Batman of Japan: Looking At Every Japanese Take on The Dark Knight

Batman: Child of Dreams (Kia Asamiya, 2000-2003)

By the turn of the millennium, outside of a short story done by Akira creator Katsushiro Otomo for the first volume of Batman: Black and White, not much outside of Kuwata's manga had been done. But by this point, the manga boom was on the rise and DC didn't want to miss out. As a way of testing the waters, DC reached out to Japanese mega-publisher Kodansha and acclaimed manga creator Kia Asamiya (Dark Angel, Compiler) to publish Child of Dreams.

Published monthly in Kodansha's monthly Magazine ZDreams was released in Japan in book form from 2000-2001 and released Stateside in 2003. The story sees Japanese TV cub reporter Yuko Yagi and a camera crew head to Gotham to make a documentary about, and hopefully interview, Batman. Unfortunately, she arrives at a time where imposters are causing crimes dressed as Bat-villains and, when caught, shrivel up and die, with no other reason other than a mysterious designer drug inside all their systems.

Notably, the book was adapted into English by acclaimed crime novelist, one-time Batman writer, and Road to Perdition co-creator Max Allan Collins, who brings his usual hard-boiled flair to the proceedings, which makes for a fun blend. Regrettably, while this style was on its way out at the time, Child of Dreams was flipped for Stateside release, meaning the art was reoriented to read left-to-right. While Stateside adaptation teams always tried to touch up the art in these cases to avoid inconsistencies, here, Two-Face is disfigured on his right side as a result, which makes this impossible to overlook.

Batman: Death Mask (Yoshinori Natsume, 2008)

By 2004, DC decided to embrace the manga boom and launched its own manga imprint, CMX. While it published plenty of varied manga titles. including Crayon Shin-Chan and Gon, they sought to bridge the gap between manga and superhero readers by inviting Natsume (TogariKurozakuro) to write and draw an original story for American readers.

The result, in Death Mask (available in print and digitally) is, in concept, a neat take on both Batman's globe-hopping training and the time-tested idea of putting the world's most rational superhero against the supernatural. In practice, it comes off as trying to plug Batman into the psychological horror of Naoki Urasawa's Monster, but with less command of the page as Urasawa has.

The plot is still intriguing: a serial killer who slices victims' faces off is stalking Gotham. Meanwhile,  Batman's haunted by troubling dreams that and, at a corporate fundraiser for a Japanese corporation intent on doing business with Wayne Enterprises, he meets a girl who reminds him of his younger days spent in Japan, where he came to a dojo for martial arts training, and together, they uncover a mystery and a monster.

While the more seasoned reader can see the ultimate reveal coming pretty early on, it's still a fun ride, if a bit less than the sum of its parts.

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