Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 8/17/08
Cast: Kevin Conroy

For whatever reasons, Warner Brothers won't come out and say that this is the Japanese anime version of "Batman," even though that's clearly what it is. It seems rather self defeating to alienate an entire market through false advertising, but the ways of marketing are not for the common man to understand...

"Batman: Gotham Knight" is an anthology of six related short stories, each made by a different director and creative team (similar to "The Animatrix" (2003) and "Heavy Metal" (1981) ). The Japanese influence is immediately apparent, and their take on Batman and Gotham City is breathtaking. The animation and layout are superb, although the character design is often lacking. Nowhere is this more disappointing than in the retelling of "Have I Got A Story For You," which features jaw-dropping computer animation and simply horrible character design. It's just plain ugly. The other pieces fare much better and "Crossfire" reminded me a lot of Masakazu Katsura's and Kia Asamiya's work. The stories are decidedly dark and grim, revolving around an escalating gang war in Gotham City. Batman faces familiar foes Killer Kroc and the Scarecrow along with noted marksman Deadshot, but more often he has to face his own inner demons. The most twisted, shocking, and gruesome tale is "Working Through Pain," which is a series of flashbacks regarding Bruce Wayne's mental, physical, and spiritual training. The imagery is disturbing and the ending is uncomfortably haunting. This is heavy stuff, and a welcome change of pace after watching the insipid "The Clone Wars" (2008), which is on the complete opposite end of the young viewers entertainment spectrum. I hope to see Warner Brothers and DC explore more of these "otherworld" themes in the future.