Batman: Gotham Knight Anime Review
Batman: Gotham Knight
US Release By
Crime Fighting Superhero Drama
Movie of Shorts
75 minutes (6 shorts)
Have you ever wondered how the world of Batman would translate to the world of anime? Wonder no more, as Gotham Knight (GK) presents six short stories that chronicle Batman's transition from novice crime-fighter to the Dark Knight in anime form.
Gotham Knight is an ambitious undertaking; it is the collective work of various animators, writers, and directors looking to present the stories of Batman in anime form. But if ever a superhero could make a successful transition from traditional North American animation and comics to Japanese animation, it is Batman. The dark, melancholy, and mysterious nature of the Batman world lend themselves well to anime form. GK is a refreshing and rewarding look at the Batman world through the lens of anime.
GK tells six different, albeit, connected stories. The stories collectively explore who and what Batman is and the formative events that have shaped him. The opening story, "Have I Got a Story For You," successfully establishes this notion. Three kids at a skate-park share their firsthand accounts of Batman, and not surprisingly, all of them have different perceptions of him. One kid says that Batman is a shadow being, another that he is like a real bat, and the other that he is like a robot. At the same time, Batman is man, myth, and legend. Although the kids may have different perceptions of Batman, they all seem to understand his core values as they agree that he would never kill anyone. The rest of the stories continue to build on the concepts of the first while providing a more in-depth understanding of Batman. The second story, "Crossfire," deals with the hostility and mistrust that a police officer has towards Batman, and how Batman is able to change this officer's opinion through his actions. The third story, "Field Test," finds Batman trying out a new gadget to combat crime, while brokering a truce between rival gangs. The fourth story, "In Darkness Dwells," pits Batman against Killer Croc and the Scarecrow as he searches Gotham's sewers for a kidnapped clergyman. The fifth story, "Working Through Pain," looks into Batman's past and the training he undertook in India to learn how to manage pain. Finally, the sixth story, "Dead Shot," pits Batman in a duel with a dangerous and cocky sniper.
Each story has different writers, directors, and animators, and each story stands well on its own. However, despite the animation looking different from story to story, GK is very cohesive and strongest when looked at as a collective. The writing is effective at maintaining a traditional Batman feel throughout the six stories. The writing is clean and concise without becoming cold and stagnant. Similarly, the music of GK brings the six stories together well. The music uses many epic sounding string arrangements that range from subdued to tumultuous, but it never overpowers the writing or animation. Many scenes in GK play out in near silence, but they never feel stale or unemotional. The directors harmonize writing, music, and animation masterfully to produce a range of emotions from the viewer including terror, excitement, and sadness. Not all of the stories contain the same levels of emotion and action, but as a whole, GK is a moving, exciting, and indubitably entertaining experience. In particular, "Field Test" and "Working Through Pain," are more plot driven stories that give the viewer a reprieve from the intensity of the other stories. And although each story is punctuated by at least one big stylish action sequence, "In Darkness Dwells" and "Dead Shot" contain the best of action of GK. This is in no small part due to the animation of Madhouse Studios, which worked on both of these stories. The animation is gritty and dark while remaining clean and stylish. And while the action is great in the other stories, the action sequences in these two stories is the pinnacle of action in GK.
This is a good juncture at which to discuss the animation of GK in more detail. If one were to come upon GK while flipping through channels on TV, one may not immediately identify it as anime. Of all of the stories, "Field Test" has the most traditional anime look, while the rest of the stories are more of a hybrid of North American and Japanese sensibilities. Nonetheless, the anime influence of GK allows for the exploration of the Batman world in an exciting and refreshing way, whether through the stylish action sequences, character designs, influence of technology, or the look of Gotham City itself. Even if it is not clearly anime, GK is unmistakably Batman, and that is ultimately a success for fans of anime and Bruce Wayne.
GK remains true to its Batman roots while successfully implementing an anime consciousness. This is because although GK employs numerous anime directors and animators, it also uses staff that has worked on traditional Batman projects. The writer of Batman Begins, David Goyer, a writer on "Batman the Animated Series," Alan Burnett, and the longtime voice of the animated Batman, Kevin Conroy, all apply their talents on GK among others. The result is that GK feels both fresh and comfortable for longtime fans of Batman, while also presenting a unique opportunity to experience Batman for anime fans. Kevin Conroy delivers another great performance as Batman and the rest of the voice acting is strong throughout GK, it also aids the cohesion of the movie that although the animation changes from story to story, the voices of the reoccurring characters remain the same.
With all of the different people working on this project and with the different styles being implemented, GK could have been a hodgepodge of failure. Instead, all of the differences have been harmonized to create something that is both unique and true to its roots. The events in GK take place between Christopher Nolan's two Batman movies, and apparently, care was taken to assure that GK fit well with the look and feel of both of those movies. Whether a fan of live action, animation, or both, the summer of 2008 will likely be a memorable one for fans of Batman. GK is yet another look at a hero that is infinitely interpretable and compelling, and continues to be a cultural icon across time and borders. When evaluating content, extra features, and the elegant packaging, GK is a must buy for fans of Batman, animation, and anime.
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Notes and Trivia
The events in Gotham Knight are meant to take place in between the events of "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight." That I am aware of, this is the first time Batman has been presented in anime form. As such, this is a great occasion for fans of the Dark Knight.
US DVD Review
The movie has audio and subtitles in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Thai. The movie has an informative audio commentary from a representative of DC Comics, a former Batman comic-book editor, and Kevin Conroy. The movie also contains a sneak peek at the upcoming Wonder Woman animated movie.
The bonus disc contains two comprehensive documentaries on Batman and his enemies, and on the creator of Batman, Bob Kane. Even more, it contains four episodes from "Batman the Animated Series," including the Emmy-award winning "Heart of Ice."
13-up due to stylized violence, including some bloody images.
Violence: 3 - Lots of hand-to-hand combat and gun-fire.
Nudity: 0 - One girl in a bikini.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Batman has no time for romance.
Language: 2 - S.O.B. is the big one I can remember.