The DC universe has inspired many adaptations, including anime.
There is a long list of anime films that take inspiration from DC Comics, but in order to find them, the definition of anime has to be stretched a bit in order to include Korean animation. Don’t worry though, this sort of stretch is warranted. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are simply too popular and too powerful to miss out on the anime buzz.
Readers already know that traditional anime are produced in Japan and often look to manga content for source material. They also know that it’s rare for traditional anime to use western comics as inspiration. Even switching source material can upset those who appreciate the purity of the Japanese art form. Still, for those readers willing to learn from Avatar: The Last Airbender, it has been made clear that in the new age, anime has become more than just a Japanese style of animation.
Black Star & The Golden Bat comes from an age of anime that had only just begun to feel the effects of globalization. While it is clear that the animation team behind Black Star & The Golden Bat was inspired by Batman’s character design as seen in DC comics, this film takes Batman’s character in an entirely different direction than western fans would expect from their Dark Knight.
Today, the line between what is and isn’t anime has become extremely blurry as more and more western production studios outsource their animation to Japan or Korea. Black Star & The Golden Bat proves that this line has always been a bit blurry. Even back in 1979, animators in Korea were borrowing from Japanese animation styles and Western source material.
Batman: Gotham Knight offers both anime and batman fans the chance to spend a bit more time in the universally respected Christopher Nolan Batverse. If the combination of Christopher Nolan’s Batman and anime isn’t enough to pull in viewers, perhaps an original villain known as the Man In Black will be.
On top of watching Batman battle a new high-tech villain, those who make the time for Have I Got A Story For You will meet four young bat fans who each tell a different version of the Batman legend. Each different story stretches the Batman mythos in different ways, pushing viewers to suspend their disbelief until they make it all the way through Batman: Gotham Knight.
This parody of the anime genre plays with the idea that inspired this list by including metacommentary in its plot about the outrageously priced intellectual property owned by DC. As the short anime film progresses, fans get the chance to see their favorite DC heroes colored in as beautiful anime characters before being reduced to sloppily adorable chibi sketches by the end of the movie.
Watching as the Eagle Talon Society races to stop the Joker before their limited animation budget runs out is hilariously entertaining. Of course, not every part of this anime is a joke. If the Eagle Talon Society is not able to stop Joker before they turn into stick figures, Japan could be plunged into Chaos, ruining any chance of seeing future anime adaptations of DC comic books.
After fans watch Batman take down the Man in Black in the first short anime film found in the Batman: Gotham Knight collection, they are left with two police officers who are tasked with escorting the new villain to Arkham Asylum. This short anime film puts fans in the middle of a debate on vigilante justice with Batman as the primary subject of debate.
Crossfire also does a great job of worldbuilding by explaining some of the changes between Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Even though the Batman: Gotham Knight anthology does not technically count as canon material, any new information on Nolan’s Gotham is welcomed.
Despite being a genius who fights crime without superpowers, Batman refuses to use his brain to upgrade his suit into the realm of supernatural performance like his Marvel equivalent, Iron Man. For those who can’t understand why Batman would limit his own performance when surrounded by characters like Superman and The Flash, Field Test is the perfect place to go looking for an answer.
This short anime film introduces an upgrade to the Bat Suit that uses electromagnetic waves to reflect bullets. By the end of the film, Batman is forced to return the new tech to Lucius Fox because it reflects bullets too well. Apparently just acting as a reflective surface to bullets is too close to wielding a gun for Bruce Wayne to justify.
The perfect crossover between DC comics and anime comes to viewers in the form of Batman Ninja. The animated film takes the bat family to Feudal Japan with an animation style that is unique even among other anime-inspired DC films and TV series.
Batman Ninja is the quintessential DC anime film. Fans of this film were not only treated to a Tim Drake top knot, but they also got to see the Joker, Two Face, and Poison Ivy wage war with giant self-piloted mecha-robots. On top of all this, the creator of Afro Samurai, Takashi Okazaki, worked on the character designs for Batman Ninja.
Killer Croc has always been a fan-favorite member of Batman’s Rogues Gallery but few can say that they have seen an anime version of Killer Croc. Even fewer can say they have seen an anime version of Killer Croc pop up in Christopher Nolan’s Batverse. Of course, fans who have seen the short anime film In Darkness Dwells can say that they have done both.
Working Through Pain puts Bruce Wayne through the psychological ringer in order to symbolically explain his descent into darkness. After Bruce is shot in the stomach while exploring Gotham’s sewer system, he cauterizes the wound before flashing back to his pain tolerance training overseas.
Watching as Bruce works through his pain by embracing the darkness is beautiful. That is until Bruce cuddles up next to a stash of firearms instead of reaching out for Alfred’s helping hand at the end of the short film.
Fans of powerful female protagonists in anime need to look no further than the Korean anime known as Galactic Warrior Wonder Princess. Though the Wonder Princess doesn’t appear in her own short film until roughly halfway through the plot, from the moment she pops on screen, it is made abundantly clear that she is based on DC Comics Wonder Woman.
Galactic Warrior Wonder Princess also serves as a prime example of an animation inspired and produced outside of Japan that still classifies as anime. The production team behind this anime worked in South Korea while the inspiration very clearly comes from the United States.
The rivalry between Deadshot and Batman offers up the perfect dichotomy between reasonable vigilantism and unreasonable vigilantism. It also serves as the perfect matchup to finish an anthology of anime shorts that work to explain why Bruce Wayne refuses to use guns when fighting crime.
Deadshot stands alone as an incredible anime adaptation of DC comic book characters, but it really shines as the final entry to the Batman: Gotham Knight anime anthology of films.
NEXT: 10 Times American Superheroes Went Anime
Andrew Tefft is a writer, reader, watcher, and gamer based in the United States. His nomadic lifestyle makes it difficult to pin him down, but his affinity with technology makes it easy for an audience to stay in touch! He’s worked in both the education and entertainment industries and now lends his writing talent to Comic Book Resources as a List Writer. Andrew grew up absorbing comic book material and debating the strengths of fictional characters with his siblings. Today he uses those skills to share his opinions of the strongest, smartest, and most resourceful anime and manga characters with the viewers of CBR.
The DC universe has inspired many adaptations, including anime.