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Batman: Gotham Knight – Review

History is littered with mythical figures whose reputation has outlived their lives; Jack the Ripper, Crazy Horse, Cleopatra. We have been fascinated by the stories around these undying heroes, despite whether they are fact or fiction. Time has altered our perception of a local nobleman, and warped him into the eternal image of good that is Robin Hood. Stories have been developed over time and captured by our imagination, filling the history of the Knights Templar with a catalogue of intrigue. Storytelling is an integral part of human nature, and with any good story there is more than one definitive version. In fiction however these mythical figures are rare – whereas history was told through word of mouth for generations, literature is written and unchanged from the first print. However in Batman – Gotham Knight we are presented with six varying images of the DC hero, and with them the challenge to attempt to decode who the legend really is.

Much like the Animatrix, these six short stories offer glimpses of the world and the characters that inhabit it: that world being Gotham, and at the centre of it, Batman. Each story is presented in a different art style, giving a unique flavour to every adventure. What stays consistent throughout is the quest to find out more about the Caped Crusader. The opening chapter Have I got a story for you is from the perspective of a group of young skaters, who each have their own version of Batman sightings to tell. Although writer Josh Olson is said to have based it on Frank Robbins’ The Batman Nobody Knows there is a strong reminder of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, in which a crime is retold from different points of view. In Olson’s tale we are presented with a selection of Batmen; demon who vanishes in thin air, a robot who can stop bullets, and a flying bat who decapitates his victims. Each sighting highlights, and exaggerates, Batman’s range of abilities. It sets the scene perfectly for the remaining five episodes, which continue to paint various images of the Dark Knight.

In episode two, Cross Fire, we are introduced to the perspective of the Gotham Police, who mistrust this mysterious vigilante, only to see Batman later as an almost spiritual saviour engulfed by flames as he rescues those same detectives. Whilst in the third instalment In Darkness Dwells, Batman the scientist is explored, an interest left to Mr Fox in Nolan’s films. However Mr Fox’s resemblance to Morgan Freeman is no coincidence, nor is Gordon’s to Gary Oldman. Indeed it was planned for the animation to fit nicely in-between the Batman Begins film and The Dark Knight. And fit they certainly do: Gotham is still struggling to rise from the gutter, mafia bosses run riot, and the sewers are home to the Scarecrow.

Although Gotham Knight is unable to offer the exciting action sequences of the Nolan films (indeed they fall rather short throughout the anime) were they do succeed is in offering up valuable insights into the man behind the mask, insights that we are mostly denied until the second half of the Nolan series. Bruce is voiced by Kevin Conroy of the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City videogames, and does a splendid job at presenting a man with weaknesses and regrets. The best of the anime is a later chapter, Working Through Pain, as a man in a batsuit is struggling to get out of a sewer – he’s not a saviour, not an immortal hero, not a undying crusader – just a weak man desperately trying to climb a ladder. It’s presented with such success that it wouldn’t be a surprise if it had inspired Nolan’s work.

When the credits role after around an hour and a half one line was left floating in the ether, and with it a greater understanding of who Batman was – not completely understanding, or even mostly, just a little bit more: here is a mythical figure who fights for justice, but is full of darkness. When Bruce tells Alfred, ‘It seems I’ve been trying to stop those two bullets all my life,’ it reveals more about his drive, his fear and his hope than any action scene possibly could. There are still questions left, and there always will be, but what kind of mythical figure would Batman be if there weren’t?

8/10

For more on Batman: Gotham Knight, check out the trailer below. For more things anime and videogames, stay tuned to KokuGamer.com

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