By Contributing Writer, Manh T.
BATMAN NINJA, directed by Junpei Mizusaki, is DC’s latest animated feature, and stars the voicing talent of Roger Craig Smith (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Grey DeLisle (Selina Kyle/Catwoman), Tony Hale (The Joker), and many more. The film follows the Bat-family and Batman’s rogues as they’re transported across space and time from present day Gotham City to feudal Japan.
Warning: Mild Spoilers Ahead!
I’m happy to report that BATMAN NINJA is a complete blast from start to finish. It’s a whirlwind of adrenaline-fueled action scenes and the story itself was wildly entertaining! I’m one of those people that complains about the over-saturation of Batman content we get from DC comics, however this time I can guarantee you that this film is unlike anything you’ve seen before. It breathes life into DC’s animated universe (which has become stale of late), and is one of DC’s best animated features.
The film wastes no time jumping right into the plot, as we’re catapulted from the opening credits straight into Arkham Asylum. We see Batman and his side-kicks attempting to stop Gorilla Grodd, who has managed to create a fully functioning time-travel device with the intention of changing history. They fail to stop him in time as he activates the device and sends everyone within the immediate radius back in time to feudal Japan. The events that ensue are what can only be described as a roller-coaster ride of entertainment with the occasional blurting out of “WHAT THE HECK?!”.
The main element of the film that piqued my interest was the use of Japanese animation (also known as anime). BATMAN NINJA (for the most part) manages to successfully blend varying animation styles (3D animation, 2D animation, hand-drawn animation etc.) in a similar manner to what BLADE RUNNER: BLACK OUT 2022 accomplished last year. I found this experimental blend of animation to be a success as it looked stylistic and visually-engaging compared to DC’s other recent animated features GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT and SUICIDE SQUAD: HELL TO PAY.
Despite being transported into olden day Japan, the Gotham-natives still perfectly play out what it feels like to be caught in the crossfire of a fight in Gotham’s criminal underbelly. The Joker and Harley Quinn are the wild-cards, as they’re totally unpredictable in their actions – they’re my favorite characters in this film besides Gorilla Grodd. I appreciated that they actually portrayed Grodd as a highly intelligent character who’s two-steps ahead of everybody else. Other Batman rogues thrown back in time include Penguin, Deathstroke, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, and of course, Catwoman!
On Batman’s side we have Alfred, Nightwing, Red Robin, Red Hood, and Robin (Damian Wayne). While that alone is a great lineup, I personally didn’t like that they excluded Batgirl from this film. I understand not including Batwing and Batwoman as they’re fairly recent additions to the Bat-family, but Batgirl is one of the original members of the family. Her absence from the film stuck out like a sore thumb in my opinion.
One aspect of the film that audiences may or may not enjoy is the third act, depending on personal preference and familiarity with certain anime tropes. I personally really enjoyed it how it harks back to a lot of anime which the film obviously draws influence from. Without spoiling it too much I will say that it involves a monkey army, giant mech-bots, and a lot of double-crossing! Who wouldn’t enjoy that, right?
BATMAN NINJA is an incredibly refreshing DC animated film that features a stellar blend of animation styles. It’s only been out for a few days, but it’s already propelled itself up to the top tier of my DC animated films ranking, joining the likes of WONDER WOMAN & UNDER THE RED HOOD!