Kano was originally introduced as the leader of the Black Dragon, an international crime syndicate feared for its brutal and amoral members. As an offshoot of the Red Dragon, Kano and his Black Dragon clansmen rejected the codes of honor and discipline that their former organization stood for, opting instead to achieve their goals by whatever means necessary. As the leader of this group, Kano is the embodiment of its no-holds-barred mentality, and being a violent man by nature, he seems to enjoy the chaos and bloodshed surrounding the Mortal Kombat tournaments more than most. Despite his outward appearance as a thuggish and somewhat deranged individual, Kano is in fact an incredibly cunning, resourceful, and intelligent man. He has successfully evaded several attempts by Special Forces agents Sonya Blade and Jackson Briggs to capture him and bring him to justice. In addition, on numerous occasions where he has faced death or imprisonment, he has shown an ability to not only survive but to also turn the situation to his own advantage. His desire to increase his own power and wealth have lead Kano to be extremely opportunistic, and he has shown no hesitation when given the chance to betray or sacrifice his own allies for personal gain. Though he has been aligned with various forces over the years, there can be no mistaking that Kano's only true allegiance is to himself.
Kano's primary physical characteristic is a metal plate which covers a portion of the right side of his face. The eye on this side has been replaced by a glowing red apparatus capable of projecting a beam of laser-like energy. He has been known to use this laser during combat and after as a means of finishing off his opponent. Though his outfit has changed with each iteration, Kano is always shown carrying a pair of Butterfly Knives, which he uses frequently. His knives are his main projectile weapon, though he is also able to curl himself into a ball and propel himself toward his enemy as a human cannonball. Other than his cannonball and his laser, Kano seems to prefer physical weaponry and attacking opponents with his bare hands. Several of his fatalities involved ripping organs straight from his foe's body, and he is even able to pull out a person's entire skeleton through their mouth.
Though he debuted in Mortal Kombat, Kano's first chronological appearance was in Mortal Kombat: Special Forces. During the events of that game, Kano frees several Black Dragon members being held in a Special Forces prison facility. The objective of the prison break is ostensibly to strengthen and rebuild the Black Dragon organization. Unbeknownst to his comrades, however, Kano's true plan is to travel to Outworld and obtain the Eye of Shitian, an artifact of immense power, and they are to act as a hindrance for anyone who would try to stop him. Though his plan is successful in slowing the pursuit of Special Forces agent Jackson Briggs long enough for him to reach Outworld and the Eye, he is ultimately subdued and captured by Jax, who uses the Eye to return them both to Earthrealm. Down but not out, Kano escapes shortly thereafter and is a free man leading up to the events of first tournament.
At about this time, rumors begin to circulate of the immense riches contained in the isolated island palace of Shang Tsung. This presents an interesting opportunity for Kano. The Black Dragon, now the number one priority of the Special Forces, are being hunted more intensely than ever. Sonya Blade in particular had made it her personal mission to capture Kano after he brutally murdered her former partner. By entering the tournament, he would be able to confound his pursuers and line the coffers of the Black Dragon at the same time. With nothing to lose, Kano enters the tournament. Initially, things turn out better than he had planned. While Kano is allowed to roam free, Sonya and her squad are captured, and Sonya is forced to participate in the tournament to save the lives of her men. Faring well in battle, both he and Sonya survive. However, when Liu Kang defeats Shang Tsung at the end of the tournament, Tsung's island begins to collapse.
Since the island was in fact a border world, after its destruction Kano and Sonya are surprised to find themselves in Outworld rather than Earthrealm. There they are quickly captured by Shang Tsung's forces and are held in captivity by Shao Kahn during most of the events of the second tournament. Toward the end, Jax frees them both, intending to bring Kano back to Earthrealm to answer for his crimes. Kano has other plans, however, and manages to escape yet again, this time returning to Outworld.
When he hears of the Emperor's plans to invade Earthrealm and steal the souls of its inhabitants, Kano sees another opportunity. He makes a proposition to Shao Kahn: in exchange for his soul, he will train Kahn's army in the use of Earth's weaponry, knowledge they will need for the coming invasion. The Emperor is swayed, and Kano, once a prisoner of Kahn, is now an influential part of his military. His fortunes would be tested, however, as he is defeated at the hands of Sonya during the Earthrealm invasion. Kahn is enraged by his failure, and Motaro heals the wounded Kano so that he could be punished by the Emperor himself after his conquest is complete. In a bizarre turn, Sheeva frees Kano from his Centaurian jailer, and attempts to enlist his aid against Shao Kahn. Rather than help her, Kano manipulates the situation in order to prove his loyalty to Kahn. He thwarts Sheeva's assassination attempt at the last moment, and Kahn is so impressed that he promotes Kano to a general in his army.
When the invasion eventually failed, Kano continued to be a valuable asset to Shao Kahn. Edenia, now free from Kahn's influence, took the opportunity to launch an assault on Kahn's Outworld forces. Even with the leadership of Kitana and the might of the Shokan to aid them, however, the Edenian army was unable to overcome Kano's troops, and they were forced to retreat. Upon returning to the Emperor's Palace, Kano witnesses the Deadly Alliance of Shang Tsung and Quan Chi attacking his master. Choosing not to intervene, Kano instead offers his services to the two sorcerers upon their victory. Thus, he is tasked with enslaving enough people to construct the Soulnado, an infinite font of souls for Shang Tsung to consume. This does not prove to be a prosperous partnership for Kano, as the Alliance also promises to hand him over to the Red Dragon leader Mavado in exchange for another service. Perhaps due to this, Kano is not heard from during the events of Mortal Kombat: Deception.
When he is found by Taven in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Kano has indeed been captured by the Red Dragon. He details a series of experiments conducted by his captors to create dragons and dragon hybrids, and a different experiment being conducted on him. He then escapes, leaving the nature of this experiment in question.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
In the non-canonical storyline created for MK vs. DC, Kano plays a small but interesting role in the events that transpire. He is once again pursued by the Special Forces, though this time the Black Dragon is suspected in the disappearance of several members of the White Lotus, as well as similar disappearances in the Edenian army. As it becomes clear that there is a far more sinister force at work, Sonya and Kano are forced to do the unthinkable. They must join forces in order to prevent Dark Kahn from merging the DC Universe with their own, which would destroy it in the process. Despite their combined prowess, they are both soundly defeated by the Joker, who was under the effects of Kombat Rage. Even the Joker's ally Deathstroke is surprised to see him win, and later on Kano is ridiculed by Shang Tsung for being beaten by a "clown", which enrages him further. Perhaps the humiliation of his defeat at the hands of the effete prankster was too much for him to bear, as Kano is shown in his ending to have lost any vestige of sanity. He takes to painting his face in a style reminiscent of the Joker, as he curses the name of Shang Tsung.
Seeing as Kano's role in the series oscillates between violent renegade and evil henchman, it's not surprising that none of his endings are canon. They do usually end up being appropriately and amusingly over the top, with Kano alternately saving the world with his lust for power in one ending or spiraling into madness in another.
Mortal Kombat (non-canon)
Upon defeating Goro and Shang Tsung, Kano and his Black Dragon cohorts assume control of the tournament, bringing about a new era of suffering and terror. This new competition results only in chaos and death, ultimately ending in the tournament being sullied and completely dismantled.
Mortal Kombat 3 (non-canon)
Sparing Kano's life would prove to be Shao Kahn's undoing. After drawing his forces away, Kano destroys them with a stolen nuclear weapon. What little of Shao Kahn's army is left is quickly defeated by Kano, followed shortly thereafter by the Emperor himself. With Kahn defeated, Kano attempts to take possession of the souls he had stolen, but without knowledge of how to control them, he is attacked and presumably killed. Having halted Shao Kahn's conquest of Earthrealm, Kano unwittingly becomes a hero.
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (non-canon)
Still seething about his defeat at Sonya's hands during the Earthrealm invasion, Kano wants nothing more than to face her again. This time, however, he will have an ace in the hole: Quan Chi's amulet. With it, Kano realizes he is able to control the Dragon King's army. With the army at his command, Kano attacks and overwhelms Sonya, ending her life and their rivalry.
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (non-canon)
Though the Red Dragon had performed brutal experiments on him deep within their mountain stronghold, Kano had escaped before they were able to achieve their goal of creating a human-dragon hybrid. With the energies released by Blaze , however, the process continued, and Kano ironically transforms into a Black Dragon hybrid.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (non-canon)
After Dark Kahn is defeated, it becomes clear that the Kombat Rage has shattered Kano's mind. Now a festering pit of anger and aggression, Kano will attack anyone, and is soon cast out. He takes to painting his face, and in the depths of his solitude and madness he begins to chant "Death to Shang Tsung... Death to Shang Tsung... DEATH TO SHANG TSUNG!"
Mortal Kombat (2011) (non-canon)
Kano made a huge amount of money selling weapons to Shao Kahn. He used his profits to upgrade his cybernetics. His upgraded eye gave him unlimited access to databases of banks, law enforcement agencies and many other networks. Jax was able to hack into Kano's mind and trap it in a Special Forces mainframe. Kano's consciousness broke out of the mainframe and spread like a virus throughout the Special Forces networks. Kano took control of all of the Special Forces automated weaponry and became a one-man army.
Mortal Kombat (2011)
Special Attacks / Enhanced
- Knife Throw
Kano uses his dual butterfly knives to stab through his enemy's thighs breaking the victim's femurs. The opponent falls to their knees helplessly right before Kano delivers a straight kick to the face shattering the skull.
Heart Rip - Kano limbers up by cracking his neck then positions himself behind his foe. He then punches swiftly through the back and out of the chest holding the opponent's heart in his hand then crushes the heart before ripping it back through the chest cavity and holding it above his head in victory.
- Kano is portrayed by actor and martial artist Richard Divizio in both Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat 3. Divizio is also the man behind the mask of both Baraka and Kabal. This earns him the distinction of being the only person to appear in every version of Mortal Kombat to feature digitized actors.
- It is stated in Deadly Alliance that the injury which led to Kano's signature face plate was caused by none other than Jackson Briggs prior to the events of the series. The specifics of this encounter have not been detailed, though it can be presumed the injuries were sustained during an attempt by Jax to apprehend him.
- Ed Boon has stated in a television interview that the decision to give Kano a metal plate was influenced by the popularity of Terminator 2, which came out the previous year, even going as far as to put Kano's exposed plate on the same side as Arnold Schwarzenegger's character.
- On September 15, 2009, former Midway employee Vincent Proce revealed concept art for a game pitch featuring a reimagined Mortal Kombat. This redesign included Kano, clad in white as he was in the first tournament, with unkempt black hair and beard, and featuring a more elaborate facial implant. Proce described him as a "half Japanese half US military bad ass." The pitch was not picked up, and Proce moved on from the company, making it unlikely that the idea will ever go further than Proce's character designs.