When it comes to superheroes, Batman is one of the most popular comic characters of all-time. The Dark Knight’s story has been told across multiple platforms, constantly reinterpreted to entertain new audiences. With the popularity of anime and Japanese culture, it seemed inevitable that Batman would find his way into a Japanese style setting, and that’s exactly what happened with Batman: Ninja. Here’s my review of a film that takes the best of the Caped Crusader’s world and mashes it together with Japanese culture.
The merits of suspending your disbelief
On the surface, Batman: Ninja features a simple plot that consists of Gorilla Grodd creating a time machine that transports Batman and his greatest allies and enemies back to feudal Japan. The reasoning behind the story comes across as nonsensical, but you can’t really expect too much from a film that involves giant robots fighting in a historical setting.
Once you’ve suspended your disbelief and can appreciate the film for what it is, Batman: Ninja becomes very entertaining. The film’s greatest strength is in the reimagination of the core Batman cast. Character designer, Takashi Okazaki, deserves praise for his work. Batman looks sufficiently intimidating as a grim samurai who needs to protect Japan from the likes of a sadistic Joker hell-bent on becoming Shogun.
The detail of every costume is beautiful, from the colourful robes that Joker wears, to the gold plating of Batman’s samurai armour. That’s not to say that everyone’s outfit is a hit. Characters like Red Robin have their hair butchered for the sake of looking more like an anime creation. But the award for the most hilarious costume goes to Red Hood, who sports a giant urn on his head.
The animation is an enjoyable aspect of Batman: Ninja. Japan is captured in vivid detail, with even the smallest village standing out because of the attention to detail. Character expressions look realistic, and one of my favourite sequences involved an epic katana fight between Batman and Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime’s madness comes to life, thanks to the dynamic animation.
I couldn’t find any fault with the voice acting either. Roger Craig Smith does a decent job of portraying Batman’s gruffness, while the always excellent Tara Strong reminds fans why she’s made a career out of voicing Harley Quinn. Tony Hale brings an over the top energy to Joker, which compliments the chaotic atmosphere of the film.
Overall, I think Batman: Ninja is a good addition to the catalogue of Dark Knight animated films. What it lacks in story it makes up for in its dedication to honouring Japanese culture.