What Only Hardcore Fans Know About The Shirai Ryu From Mortal Kombat

The "Mortal Kombat" universe is full of colorful and intriguing characters, but among all the spin-kicks, uppercuts, and gory fatalities, it's easy to forget that almost all of those characters have pretty intricate backstories. 2021's "Mortal Kombat" does its best to establish at least a few of these tales, but with an entire franchise to potentially kick off and many faces to smash, the movie's 110-minute running time doesn't really allow for too much elaboration per character. 

One character who does get a comparatively extensive introduction is Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the benevolent, early 17th century ninja master who's killed by his rival Bi-Han, aka Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim). Hanzo eventually rises from the Netherrealm to take on his nemesis in the present day as the ghastly Scorpion. Still, he starts his arc as an established big shot of a powerful clan, the Shirai Ryu, which is briefly referenced in a casual comment by Bi-Han before the two start fighting. As devoted students of "Mortal Kombat" lore could tell you, there's plenty of history between the two. Here's what only hardcore fans know about the Shirai Ryu from "Mortal Kombat."

The Shirai Ryu is a rival of the Lin Kuei

"Mortal Kombat" makes clear that Sub-Zero's Chinese Lin Kuei don't much care for the Japanese Shirai Ryu, and as the "Mortal Kombat" Wiki notes, there's an excellent reason for that. The Shirai Ryu of the game series got its start when a member of the Lin Kuei decided to break the clan's rules. He leaves and starts his own mercenary career, bringing many of the Lin Kuei's martial arts secrets to Japan and eventually establishing ninjutsu. From the beginning, it was pretty clear that gift baskets between the two factions were out of the question, and it didn't help that the Shirai Ryu basically copied the Lin Kuei's costumes and added a yellow color scheme. 

This origin story can make the Shirai Ryu seem like the bad guys in the story, or at least a bunch of extraordinary trolls. However, the Lin Kuei's icy ruthlessness — as well as the whole massacre thing — don't score them any points, either. Over the course of the "Mortal Kombat" franchise, Scorpion and the assorted versions of Sub-Zero are cast in both heroic and antagonistic roles, so the hero-villain dynamic between Team Blue and Team Yellow tends to be pretty tangled. At one point, we learn that the Lin Kuei's slaughter of the Shirai Ryu was the work of a few extremists, and the clans are able to reach a modicum of peace. 

It remains to be seen how (or if) the hopefully upcoming "Mortal Kombat 2" will address , but one thing is certain: There's definitely no shortage of lore to draw from when it comes to Sub-Zero and Scorpion's complex relationship.