DC Returns to Anime with the Girl-Powered CATWOMAN: HUNTED

Catwoman and Batwoman Team Up in the Globe-Trotting Adventure, new on 4K Blu

Batman’s rogues gallery is one of the most interesting in all of fiction, with weird and complex characters that have evolved over decades of storytelling in comics and on screens. While outright baddies like the Joker keep Bruce Wayne on his toes, it’s the more complicated characters with shades of gray that prove most interesting to me.

Certainly Selina Kyle — Catwoman — is chief among these, both a foil to Batman as well as a frequent ally and love interest. Stepping outside of that shadow, she’s a character with her own following, and portrayed in movies and TV by a who’s who of talented and beloved actresses. She’s a thief, that remains a constant, but exploring her motivations has yielded all kinds of results; survival, revenge, Robin Hood-like aspirations, or just enjoying the challenge. Not bad for a comic book villain created more than 80 years ago.

DC’s animated world has done a lot of interesting things with Catwoman, most recently the 2-part film Batman: The Long Halloween which features perhaps her most outright heroic role.

The new film Catwoman: Hunted is an anime movie which picks up on a bread crumb set up in the short film DC Showcase: Catwoman. Whether you think of her as a villain or hero, we can all root for her when she’s using her talents to thwart real-world evil like human trafficking.

Similar to the rollicking and underappreciated Birds of Brey movie, it feels like a celebration of girl power in the Batman playground, with lots of fun female characters as both heroines and antogonists.

Hunted pairs Catwoman (Elizabeth Gillies) with Batwoman (Stephanie Beatriz) as temporary allies when their goals align to strike against an international crime ring, using an opening created by the induction of Black Mask (Jonathan Banks) into the outfit to make their strike. The globe-spanning nature of the plot not only opens them up to a variety of villains, but move us outside of the normal Gotham environs and give the proceedings a bit of James Bond flair.

The filmmakers are clearly having fun coming with some of the matchups, from the rhyming team of Catwoman and Batwoman, to pitting them against another cat/bat pairing — Cheshire (Kelly Hu) and Nosferata (Zehra Fazal). The film culminates with yet another catfight when Selina takes on the organization’s powerful figurehead, Cheetah (Kirby Howell-Baptiste).

The film also includes Tobias Whale (Keith David), Solomon Grundy (Steve Blum), and others as heavies in the eclectic mix of baddies and gangsters.

DC’s limited anime track has been a little mixed, most recently the gorgeously stylized but aggressively dumb Batman: Ninja. But Catwoman: Hunted’s anime style is used pretty effectively here. There are some fantastic elements that are played up and work well in this style; pretty ladies, elemental monsters, ninja battles, and larger-than-life villains.

Nosferata translates to this style very particularly well, and familiar characters Solomon Grundy and Cheetah are portrayed as massive, hulking foes. As the “final boss” of the conflict, Cheetah puts the big in “big cat”. It’s a much more intimidating take on the character than her recent appearance in WW1984.

When it comes to these animated DC films, I tend to include my parental thoughts in my reviews since it’s sometimes hard to anticipate how they’ll play as family entertainment. The movie is rated PG-13 for violence and sexuality. Some of the violence is a quite gnarly (monsters spraying blood and goo as they’re riddled with bullets, a villain falls and is impaled on exposed rebar, a zombie-like character is decapitated by an explosion). There’s also some fan-servicey horniness. Early in the film a naked Selina easily seduces Batwoman, sultrily teasing a kiss before retreating (a ruse to steal her phone). Perhaps a little gratuitous, though it does very effectively establish the chemistry between the characters in a unique way.

In comic book form, the film ends on an intriguing footnote that suggest we might expect a direct sequel in the future. I’m certainly on board to see her further adventures, especially if it gets deeper into the trafficking aspect of the story (which is more floating in the background here) and brutally taking down those real life baddies.

The Package

Catwoman: Hunted is available now on home video and VOD formats. The 4K UHD Package which I reviewed includes the movie-only 4K disc, standard Blu-ray (movie + features), and digital copy code. My copy included a slipcover, which has a nice shiny metallic finish.

For anyone wondering, the spine does not continue the “DCU” mural design that was prominently used on several recent DC titles, but not the last couple. (Did they abandon that?)

Special Features and Extras (on Blu-ray Disc)

The Blu-ray disc has a couple of really great featurettes, though a smaller offering than many other DC Animated titles which offer shorts, previews, and TV episodes. The short DC Showcase: Catwoman (from the home video release of Batman: Year One) feels like a notable and obvious omission. Although animated in a different style, the story feels like a direct prequel to Hunted.

When The Hunter Becomes the Hunted (18:57)
Behind the scenes featurette looks at the film’s creative process, large cast of characters, and approach, albeit from a more developmental viewpoint than a “making of”. The Japanese animation team such as director Shinsuke Terasawa are unfortunately absent.

Catwoman: The Feline Femme Fatale (39:52)
A neat exploration of the character, especially in movies and TV. This featurette includes lots of archival and interview footage with tons of creators and talent discussing the various versions of the character as portrayed by different actresses past and present, including Zoë Kravitz taking on the role in the upcoming The Batman.

A/V Out.

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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the Blu-ray disc (not 4K) with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system.

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