Out of all the Batman films coming out this year, BATMAN NINJA was definitely the one to watch out for. This wasn’t just another run of the mill direct-to-DVD operation. BATMAN NINJA promised to be a full-on Batman anime backed up by well-known names in the industry.

The character designs were done by AFRO SAMURAI creator Takashi Okazaki, and the animation was going to be done by CG Studio Kamikaze Douga, which worked on big name projects like JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURE and POP TEAM EPIC. With all that in its corner, BATMAN NINJA was sure to be a hit.  

So, was it? Well, BATMAN NINJA is definitely one of the craziest depictions of the caped crusader out there. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.

Check out the First 2 Minutes of BATMAN NINJA Anime!

Pretty Pictures

The best thing about BATMAN NINJA is also the worst thing about BATMAN NINJA: It feels more like an art-collage than a coherent film. The movie incorporates both traditional 2D animation and highly detailed cell-shaded CGI. This results in a visual aesthetic that incorporates several different art styles at once.

BATMAN NINJA
Same film. Seriously. Image Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Of course, the variety of visual styles on display here perfectly complement the film’s plot. That’s because the film’s plot barely makes any sense. I’ll try not to spoil anything for anyone who wants to see the film since it is worth seeing. But you could write a detailed plot synopsis of BATMAN NINJA and you probably wouldn’t end up “spoiling” anything.

The sheer nonsense of the plot would just end up confusing anyone who read it. For instance, there’s a scene where Robin, his monkey sidekick, and the female version of his monkey sidekick play the flute together to control a hivemind of monkeys to form into one giant monkey to fight against a giant robot made out of Japanese castles. And believe it or not, the situation actually becomes even more over-the-top from there.

BATMAN NINJA
Images courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Basically, BATMAN NINJA takes style over substance to the utmost extreme. It’s almost pointless to criticize the lack of character depth and logical plot development because the film itself takes place in the heightened surrealistic world where none of that really matters. However, when it comes to being anarchic dumb fun, there’s still some stuff about BATMAN NINJA that doesn’t quite work out.

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Subs Vs. Dubs

BATMAN NINJA is technically an anime, so it has both an English dubbed version and a Japanese version with English subtitles. So, for the sake of a complete review, I did watch both versions. Generally, the differences between the two boil down to the one-liners. Certain jokes and lines are phrased and timed differently, with the English version being comparatively jokier.

Pun unintended. Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

For instance, take the scene where Joker reveals to Batman what he’s been up to ever since they time traveled back to Feudal Japan. In the Japanese version, Joker brags about how being the lord of Owari Province fits his supervillainous nature since Owari translates to “The End.”

In the English dub, the name Owari isn’t mentioned at all, and Joker’s speech is instead filled with quips like

“When life throws you time travels, sometimes you gotta make travelade!”

and

“I’ve really enjoyed the sushi here […] It’s even better with some sauce!”

The English dub’s quip-based approach affects the Joker’s dialogue the most, with a couple other characters getting a few self-aware one-liners here and there. But even if the Japanese version takes itself a bit more seriously, everyone is more or less saying the same stuff in both versions.

Given how ridiculous BATMAN NINJA is already, the number of jokes doesn’t really make or break the film’s tone. The main point of BATMAN NINJA is the setpieces, so it stands to reason that those setpieces and the thin excuse of a plot holding them together are pretty much the same in both languages.

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Technical Difficulties

However, there is one difference that caught me off guard. I noticed that in the English version, the characters’ voice sound kind of tinny. Granted, certain characters like Batman and some of his sidekicks do seem to have a deliberate electronic voice filter effect applied to their dialogue. But even the characters who aren’t wearing any tech stuff still end up sounding slightly warbled.

Now, I’ll admit that English dub’s audio issues are relatively unnoticeable unless you’re nit-picky about these sorts of things. But it is odd that the Japanese audio doesn’t seem to have these problems, especially since the electronic voice filters I mentioned earlier don’t even show up in the Japanese version.

There are, of course, other things to nitpick. BATMAN NINJA’s has some of the best direct-to-DVD CGI animations I’ve seen, but it’s still somewhat unrefined at times. While I think it looks great, do keep in mind that it isn’t quite at the level of, well, mainstream movie CGI animation.

BATMAN NINJA
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The total lack of subtlety in the character designs can also be annoying at times as well. For instance, there’s a scene where Batman disguises as a missionary to hide from the Joker’s forces. But he still has the Bat emblem on his disguise for some reason.

BATMAN NINJA
Do they think we’ll forget he’s Batman? Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

But here’s my main issue with BATMAN NINJA. For all its craziness, there are times where it doesn’t go far enough. Or at least, I think it doesn’t go far enough in the right direction. 

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Supervillain Setpieces

A good example of this is how BATMAN NINJA handles its villains. In total, about eight big-name supervillains end up in Feudal Japan along with Batman. Out of all them, only Joker, Harley, and Gorilla Grodd end up playing a big role in the plot.

The rest of the supervillains build giant mech castles, which turn out to be parts of Grodd’s Megazord-esque robot. Aside from that, they don’t get to do much individually. There are flashes of opportunity here and there. Penguin’s castle mech contains an army of penguins and Poison Ivy is accompanied by two toothy looking plant monsters.

BATMAN NINJA
Images courtesy of DC Entertainment.

But we never get to see the army of penguins or the toothy plant monsters actually do anything, even when the heroes manage to crash their way into the villain’s mechanized fortresses. Deathstroke, the DC’s most infamous mercenary, is practically a background character here, while time is dedicated to introducing Robin’s two new monkey sidekicks, who both end up being way more influential plotwise.

BATMAN NINJA
Images courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The film has cool designs, but it doesn’t put them all to good use. And given how nonsensical and flashy everything is in BATMAN NINJA, it’s hard not to feel at least a little disappointed by that.

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Should you watch BATMAN NINJA?

Obviously, not every Batman story needs to have a grim and gritty tone to it. But I understand why BATMAN NINJA’s lack of seriousness can be frustrating. Regardless of genre, it’s hard to get invested in a story where everything happens at random and the characters are just there to look cool.

After all, having super-stylized visuals doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have thoughtful plots with fleshed-out characters. In fact, action films like BATMAN NINJA would benefit from having well-developed characters and stakes, since doing so gives the explosions and the fight scenes more of an impact.

In the end, though, it is what it is. Compared to the rest of its direct-to-DVD brethren, BATMAN NINJA is a one-of-a-kind visual spectacle. But its storytelling does leave a lot to be desired. Currently, the film is available for digital download, and for those of you who specifically want the English or Japanese version, the Amazon version up for sale is a two-for-one package.

Weirdly enough, instead of being able to pick the language, you get a two-hour-and-fifty-minute long video where the first half is the English version and the second half is the Japanese version.

BATMAN NINJA
Images courtesy of DC Entertainment and Amazon Video.

I know that doesn’t really have anything to do with the film’s quality. But it is kind of annoying that they organized it that way. In any case, if you’re a fan of innovative animation, and you don’t mind stories that don’t take themselves seriously at all, BATMAN NINJA is worth checking out.

3 Comments

  1. Alvin Dormer

    May 2, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    Animation was good… Loved the setting and basic concepts… AND thats about it…WAY to over the top for me… i was done after the giant robots/monkey/batman scene… rating of 5 outta ten… could be lower

    Reply

  2. HaschWalth

    April 29, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Amazing 10/10 The animation style was spectacular!!!

    Reply

  3. HaschWalth

    April 29, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    Hell Yeah I enjoyed this Felt Fresh 10/10 the animation style was Spectacular!!! Cant wait for the Blue Ray version the Dub was amazing it fit the animation well i want more

    Reply

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