin Deep”), and Sonya defeating Kano (seen in “Familiar Red”), though all of them are toned down in comparison to the movie. The elder Sub-Zero is not impaled by a water-turned-to-ice stake; he is merely frozen by water that Liu Kang throws on him. Additionally, Shang Tsung falls onto flat ground instead of spikes, and Kano is arrested rather than killed.
- USA Network aired episodes of Defenders back-to-back with those of the Street Fighter animated series. Twice the amount of episodes (26) were produced for Street Fighter.
- Jax actually removes his metal implants in one episode (“Acid Tongue”), thus dispelling the notion for many fans that they were permanently attached.
- Cyrax, Sektor, Smoke, Rain, and Ermac all appear unmasked in different episodes, but their human descriptions therein.
- Kabal‘s unmasked face is based on his “Freaky Face” Fatality. Additionally, his pre-disfigured face is also shown in the show.
- In the games, Cyrax is African-American and Sektor is Asian. In the show, their ethnicities are switched.
- The series also featured the debut of the newly retconned Kano. His nationality was changed from American-Japanese to Australian following actor Trevor Goddard‘s performance in the first movie.
- Kung Lao, Johnny Cage, Mileena, Jade, Sindel, Noob Saibot, Goro, Khameleon, Chameleon and Kintaro were not featured or referenced in the show at all, although Noob does make a brief appearance as the Elder Sub-Zero in a flashback. Also Baraka and Reptile are not mentioned, but two similar characters appear as replacements.
- Tarkatan warriors are referred as “Nomads” in the show and they are led by Karbrac.
- In the episode “Acid Tongue”, none of the Reptilian warriors is explicitly referred to as Reptile, though all of them share the same looks (moreover the green ninja uniforms). Their apparent leader is called Komodai.
- Smoke appeared in the episode “Old Friends Never Die”, serving Shao Kahn and seeking Sub-Zero. He is briefly seen in human form in a flashback scene before becoming automated. In the end, Smoke’s human soul was able to overpower his programming and he stood to the vow of friendship between him and Sub-Zero. Many fans consider it to be the best episode in the short-lived series.
- The animated show does not depict any Fatalities due to being aimed at a younger audience, but there are still a few deaths, albeit bloodless. Sub-Zero kills a Kahn Guard and a Tarkatan (in two different episodes) by freezing them and then breaking their ice-covered bodies. Another death was Jax lifting a Guard up by his head and then (offscreen) smashing him into pieces on the ground, after which he says “Rest in Peace. Or should I say, Pieces!”