Japan has made a few anthology films, but the three titles we’re going to list are very different mainly because they are based off Western media. And quite frankly, there are only 3 films like this in existence that are based off franchises/series from the West, so it’s not like we couldn’t list more than three movies here!
This sort of collaboration of East and West helps promote Western franchises to Japan by letting Japanese animation studios create stories based on those franchises by giving them the anime treatment, and, in turn, making them more appealing to a Japanese audience, and general fans of anything anime. And quite frankly, they should keep doing this sort of collaboration because, let’s be honest here, everything looks better as an anime.
Honey’s Anime will list the 3 anime anthology films based on Western media; so buckle up and let’s get to the meat of things!
3. Halo Legends
- Aired: ovember 7, 2009-February 16, 2010
Halo Legends is an anthology film featuring 7 short stories that are set in the Halo universe. Prominent Japanese animation studios were assigned to create their own visual interpretation of Halo, resulting in a varied collection of art style, storytelling while staying true to the Halo franchise, and retaining the familiar and iconic Halo soundtrack.
The Halo franchise is one of the most popular franchises in gaming history and a killer app for the Xbox gaming platforms. The thing is, Xbox consoles didn’t fare well in the Japanese market, because there were no games that appealed to a typical Japanese gamer. Add to that fact, Microsoft had to deal with two gaming giants namely Nintendo and Sony’s Playstation series of consoles. Maybe this was Microsoft’s attempt to get a foothold in Japan by letting the top animation studios in Japan. Or just maybe, anime is more flexible and offers more stylistic approaches to art, animation, and story. Besides, gamers are also (usually) anime fans and seeing their favorite video game getting an anime treatment, you’d get the best of both worlds. Oh yeah, Toei Animation did one of the stories in Halo Legends titled “Odd One Out” and it involves the spartan, two youths with Dragon Ball Z physics. Oh yes, you heard that right! Odd One Out is non-canon, obviously, but it’s one hell of a fun story!
2. Batman: Gotham Knight
- Aired: July 8, 2008
Much like Halo Legends, Batman: Gotham Knight is another anthology film based on DC Comic’s caped crusader and dark knight, Batman. The short stories revolve around the first two films of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy that featured a drearier, darker and a more realistic approach to the Batman Universe.
Compared to the other two films, Batman: Gotham Knight is a short anthology film only containing 6 stories, but each story was masterfully crafted by Japan’s best studios namely Bee Train, Production I.G, Madhouse, and Studio 4°C. And the stories are varied as well from a group of kids imagining what Batman actually is to Batman dealing with crime syndicates to Batman realizing that no matter how he tries, he can never rid of Gotham of crime; and we watch Batman do battle against a couple of iconic villains.
Anime and Batman mix well together and Japan loves anti-heroes with tragic backstories, and Batman is the kind of hero studios like Madhouse loves. If only Warner Bros. hired Madhouse to adapt The Killing Joke instead... Ugh, God, the animated adaptation of one of the best Batman stories ever was poor. Do yourself a favor: Go read The Killing Joke comics than watch this abomination of an adaptation by Warner Bros.
1. The Animatrix
- Aired: June 3, 2003
Based on the Matrix franchise by the Wachowskis, The Animatrix is a collection of 9 short films featuring stories that expand upon the Matrix universe. These animation shorts handled by different Japanese animation studios fall within the Matrix canon, from a story detailing the fate of the Osiris and how they warned Zion of a direct invasion from the Machines, to flashbacks on how everything began.
This is the film that started the craze of hiring Japanese studios to expand the universe of a franchise or series. It naturally made sense for the Wachowskis to hire Japanese studios to create the Animatrix because the Matrix film franchise was heavily inspired by anime and Japanese culture. What sets The Animatrix apart from the two titles is the stories follows canonly and four of the stories were written by the same Wachowskis that wrote the Matrix Trilogy. The first short film “Final Flight of the Osiris” detailed how the ill-fated hovercraft discovered the Machines started digging from the surface down to Zion, the last human city. The two-part “The Second Renaissance” tells the history of how Man created the Machines and how the Machines gained sentience. It also details how Man starting hating on the Machines that resulted in a bloody war that scarred the planet, and how the Machine eventually enslaved humanity as their main source of energy. The rest of the shorts are stories from various perspectives of individuals who started to notice the world they’re living in isn’t real.
The Animatrix, overall, is a good example on how to create an anthology film to properly expand the universe by creating unique stories, using different art styles from very different animation studios, and at the same time, being loyal to the original source material.
And these are the 3 anthology films based on Western media. All three films are under Warner Bros.. The studio and distributor have had close ties with animation studios in Japan for many years now. In fact, Japan helped with the animation of another Warner Bros. property: Batman The Animated Series. But it does suck they weren’t able to hire a Japanese studio to animate “The Killing Joke.” Yes, we’re not gonna stop talking about this!
Anyway, collaborations of East and West are very rare, and when they do, the results are nothing short of amazing. We get to see our favorite non-anime franchises getting the anime facelift and the Japanese quirks that comes along with it. Too bad Warner Bros. is doing poorly these past few years, especially their failed attempt at an Extended Universe featuring DC Comic’s most prized superheroes. Try to imagine a Justice League Anthology Film with studios like Bones or Madhouse animating Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and the Flash with Japan’s trademark attention to detail and flashy action sequences!