The Dark Knight Compromises (A Look Inside the Anime Industry)

Here’s something I bet you weren’t wondering at all about: What, if any, sacrifices did D.C. Comics and Warner Bros. have to make to get the Gotham Knight anime made? You might have thought, since Warner Bros. has a large pile of money and had certainly handed it to the Japanese anime studios to create the six shorts that will make up the DVD, no sacrifice would need to be made. Let me assure you that is not true. I’ve been a pretty ardent supporter of anime, but after dealing with anime studios for the last six or so years, that kind of reasonable thinking will get you nowhere.
For instance, in the recent Gotham Knight press release, it’s revealed that the scriptwriters for the shorts are Americans, including comics writers Greg Rucka and Brian Azzarello, screenwriters David Goyer and Alan Burnett, and The Dark Knight producer Jordan Goldberg.

Japanese direct hate hate HATE not having script control, and generally refuse to work on projects where they are creating everything themselves, no matter how large a pile of money has been offered, Generally, most U.S. companies that wanted an anime made by name directors had to let them do whatever they want, and just hope for the best (e.g., Animatrix, the Highlander anime). So I was not surprised to see the list of directors for the six shorts in the same press release (over on ANN):

The directors are Shoujirou Nishimi (Mind Game key animator, Tekkonkinkreet character designer and overall animation director), Futoshi Higashide (Giant Robo key animator, Saber Marionette J animation director), Hiroshi Morioka (.hack//SIGN unit director, Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE co-director), Yasuhiro Aoki (Animatrix’s “Beyond” key animator, Tweeny Witches director) and Toshiyuki Kubooka (Gunbuster chief animation director, Giant Robo character designer).

Recognize any of those names? I don’t, and I was paid to know ’em for about five years.

I don’t think there’s any reason for Batman fans to worry?the fact that D.C. is using the U.S. scriptwriters probably means there won’t be any of the six shorts that’s too awful (although it likely precludes an anime masterpiece as well). If D.C. had gotten folks like Oshii to direct the shorts, they would have lost any creative control, and we’d likely be getting two awesome but incomprehensible shorts, and four pieces of artsy nonsense. Besides, the animation itself will still be terrific no matter who directs it, since it’s all being made by Production I.G, Studio 4C and Madhouse.

I bring this all up because I wanted to point out 1) why no-names are directing the most important anime of the year (at least in America), 2) I think D.C. and Warner Bros. made the right call, and 3) that the really good Japanese creators’ need for total artistic control is costing both Japan and the U.S. some really awesome opportunities.