Batman of Shanghai

Since the setting is during the early 1930’s of Shanghai, I find it very fitting to have the entire short be done with washed out, unsaturated colors…and the lack of  detailed shading on some areas/characters also helps to create a look that is similar to watching a painting on paper come to life. Though it has a very linear storyline that only consists of “retrieving the scroll from the antagonists”, this fast-paced animation by Wolf Smoke that is characterized by its smooth flowing calligraphy brushed action lines during the fight scenes was really a delight to watch!

Though she’s not in her usual sleek black spandex suit, there is still a feminine grace to Catwoman even when dressed with whimsical props like a cat hat and tail. This version of her shows off her speedy fighting prowess, as well as sheer dexterity with a whip; anyone pursuing her soon gets the hint that even as a thief running in plain daylight, she is more than able to fend for herself when she is cornered and unable to sneak around. (She also somehow manages to not trip or fall to the ground once even with heels, which further elaborates on that dainty but skillful nature of hers that doesn’t convey any level of “damsel in distress”).

I really like that Bane starts off with a scrawny appearance, if only because it shows off that subtle smart side of him being able to disguise himself in public as a (mostly normal) looking guy who doesn’t even have the strength to pull a cart. He does let irritation overtake him however, and as he transforms into a much bigger and muscular juggernaut, it was mostly brawn, and not the charisma found in Christopher Nolan’s (or in other installment’s) Bane, that crushes the police force and even his own ally. Even though the brains that make Bane so famous is not very apparent in this short, there is still a ruthlessness that surpasses the other henchman as he ends up with the scroll at the end of this scene. In this sense, he becomes a more formidable opponent than Catwoman when Batman finally comes into the scene.

Batman’s namesake in this last clip is not only metaphorical, but it is literal in the way that he is able to actually shapeshift into numerous bats. He still uses technology as weapons, and no “real” super powers in beating up Bane. However -and this isn’t often apparent in Batman canon- he also has a more supernatural side to him with eyes that glow (that doesn’t appear to be coming off a headset of some sort), and is made more obvious as he takes the scroll from both Bane and Catwoman and also literally dissipates into the night (no Batmobile…he just simply disappears).

And this unique creative freedom of something very well known is the kind of material that I wish Cartoon Network would work with more along with the ongoing Teen Titan shorts. The only thing that the short doesn’t quite cover here is revealing what the scroll would do exactly if it falls into the wrong hands of the gang, but this small bit missing doesn’t derail enjoyment or keep me from wishing that there would actually be a series with this animation quality and its stylish rendition of characters.

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