What happens when you combine The Dark Knight with Anime? The concept sounds amazing! The execution in Batman Ninja… is highly debatable. Batman Ninja (ニンジャバットマン Ninja Battoman) is a 2018 anime directed by Junpei Mizusaki and produced by Warner Bro in an attempt to reach new audiences with the Batman Franchise.
While attempting to stop Gorilla Grodd; Batman, the Bat-family, and his entire rogue’s gallery are dropped in Feudal Japan. The villains have conquered different areas of Japan and established themselves as Shogun. Batman must find a way to save Japan and then return the villains and his comrades back to the modern day.
Takashi Okazaki, the creator of Afro Samurai, is the character designer for the film. That fact alone should bring a glimmer of hope to anime fans. His character designs are not only pleasing to look at as stills but when animated is absolutely beautiful to watch. The character designs are all faithful to the American characters while incorporating different time period aspects. I did find it interesting that while Batman was certainly more Japanese in character design; the Joker’s costume was more European.
The film contains a variety of anime tropes ranging from classic kids with random pets as sidekicks, rooftop fight scenes, awkward ninja running, and even robots that come together to form a bigger robot! Every step of the way this film keeps you entertained as the story progresses. If you are familiar with Japanese culture and history, there are a plethora of easter eggs hidden without for fans to enjoy.
So why is this anime’s success so highly debated? Some of the conflicts come in with which audio track you have your Blu-ray set to. The original Japanese script written by Kazuki Nakashima was really well done and brought the story together in a much more cohesive manner. However, the American script seems to be disjointed and creates almost an entirely different film. I’d highly recommend you watch it twice and decide for yourself which you enjoy.
The addition of different anime tropes has also caused some dislike for some viewers. Costume designs seem odd to casual anime fans. Robin’s hairstyle and pet monkey was a source of dislike for some while the absurdity of giant robots took others right out of the story. There’s also an interesting scene between Batman, Redhood, The Joker, and Harley that seemingly is randomly illustrated differently. I have my theories as to why it was animated differently.
The final aspect that I’ve noticed to cause some contention is the pacing of the film. As a fan of the film, I will say that at points it does feel rushed. I was speaking with our friends over at Victims and Villains Podcast about this issue recently. (Link to the discussion will be at the bottom of this review along with a player) In Japan, often times entires series will be condensed into a movie or two. Batman Ninja has that kind of feel. I wouldn’t mind it honestly if they took this as the basis of a series and expanded on things. There are a plethora of plot devices that could benefit from 2 or 3 episodes of the story to help connect some of the scenes in this film.
End of the day I would recommend that you watch this film at least once if not twice. If you are only willing to watch it once then watch it in Japanese with English Subtitles. But what are your thoughts on the film? Did you enjoy it? Leave a comment below and let us know. Also, check out the links below to hear my discussion on Batman Ninja with our friends over at Victims and Villains and the Bible Study I wrote for our friends over at Geeks Under Grace.