The ending throws me a bit on the extent to which this plugs into the animated series, (The Joker died, right?) but wow: an animated Batman with the talent of the tv series unleashed from its restraints is really something to behold. It unfolds as a slow-burn noir thriller centered around Gotham's mafia that weaves itself very well into Bruce's backstory/inner turmoil. Also, bonus points for honoring Burton's Joker.
I absolutely loved the animation, specially the art deco stylish version of the Batman. It really shines (his eyes literally glow) whenever the Dark Knight is hiding in the shadows. Besides the Nolan Trilogy and the classical 'Batman Returns', directed by Tim Burton, this movie shows, perfectly, how you can combine the harrowing origin of the Dark Knight while introducing a noir-esque femme fatale romance.
Much more entertaining and mature than anything Tim Burton or Joel Schumacher could put together. The big problem with Burton and Schumacher's films is the bad balancing of a Batman action story and a Bruce Wayne drama, and that's something that Mask of the Phantasm balances perfectly. I really like it, and that's coming from someone who largely dislikes animated films. Maybe this is a turning point for me.
Great animated movie; it really took me back to my childhood times when 'Batman - The Animated Series' was one of the best cartoons on television, as well as offering some new insights to the origins of the Caped Crusader. Another good thing is that Wayne, for once, isn't shown as just another happy-go-lucky, if a bit crazy playboy, but a human being with many emotional layers. Essential viewing for any Batman fan.