While many are quick to criticise the DC Extended Universe, myself included, those same always look forward to any of DC’s animated projects. DC’s most recent project of Batman Ninja is no different. Like many, I found myself instantly hooked when the trailer was dropped. Though many traditional fans were in quite the shock.
The story is very much a DC Elseworlds story. The Elseworlds stories have always been the crazy “what if” stories that were kept sept from the rest of the DC continuity. The story for Batman Ninja starts by members of the Bat family (Batman, Nightwing, Red Hood, Red Robin, and Robin) stopping a demonstration by Gorilla Grodd to members of the Gotham criminal world (The Joker, Harley Quinn, Deathstroke, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, The Penguin, and Catwoman) at Arkham Asylum. The resulting explosion sends the Asylum and all those involved back in time to Feudal Japan. Batman arrives almost 2 years after the others and discovers that the criminals have become lords in this new land. He must work to obtain the keys needed to return back to their original time.
The resulting movie is an absolute insane journey. The director, Junpei Mizusaki, was a producer on Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. The writer, Kazuki Nakashima, also wrote Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill. The character designer, Takashi Okazaki, worked on Afro Samurai. So the concept “embrace the absurdity” has never been truer. This movie involves Batman, ninjas, samurai, giant robots, and a monkey army. So yes the story is a little unrealistic but in all the best ways possible.
The movies look is as unique as the story. Given the creative team that was involved, it’s easy to see the influence other shows have had on the creation of the overall aesthetic. Even more impressive is that there will be points in the movie when they change up the art style entirely. The opening and closing segments set in Gotham are more 2D anime, the bulk of the movie utilizes a type of CGI look, and one portion looks more like paint was used. But it’s an artistic beauty that could only be from Japan.
The voice acting is great as well. Roger Craig Smith lends his voice to Batman. This is not Smith’s first time portraying the Dark Knight. Many will recognize this Batman as being the same voice as from Batman Arkham Origins and Batman Unlimited. Yuri Lowenthal voices Red Hood and Robin. Adam Croasdell voices Nightwing. And Red Robin is voiced by Will Friedle. Fans of Injustice 2 will recognize Catwoman as voiced by Grey DeLisle. The Joker is played brilliantly by Arrested Development star Tony Hale. And fan favorite Tara Strong reprises her role as Harley Quinn.
But is the movie perfect? No. The biggest problem I had was something I don’t find myself making about modern animated project, especially those that come out of Japan. I found myself noticing that the lip sync was off at times. These were mainly with scenes involving the Joker, but it happened a few times when Batman was speaking. There were also points where it seemed that video was presented as educational. There were scenes that explained, in detail, the history of Japan of the time set.
Yet I found myself having more fun and enjoying this movie over Batman vs Superman. In fact, I look forward to DC animated movies over anything the DCEU is working. Many of the animated projects average around 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, while the DCEU is averaging 48% and that includes Wonder Woman 92%. Many even remember the Batman Animated Series won a Primetime and Daytime Emmy.
With DC’s announcement of their streaming service, they might find success if they add their vast animated collection to their service. Especially with the negative feedback, they have gotten around the photos of the Teen Titans live action series.
But if you’re wondering on whether or not you should see Batman Ninja. Then I would preference that with a few questions. Are you a fan of animation and can appreciate a different style of art? Are you fine with the Elseworlds concept? Then yes, by all means, you should check it out. Batman Ninja is highly original with its take on Batman and fully expressive in its original story and animation. I give Batman Ninja a 3.75 out of 5. If you want to pick it up then you can Batman Ninja here.