[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=1024[/img]Starring: Kevin Conroy, Jason Marsden, David McCallum
Directors: Yasuhiro Aoki, Futoshi Higashide, Toshiyuki Kubooka, Hiroshi Morioka, Jong-Sik Nam, Shoujirou Nishimi
Studio: Warner Home Video
Production Year: 2008
Length: 76 minutes
Remember the Animatrix? It was a multi-episode anime disc that cashed in on the Matrix Reloaded frenzy back in ’03. Batman: Gotham Knight arrived at the height of the Batman frenzy prior to the theatrical release of Christopher Nolan’s second installment, The Dark Knight.
Rumors across the Internet say the six stories of Batman: Gotham Knight take place chronologically between Nolan’s Batman Begins and Dark Knight. But I’d prefer to consider them unrelated stories. They’re a collection of uniquely Japanese perspectives of the caped crusader. The six stories were all created by masters in the Japanese animation circuit. In a nod to Bruce Timm’s classic Batman: The Animated Series of the 1990’s the Dark Knight himself is voiced by Kevin Conroy.
Have I got a Story for You: Kids recall their eyewitness accounts of Batman that day. The tales intertwine to tell a short story. Each child has a completely different impression of the crime fighter providing different visualizations of the character as each kid spins his (and her) yarn.
Crossfire: This episode is produced by Japan’s Production I.G. that produced some of the best Japanime seen such as Ghost in the Shell and Blood. Gotham Detectives Allen and Ramirez are tasked with transporting a prisoner. If you Dark Knight yet you may remember Ramirez from the film.
Field Test: One of the best of the bunch, this one features Lucius Fox, the Q-like character played by Morgan Freeman. In this episode Batman tests out a new high-tech gadget and ends up in a distinct moral dilemma over the gadget’s effectiveness.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=1021[/img]In Darkness Dwells: This one is closer to what you might expect from one of Bruce Timm’s Batman yarns in the animated series from the 90s. This one is more of a straight-up showdown with famed villains Killer Croc and Scarecrow.
Working Through Pain: This episode is a surreal tale featuring Batman flashbacks to some of Bruce Wayne’s initial training. In the days when he was a world traveler picking up far eastern disciplines to make himself stronger Wayne apparently sought the advice of a female sage who taught him how to ignore pain.
Deadshot: Easily the best of the bunch. This episode shows Batman in a manhunt with sniper of supernatural accuracy out to assassinate Commissioner Gordon. It features the proto-typical Japanese anime posing in some of the fight scenes.
The only regret I have with the entire production is that the 76 minute run time of all the episodes back-to-back is far too short. It succeeded in leaving me wanting more.
Special Features: :4stars:
The Blu-ray disc contains all the extras found on the 2-disc DVD version of this Warner release. All the special features appear in standard definition.
Batman: The Animated Series: (79 minutes)
The disc includes four episodes of the remarkable Batman: The Animated Series from the 90s. This series has one of the best opening sequences in any animated series, I often hear that music and the roar of the jet powered Bat-Mobile at random and inappropriate times in my life. The animation is drawn by Bruce Timm and the voice of Wayne and the bat is that of the now legendary Kevin Conroy. As good as the series is the standard def transfer is comparatively horrible.
Audio Commentary: You can watch the feature accompanied by the voices of DC Comics Senior VP of Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck, former Batman comic editor Dennis O’Neil and Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman himself.
Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story: (39 minutes) Documentary of the life of Bob Kane, creator of the Batman. A great feature for any bat-fan, it’s filled with interviews from notable Bat-personalities including various artists and writers through the ages.
A Mirror for the Bat: The Evil Denizens of Gotham City: (36 minutes) Documentary on the villains from Batman. This one is a nod for the comic book junkies, it’s a study of the various enemies of the batman through his illustrious career as a crime-fighter.
Wonder Woman Sneak Peek: (11 minutes) Nothing more than a teaser – advertisement of an upcoming Wonder Woman animated feature. To tell you the truth… and I have no choice while wrapped up in the WW’s rope, it actually it looks pretty good.
So, you’re serious about your Batmania and you’re asking yourself do I buy the DVD and save a few bucks or do I spring for the Blu-ray. Well… if you have a large screen you might want to consider the Blu-ray version. It’s a noticeable step up from the standard-def DVD but still not as good as some animation I’ve seen on Blu-ray. There was some visible banding in some scenes where objects move or the camera pans quickly. Overall it’s sharp offers deeper black than the DVD. But not quite up to bigger budget Blu-ray releases.
English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0
German: Dolby Digital 2.0
Yeah, you read it right – no TrueHD! In fact there are no hi-res audio tracks included. Good thing the standard vanilla Dolby Digital soundtrack is just so darned good! It’s proof that extra effort in the production stages can sometimes make up for a lesser format.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=1023[/img]I’m a sucker for a super-hero epic and I happen to like (but no love) anime. These retellings of the Batman are exactly the kind of things that you might seen in the pages of DC Comics and its non-linear universe. Unlike Marvel that keeps its stories tightly coherent with the rest of its universe (except for its departures like New Universe and Ultimates etc) Batman has experienced many different incarnations over the decades. It’s should be no shock to fans to see the caped crusader re-imagined in many different styles.
Shortcomings in video and lack of hi-res audio format are made up for in storytelling and overall fine presentation. It's also got enough special features to keep fans of the Bat busy for a long and enjoyable time.
I think fans of the Nolan films will enjoy the features provided they’re open to watching moving drawings. But if your display is in the 30-inch range or lower you should probably not bother springing for the Blu-ray version and just save a few bucks and buy the DVD.