After Justice League: The New Frontier, one of DC’s best animated feature, the next entry in the series, Batman: Gotham Knight, is easily one of the worst. Rather than being a complete feature, it showcases a series of 6 vignettes, each done by a different prolific Japanese anime studio. Though this was one of the first, it, along with those that followed, proved that anime and superheroes don’t mix.
The segments are loosely connected, as well as somewhat fitting between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, releasing a few weeks before the latter. Kevin Conroy reprised his role as Batman for every feature, which is both a positive and a negative. More on that in a bit.
The first story, “Have I Got a Story for You,” written by Josh Olson, animated by Studio 4°C (Steamboy, Spriggan), is the worst feature. The concept is fine, as the kids tell tales of their sightings of Batman, with each version looking different. The animation did not fit the style, and the different versions of Batman were ridiculous. This was been done many times before in the comics and animated series, and done better in both. “Crossfire,” written by Greg Rucka and animated by Production I.G. (Ghost in the Shell), picked up the quality. Rucka centered on cops Crispus Allen and Anna Ramirez, and was reminiscent of his work on Gotham Central.
Following that, the quality dropped again with “Field Test,” written by Jordan Goldberg, animation by Bee Train (Arc the Lad, .hack//Sign). And further still with “In Darkness Dwells,” written by David S. Goyer, animation by Madhouse (Ninja Scroll, Death Note, Trigun). The only redeeming quality was the art from Madhouse. The last two stories increased the quality at least. “Working Through Pain,” written by Brian Azzarello and animated by Studio 4°C, told a solid tale, with mixed animation quality. The final feature however, “Deadshot,” written by Alan Burnett and animated by Madhouse, was the best of the six.
Rucka, Azzarello, and Burnett are all Batman veterans, having told countless amazing Batman tales in their career. As such, their’s stands out from the rest. As for the animation, none were good, though relatively speaking, some where better than others. Any super heroics never looked good, though Madhouse and Production I.G. handled it the best. Studio 4°C didn’t a decent job in “Working Through Pain,” but that had him primarily out of costume. Anime characters seldom sync with their voices. Here, it’s very pronounced, which is odd considering that this was created for native English speaking consumption. Since this doesn’t seem like Batman, Conroy’s voice doesn’t fit the character in most situations, especially effeminate Bruce Wayne.
Mixing western characters with Japanese animation sensibility was an interesting experiment, but one that has ultimately failed on every project. The design sensibilities and general movement of the characters don’t mesh with the animation style. Coupled with a half the stories falling flat, regardless of the animation, Batman: Gotham Knight is easily the worst animated feature DC as produced.
Which feature did you enjoy? Do you think superheroes and anime mix? Comment below!
Even the title card is boring.