‘Batman Ninja’ is a title that sounds like the fever dream of a six-year-old, but it’s not inaccurate for this latest DC animated movie. The film takes the Caped Crusader to Japan and into full-on anime mode, as this was produced and animated in the Land Of The Rising Sun. As the Japanese production company behind the film says in the special features, they were allowed to make a movie where Batman was essentially a guest in their country and had to adapt to their way of doing things, rather than the other way around. As a result this is a Japanese film with Batman in it, rather a Batman film set in Japan.
In the film, after an incredibly quick setup Batman is mysteriously thrown back in time after something goes wrong with the villainous Gorilla Grodd’s time displacement machine. The Caped Crusader finds himself in medieval Japan, but one that’s got a few problems as the time machine also sent a Rogues Gallery of Gotham’s bad guys into the past. Those villains arrived two years before Batman, which has given the likes of Joker, Poison Ivy, Bane and Penguin time to start gaining control of Japan, using their futuristic knowledge and evil skulduggery to control the locals.
Batman sets out to stop them, quickly realising that the Joker and girlfriend Harley Quinn are likely to be his biggest problem, as they want to seize control of the whole of Japan. However, the other villains aren’t to be underestimated either, especially as fighting them means Batman quickly starts running low on the arsenal of futuristic gadgets and technology that help him be a superhero. He’s going to need help to get this sorted, especially when it’s time to start fighting giant robots!
Batman Ninja is completely nuts, but it’s completely nuts in the way a lot of anime is, where the plot doesn’t really care how much suspension of disbelief is required and instead drives the narrative with visuals, action and the outlandish. It also cycles through every trope of Japanese animation, to the point that if it had been made in the US it would probably have been accused of being clichéd and full of cultural appropriation. However, as the Japanese animators suggest, this was possibly their one chance to get the Caped Crusader to engage with many of the best known aspects of anime, whether that’s giant robot mecha battling, freeze frame introductions or a general disregard for the laws of physics.
It may be insane but it’s also surprisingly fun, helped by some good animation which is done in the style of hand-drawn anime, but which is actually all computer generated. It works exceedingly well and allows the film to offer up some impressive visuals and action. After all, this is probably the only movie you’ll ever watch where bats and monkeys come together to create a 200ft tall Batman, Like I said, it’s nuts, but it’s fun.
Overall Verdict: Batman going anime results in a film that is totally crazy but is also surprisingly entertaining.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac