The 1990’s produced one of the best animated television shows ever to grace the Silver Screen, namely Batman: The Animated Series, produced by legendary comic book figures like Alan Burnett, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm for example.
It has been described as one of the closest non comic book adaptations of the Batman mythos, won numerous awards for its writing which was far more mature and thought-provoking than other animated shows of the time, and introduced its iconic visual style, dubbed Dark Deco by its creators.
Volume 2 in this DC Comics Classic Collection packs 28 episodes in over four discs, and as a result you are treated to a nice variety of Batman material versus a number of his greatest foes, as well as his interactions with the newly introduced Dick Grayson as Robin. Unfortunately, as it simply was done back in those days, each episode is self-contained with no overarching story or sometimes even real continuity to speak of, which does detract a little when watching it today, surrounded by the advances in writing for today’s animated fare. Nevertheless, the stories are compelling, action-packed and for the most part, thoroughly enjoyable, meaning an absolute toe-curling thrill for existing fans of the Bat.
Visually of course, Batman: The Animated Series stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of distinctive style, thanks to its art deco visuals, simple lines and very dark tone. However, it must be noted that its approach to place the series in a sort of a timelessness 1940’s-like bubble really does age it 20 years down the line, and unfortunately both the style and the animated objects look pretty dated and thus a little difficult to fully enjoy. Technology in particular suffers, with things like computers, servers and even telephones looking really silly.
Aurally however, Batman: The Animated Series still comes across as a powerhouse amongst animated television. With fantastic voice work from the likes of Kevin Conroy as the Batman/Bruce Wayne, Mark Hamil as the Joker, Bob Hastings as James Gordon and Adrienne Barbeau as Catwoman, and a fully scored orchestral soundtrack to back them up, Batman: The Animated Series sets the benchmark for how a rich, mature animated television show should sound.
In summary, Batman: The Animated Series is quite dated to watch nowadays, especially in the visuals department, but to be fair, you have to keep in mind that this series is basically 20 years old now! Once you have that notion in your head, you really can sit back and enjoy what truly is one of the best animated American television series ever to be produced, with strong writing, a distinct and enjoyable visual style, and a great musical score with voice acting to complement.
And then of course we mustn’t forget that iconic opening sequence and theme music!
It remains enjoyable and well worth picking up if you are a comic book fan or in particular, a Batman universe fan. As for the mileage for people not falling into either of those two categories – well I can’t say for sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the marked age of the show will count against it in their eyes.
Oh well, their loss! :)
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batman:_The_Animated_Series