Sunday, July 13, 2008

Batman: Gotham Knight review

Here it is, after two long years, View From Heaven finally has a new anime review! With it you will also notice a new anime banner style. For example:

Old Banner style

New Banner style

I'm still debating whether or not I should make new banners for all animes, even though I know I really should. Anyways, back to why I'm here. I finally got around to purchasing a new anime, it may not be what you'd expect, but it's anime no less. I really enjoyed the Gotham Knight shorts, and i hope you check this review out. Its not like you've read a new VFH Anime review in the last two years right?

Note: The review only focuses on the anime aspect of the set, so nothing about the featurettes on Bob Kane or Batman's Villians in noted, nor are the 4 episodes of Batman The Animated Series, it is strictly the anime part.

Batman: Gotham Knight review - Classic VFH

UPDATE (3/22/10) VFH Classic is dead; while this review was unrestorable from the web, I luckily somehow had it saved on my computer:

The third of the DC Universe direct-to-video series, Batman: Gotham Knight is different because it is a series of six short anime films. Each story is by buy a different artist, writer, and staff; with four studios contributing. The studios are Studio 4°C, Production I.G., Bee Train, and Madhouse; with Studio 4°C and Madhouse providing two shorts each. Each segment has a completely different style, but some consistencies are had. For instance, there is a constant story of a power struggle between Italian and Russian mafias, elements and characters of the story appear with in each short, and the voice cast is consistent; with Kevin Conroy ,who voiced Batman/Bruce Wayne in The Animated Series, reprising he role.Instead of covering the film as a whole, I will review it short by short.

Have I Got A Story For You
From Studio 4°C, this first is probably the most creative of the shorts. The story is about how three kids tell their encounters with Batman to a fourth character. Each story creates a different image of Batman; the first being a demonic shadowy figure, the next almost emulating Man-Bat, and the last being a robot. But Batman himself soon crashes in, and smoke fills the room, and the only one who can see Batman is the fourth kid. The direction was very similar to an episode of The Animated Series, "Legends of the Dark Knight". I happened to really enjoy this one because of the variety and style, which makes it much different from the rest.
Score: 9/10

From Production I.G., this follows two cops from Gotham City Police Department's Major Crime Unit (MCU), Crispus Allen and Anna Ramirez. Both are leery of Batman's activity, with Crispus persisting that The Bat is a vigilante, where Anna wants to defend him. Lt. Gordon sends the two out to bring in a criminal, and they soon find them selves in the middle of a fire fight between the Italians and Russians. This one was decent, and it is important as it introduces Lt. Gorden, Crispus, Anna, and the Italian Mafia (led by Sal Moroni) and the Russian Mob (led by a man known as "The Russian"), all of which play important roles in the later shorts. As for the portrayal of Batman, this one is much more traditional, but you don't see too much of him to really get a feel for him.
Score: 6/10

Field Test
From Bee Train, this film focuses on Bruce Wayne more so than Batman. It starts out with Bruce and Lucius Fox testing out a new electromagnetic weapon, with the capability of deflecting bullets. Bruce decides to first use it out on the golf course, in order to make his opponent look bad. After receiving a tip about the Italians and Russians out at sea, he dons his Bat suit and pursues the ships. After rounding the groups together, he grabs old of the two bosses and demands they settle their differences. All is well, but one grunt doesn't gets the message and fire, but with Batman's new gadget the bullet ricochets and hits a nearby thug. It's hear that Batman's human side comes in and rushes the man to the hospital. He later decides that he must put his own life on the line, and no one else's, leaving the gadget behind. It was nice to get to see Bruce for a change, thought hearing Conry trying to sound younger seemed a little forced. The Bat suit of this short is also a little strange, with a beak-like mask and oversized chest plate.
Score: 6.5/10

In Darkness Dwells
From Madhouse, this is probably the darkest film of the set. It portrays Batman as a stout, grumpy, demon-like man, almost contrary to all other portrayals of him in the film. Batman is given word of an 8 foot tall reptilian like creature lurking the sewers, and he believes Scarecrow's toxin gas is causing whatever the creature is, to act this way. Soon after his exploration of the sewers, Batman is attacked by an infected Killer Croc, who bites Batman and injects the Scarecrow's toxins into him. Woozy, he persists on through the sewers, and hears chants being led by the Scarecrow, and sees the group has held a Cardinal hostage. Batman confronts the Scarecrow, blowing up the sewers, and saves the hostage. It was nice to see a short that really referenced Batman Begins in story, even if it didn't do so visually. The dark portrayal of the characters also made it feel closer to Batman Begins.
Score: 7.5/10

Working Through Pain
The second film from Studio 4°C, this starts of with an injured Batman trying to escape the sewers, and realizing he has been wounded in his abdomen. As he tries to heel it, he is overcome with pain and recalls a time when he was aiding a wounded man, and rethinks of how he overcame his pain. It is here he remembers when he was in India, and he met with a spiritual woman named Cassandra. He wanted her to teach him way to overcome pain, but he then learns that he can never escape it. Back as Batman, he persues back to the surface, and gives Alfred a call. But while still in the sewer he starts to find guns, including one thrown in there during Field Test. I personally really liked this portrayal of Batman, because it really shows that he can suffer the same pain as everyone else. I also really and enjoyed the single tone coloring style used, especially in contrast with the heavy black tones of Madhouse's work. I also felt the Indian setting was a nice change from the slums of Gotham.
Score: 9.5/10

The second film from Madhouse and finale of this collection, this focuses of the short's titular character, Deadshot, a hired assassin. Cut to Wayne Manor, where Bruce is studying he new found gun collection, and discusses with Alfred of how he refuses to use guns, but can understand their appeal. We then find out that Deadshot is hired by the Mafia to take out Lt. Gordon is order to get Batman's attention. Thanks to Batman, he misses Gordon, but still gets his chance at Batman. They duke it out on a high speed train, and when Deadshot's tool of destruction are ruined, he's left helpless, and Batman rides off. This certainly was the story that Warner wanted to focus on, as it is used on the cover on released versions of the film. And it certainly is the most traditional looking Bat suit of the entire series of shorts. However I personally did like like the art style used, as it just didn't work that well on human characters. But at the same time this was a very good culmination to the set, and should flow well into The Dark Knight.
Score: 8/10

Final Thoughts
Batman: Gotham Knight is the first ever DC Universe anime, and it certainly stands out amongst the other DC animated projects, as there's just nothing like it. And what makes this different from Warner's previous anime project, The Animatrix, is the fact that Gotham Knight follows a consistent story. So that even with an entirely different team working from film to film, the story flows really well, and characters seem to evolve. It creates a great sense of variety while still keeping it self together. It's a must buy for Batman and anime fans alike. Even if you aren't a fan of anime, but like Batman, this is a great way to get you to appreciate the medium.

Overall: 8/10

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