Saturday (Errr Thursday?) Morning Cartoons are back! This is one of the first series of articles I wrote here on TAY, and I thought it was high time to bring it back. The series is all about me re-visiting the shows that I watched as a kid to see if they hold up to the nostalgia that I had for them. This week we’re going to tackle one of THE most popular Saturday morning cartoons ever: Batman: The Animated Series.
For those of you who like to follow along, I watched five episodes: “On Leather Wings”, “Day of the Samurai”, “Robin’s Reckoning 1 & 2”, and “Mad Love”. I wanted to get a full breadth of the series and all of it’s different defining characteristics so I didn’t go remotely in order.
To start this series barely catered to kids at all, this was a dark, dark cartoon and it sparked my love for superheroes at an early age. I have an enormous love for the series and I wanted to see if it held up with age. I’m not going to bury the lead here it definitely does. They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore. “On Leather Wings” is where it starts with a cool noir vibe and a focus on Batman as a detective that so few other adaptations tap into it is one of the cooler episodes of the series. That it’s also the first episode of the series is also a nice plus to it. It doesn’t bother doing an origin story, but rather just throws you into batman stopping the Man-bat one of the more crazy colorful rogues in his gallery. They don’t really camp it up though and more play it as the werewolf story that it is, with all the pulpy goodness that goes with that.
“Day of the Samurai” was one of the sillier and more out of place episodes in the series. It featured Bruce Wayne going back to Japan to help out his old sensei save a kidnapped student. It leans HARD into the martial arts movie tropes and isn’t afraid to do so. The fact that Bruce trained in Japan on his way to becoming Batman is used in many adaptations, but rarely is it done in a way that pays homage to old martial arts movies as it is here. The episode is campy and relishes in it, climaxing with a fight on the edge of a volcano. Day of the Samurai is not one of the best episodes in the series, but it is certainly one of the more outlandish. The Miyagi-esque Yuro sensei, the forbidden martial art and the disgraced student out for revenge all lend to the fun and the over the top ending. If you’re going back to watch the show this is definitely one not to be missed.
Robin’s Reckoning was a two parter that introduced us to Robin as a character in the second season of the show and is one of the better episodes to define the character in any medium, BUT if you were going into this show not knowing the story of Batman and Robin, his anger doesn’t really feel earned or pack as much punch as it would have with at least some history behind the two’s work together. So yes, awesome episodes, but pretty awkward placement in the season if you ask me.
And finally, before this gets too long, “Mad Love”, you didn’t think you’d get outta here without at least one Joker episode did you? Mark Hamil’s Joker and Batman: The Animated Series’ invention Harley Quinn take center stage in this episode as it details just how abusive and twisted the two’s relationship really is. This is the near perfect episode, it really drives to the heart of two characters and at the same time delivers a satisfying Batman story.
One last thought before we go, they just don’t make music in cartoons like this anymore, the orchestral score is one of the absolute best things about the series and damn I wish they’d bring it back in cartoons.
What’s everyone else’s thoughts on Batman: The Animated Series? Love it? Hate it? Think I missed the best episode (insert episode here) ever? Let me know!