“Batman Ninja" stars Kōichi Yamadera, Wataru Takagi, Ai Kakuma, Rie Kugimiya, and Hōchū Ōtsuka. Released in the United States on April 24, 2018, the film has Batman fighting against his foes in Feudal Japan.
The film is directed by Jumpei Mizusaki. In countless shows and movies, we’ve seen the Caped Crusader battle crime whether it’s set in the present or way back in the past, like the Victorian era. This latest direct-to-DVD release is no different. A couple of months ago, I shared my thoughts on another Batman film, “Gotham by Gaslight”, which you can check out in my “2018 Reviews” page, and since we won’t get another superhero film until next week, I figured I would do another superhero movie review for the time being. This has been somewhat on my radar for quite some time since I saw the trailer for it. The reason for it is that this film has a different style compared to the other Batman direct-to-DVD movies. Plus, it has Batman fighting in Japan. How can you pass on something like that? Anyway, since this film is presented in both English and Japanese, I will be looking at the English version, which has Roger Craig Smith as Batman and “Arrested Development” star Tony Hale as The Joker.
One of the things you should know about “Batman Ninja” is that it immediately jumps right into its concept during the first couple of minutes. Like most direct-to-DVD features, the storytelling has the tendency to be as simplistic and sometimes rushed as possible in order to accomplish certain requirements, and this film happens to fall into that category. It’s nowhere near as clever nor as impactful as the story in “Gotham by Gaslight”, but its visual style somehow managed to make up for it. Roger Craig Smith was a solid fit as the voice of Batman, and Tony Hale was surprisingly tolerable as The Joker. There were times where Hale gets a bit too high-pitched, but aside from that, he was able to pull off Joker’s personality quite well. As opposed to the Batman direct-to-DVD films that used only 2D animation, “Batman Ninja” used both CGI animation and traditional animation to fully mimic the style of Japanese animation from certain anime shows, especially the ones that used only CGI animation. While there were a few scenes where the animation on the character movements looked a bit sluggish, I was actually impressed on how well it showcases the action sequences and the character designs. Big props to the designers for making The Joker look visually creepy compared to his 2D counterpart. It’s not going to win any major awards for its use of animation, but if you’re the type of person that likes to watch anime, this film might suit your needs. The musical score by Yugo Kanno wasn’t anything special, either, but it did its part in capturing the feel of watching a CGI anime that was made in Japan. One of the issues I had with the film was the sound editing. At times, it was about as impactful as hitting someone in the gut, but at other times, it was about as impactful as hitting someone with a soft pillow. I’m not sure if it was my television or the film itself, but some of the sound effects I heard were almost non-existent.
Overall, “Batman Ninja” took the Batman franchise in a new direction, and for the most part, it surprisingly works. Its direct-to-DVD qualities and animation may not impress those who aren’t into Japanese animation, but it was able to deliver a good old-fashioned piece of Batman entertainment that happens to take place in Feudal Japan. I would place this one below “Gotham by Gaslight” mostly because of its use of sound editing. It’s worth a look at if you’re a fan of Batman or a fan of Japanese animation.