Monday, April 23, 2012

"Batman: Gotham Knight" (Various, 2008)



Directed by ...

Shoujirou Nishimi (“Have I Got a Story For You” segment)
Futoshi Higashide (“Crossfire” segment)
Hiroshi Morioka (“Field Test” segment)
Yasuhiro Aoki (“In Darkness Dwells” segment)
Yuichiro Hayashi (“In Darkness Dwells” segment)
Toshiyuki Kubooka (“Working Through Pain” segment)
Jong-Sik Nam (“Deadshot” segment)

Story by Jordan Goldberg

Screenplay by …

Josh Olson (“Have I Got a Story For You” segment)
Greg Rucka (“Crossfire” segment)
Jordan Goldberg (“Field Test” segment)
David S. Goyer (“In Darkness Dwells” segment)
Brian Azzarello (“Working Through Pain” segment)
Alan Burnett (“Deadshot” segment)

Based on the DC Comics Characters Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger

Executive Produced by Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan, Bruce W. Timm and Emma Thomas

Produced by Norifumi Fujita, Yohei Hamada, Toshi Hiruma, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, Rui Kuroki, Jungo Maruta, Masao Maruyama, Koichi Mashimo, Fumiaki Otake, Kimberly Smith, Kazuma Taketani, Daisuke Tanaka, Eiko Tanaka and Alex Yeh

Cinematography by Michiya Katou, Kenji Takehara and Koji Tanaka

Art Direction by Kaoru Inoda, Shinji Kimura, Naoyuki Onda, Shinobu Tagashira, Shinobu Takashira and Yoshimi Umino

Editing by Joe Gall, Taeko Hamauzu, Kashiko Kimura and Mutsumi Takemiya

Casting and Vocal Direction by Andrea Romano

Original Motion Picture Score Composed by Christopher Drake, Robert J. Kral and Kevin Manthei
Kevin Conroy ... Bruce Wayne/Batman (voice)
Gary Dourdan … Police Detective Crispus Allen (voice)
David McCallum … Alfred Pennyworth (voice)
Kevin Michael Richardson ... Lucius Fox/Avery (voice)
Ana Ortiz … Police Detective Anna Ramirez (voice)
Parminder Nagra ... Cassandra (voice)
George Newberb … Man in Black/Guido (voice)
Rob Paulsen … Salvatore Maroni/Mole Man (voice)
Brian George … Cardinal O’Fallon/Arman (voice)
Corey Burton … Scarecrow/The Russian (voice)
Jason Marsden … Dr. Thomas Wayne (voice)
Andrea Romano … Martha Wayne (voice)
Scott Menville … B-Devil (voice)
Corey Padnos … Porkchop (voice)
Crystal Scales … Meesh (voice)
Alanna Ubach … Dander (voice)

A collection of tales of The Dark Knight of Gotham City, as conceived by noted anime talents.


With all of the realizations, both historical and creative, that have been bestowed upon him, it’s hard to believe how long it took for Batman to finally come under the wing of full-on 100% Japanese Animation.

It’s been an inspiration over the years, especially with the “Batman Beyond” and “The Batman” television series and the character has also been featured in manga material such as “Batman: Hong Kong” and Kia Asamiya’s “Batman: Child of Dreams” graphic novel.

But to see the character as presented in the 6 vignettes that make up 2008’s “Batman: Gotham Knight” is truly a sight and spectacle to behold.

“Have I Got a Story for You.”


The first chapter in the film, directed by Shoujirou Nishimi and written by “A History of Violence” screenwriter Josh Olson plays wonderfully as an adaptation of the classic Batman story motif where a collection of characters sit around telling ‘campfire’ tales of their idea of Batman.


In this instance, it’s a pack of skateboarding kids and I really love the inventiveness of their imaginations. In one example, Batman is literally a shadow creature dipping in and out of darkness like a smoky wraith. The next depicts him as a winged animal, an actual Bat with flapping leathery wings and razor sharp teeth. And the last, possibly the most hilarious, is the idea of an Iron Man type Batman; Batman as a robot, who can wield his gadgets on a whim.

The art direction for “Have I Got a Story for You” is quite unique; it might be my favorite depiction of Gotham City as a location in the film. I also love its notion that there is no right or wrong way to interpret Batman.

In many ways he IS a shadow. In some ways he IS an animal.

There’s no definitive way to present Batman visually or to tell his adventures. THAT’s what makes him such a versatile and endearing character.



The next chapter, “Crossfire” really begins to get into the thick of the story for “Gotham Knight.” Written by prominent comics authority Greg Rucka, the segment certainly shows it with its “Gotham Central” themed aesthetic.

It also begins to present the fact that since each chapter is handled by a different director and screenwriter, each chapter is then potentially meant to focus on Batman from a different perspective.

The first dealt with kids telling tales; an extension of a society that wouldn’t know any better beyond the figments of Batman that it sees in public. This one deals with Batman as interpreted by the Police; namely Detectives Crispus Allen (a character from the comics) and Anna Ramirez (from “The Dark Knight” film) as they’re caught in the crossfire of the mob war between the Sicilians, headed by Salvatore Maroni, and the Russians.

One of the interesting aspects of this one, oddly enough, is Gordon’s interpretation. He’s barely in it save his one scene in the opening and I can’t put my finger on it; Jim feels more reclusive in this installment, as if we’ve caught a rare glimpse of a man who’s still trying to feel out the transition of aiding and abetting a vigilante and the internal conflict he must’ve had to go through given his mutual passion for the law. It felt very raw to me and in subsequent viewings, I find myself charmed by the idea of seeing these mythic characters at different points of an evolving relationship with one another.

Batman is given a very hellish imagining here (it helps that he’s surrounded by fire for most of the final portion) and when he finally speaks, you do best to listen.

“You’re MCU aren’t you? Gordon’s squad. Lieutenant Gordon is a good judge of character.”

I also love the styling of the animation here, specifically in the design and pacing with the approach to Arkham Island and the handling of Batman’s combat skills (though a few chapters later improve on this).

Ultimately, “Crossfire” is a great bridging point.

“Field Test”


Helmed by Hiroshi Morioka, the third chapter of the film reflects very much on Bruce Wayne’s own perspective of the Batman persona; more specifically, the public persona of billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne, as other variations of Wayne’s persona take the helm later.

Admittedly this is the youngest looking character model so it’s a bit odd to hear Conroy’s voice. On the other hand, the short is privy to one of the more inspired Batsuit designs I’ve ever seen. Here, Batman is given a look heavily influenced by “Gatchaman,” with the bird-like helmet cowl and the broad shoulder chest plate. I also love the trial and error approach brought to the table with Bruce’s partnership with Lucius Fox. I grew up on a Batman’s whose identity remained a mystery to Fox but, in this day and age and with the advent of such abundant technology, bringing Lucius into the fold makes sense.

Having said that, I love that the focus of “Field Test” ultimately resides on the very genuine and human fact that not all of the ideas they implement for Batman are as effective as they’d like them to be. What works in the comfort of Wayne Enterprises laboratories reaps dire consequences out in the field (hence the title) and I’m a fan of Bruce’s character building at the end.

“I’m willing to put my life on the line to do what I have to. But it has to be mine; no one else’s.”

The story also expands here with the inclusion of industrialist Ronald Marshall into the plot and Batman’s takedown of both the Russian and Maroni. What’s great here is that Batman is depicted with a very human soul, going so far as to rush one of the goons he’s dispatched to the hospital after Fox’s new device caused harm.

The art direction here is also tremendous, especially in Fox’s lab and the editing work on the battle aboard the ships in the harbor is stylistic and sweeping without losing momentum; no easy feat.

In the long run, “Field Test” can be argued as one of the more forgettable of the six, but it holds up for me personally.

“In Darkness Dwells”

For many, including myself, “In Darkness Dwells” is one of the strongest shorts in the collection. Given that “Gotham Knight” was conceived as a potential bridge between “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” narratively, it makes perfect sense given that this one was written by “Begins” and “Knight” screenwriter David Goyer. The short features the most connection to “Begins” with Batman and Gordon discovering a kidnapping that ties back to the Scarecrow, who’s been missing since Ra’s Al Ghul’s Fear Toxin attack on the Narrows.

Directed by the duo of Yasuhiro Aoki and Yuichiro Hayashi, the short is also aesthetically synchronized to “Begins” right down to the color scheme of earthy ambers, yellows and browns so clearly inspired by Wally Pfister’s cinematography.

Aside from the visuals, what stands out here most distinctly for me is the atmosphere of Batman’s search through the sewers and abandoned subway stations in search for Crane, discovering none other than Killer Croc in the process. I love moments of Batman where it’s made clear that the majority of what he does is neither enjoyable nor glamorous. As much of a fan as I am, I’d never want to be Batman; to the credit of the character, he wouldn’t wish his life on me either.

From my perspective, “In Darkness Dwells” is really a depiction of Batman from James Gordon’s point of view. This is in juxtaposition with “Crossfire.” In “Crossfire,” the police interpret him as a much broader, less defined figure and someone who is very clearly operating outside the law. Here, that doubt and disconnect still lingers but given Gordon’s closer ties, we’re given facts that the other members of the force might not be aware of, such as Batman’s technological and intellectual prowess, and while there’s a mutual understanding that the law is being glossed over, Gordon is learning to look the other way given the equally important understanding that Gotham’s infrastructure is steeped in enough corruption to make Batman a necessary evil.

The action of Batman’s combat with the gassed masses in Scarecrow’s subterranean sanctuary is awesome (love the moment where Batman gets right in the face of a goon with enough controlled force to blast a gust of wind in his face before hoisting him up and taking him out) and how he retrieves the kidnapped Cardinal O’Fallon is as explosive and ingenious a plan as any, reminiscent of how Batman would get out of situations at the last second in the 40s film serials.

“Working Through Pain”

At first, I was naively uninterested in this short more than any of them. Fortunately with time, that has quickly changed and Brian Azzarello's material is now among my favorite for the character, so much so that “Working Through Pain” got me interested in reading his comic contributions.

Here we’re given a developed flashback to Wayne’s time abroad, specifically the time spent in India under the tutelage of village outcast Cassandra as Bruce sought a means for learning the metaphysics of enduring and controlling pain receptors. This idea is especially potent given how many variations of pain can be discussed with a character like Batman.

The perspective on the character falls in a more ambiguous place; to me its split between Cassandra, acting as a collective conscious of all the mentors Bruce sought out in his travels, and Bruce himself. Unlike the public façade of “Field Test,” Batman is personified here through the eyes of Bruce in his most disciplined form; that of the student, the warrior, man seeking the means to hone himself to the peak of human potential.

As was also speculated in “Batman: The Animated Series” episodes such as “Night of the Ninja” and “Zatanna,” as well as comic books like “The Man Who Falls,” we’re once more given a tale of Bruce’s training and the concept that his only agenda in that training is to acquire the necessary skills for his pilgrimage back to Gotham, not to necessarily complete or succeed in it. It’s made clear that Cassandra sees Wayne as a failure when he so blatantly resorts to violence in a scenario where he didn’t have to and this idea goes to great lengths to illustrate that this is still a young dark knight that we’re dealing with.

What I also especially love about this installment is the score by composer Kevin Manthei; it’s far more understated and less heroically imposing as the other music in the piece and it, along with the short itself, is a testament, like “Begins,” to the fact that Wayne himself is as fascinating and layered a character as his masked alter ego.

In a piece that isn’t populated by costumed rogues, the material is allowed to breathe and focus on our protagonist; a practice that is very refreshing given that Batman’s villains tend to overshadow our hero on most occasions.

Yes, I find the villains exceedingly intriguing. But in a mythology that is ripping at the seams with men and women who’ve adopted dual identities and disguises, it’s important to always remember that Bruce Wayne, as a character, was the first of this breed. If the costumed personas of Gotham City are a species unto themselves, Batman is the catalyst to all of it and should be treated with as much interest and fascination as the rest of them.

I loved the moment at the end and what it represents; seeing Batman weighed down by an armful of weapons (i.e. violence) and unable to pull himself out of the depths is extremely befitting of the character’s psychological fracture and a provocative image built upon his long-documented hatred of firearms from the comic books.

Also, fun fact: while the Batmobile makes two other appearances in “Gotham Knight,” including “Field Test” and “Deadshot,” the design here, in a complete moment of fan elation, is obviously based on Anton Furst’s Batmobile from the Tim Burton films. LOVE that!



Great to see this collection of shorts go out with a bang.

Pardon the pun.

The most clear-cut, action-oriented piece of the puzzle, Jong-Sik Nam and Alan Burnett’s “Deadshot” completes “Gotham Knight” on a dazzling artistic note utilizing the premiere animation style that was at the forefront of the marketing push for the film, depicted more than any of the others. It’s a good call; Batman himself looks his absolute best here, commanding and ominous in his stature as he races to foil a speculated  assassination attempt on Gordon at the hands of notorious marksman-for-hire Floyd Lawton, otherwise known as Deadshot.

The motif of seeing Batman from the points of view of other characters falls slightly apart here and in its place we’re really just given more of a typical narrative than anything. I suppose one could see it as detailing Batman through the eyes of Deadshot himself, which is an extension for the criminal element that’s hired him as opposed to society, the authorities, or Bruce Wayne himself.

The action is pulse-pounding to say the least. The centerpiece of the train fight is operatic and gorgeous both in its art direction and pacing. I’m usually not the biggest fan of slow motion in action, preferring to keep kinetics heightened in such a scene, but that shot of Batman descending upon Deadshot and using his gauntlet to decimate his wrist-cannon is beautiful.

What also stands out for the short is the concept of faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth aiding Batman in his crime fighting endeavors from the command post of the Batcave; an idea that has played repeatedly throughout the mythology and, in terms of media, most notably in “Batman Returns” and “The Dark Knight.” Just as “Field Test” and “Working Through Pain” remind the viewer of how important Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox are to the upkeep of the Batman persona, respectfully, “Deadshot” affords the same care and attention to Alfred and the lengths he must go to in order to do his part.


Collectively, “Batman: Gotham Knight” is a tremendous creative force that propels the idea of Batman being such an enduring character that he can translate to any and all forms of art, entertainment and interpretation. Hell that happened in and of itself within the context of these shorts alone portraying the character in a variation of artistic styles in one piece.

Traditionally, my passion for anime hasn’t been as feverish as others I know. I was first introduced to the art styling of Japanese animation through titles like “Astro Boy,” “Gatchaman,” “Speed Racer” and eventually properties like “Dragonball” and “Mobile Suit Gundam.”

These days, beyond “Gundam” and revered titles like “Akira” or “Cowboy Bebop,” I’m not as involved as I once was. Perhaps “Gotham Knight” is a means of returning to the style. Anime is certainly beautiful in its own right and to not see and acknowledge that would be irresponsible on my part.

If the style and tone fits, it has an incredible power and it’s visually very striking when compared to American animation.

Seeing this approach taken with a property like Batman just seems to fit so well, certainly better than a character like Superman ever could.

I’d highly recommend “Gotham Knight” to Batman fans and anime and art enthusiasts alike.


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