Batman Ninja is easily the most visually stunning DC movie and one of the most unique interpretations of the Dark Knight to ever hit the screen – Batman Ninja Review
My favorite thing about WonderCon and ComicCon are the DC Animated Movie Premieres. At WonderCon 2018, attendees were graced with one of the most ambitious interpretations of the caped crusader in any medium. This Dark Knight is colorful, out of his element, and surprisingly joyful. Batman Ninja exceeds all expectations in the best way possible, delivering an incredibly fun, funny, and mesmerizing experience good for all ages and depths of fandom. The producers, artists, and talent come together and create an enjoyable masterpiece.
Batman Ninja follows Batman on a time-traveling adventure that drops the Dark Knight in Feudal Japan. Immediately, Batman deduces he is in Japan when he finds some parchment with Japanese writing and brilliantly deduces “This is Japanese.” It is obvious and hilarious because of the perfectly straight delivery by Batman. He is then immediately approached by Joker masked Samurai/Guards that order him to surrender. Batman attempt to get answers, but even more Guards show up. Batman gets away, finds the Joker’s castle, which he infiltrates, and falls into Joker’s Trap. A short battle involving some bladed fans ensues, and Batman inevitably has to make an escape. Batman then runs into Catwoman, who explains what is going on. Joker, Two Face, Penguin, Ivy, and Deathstroke, all have become Lords of different States and are planning to conquer each other to become supreme ruler. Grodd, who’s time machine caused them all to go back in time, seems to be in hiding. Catwoman then reveals Alfred also traveled back in time, as well as the Batmobile. Batman then decides to take down the Joker in the Batmobile, however, Joke reveals his castle is a giant robot, that destroys the Batmobile. Luckily, the Batwing is launched from the Batmobile, only to be destroyed as well, however, Batman escapes the Batwing’s destruction on his Batcycle, which he uses to save a civilian the Joker is about the crush. The civilian turns out to be Harley Quinn, who set the trap for Bane to finish off Batman. However, the Batcycle turns into Batarmor which allows Batman to beat Bane, but inevitably still fall to the Joker. All seems lost until a group of ninja, that wear the symbol of the bat, rescue Batman. The ninjas are of the Bat Clan, which Nightwing, Red Robin, Red Hood, and Robin have been assisting since they’ve arrived in the past. Their leader tells Batman of the prophecy of a time-traveling warrior wearing the mask of the bat that will save them all. The rest of the film is about bringing the prophecy to life and returning everyone to their rightful time.
The first thing I want to address is the “controversy” about this film, mainly the white savior complex and Batman Ninja wearing samurai armor. If you’re boycotting this film because you think it follows the Hollywood trend of white saviors saving Asia, you are part of the problem and do not truly understand the issue. If you want a thorough explanation, drop it in the comments. But to put it bluntly, you are just as ignorant and naive as a parent who says there is no money to be made in playing video games. As for the whole Batman Ninja in samurai armor, please trust that Takashi Okazaki, Junpei Mizusaki, and Tetsuro Satomi (among many others) know much better than we do about ninjas and samurais.
Now, as for the content of the film. OH MY GOD! Batman Ninja is a visual masterpiece that is humorous and over the top while always making perfect sense. The character designs by Takashi Okazaki are absolutely magnificent. Each character is decked out from head to toe in samurai/ninja gear, except Alfred, and many adopting thematically appropriate hair as well. I am personally really interested in the inspiration for Red Hood though, because functionally I don’t see the point in having a headpiece that is three times longer than your actual head. The story, without giving too much away, is ridiculous in all the right ways and the producers know it better than anyone. Batman Ninja is riddled with just about every Anime trope you can think of. It shamelessly, and seamlessly, uses tropes for narrative purposes or a joke with no loss of rhythm or integrity. It always feels like you’re in on the joke and never feels insulting. Rather, the tropes, though maybe exaggerated, highlight and celebrate what we love about Anime and Batman. And if something is completely unexplainable and nonsensical, Red Hood calls it out. Batman Ninja is the product of fans who truly understand the character, franchise, and the medium, and created a masterpiece that highlights their understanding and mastery of art and storytelling.
The one thing I might say is “bad” about the film, is Damian/Robin’s depiction. He’s not the angry hellraiser we’re used to. Here is a jovial child with a monkey sidekick, much like Spritle and Chim-Chim. Also, his hair looks ridiculous. However, it is also a refreshing take, and I like to think that being so connected to culture that reflects his upbringing allowed him some reprieve from his usual angst.
Lastly, I have to talk about the writing/localization and the voice performances. The writing and localization for Batman Ninja is top tier. You don’t get over uses of “I’ll never forgive you!” and “I won’t just let you do what you want!” I might take more note of those lazy translations than most, but it is truly heart-warming when it isn’t used. The localization is so good, it feels like it was written in English, which is the mark of a truly amazing localization team. So despite what language you watch it, I am confident you will get 100% of the content. This is made even more impressive when you consider the voice performances. As it is a dubbed movie, the words have to be matched to the syllables/mouth movements of the film. Batman NInja has no bad dubbing and has some truly great performances. My personal favorite is Will Friedle and his deadpan calling out of purposely ridiculous while no one else seems to notice. An example, without giving much away, is all of a sudden there are two monkeys instead of one and only Red Hood calls out the appearance of the second monkey. Everyone does a great job, but Tony Hale’s Joker is probably the stand out performance. He is given a chance to play the character in a wide range, and he absolutely nails it! I want to say more but I don’t want to give anything away.
Batman Ninja is a monument to the animation medium and a testament to the depth Batman as a franchise can go. The film renders a truly unique and color adaptation of the characters, and in some cases, multiple art styles throughout the film. Visually, I would have to say it is the best animated Batman feature out. Narratively speaking, the producers took the Batman we know and put him in a new world with different rules, and somehow made a film that perfectly plays within the rules of both. It isn’t some company slapping a huge franchise onto something to make money, it is a true work of a franchise beloved across the world. It is a great Batman story and one we hopefully get to see more iterations of. Batman Ninja is a fun, over the top, and visual masterpiece. I give my Batman Ninja review a 5/5
For more information, check out the panel from Wonder Con