Every other blog in the world is doing it, so we figured we would join in as well! Over the course of the next 12 days, we’ll be posting six different series or movie recommendations. (why six and not 12? Because we’re not made of time. Get off our lawn, you darn kids!) Despite what this first post is going to cover, these aren’t necessarily going to be about movies or shows you might usually expect out of us. This is just a nice little way to get off topic and introduce people to shows and stuff that we enjoy beyond the world of tokusatsu. Of course there are still a few tokusatsu shows that we’ll cover, but we’re trying to stick to content you don’t typically expect out of RST.
Before we dive into the deep end, I wanted to cover something that might be familiar ground but still provides you with something a little out of the ordinary. You should all know by now that we like to cover comic books from time to time here at Rising Sun Tokusatsu, but we’ve never covered the shows to too deep of an extent. Inui’s covered Superman vs the Elite and The Dark Knight Rises in the past, but those are both movies, so that prompted me to try introducing people to an actual TV series. The choice was a difficult one, but, like I said, this is about showing people some of the other stuff we’re into and I thought keeping it in familiar territory for the first couple of posts might be a good idea.
Reinvention is one of the key aspects to any long lasting property. If you introduce people to the same product over and over, they’ll eventually get tired of it and lose interest in what you have to offer. This is the reason Man of Steel is going in such a different direction from Superman Returns. Returns was a movie made in the spirit and style of the previous films and, sad to say, the general pubic didn’t want that. Those movies were from a different era and people were expecting something fresh which, regardless of your stance on Nolanfication, Man of Steel is going provide audiences with. After nearly 15 years straight of doing his shows as straight laced and dark, it was decided that Batman needed to be a little more colorful and bring a fresh perspective into the property, thus, The Brave and the Bold was born.
Perhaps “fresh” isn’t the word I want to go for here, but I think it fits. Batman was seen as this campy character for such a long time thanks to that era from the 60s and 70s in comics and shows like Adam West’s live action Batman series. Since the Tim Burton movies, Batman as a property moved into this dark and gritty world. The earlier episodes of the early 1990s Batman series covered Batman’s super villains, no doubt, but they also did something that no other Batman series had ever done – they showed Batman as a detective. For the first time on screen we were able to witness why Batman is considered such an amazing hero even though he has no super powers, it’s because he’s a brilliant mind. It’s an approach that worked and kept on working. Throughout four Batman shows, we followed a more straight forward story played with serious conviction. This worked great, but after some time, you do need change. The Brave and the Bold was that change.
This series drew its inspiration from a comic series of the same name and formula. Each episode showcases Batman dealing with some new threat alongside one of the greatest heroes in the world. It’s almost like Justice League Unlimited – only you’re keeping the main cast down to just Batman, but you’re still introducing various heroes. There was no series spanning story and Batman is played as lighthearted, but still dry and witty. We even saw the return of a lot of those guest heroes in some really interesting and amusing stories. The Brave and the Bold actually holds the distinction of being the first series to animate Damian Wayne, Batman’s son, as well as cover the whole “lost in time” arc…in a certain manner.
The Brave and the Bold was a love letter to all of those older Batman comics and the idea that Batman was campy. When the earliest previews for the series came out, there were some angry fans. We were seeing what looked like this bright and campy Batman and after over a decade of a darker take on the character, long time fans weren’t happy. Then the show aired and a lot of people loved it. Despite its art style and what the campy take might have you believe, The Brave and the Bold is a solid series. It’s played with conviction in its goofiness and this allows for some very smart writing and joke telling. There were many episodes that served as commentaries, even as direct jabs to the previous series The Batman, about the state of merchandise shilling in superhero properties. And, in a bit more of a loving tribute, the show also has some surprisingly heavy episodes – one in particular deals with Bruce facing the demons he has concerning the death of his parents.
Naturally not everyone was happy over the change, even after the show premiered. An episode later on in the show’s run even addresses this issue in the form of Batmite, a magical creature from another dimension who happens to be a huge fan of Batman and can bend reality to his own arbitrary whims. Oh that’s a fun sentence. The episode takes place in “our world” and features Batmite giving a speech at a convention, speaking about the different possible iterations of Batman thanks to long lasting popularity of the character. This magical reality-bending creature even ends up playing a large part in the end of the series, which I actually think is one of the best episodes to start with, despite it being the end of the series. Thanks to its episodic nature, you can’t really spoil yourself by watching the end of the show first, though that episode does have a very heartfelt send off.
The writing hits pitch perfect notes thanks to the amazing cast the crew was able to get together for the show. Diedrich Bader plays Batman in a very hammy and upright manner that isn’t embarrassing in any way. The show is aware of what it is, and it isn’t self-indulgent to the point of parody, but rather very sincere about what it’s trying to accomplish, which is providing you with a fun half hour of interesting humor and solid story telling. When something tries to recapture the audience it once entertained in childhood, there are two ways of going about it. One of those ways is stripping the show’s characters of a lot of their endearing qualities and trying to make itself into something you can watch while feeling like an adult. The other is The Brave and the Bold.
If you’re not sure where to start, I’d like to recommend a couple of episodes I think cover the show in all its greatest moments.
The episode focuses on two other worldly spirits – The Specter and the Phantom Stranger – making a bet over Batman’s soul when our hero discovers who the man that killed his parents is and has a chance to bring a permanent end to his crimes. This is also as close to an origin story as the show gets for Batman.
One of the most memorable aspects of this episode is that it provides us the very first animated appearance of Damian Wayne. The episode tries to tell the story of the Batman and Robin comic from a few years ago that follows Robin/Nightwing/Dick Grayson taking up the mantle after Bruce goes missing.
Complete with its own unique opening theme, this episode places the Joker as the hero. That’s all I’ll say about this very, very bizarre episode.
When Owlman, an alternate reality version of Batman, appears in Gotham City, steals Batman’s original suit, and goes on a crime spree, Batman must venture into different realities, gathering various incarnations of himself to fight and clear his name.
In this odd series finale of an episode, Batmite is growing tired of Batman. So what does Batmite do? Why, he’s going to try to get the show canceled by introducing crazy plot twists and gimmicks! Ranging from giving him more toys to having him fight a steam punk armored John Wilkes Booth, this episode makes for the perfect and most fitting possible series finale.