by Bolaji Moore
Batman Ninja (ニンジャバットマン Ninja Battoman)
Release Date: April 24, 2018
Directed by Junpei Mizusaki
In recent times, Marvel has consistently dominated the movie universe while DC has fared badly by comparison, However a fantastic consolation prize is its animated iteration which keeps churning out animated movies adapted directly from comics. Some of these animated offerings have been sensational even as they were compressed due to runtime constraints. Despite this time limit, some remain masterpieces.
From classics like the Mask of the Phantasm to the more recent Under the Red Hood, Batman animated movies remain at the very top of the animation pyramid, you always find. These are movies DC animation fans happily brag about and carefully collect Blu-Ray copies off to show their grandchildren one day as the pinnacle of animated entertainment.
Through their years of animated dominance, DC understood the common factor – BATMAN. And with Batman Ninja, they have created a whole new, unique and stylistically stunning movie with this latest Batman adventure. I can imagine the focus group or board meeting discussions before it was green-lit.
“Throw in a Predator?” Nah! That’s been done, we will stick with Ninja.
Batman Ninja draws stylistic elements from feudal Japan and was helmed by the same guys that brought you Afro Samurai. So how could this go wrong? At the very least, it promised to be a visual masterpiece.
And it certainly was! The thematic redesigns of Batman’s rogues gallery were all sorts of amazing – Harley Quinn’s geisha look for example. The designs merged futuristic steampunk and feudal Japan successfully. Even Two-Face looked like a character plucked originally from a hidden Japanese scroll lost to the pages of history.
The beginning of the movie takes the tried and trusted time-machine plot device and transports our heroes and villains alike back to feudal Japan. After starting with that believable premise, the plot then becomes a convoluted brilliance that for the impatient will be considered a mess.
Stripped off his usual gadgets, our hero has to overcome self-doubt and improvise to gather supplies and find allies. Things progress beyond Batman’s personal struggles to till we find former enemies rallying against a common all-powerful villain. Some over the top, cartoony fight scenes might be too much for some fans of traditional DC animation. But that’s what Batman Ninja was going for with an anime version. The Power Rangers like “Zords” fight seemed like a nice homage to Japanese mecha anime in the same way the Power Rangers shows were.
THE VERDICT: I have a soft spot for Batman and original stories not adapted from the comics are really hit or miss. The animation and voice acting were superb and should more than make up for the convoluted storyline and somewhat over complicated plots. It’s a fantastic addition to the Batman mythos as a stand-alone movie. Its not a classic with broad appeal but it’s still a very good movie.
Naija Nerds rating: 4 stars out of 5
“Batman Ninja takes a journey across the ages as Gorilla Grodd’s time displacement machine transports many of Batman’s worst enemies to feudal Japan – along with the Dark Knight and a few of his allies. The villains take over the forms of the feudal lords that rule the divided land, with the Joker taking the lead among the warring factions. As his traditional high-tech weaponry is exhausted almost immediately, Batman must rely on his intellect and his allies – including Catwoman and the extended Bat-family – to restore order to the land, and return to present-day Gotham City.“
Batman Ninja was created by some of Japan’s top animation industry talents, including director Jumpei Mizusaki (opening animation of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure), writer Kazuki Nakashima (Gurren Lagann), and character designer Takashi Okazaki (Afro Samurai). Award-winning screenwriters Leo Chu and Eric Garcia (Supah Ninjas, Afro Samurai) adapted the film’s script to English. Benjamin Melniker and Michael Uslan serve as executive producers executive producers.
The film’s voice cast includes Roger Craig Smith (Batman: Arkham Origins) as Batman, Tony Hale (Veep, Arrested Development) as the Joker, Grey Griffin (Scooby-Doo) as Catwoman, Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke) as Harley Quinn, Fred Tatasciore (Family Guy) as Gorilla Grodd, Yuri Lowenthal (Ben 10: Omniverse) as Robin, Adam Croasdell (Reign) as Nightwing and Alfred, Will Friedle (Boy Meets World) as Red Robin, Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants) as Penguin, and Eric Bauza (The Adventures of Puss in Boots) as Two-Face.