Batman: Year One
Synopsis: Billionare Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City after being gone for years. Meanwhile, Jim Gordon arrives in Gotham, becoming a police lieutenant in the corrupt force. Wayne trains himself to fight crime, donning a bat suit to strike fear in criminals. When Gordon is blackmailed for having an affair, he has to admit it to his wife. Mobsters and policemen alike try to take down the Batman, but he avails, and Wayne even saves Gordon's son. Batman forms a bond with Gordon.
Maybe you're wondering why I'm reviewing a cartoon that isn't Japanese. Well, come on, I've reviewed non-anime before and this is Batman.
Batman: Year One is one of my favorite Batman stories, written by Frank Miller before he went completely insane. I own a copy of the collected version. It's my favorite version of Batman's origin. The art was bold and memorable and the story really brought me into the heads of its two focuses (Wayne and Gordon). When I discovered that they were making a movie of it, I was estatic.
The story chronicles the conception of the Batman from the mind of an impatient, but determined man looking to chip away at the crusty city of crime. It also follows another man, trying to cope with being thrown in with corrupt authority while maintaining his own. You really get a feeling of Gordon's frustrations and pains. Gordon is the most human character in this story, and it's easy to symapthize with him even when he does below the board things to cope. By the end, you understand why he forms a bond with Batman.
The story sees the beginning of Batman's crimefighting career, a dry run for Bruce before he finds his motif, his struggle to even stop a pack of teens, how he effects organized crime more and more. I think it's also important to note that the climax sees Bruce without the suit and yet ready to risk his life to rescue a child. There's actually not a lot of Bruce as Batman in this feature, and yet it doesn't feel like a waste. It only strengthens the human element of the narrative when Bruce, caked in mud and filth, hands over Jim's child. He's a man who isn't afraid of getting dirty to save the innocent.
The performances by the voice cast were solid. It's no surprise when Andrea Romano (Batman: The Animated Series, Avatar: The Last Airbender) did the voice direction. Ben McKenzie's Batman sounds like a slightly younger version of Kevin Conroy's. Bryan Cranston's Jim Gordon is very world-weary but earnest. The others do quite well, even if some characters are little more than guest stars. (I noticed Steven Blum as Stan, a pimp!)
The art style is reminiscent of the second season of The Big O. That is, quasi-BTAS, but tweaked a little. It's similar to the comic art by David Mazzucchelli. It looks good. The animation is decent, too, without any conspicious CG and being fairly smooth. The soundtrack is fine, if a bit forgettable most of the time. It's all in all an excellent example of Batman in animated form. But I won't be throwing away my copy of the comic to replace with this. I'll be adding it as a supplemental.
4.5 out of 5