Batman: Child of Dreams
If you could be anyone (literally), for a day, but had to die at the end of that day, would you do it?
There’s many a manga and anime that focus on deeply philosophical questions, moral and ethical dilemmas, psychological and emotional issues, and many other questions of the mind, yet in comparative terms these various stories have barely scratched the surface of the Batman mythos.
So, what is Batman? A study is psychosis? A crusader of justice? An avenging angel? An emotionally scarred little boy? A fanatic? A genius? A madman? To be completely honest, he is all of these things and more, and while the majority of Batman tales are fairly straightforward, there are a few, like The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum, The Duel, A Death in the Family, and Quiver (a Green Arrow tale written by Kevin Smith), that show him for what he really is.
It’s unfortunate then, that Child of Dreams is simply another tale to add to the Batman canon.
Written and drawn by Asamiya Kia, the manga was originally collected into two volumes which were released in 2000 and 2001 by Kodansha. The story follows a young Japanese reporter named Yagi Yuko and her crew as they travel to Gotham City to try and get an interview with the Dark Knight. With a good number of Batman’s foes making waves in the city though, Yuko and her crew begin to wonder what they’ve stumbled into, especially as not everything is as it seems.
As a long term fan of the Caped Crusader I was honestly looking forward to reading a manga about him, and while Child of Dreams is good in a number of ways, it doesn’t break any new ground in the Batman mythos, but instead adopts a safer, more travelled route for the plot. That said, the manga is pretty good in terms of the story and progression, and while I found the mastermind to be pretty decent (and thoroughly otaku), the manga is transparent for the most part. At certain points in the story it’s very easy to predict what is going to happen further on, which is unfortunate as this could have been a great Batman tale.
Artistically the manga isn’t bad at all. Asamiya makes good use of “blank” (i.e. nothing there except for a colour), and effect (i.e. patterned), backgrounds to emphasise the more detailed scenery and heighten the mood. Unfortunately the characters are a bit on the facially angular side for my tastes, however they are well designed, and very much in keeping with the general look and feel of the franchise. On a side note, I did find it amusing that Bruce Wayne sports what looks suspiciously like very thin ahoge (or insect antennae, it depends on one’s perspective).
As far as characters go, Child of Dreams doesn’t really develop anyone to any great degree. Yuko is a pretty one dimensional character, but then again, so is everyone else in this manga, but while the characters may be pretty standard fare, that doesn’t mean they’re bad. In terms of Batman stories the characters are reasonably well realised, and while it may initially seem that the use of so many of the Dark Knight’s foes is more about pandering to the fans than developing the story, this is actually justified in the second half of the manga.
On the whole, Child of Dreams is a nice enough addition to the Batman library, and whilst I enjoyed the manga, it lacked a certain bite that would have rounded out the story a bit more. One of the reasons for this though, is the characterisation of Batman himself, as he lacks a certain drive, a certain edge, a certain madness, that I’ve come to expect from him over the years. While many may not see this in the same way, I would suggest reading some of the other Batman titles I mentioned earlier, and then you’ll understand what I mean.
That said, this is still an interesting take on the franchise, and pitting the Caped Crusader against someone whose motivations are far removed from what he normally encounters makes for some nice interactions.
The Child of Dreams may not be the best tale in the Batman canon, but it’s still a decent story in it’s own right, and while there may be problems with the plot and characters, the manga will definitely appeal to fans of the Dark Knight.