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Ryan Jeffers just wants to be accepted by his peers, but is constantly insulted and bullied, with the school's quarterback Brad leading the charge... all because he wears a metal splint on his leg. To cope, he enjoys reading martial arts comics and Chinese mythology. Shortly after his friend Ming gives him a book called the Manuscript of Tao, Ryan attempts to prove himself to Brad and his gang, and ends up transported to another world -- the world of Tao.
Good news is that he can walk there. Bad news... Tao is on the brink of destruction at the hands of the insane Komodo, who's been tapping into the mystical Lifesprings to gain eternal life. In fact, there's only one Lifespring left, serving as the last bastion against his evil reign, and protected by five warriors able to wield the forces of Nature: the Warriors of Virtue.
...Oh, and did we mention the five warriors are all anthropomorphic kangaroos?
Despite that little detail, 1997's Warriors of Virtue takes itself very seriously, a strait-laced, by-the-book martial arts film for kids directed by Ronny Yu (his first English-language film). As its title suggests, it's very heavy on the importance of virtue, particularly when it comes to the value of life: the Warriors do not kill, which leads to the obvious question of how to deal with Komodo...
A series of five books were released afterward as a set of sequels: each volume followed one of the Roos as they split up (accompanied by a Tagalong Kid) to solve a problem facing each Warrior's homeland.
A film sequel titled Warriors of Virtue: The Return to Tao was released in 2002.
- All Your Powers Combined: It's how they defeat Komodo for good.
- Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: "Shit happens."
- Black Best Friend: He tells Ryan how important he is and what he should do and he gets left behind in the Real World.
- Blank Book: Ryan is asked by Komodo to read from the magical Manuscript and tell him what it says. The Manuscript suddenly shows blank pages, to which the protagonist says "Shit happens."
- Blind Idiot Translation: The Polish version was entitled "Wirtualni wojownicy" - "Virtual warriors". Apparently the translator didn't know what 'virtue' was.
- Boxing Kangaroo
- Camp Straight: Komodo. Dude's frilly and effeminate, but he very clearly has gotten with several of the hot women in this movie anyway.
- Did Not Do the Research: The word is pronounced Dao, not Tao like it's spelled. You might think Tao is just coincidentally the name of the world, but the waiter is clearly using it to refer to the real concept and still says it wrong.
- Elemental Powers
- Evil Is Hammy: Like you wouldn't believe.
- Excessive Evil Eyeshadow: Komodo.
- Face Heel Turn: Elysia
- Five-Man Band: The Warriors of Virtue.
- Guyliner: Komodo wears it.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Ryan.
- Informed Ability: The warriors of virtue don't really exhibit the virtues they're supposed to be warriors of.
- Jerk Jock: Brad.
- Large Ham: Komodo.
- Also, Ming when he shows off while cooking
- Laughably Evil: Hey look, another Komodo trope! BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA!
- Laughing Mad: Kind of a subversion, because Komodo's laughing doesn't tell he goes insane...it tells that he IS insane. Seriously, you can never predict when he bursts to maniacal laughter.
- Madonna-Whore Complex: "Good" Elysia wears a white, high-necked dress. Evil Elysia wears a red dress that shows cleavage.
- Magical Asian: Ming. We never find out why an ordinary cook has a manuscript about a magical universe. Also, Master Chung.
- Martial Arts and Crafts: Ming's cooking. Why is Ryan the main character again?
- Moral Dissonance: At the end of the movie, Ryan demonstrates his newfound virtue by leaving Brad stranded at the Treatment plant behind a torrent of water, leading the rest of Brad's 'friends' away while they mock the terrified jock. Uh...?
- Just so we're all clear on the above point, the Warriors forgave Komodo, the insane, self-obsessed warlord, and offered him a place in their community even though he tried to kill them all and callously destroyed their ecosystem. Whereas a mere jerky football player is unworthy of your sympathy.
- No Indoor Voice: Take a wild guess...
- Personality Powers: Most obvious with Chi, but all of the Roos show this.
- Redemption Equals Death: Elysia.
- Shout-Out: "Warriors! Come out and plaaaay!"
- Ming is a show-offy Asian chef
- The Speechless: Yee was so traumatized by the loss of his Lifespring that he stopped speaking, instead communicating with others through sign language. After Ryan's Heroic Sacrifice, he manages a hoarse "Thank you".
- Sissy Villain: Komodo never leaves home without his ruffles and frills.
- Take That: While describing the land of Tao to Ryan, Ming tells him there are "no guns, no lasers, no morphing...", a rather clear swipe at that other martial-arts-focused franchise involving guns, lasers, and morphing which was fairly popular at the time the film was released.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: An integral part of the Warriors' Code. Results in a world-threatening war that has rages for years and apparently produced * one* casualty by the Warriors - of an innocent person. Since Komodo's forces were, presumably, not restricted by the Warriors' Code and could kill and enslave all they wanted, it's no wonder the good guys were on the ropes by the time Ryan showed up...
- Weapon of Choice: Yun and Tsun wield swords, Lai has a wooden staff, Chi uses fire whips, and Yee carries huge metal rings.
- Woman in White: Elysia is like an angel while she's pretending to be good.
The film sequel contains examples of:
- Fatal Method Acting: Actor Kevin Smith (No relation) died in an accident on set after finishing filming his scenes.
- In Name Only: For one thing, no kangaroos.
- Revenge of the Sequel
The book sequels also contain examples of:
- Ascended Extra: The overarching plot is that Ryan is summoned back to Tao along with four of his friends so that each can accompany one of the Roos back to the Lifespring where they were born and fix the problems arising there. These friends were minor characters in the original movie (and Brad was included, so the definition of 'friend' was rather loose...). Unfortunately, Ming was not one of them.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Chi admits to being one in "Chi and the Giant", as well as a former Prankster who used trickery to get back at the others teasing him for being the youngest.
- Cat Scare: "Lai and the Headhunters".
- Heel Face Turn: Brad, who winds up accompanying Yee for the biggest Odd Couple pairing of the books and develops from Jerkass to Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- Moral Dissonance: In "Yun and the Sea Serpent", Yun deals with the beast by sewing its mouth shut, while it's awake, aware and thrashing in agony. True, he says that he leaves enough slack for it to eat plankton, and it was to correct the serpent's original dietary habits, but still...
- Swarm of Rats: Happens several times in "Tsun and the Rats".
- Tagalong Kid
- Wok Fu: A Chinese chef is constantly doing Wok Fu when he's cooking (doing spins, kicking faucets). Actually does some good when another chef trips; Wok Fu Chef manages to catch the guy using his leg, brings him up, and then proceeds to catch all the falling food.