He is vengeance… he is the night… he is the darkest fear of every criminal who lurks in Gotham City. A masked vigilante who combats the crazed demons of the street, as well as the ghosts that haunt his troubled past. Citizens are afraid of him, cops don’t trust him. A hero to some, a myth to most. He is The Caped Crusader. He is The Dark Knight. He is Batman.
summary by Ender
Highs: Decent myriad of styles and stories
Lows: Few parts truly impress
Despite being a western creation, Batman has crossed over to the east quite a few times. 8 Man’s Kuwata Jiro first adapted the character into manga back in the 60’s. Since then, artists such as Asamiya Kia, Otomo Katsuhiro, and Natsume Yoshinori have provided manga-ized tales about the Caped Crusader. Anime only seems to be the next logical step.
Somewhat similar to the previous Warner Brothers vignette production The Animatrix, this series of shorts is tied in to a major motion picture and differs in quality from piece to piece. Several American comic writers loaned their talents to comprise the scripts for each short. The Japanese animators, on the other hand, do not get to sport such varied pedigrees but bring a certain eagerness to the icon. One that stands out, Morioka Hiroshi’s (director of Tsubasa) short, Field Test, gives Batman a suit that resembles something closer to a Tatsunoko or Ishinimori production (think Gatchaman or Kamen Rider); beyond the costume though, the story and animation is lackluster and brings nothing new to the character. Likewise, Higashide Futoshi’s (animator for Giant Robo) Crossfire works a story from Greg Rucka into a mindless exercise in which Batman saves the lives of two cops; explosions and fisticuffs come in too late to bring any excitement. Kubooka Toshiyuki’s (animator for Gundam 0080) Working Through Pain tries to move us further away from the action and focuses on a time in Bruce Wayne’s life, and this works pretty well. Though, it doesn’t add anything to the mythos that viewers didn’t know before hand.
This is the ultimate problem with Gotham Knight. Batman has such a rich tapestry of stories in mediums beyond comic books that his foray into anime seems tame by comparison. These shorts are nothing more than distractions, with only a few stories really featuring anything more than mere entertainment. Have I Got a Story For You is a time-honored tale where a pack of youths recant incidents involving the mythical Batman. Directed by Nishima Shojiro (art director for Tekkon Kinkreet), the animation highlights the disconnected, dreamlike narrative, and gives a strange unique style to a story bordering on redundant. In Darkness Dwells, directed by Aoki Yasuhiro (one of Tweeny Witches’ 12 directors), resembles the gothic bizarreness of Mike Mignola, and is probably the darkest Batman ‘toon produced: death-stenched sewers, catacombs, human sacrifices, and an 8-foot tall man-lizard (villain Killer Croc) all find a home here. Last, Deadshot features a beautiful ballet of bullets and blades between Batman and another of his rogues (the titular Deadshot) battle on a subway train. This last piece is strange because although the animation and style resembles Kawajiri Yoshiaki, the director is credited to Jong-Sik Nam; given his publicized fight with the American producers of Highlander: The Search for Vengeance, taking his name off the project does not sound too crazy.
I’ve been reading Batman comics for as long as I’ve been watching anime, so my take on these stories will be different than what a comic book or anime virgin will glean from it. I recommend this film not for the overall caliber of the production, despite some decent entertainment, but for the notion that those who are unfamiliar with either medium will cross the aisle to see what the commotion is about.
Gotham Knight can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.