Whoa! Batman Ninja firmly debunks my frequent complaint that the DC direct-to-video animated films are visually bereft. This is a beautifully animated feature, and that’s not the only bonus here.
Every frame of Batman Ninja is beautifully rendered. The animation is smooth. The shot selection and action is inspired. Even the backgrounds are lovely, and fit perfectly to further convey the story. You can get lost in the clouds and the foliage. I’m not joking. Do I look like I’m joking?
Batman Ninja begins in Gotham City, but an event takes Batman, many of his allies, and the Batman rogues gallery back to feudal Japan. While Batman has a technological advantage at the beginning, his gradual adoption of the style and methods of ancient Japan makes him even more formidable.
The team on Batman Ninja is excellent and led by director Junpei Mizusaki, who has a background in animation and video games, and known for his producer credits on JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. His sparse filmography belies an impressive job here. I want to see more directing from him.
Kazuki Nakashima, who is known for writing Kill La Kill, turns in a script that is bold, and visionary. The set-up is crazy to begin with, but about mid-way through the second act it really goes bonkers. Many of the characters are well represented here, but some are a little off, or underdeveloped. However, if you are the type of person who can just relax, put your preconceived notions of these characters aside, and enjoy the trip, then it can be a blast!
The character design in Batman Ninja is brilliant. The melding of the iconic Batman character designs and the historic Japanese style makes for memorable and dynamic work. How much would you like to see Batman in samurai armor? What about the Joker dressed like a feudal lord? How about a clan of Batman inspired ninjas? All of these things and much much more are here, and I don’t want to ruin the experience by detailing it too much.
There are also plenty of graphic interludes and two different styles of animation that just kicks this up one more notch visually.
The English voice cast does a good job. I particularly liked the work of Arrested Development’s Tony Hale as The Joker. Although, I’m not enamored with Roger Craig Smith’s version of Batman. He didn’t ruin this for me, but they can do better.
This is not a Batman film that’s anime style. This is a full-on anime film that stars Batman. It’s a crazy experiment, that is fun, and clever, and unlike anything I’ve seen with these characters before.
If you are a DC comics purist, this film may drive you nuts. Again, these character depictions are not tack sharp, and the plot embraces anime tropes and unleashed fantasy elements that will turn some people off.
On the other hand, if you want to see something that is a joyful celebration of the Batman cast, beautifully animated, thought-provoking, and one hell of a fun ride, then Batman Ninja is well worth your time.