Whether you love or hate “Batman Ninja,” you have to admit DC is at least going for something completely different and radical this time around. With a different crew and approach toward the mythology, “Batman Ninja” is a unique time traveling tale that finds Batman at his most godlike, worshipped as a near invincible warrior in Feudal Japan. Beautifully directed by Junpei Mizusaki, “Batman Ninja” puts the entire aesthetic of the DC character in to some of the wildest anime filters, and it works most of the time. Some concepts land with a thud, but when “Batman Ninja” soars, it’s quite spectacular.
In modern day Gotham, Batman finds himself embroiled in battle with Gorilla Grodd who builds a machine that can alter time and space. Being caught in the machine’s wave, Batman is shocked to learn he’s trapped in ancient Feudal Japan. What’s worse is that all of his worst villains have taken up residence, and risen to power including the Joker and Harley Quinn of all people. With the use of his martial arts training, Batman has to adapt and gain control of Grodd’s machine to get back home and fix the timeline. Thankfully he’s not alone as he befriends Catwoman, along with his former apprentices Red Robin, Robin, Nightwing and Red Hood, all of whom have formed a Batman inspired Ninja Clan. One of the most appealing aspects of “Batman Ninja” is the incredible animation, which realizes this surreal and absolutely bonkers new world of Batman.
Director Junpei Mizusaki and writer Kazuki Nakashima manage to re-invent a lot of these fun characters in inventive ways, from rogues like the Penguin, to the Red Hood who is surprisingly fun as this erratic warrior. Director Junpei Mizusaki is never above including as many of the Samurai and anime tropes, which should make the experience a lot more colorful for fans of the genre. Even I had a good time watching Robin and his sidekick monkey help Batman, as well as the prospect of Gotham’s rogues becoming warlords in various parts of feudal Japan. Overall I wish we’d seen more of them, including Deadshot and Two Face, both of whom just seem fit for this kind of radical re-imagining, and I was immediately bored with Robin’s pet monkey/sidekick.
For the most part, the pair of Grodd and Joker are the primary threats, with a ton of focus on Batman learning the way of the samurai and doing so in a shockingly small amount of time. There’s also a mid-way transformation in to a different style of animation that was both jarring and distracting. While I understand its inherent meaning, it was just pointless. That said, “Batman Ninja” is a raucous good time with samurais, ninjas, magic, monsters, and yes—giant robots! I had a very good time with this unique approach to the character. While I probably won’t see it again, I recommend it for folks looking for the Dark Knight kicking ass in a bold new setting.
Now available on Digital.