The “Batman: Gotham Knight” DVD was released at the same time that “The Dark Knight” played in theatres. It consists of seven anime shorts by various anime directors. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t give enough credit to the actual Japanese directors, or the previous films they directed.
Most of the stories are fairly basic. The first short anime, “Have I Got a Story To Tell You,” was directed by Shijirou Nishimi, who drew character designs for “Tekkonkinkreet.” The film consists of four skater kids retelling the time in which they saw Batman. Each kid sees Batman as a different creature. For example, one sees him as a shape-shifting reptile and another sees him as a flying bat.
The second short, “Crossfire,” follows two detectives transporting a criminal to Arkham Asylum. One detective sees Batman as a hero, while the other sees him as a vigilante. Of course, their perceptions quickly change after Batman saves the detectives when their car is caught in a crossfire between the Russian and Italian mob. Although the animation is a little stilted, Batman looks truly menacing in this anime episode, in the directorial debut of Futoshi Hagashide,who did in-between animation for “Air.”
The third anime, “Field Test,” was directed by Hiroshi Morioka, who directed the animation for “IGPX” (Immortal Grand Prix) on the Cartoon Network. It was one of my favorites in the collection, because it was well-scripted, and Bruce Wayne literally looks cool as a shonen pretty boy. In the film, Bruce Wayne’s inventor, Lucius Fox, shows off a new technological device that deflects bullets. Bruce Wayne has some fun with the device at first, using it to his advantage at the local golf tournament. However, in one of Batman’s confrontations with the Russian and Italian mobsters, the device deflects a bullet into a gangster’s chest, and Bruce ends up taking the guy to the hospital. After this encounter, Bruce gave the device back to Lucius, so that he won’t endanger other people with the device.
The fourth anime, “In Darkness Dwells,” was a simple story about Batman fighting Killer Croc and Scarecrow. While it didn’t offer many thrills, it was somewhat frightening to see one of Batman’s bones crushed. But apparently Batman didn’t mind. After all, he saved the archdeacon without a sweat. This lavishly animated action episode was directed by Yasuhiro Aoki, who directed the pilot episode of “Tweeny Witches.”
The fifth anime, “Working Through Pain,” was directed by Toshiyuki Kubouka, who was the animation director for “Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket” and “Gunbuster.” It follows a series of unconnected events at first. Bruce Wayne gets shot in the sewers, and is headed to the surface. Suddenly it switched to a graphic scene in which Wayne is performing surgery on guys in Africa. Gross. However, soon we discover that Wayne is simply searching the world to find ways to relieve his pain. And Wayne comes across an Indian guru, who teaches him to…work through the pain. Although that surgery scene was too graphic for me, I enjoyed watching the last action sequence, where Bruce Wayne takes a board of wood to the head without flinching.
The sixth anime is a cool piece by Madhouse studio, the Korean group who directed “Gunslinger Girl” and “Boogiepop Phantom.” Bruce Wayne is collecting guns to do research on Deadshot, the deadliest sniper in Gotham City. He’s bent on assassinating lieutenant Gordon from a nearby train. And, somehow, Batman comes just in time to deflect the bullet in slow-motion with his metal wrist guard. Even if it’s a show-off animation sequence, it does set the scene for an awesome fight between Batman and the gunslinger, who’s also packing a chain gun on his arm.
While these are all completely different episodes, most of them look fantastic, except for the somewhat silly first anime, “Have I Got a Story To Tell You.” Overall, this is a great combination of some good anime directors and one great anime studio. Honestly, I loved the third anime the best. There’s nothing more hilarious than the pretty-boy depiction of Bruce Wayne.
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