The East and West have been inspiring each other’s media ever since the Ancient Chinese and Romans got vague reports about each other. Nowadays, it’s quite normal to see a Western cartoon show take on an anime aesthetic, like the Teen Titans cartoon or Miraculous.
But it’s not a one-way street. Japan has had its own take on Western heroes, like My Hero Academia or their sentai-inspiring, live-action Spider-Man series. They also like their dark heroes: characters with a storied past and a gritty sense of morality, like Batman. These are some anime characters likely inspired by the Dark Knight, from the slight cases to the hard ones.
Death Note’s L Lawliet has a few things in common with the chiropteran-based hero. Batman was referred to as the ‘World’s Greatest Detective’ in the past, having debuted in Detective Comics #27, the series that DC Comics would name themselves after in the 1950s. Still, while both are super smart yet shut-in gothic detectives taking on a supervillain with curious pseudonyms, they’re not identical.
Batman has an innate depression to him stemming from trauma, while L is more outwardly depressive. L crouches and squats everywhere, while Batman can sit properly in a chair. Batman has eaten everything from fine dining to whatever he can forage. L exclusively eats sweets and desserts. However, behind L’s eccentricities is a strict moral code that he will not deviate from. If Shonen Jump somehow crossed over with DC, L and Batman would probably get along surprisingly well.
7/8 Hachiman Hikigaya
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (aka OreGaIru) is a world away from the grim superheroics of Batman. Based on the light novel of the same name, the anime is about two loners who get roped into helping their high school’s Services club. As a result, they have to provide advice for the rest of the school on how to handle their problems, even when they’re struggling to overcome their own.
However, one of those loners is a boy called Hachiman Hikigaya, whose personality is closer to Batman’s than some would think. Sure, he isn’t a rich billionaire who beats up clowns. But he is shut-off socially, preferring to observe people, and then use this ‘social perception’ to achieve his goals. He cares little for socializing due to a past trauma, has a bitter outlook on youth and society in general, and has an off-putting ‘dead fish’ glare. He’s basically Bruce Wayne if he didn’t have a superhero persona to channel his negative feelings into.
The premise behind Karas is more mystical than Batman’s. It’s about a secret war being fought between humans and yōkai on Shinjuku’s streets. Eko, a former servant of the priestess Yurine, went rogue and began to use mechanized demons called mikura to attack humanity for their lack of respect. In response, Yurine bestows the power of the Karas to a former yakuza called Yōsuke Otoha to bring balance back to the world of men and demons.
Its director, Keiichi Sato, cited Batman as the kind of superhero Karas would be. That is, a local hero who defends Shinjuku from the rooftops and streets like Batman does with Gotham City. It does have the atmosphere of the darker Batmans, complete with a police subplot akin to the Commissioner Gordon portions of Batman: Year One. That’s not to mention Karas being a moody figure who’s dedicated to his city. Still, in practice, Karas is more The Crow than Caped Crusader with the supernatural revenge elements. Hence, the name, as ‘karasu’ is Japanese for ‘crow’.
5/8 Kotetsu ‘Wild Tiger’ Kaburagi
The Tiger in Tiger & Bunny is a little closer to The Dark Knight. He’s a superhero who defends the city of Stern Bild, with a single-minded focus that earned him the nickname ‘Crusher for Justice’…because he’d wreck other people’s property if it meant achieving his goal. That’s not to mention he’s a grown man with a younger, plucky sidekick. He does have a few differences, like his Hundred Power ability, which boosts his strength, speed, agility, etc., 100-fold for 5 minutes at a time.
He also set up his heroics as a business before he got bought out and made an employee of the bigger ‘Apollon Media’ group. They’re the ones who paired him up with Barnaby ‘Bunny’ Brooks Jr, despite the pair’s initial reluctance to work together. Tiger’s parents didn’t die, but he does have a deceased wife and an estranged family. So, he’s Batman if he and Robin worked for a separate Bruce Wayne, and actually had to worry about money.
4/8 Adlet Mayer
The hero of Rokka no Yūsha is a prideful Brave who refers to himself as the ‘strongest man on Earth’ in nearly every sentence. This usually makes him the butt of jokes. Especially when he otherwise defines himself as an ‘ordinary guy’ when the other heroes promote themselves. That’s because he doesn’t use superpowers or any other fancy, innate skill. Just his fighting know-how and a bundle of items from his belt like darts and smoke bombs.
The other Braves look down on him for this, yet he feels no shame, seeing it as the only way an ‘ordinary guy’ can match his superpowered foes. It’s all part of his plan to avenge the death of his family and home village at the hands of the evil Kyōma Tgurneu. Lively personality aside, his self-reliance, backstory, and utility belt does mark him as a fantasy-based anime Batman.
3/8 Kyōma Mabuchi
Fans often refer to Dimension W as ‘Japanese electric-spike Batman’ thanks to its lead Kyōma Mabuchi. He’s an ordinary guy with a strong will who often frowns, and often resorts to violence. Even so, he thinks through his battles, using his surroundings to his advantage. He’s rough, rude, and pragmatic, but has a nice side to him hidden under his gruff exterior.
He used to be a soldier. His side was opposed to the new Coil-based technology, which used energy from the titular Dimension W to fuel itself. They lost the war, and he lost his fiancée in the process. He’s got the Batman-like personality and backstory, but with a Blade Runner twist as he hunts illegal Coil-based robots for money while learning some can be as humane, if not more so, than their human counterparts.
2/8 Hei/Lĭ Shùn Shēng
If Kyōma is ‘Japanese Batman’, Hei is ‘Chinese Batman’. Created by Wolf’s Rain mastermind Tensai Okamura, Darker Than Black follows Hei, a ‘Contractor’ who carries out espionage and assassination missions for the mysterious Syndicate. Contractors are people, animals, etc., granted special abilities by two spatial anomalies known as the ‘Heaven’s Gate’ and ‘Hell’s Gate’.
But then things get more Batman-like from there. As Lĭ, he’s a nice Chinese exchange student who does odd jobs to get by. Then, as Hei, he’s an icy gun for hire. Like Bruce Wayne and Batman, he’s two personas in one. Also, like Batman, Hei isn’t so keen on killing, showing more compassion than his fellow Contractors. The lives of others have worth to him, leaving him conflicted across the show.
1/8 Roger Smith
How could the protagonist of a mecha anime be the most like Batman? It helps that The Big O’s studio, Sunrise, worked on Batman: The Animated Series before this show. Creators Chiaki J.Konaka and Kazuyoshi Katayama cited the series as an influence, as both used the same film noir inspirations for their setting and character designs. As for the lead himself, Roger Smith is a smooth, rich playboy with the same style as Bruce Wayne.
He also has a no-guns policy since it’s not his ‘style’ to carry one. He seeks to uncover the mystery behind Paradigm City and its namesake corporation, taking negotiation work from its residents. When he isn’t using his hidden gadgets, he uses the Big O: a giant mech that fights off other giant mecha called ‘Megadeus’. No one knows he pilots it, basically making the machine his ‘Batsuit’. One that’s maintained by his Alfred-esque butler, Norman Burg. That’s probably evidence enough that Smith and his show are as Batman-like as an anime can get.
More: The Most Underrated Mecha Anime You Need to Watch