Batman Ninja review
There are many comic-book stars who would benefit from the artistic style of anime, but Batman has to be the best suited. From his outfit to his fighting style, he’s crying out to be called Batman Ninja, and this DC ’toon takes that name and runs with it. The 85-minute animated movie uses character design by Takashi Okazaki (Afro Samurai) to literally drop Batman into ancient Japan.
Featurette East/West Batman (find a snippet here) digs deeper into that crossover. “We aren’t entering the Batman world as a guest, rather we’re inviting Batman as a guest to our world,” says director Jumpei Mizusaki in the 17-minute mini-doc. “It’s not seeing Japan through the eyes of Batman, it’s seeing Batman through the eyes of Japan,” adds Ames Kirshen, DC Entertainment’s VP of Interactive & Animation, echoing the same sentiments. And it works incredibly well.
Why is Batman in Japan? Don’t expect any lengthy explanation from the paper-thin plotting: one minute he’s in Arkham Asylum trying to shut down Gorilla Grodd’s Quake Engine, the next he’s being attacked by samurai.
Simple story aside, it’s the visuals that make this animation a treat. There are some brilliant touches that really make use of the character being out of time and in this different landscape. That’s clear from the off, as Batman tries to escape using his grappling hook gun but finds no sky scrapers to latch onto.
And if Batman himself suits the Japanese aesthetic, the makeover Gotham’s criminals get changes these arch villains into wonderfully localised versions of themselves. The Joker’s transformation into the Demon King is magnificent, but we’d have loved to have seen more of Bane as a sumo wrestler!
While the anime style is used to full effect, its standard tropes are equally well mined. Multiple changes in animation style occasionally sees Batman Ninja drop into 2D animation (see if you can spot Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa), while character cards introduce each baddie. The movie even gets its own mascot in the form of Monkey Chi! And just when you think it couldn’t get any more anime, up pop giant robots to do battle, leading to further Itano Circus shots of missiles.
Elsewhere, Batman: Made in Japan looks at Takashi “Bob” Okazaki’s character art, the New York Comic Con panel offers more details on the production and there’s original Japanese dialogue (with English subtitles) for purists. It’s brilliant support for such a visual feast.
Release: 14 May 2018
From: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Format: DVD / Blu-ray & Digital
Age Rating: 12
Price (RRP): £10.99 (DVD); £16.99 (Blu-ray & Digital); £24.99 (Blu-ray & Digital Steelbook)