Batman Ninja, the long awaited Japanese anime-styled Batman movie, was released on April 24th in the United States -with the Japanese version premiering on June 15th – and boy it was worth the wait! An absolute batshit insane (pardon the pun) movie that can only be described as a glorious mess, the manga-style movie follows Batman and a host of DC comics most iconic villains as they are transported back in time and all the way to feudal Japan.
How did such a time warp come to be? When Batman (Roger Craig Smith) and his extended Bat-Family interrupt Gorilla Grodd’s (Fred Tatasciore) unveiling of his latest device in the company of Gotham’s underworld villains at Arkham Asylum, the ensuing fight accidentally triggers the device – in reality a time displacement machine – and sends all of our heroes and villains to 16th century Japan.
If that all sounds a bit convoluted to you, well buckle up as that only describes the first few minutes in this mostly incoherent, yet decidedly awesome affair that worries much less about making sense than it does about showing you the coolest and craziest visuals imaginable. And what visuals they are!
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Once Batman arrives in Feudal Japan, he quickly learns from Catwoman (Grey Griffin) that all of Gotham’s top villains were transported there two years before him and have already managed to become overthrow the Daimyo and become Feudal lords. They are currently all at war with each other, attempting to consolidate the clans until only one state remains.
Intent on preventing the villains from effectively rewriting history, Batman heads off in a quest to retrieve Grodd’s Quake engine, which will lead him through some of the most bizarre and amazing imagery in Batman history, including castles that transform into giant robot fortresses, a super robot Lord Joker and an army of monkeys that combines with a swarm of bats to create a giant samurai monkey Batgod (I wish I could make this stuff up!).
Involving practically all of Batman’s greatest villains – including The Joker (Tony Hale), Harley Quinn (Tara Strong), Penguin (Spongebob himself, Tom Kenny), Poison Ivy (Tara Strong), and Deathstroke (Fred Tatasciore) – this absolutely unique take on Batman is one of the most refreshing adaptations of DC’s most beloved characters.
Entrusted entirely to a Japanese team led by visionary director Junpei Mizusaki and character designer Takashi Okazaki – the creator of the hugely celebrated Afro Samurai – DC’s approach pays off entirely, creating something that fans of Batman, anime, and legendary Japanese figures such as ninjas and samurai can truly enjoy. Seeing Batman sporting Samurai gear as he swordfights the Joker, or watching the Bat Family training with the Bat Clan of Hida – a clan of Ninjas that hail Batman to be the long prophesized foreign warrior that would restore order to the land –, not to mention the crazy robot fights, is an absolute pleasure that will keep your eyes glued to the screen and begging for more.
The quality of the animation throughout the entire movie is absolutely superb, offering gorgeous imagery in practically every single shot. The details to absolutely everything – from the character’s armors, to the skies and even the choreography of their Crouching Tiger-like movements – are perfectly crafted and give viewers an experience unlike any they’ll ever had while watching DC comics animated films.
The voice acting is also a stand out feature that deserves to be mentioned, with Tony Hale’s portrayal of the Joker being one of the best that has ever been put to screen – rivaling Mark Hamill’s best performances.
While this whole project could have gone terribly awry in the wrong hands,
English vs Japanese Version
While most diehard anime fans prefer to watch the original Japanese version of their anime with English subtitles rather than the English dubbed version, Batman Ninja is a case where you will probably want to watch both as the creators have announced that there are significant differences between them:
“The Japanese version is different. All the visuals are exactly the same in the movie, but the dialogue is maybe 90% different” said Leo Chu, one of the writers and producers of the English version.
“Some scenes are actually absolutely the same, and then some scenes just didn’t quite make sense to us. We’re just like okay, this one we should change” added Eric Garcia, the other half of the writing team. “The literal translation doesn’t really service the story the way the American audience would understand, and some of the jokes just didn’t translate at all”.
Given the story’s visuals are all the same but the dialogue is radically different from the original version, fans may indeed want to judge for themselves which version is the superior one.