I’m glad I was wrong. At first glance, I assumed that Batman Ninja would be a dark, overly serious DC animated film set in Feudal Japan. When in reality, this is a fun, beautifully animated film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and just happens to feature Batman and his rogues gallery. The anime art style may be off-putting for some, but it’s a fantastic film and could very well be the best DC Animated Film.
The narrative kicks off with Batman confronting Guerilla Grodd in an effort to stop the activation of the Quake Engine, which acts as a time displacement device. Batman’s intervention fails and the Quake Engine activates and sends Batman back to Feudal Japan. From there the story goes completely insane as Batman, along with Catwoman and the Bat Family, must stop Gotham’s top criminals from taking over Japan. The Joker acts as the primary antagonist and is joined by Deathstroke, Penguin, Poison Ivy, and Two-Face as the primary rogues who deceived the daimyo and have taken their place as feudal lords. The Joker primarily operates out of Arkham Castle, which on the surface looks like a traditional Japanese castle, but is in reality is a highly advanced mechanized robot and look…I said that this was crazy and I wasn’t lying, each of the other rogues have similar castles with their own unique designs and abilities.
Batman Ninja plays out like an anime version of a Batman story. It’s colorful, loud, silly, and the animation is fantastic. It’s a blend of hand-drawn animation mixed with CG and unlike the recent Berserk series, which was animated rather poorly, the film is fluid and is beautiful to watch. There is a scene around halfway through the film that is animated in a water-color style, I had to pause because of just how gorgeous that scene was.
Character designs will remind you of Afro Samurai as the main cast are stylish and memorable. The Joker and Red Hood are the real standouts for myself, I love their individual designs. If I had to name a flaw in regards to the design it was with the look of Guerilla Grodd, While he does stand-out, it isn’t necessarily in a good way, he just looks really awkward and out of place. Also, what the hell is up with Robin’s hair, he truly does look like a sidekick in an anime, I don’t mind it, but it’s just so weird and every time he appears on screen I think its hilarious.
Voice acting in Batman Ninja is overall fantastic. Tony Hale does an admirable job as the Joker and I feel his best work is done in the latter half of the film, when the action starts to truly go off the rails. Its always nice to hear an actor sound like their having fun with a role as in a film as silly as this, you wouldn’t want the actor to phone it in. Dialogue in the film can be unintentionally fourth-wall breaking as characters will comment on how insane the situations are. It’s almost as if they’re in as much disbelief as the audience, because who in their right mind would expect robots to appear in feudal Japan.
The absurdity of Batman Ninja is what it makes it so appealing. It may be a turn off to fans of the Dark Knight, but rest assured, this is a film that will surprise you. It’s action-packed and filled with hilarious moments, when Ba
ne appears, it’s one of the best scenes in the film. It will leave you shaking your head, but you will have a smile on your face. The final confrontation of the film is fantastic, it starts off fairly standard in terms of action, but quickly ramps up its intensity and energy. I thought the scene preceding it was fantastic but the final confrontation was more intimate and memorable. I wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy Batman Ninja due to its campy nature. But it is a thoroughly enjoyable film, with a setting that actually fits Batman and his rogues gallery. I recommend this film to all those who loves a fun, unique Batman story. This is an excellent addition to the DC Animated library.