🔖 6 min read

Batman: Gotham Knight is a deft exploration of the DC universe’s millionaire crime-fighting vigilante – with a twist. Airing in 2008 as a bridge between Batman Begins and the now-released megahit The Dark Knight, it is an additional look into the rise of Bruce Wayne in fame and infamy as he deals with criminals within Gotham City. It acts as an OVA (Original Video Animation) produced in six 12-minute episodes by multiple different animation studios. 

Having numerous productions gives the anthology series contrasting styles in each short episode. We have Madhouse (Death Note, Hunter X Hunter, One Punch Man), Production IG (Psycho Pass, Haikyuu), Bee Train (Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom), and Studio 4°C (Mahou Shoujo-tai Arusu) taking the reigns for the animation. 

With the release of the latest ‘The Batman’ film in theatres, we thought we’d take a look at the anthology series that reintroduced the Dark Knight to the world of quality animation.

Forget the Typical Main Characters

Bat-borg? Screenanarchy

It was a planned release around 2-4 weeks before The Dark Knight. Kevin Conroy, who was behind the voice of Bruce Wayne in many of the animated versions of Batman, reprised his role in this ‘Batman Anime’. Given the short run times of the episodes, don’t expect many of the popular mainline characters to be present here.

Meanwhile, the few familiar faces that are present, such as Gordon and Ramirez, don’t get much screen time which is understandable given the 12-minute Batman bursts. The villains are not too familiar, as the show focuses on themes that are not really present in mainstream Batman movies. 

Batman Gotham Knight: One of the best portrayals of Bruce Wayne

Bruce Wayne chill: Screenanarchy

What this mostly takes a deep dive into is the public’s perception of Bruce Wayne as a character within the city of Gotham. Discussing Batman from multiple vantage points gives us different and distinct looks at the deep and multi-level character that he is.

This fresh take puts our beloved bat into the lens of a microscope, whereas a broader and more traditional formula is more present in the movies. Although it is split into 6 parts, all the episodes’ are actually connected in one way or another, given the continuity of the main players throughout. 

Ep 1: Have I Got A Story For You

The first episode, Have I Got A Story For You is a great example of the main overarching theme that Batman Gotham Knight wants to discuss. It talks about Batman from the anecdotal stories of three friends within the city.

Their stories revolve around the vigilante battling the Man in Black, a high-tech jetpack operating robber. What makes this episode interesting is how the three friends all talk about Batman differently even if it is the same story.

One describes him as a shadow that can melt out and reappear back into combat, another as a half-man, half-bat species, and lastly as a combat robot that takes on foes with mechanisms such as the ability to jump high into the sky.

What makes their arguments interesting is how technically, they are all correct in their own ways and forms. Although their views are distilled, Batman’s technology and abilities can all be mistaken in these ways with their takes on the superhero.

This ends with an acquaintance of the three friends, B-Devil, experiencing this for himself, seeing to himself that Batman truly is only a man in a battle suit taking on crimes of his own accord.

Ep 2: Crossfire

The second chapter, Crossfire, then continues this story, as two detectives argue over the trustworthiness of Batman. Familiar faces are the main driving force behind this story, as Crispus Allen, Anna Ramirez, and James Gordon are all recognizable characters within the cinematic universe.

Allen argues with the two regarding the trustworthiness of Bruce Wayne; he wonders what his true motivations are to help the police force. Ramirez, on the other hand, stays by Batman, saying that regardless, Gotham has been better off with him anyway.

Later in the story, Batman puts Allen’s doubts to rest, as he rescues the pair of detectives after they butt heads with a Russian mafia leader. Although straightforward, this story picks apart the minds of some of the doubters of Batman, even if he’s seen simply as being of help to others. It also creates an interesting conflict between the two detectives who have different backgrounds.

Ramirez has been working for the detective corps and living in Gotham for many years, whereas Allen was a newly recruited detective. It goes to show the differing opinions of Batman from those who’ve come from outside Gotham versus those who’ve been directly impacted by his good deeds.

Ep 3: Field Test

Third, we have Field Test, which furthers the fact that Batman truly has a good and kind-hearted side. In an episode that results in Batman having a showdown against two Russian mobsters at once, one of them being from the previous episode, he shows his true character by taking an injured member from one of the squads to the hospital.

A bullet aimed at Batman instead hits one of the Russian’s men, and Batman is faced with the tough decision (not so tough as we are going to see) to save the man or not. As we will see, it is actually a no-brainer for our beloved superhero, as he takes the young man to care as soon as he can, and later says he is also willing to put his life on the line for what he has to do. 

Ep 4: In Darkness Dwells

Next, we have the most action-packed episode of the anthology, in the form of In Darkness Dwells. Taking place in sewers beneath Gotham City, this chapter is on the money in showing all of Batman’s abilities, as well as convictions.

Batman is seen zipping through the metal beams avoiding the rush of the water as he takes on multiple foes at one time. Using his different combat counters and martial arts skills, he whirrs and zooms from the top of the sewer to rescue the victim of the episode, an abducted pastor, as he risks life and limb for the purpose of helping him.

The main highlight of this episode are the set pieces and grungy feel of the environment and characters, as not much time is spent wasted on dialogue and exposition. More effort and resources are spent on the sequences that take place in the sewers, and for good reason.

Ep 5: Working Through Pain

The penultimate chapter is an episode that shows Batman’s mental fortitude, but how much value he puts on past experiences that shaped the person he is. Working Through Pain takes place right after the events of the previous chapter, having been shot on his way back through the sewers. 

Having to do first aid, he cauterizes the wound himself and recounts several experiences in the past that can help him deal with his current situation. Two experiences came to mind for Bruce: The first was a volunteer experience in Sudan during his college years where he had to assist in a surgery that did not have anesthesia, while the second was one where he remembers a girl who had to deal with the physical and mental pain of being cast out by society. 

From the first he learned how to physically handle the wound that he had just been afflicted with, and from the second he learned how to not only absorb and deal with damage from external sources, but the possible eureka moment that has led him to protect anyone and everyone. 

Presented in flashbacks,  this goes to further Batman’s physical, mental, and intellectual capabilities as a crime-fighting badass in the city of Gotham. After tending to his wounds and remembering why he was here in the first place, he goes , locked and loaded.

Ep 6: Deadshot

Finally, we have the endgame of the series called Deadshot, which is the final showdown for Batman against the titular main villain of the anthology. Aside from presenting Batman as the defender of society as we know, there is a nice little easter egg that dives deeper into his true motivations as a crime-fighting badass.

Continuing from his recollections from the previous episode, he comes to realize why he does what he does for the people of Gotham before taking out his last foe in the series. After all this, we are then treated to a visual spectacle, where the two clash on top of a moving steam train.

Batman was always going to be at a disadvantage because of Deadshot’s machine gun arm. It t was always going to be an uphill battle, and he is revealed to have sustained several potentially life-threatening injuries. However, he is able to overcome the odds because of his sheer drive and the courage he gained from his prior experiences and realisations: defeating Deadshot and showing why he is The Batman.

Final Words

We’re usually not the biggest fans of live-action adaptations of anime (Cowboy Bebop) but when it goes the other way it works!

Although you may think the episodes are a bit too short to build on anything, you may have a better experience if you watch all right after the other, as the stories are very much connected with each other. Treating them more as breaks, rather than standalone episodes would do them more good than bad.

More of a short seasonal show in bursts rather than an anthology, Batman Gotham Knight is a great case study into the character and inner workings of the mind of Batman.


About Ruel Butler

Ruel is what you would call an all-time Anime aficionado. Alliteration aside, Ruel enjoys collecting vintage photos of Tokyo.