Growing up, I was never very into Batman. I remember watching Batman: The Animated Series and a bit of Batman Beyond in my childhood, but it never grasped me that way my favorite super hero cartoon, X-Men did. I didn’t really read comics at all until around high school even though I’d been into various adaptations up until that point, and even then, Batman never hooked me until I was in college. There’s something very adult about the Batman universe, at least in the older material, in that even the villains aren’t always that bad and even Batman’s armor isn’t as shiny as he believes. In newer material such as the Arkham videogames or the Dark Knight trilogy, they do push a very heavy emphasis on psychology but they still paint good and evil as very black and white concepts. I really miss this older materials blended of those colors into a neutral gray. We all have motives, and we’d like to think our causes are noble, but sometimes we aren’t on the right side, and it’s important that we learn to accept that about ourselves. Before I really get into things, I want to explain my use of the term “review” as opposed to “retrospective”. If you follow me on YouTube, you may have seen one of the videos in the Harvest Moon Retrospective series I’m working on, or if you’ve read any of my articles on NintendoFuse, I tend to call it a retrospective when I look at an older game. In a retrospective, you look at the subject through a modern lens. Retrospectives are often much more lenient and focus on nostalgia. In spite of its age, I’m not doing this with BTAS. As this is the first time I’ve watched the series as an adult, I’m looking at it through a purely critical lens. I’ll be reviewing this series one season at the time, and including the two movies, but for now, let’s talk about season 1.
Let’s just get the negatives out of the way first, and I’ll be honest, there aren’t many at all. With very few exceptions, BTAS has no story progression. Each episode is pretty to itself and you can really enjoy them in any order you want to. There are some inconsistencies here and there, for example in episode 1, “On Leather Wings” Commissioner Gordon and his men are after Manbat. They’re totally unaware of who or what Batman is and confuse the two. In subsequent episodes, with no given explanation, they’re perfectly aware of him and he and Gordon are great friends. Perhaps the biggest example of this is that is Episode 2, “Christmas With the Joker”. This is a Christmas special type of episode featuring Batman and Robin despite the fact that Robin got no introduction and doesn’t appear again until the final episode of the season, “Dreams in Darkness”. It isn’t a huge detriment, as each episode is basically a complete 3 act short story, but some consistency would be nice and help with immersion.
In spite of its age, BTAS is still very entertaining and I think part of this is because it’s such an influential part of the Batman universe. This show introduced Harley Quinn, who is now a huge cash cow for DC, and even rewrote some characters stories. Mr.Freeze in particular reaped the benefits here. The animation style as well as the writing is just so iconic that Batman wouldn’t be the same if this hadn’t happened Kevin Conroy is the best Batman voice I’ve ever heard, and the gruffness doesn’t sound forced at all. Likewise, Mark Hamill is the best joker of all time. I’ve always been a fan of the Ledger Joker as well, but Hamill is the perfect fit and you just can’t get those facial features without the help of animation.This show oozes with atmosphere, from the landscapes to the soundtrack. BTAS is the quintessential essence of what is Batman, and while I kind of want to go back in time and kick my 8 year old self for not liking it more, I also acknowledge that the majority of episodes were not aimed at me back them. Despite the stigma in the west that animation is for children (which is ridiculous), BTAS is very clearly written for an adult audience and even tackles some subject matter such as domestic abuse, and even feminism, which is pretty bold for its time
Out of the 28 episodes that comprise season 1, the majority of them are bordering on perfect. Of particular interest, “Heart of Ice”, “Two Face” parts 1 and 2 and “Pretty Poison” should absolutely not be skipped. Surprisingly, most of the Joker episodes are lackluster and unimportant. With the exception of the ever iconic “Joker’s Favor”, every Joker episode is pretty boring, unimportant and seems to target a younger audience. Overall I think this series is timeless, and rather you want to relive your memories or you’re just starting to get into the Batman universe it’s still a treat 24 years later. You can track down a hard copy on DVD for around $15 and it’s also available for steaming on both Amazon video and YouTube. It’s also pretty easy to pirate, but don’t blame me if a masked vigilante crashes through your window and kicks you in the face. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, I just don’t wanna take responsibility for that shit.