DC’s animated film line is one that I almost always look forward to seeing what is released next. They have been able to adapt some of my favorite storylines from the comics, bringing them to life in a way I never thought would happen. So, when I heard that they were gearing up to release a new, original film inspired by the world of anime, I was definitely intrigued. Now, what you need to realize is that I’m not a huge anime fan. I’ve seen a few of the older anime films, like Akira, Project A-ko, Vampire Hunter D, etc., but never really got into it as a genre. However, once I saw the trailer for Batman Ninja, I was sold. It looked amazing, from the intricate details to the fantastically unique character designs, and the story seemed interesting. So, once I got my copy, I was ready to give this baby a whirl.
Before watching the film, I had heard some very mixed reviews from friends and fellow DCN members, which worried me a little. Being someone who isn’t really into anime, I was afraid I would end up absolutely hating this movie. Luckily, that was not the case; however, I didn’t love it either. Batman Ninja is a very intriguing piece of cinema, and, had a few things been done differently, it could have been a great film. But I’ll get more into that later.
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.
The overall story seemed like it was going to be interesting, and it would have been had they not decided to have giant castles that transform into robots fight one another. I would have much rather seen all the clans fight with armies of soldiers, giving us a chance to see some awesome hand-to-hand fight scenes. Then they could have joined forces under the mind control of the Joker and had a colossal army of warriors take on Grodd’s monkey soldiers and the Bat clan. It would have been EPIC! But instead, we got a giant robot, a giant monkey samurai, and a giant Golden Age Batman. It was ridiculous, even though I did love that they used the Golden Age version of Batman.
Also, how did the Joker get the materials to build these giant mech castles? Grodd says that he provided the tech for the castles, but said nothing about the actual materials. I just don’t buy that it would have been possible, which is another reason why I wish they hadn’t gone this route. Throughout the film, there are several strange dialogue and overall scripting choices made. It boggles my mind why certain things like this were done. This story had so much potential, but instead it was wasted on big, unnecessary set pieces. And maybe it’s because I’m not an anime fan, but to me a good story is a good story, and sadly, this isn’t one.
The one main thing I did really enjoy was the animation of this film. It has a great style, with impeccable details, but that is all tossed out the window in the one scene with Red Hood finding Joker and Harley on the farm. I hated the animation of that scene. I don’t understand why it needed to be different. I don’t think it added anything to the story; in fact, I think it hurt the film but having this awkwardly different animation in the middle of it.
Another thing that bothers me is during the end fight between Catwoman and Harley, Catwoman tosses Harley and she lands face first within an explosion with no actual armor. She should have been incinerated, yet she only had a few scratches. And how the hell did Batman burst into a swarm of bats??? It makes NO SENSE!!! This entire film is full of odd choices that may be normal for anime, but just seem idiotic in terms of a normal film. And he doesn’t even become Batman Ninja until the very end!!!
As this is a Blu-ray review, it is necessary that I talk about the special features as well as the film. Now, Batman Ninja doesn’t have a ton of these, but what it does have is pretty spectacular. For those who are interested in seeing the film in its original Japanese audio, that option is here for you, which I a really cool feature, in my opinion.
Other than that, there are three featurettes to dive into. The first one is called “East/West Batman”. This short documentary featurette goes into the collaboration between the U.S. and Japan to make this film happen. You get some great insight into the design and story of the film from those who worked directly on it, including the screenwriter, Kazuki Nakashima, and the director, Jumpei Mizusaki. Watching it actually gave me a better appreciation for the film.
The next is “Batman: Made in Japan”, which talks about the beautiful character designs and overall visual style of this film. The character designer, Takashi “Bob” Okazaki (well known for his work on Afro Samurai), talks about his influences and how he mixed the Japanese style with the Western style of animation. This was my favorite part of this film and so it was wonderful to watch this featurette and learn more about his amazing vision for this visually stunning film.
The last featurette is the Batman Ninja panel from New York Comic Con 2017 titled “New York Comic Con Presents Batman Ninja“. Here we meet the talented filmmakers behind Batman Ninja as they discuss their inspirations and challenges in bringing an anime version of Batman to life. Moderated by Gary Miereanu from WBHE, we get the chance to hear from the Japanese filmmakers who led this film, including Jumpei Mizusake, Takashi “Bob” Okazaki, and Kazuki Nakashima, as well as the English-language screenwriters, Leo Chu and Eric Garcia.
As a film, this was a bit of a disappointing watch for me, as I was actually really looking forward to it, though I did really enjoy the special features that were included on the Blu-ray. If you are really into anime, you may actually love this film, but as someone who isn’t, this one just wasn’t quite for me.
Film Score: 2/5
Special Features Score: 4.5/5
Overall Blu-ray Score: