SciFi Japan


    Batman gets animated again as prelude to new film Author: Aaron Cooper I have to give Warner Bros. credit for interesting marketing ideas regarding the new and improved Batman film franchise. I personally have always enjoyed different anime anthologies, going as far back as ROBOT CARNIVAL to THE ANIMATRIX of a few years ago, and what better character to play with in terms of animated interpretations than Batman, a character that has endured various incarnations and versions throughout his 70 year history? BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT is an anthology of six animated shorts that occurs after the events of BATMAN BEGINS and acts as a prelude of sorts to the upcoming DARK KNIGHT film. Several Japanese directors and animation studios, as well as American comic creators worked under Executive Producer Bruce Timm to create several unique visions of the Dark Knight. Yet, while all the stories feature unique anime styles and studios as well as direction and tone, there are several interwoven themes that link the stories into the prelude it’s meant to be. The first short is “Have I Got a Story for You”, a POV twist on how Batman is perceived by four juveniles that see him in action in four different areas on the same day. As fun as it is, I admit it’s a little weird to start off the anthology this way as the interpretations are very different (and meant to be) but it gives a unique look at how the public might perceive Gotham City’s vigilante. The animation was produced by Studio4?C and directed by Shojiro Nishimi.

    Next up is “Crossfire” by Futoshi Higashide and Production I.G. from a screenplay by Greg Rucka. This deals with Lt. Gordon’s newly formed Major Crimes Unit and how two cops in particular perceive Batman’s involvement with their job (a theme Rucka developed in the outstanding Gotham Central series of comics). Fans of the comics will be thrilled to see Detective Crispus Allen make an appearance here though they may be shocked to see his partner as Anna Ramirez rather than the more familiar Renee Montoya. It seems DC asked for Montoya’s name to be changed, due to that character’s recent developmental changes in the pages of DC Comics. The third anime short is entitled “Field Test” and it deals a bit more with the working relationship Bruce Wayne has developed with Lucius Fox and the hardware he requires as Batman. It presents an interesting moral dilemma over the use of an electromagnetic protective unit that the Batman tests out as he goes against Russian and Italian mob members (this mob war is one of the reoccurring themes throughout the shorts as mentioned earlier). It also introduces a murder mystery that the Batman is investigating that is resolved by the end of the series. This aspect was directed by Hiroshi Morioka with animation by Bee Train, Inc. Up fourth is “In Darkness Dwells” by Yasuhiro Aoki and Madhouse in which viewers are treated to what the Scarecrow has been up to since the events of BATMAN BEGINS, as well as introduced to Killer Croc in this particular movie universe. No surprise, the screenplay for this short was by none other than David Goyer, the screenwriter of both of the latest films. I’m not sure how intentional it was, but I definitely saw some influences of the mini-series Batman: The Cult within this short, and that was a good thing as far as I was concerned!

    Fifth was “Working Through Pain”. It’s the bloodiest and most brutal of any of the features, but it is also the most philosophical in the questions it raises as we are treated to flashbacks of Bruce Wayne’s journey and training of his body to endure the physical punishment he will undergo as Batman. Very well written by 100 Bullets creator Brian Azzarello with animation brought to you by Studio4?C and directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka. Madhouse again delivers the animation on the final short of the set, “Deadshot”. Old school fans will appreciate how Alan Burnett introduces this worthy villain into this new version of the franchise. All the hanging plot threads from the previous 5 shorts are summed up here as Deadshot takes out his second contract kill in Gotham City….on Batman himself! There’s a lot of added enjoyment included on BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT. The score fits in perfectly with what they’ve been doing in the films. Long-time watchers of the previous animated BATMAN series will appreciate that Warner Bros. brought back Kevin Conroy to voice Batman. The interwoven stories, especially seeing the developing working relationship Gordon has with Batman and the tenuous relationship the Dark Knight has with Gotham City itself, work very well and the viewer is left satisfied that they got a complete story.

    The clincher is the animation. Does it work? In my opinion, I believe it does depending on your perception and expectation of what you like in your Batman. It fits in very well as that bridge between the two new films, which is exactly what Warner Bros. is going for. Yes, the animation is highly stylized. It is anime in the truest sense and not all of the features or designs will appeal to all viewers. For instance, I liked just about all the different designs and interpretations save one: The Batman suit on “Field Test” was far too pointy and bird-like to my tastes. As a reader of various Batman comics throughout my life though, I’m used to various designs and ways the character is visually presented so this DVD is another nice look into aspects of the Batman mythos. The anime styling also crosses over into the action and violence onscreen, so anyone thinking they are sitting to watch an episode of Batman the Animated Series may want to think twice before sitting their younger children in front of it. It earns its PG-13 rating just like the films do. If you like what Christopher Nolan has been bringing to the big screen, are anticipating the new DARK KNIGHT film, and have an appreciation for Japanese anime, then I highly recommend BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT. If you prefer Batman as Adam West or only like one or two artists on Batman comics, then you may be turned off by the style and stories presented here. Personally, it’s made me as excited as ever about the new film! Warner Bros. Home Video has released two DVD versions of BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT...

    BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT MPAA: PG-13 Run Time: 75 minutes Soundtrack Language: English Aspect Ratio: Widescreen [16:9 Transfer] Sound Quality: Dolby Surround 5.1 - English DVD Features: Audio commentary Sneak peak of DCU’s WONDER WOMAN Street Date: 7/8/08 MSRP: $19.98 BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT 2-Disc Collector`s Edition MPAA: PG-13 Run Time: 75 minutes Soundtrack Language: English Aspect Ratio: Widescreen [16:9 Transfer] Sound Quality: Dolby Surround 5.1 - English DVD Features: Includes 2nd bonus disc featuring over 100 minutes of extra content Audio commentary Sneak peak of DCU’s WONDER WOMAN “A Mirror for the Bat: The Evil Denizens of Gotham City” : Documentary covering Gotham City’s most nefarious of characters, combined with a look into the symbiotic relationship Batman shares with his enemies. “Batman and Me a Devotion to Destiny: The Bob Kane Story” : The comprehensive chronology of the remarkable life of the creator of Batman. “Bruce Timm Presents: 4 Bonus Episodes from BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES” Street Date: 7/8/08 MSRP: $29.98

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