Set in feudal Japan, Batman Ninja tells the story of how Batman must stop Lord Joker from taking over Japan and drastically changing the history of the world, all while trying to get back to 21st century Gotham City.
This is, by far, one of the most ambitious Batman projects that has ever been created, as it doesn’t look or feel like anything we’ve seen. The animation has moments where you just stay in awe at how gorgeous and breathtaking it looks, while the action of the movie will keep your focus for the whole 85 minutes of the film.
The movie doesn’t take long to start its action. By minute one we are already in feudal Japan fighting alongside Batman to defeat the Joker and it doesn’t stop there. This is a film full of things happening at every moment – which can be either good or bad, depending on who you are.
The final battle is simply insane, taking inspiration from so many anime battles. If you’re a fan of anime, your head might just explode from what you’re seeing on screen. It really is too much. The training and fight scenes in the middle of the film are really fun to watch.
The character design is bold yet appealing, as it combines certain characteristics from Batman, such as his gadgets and technology, with the ambience and style of Japan in its feudal times. It’s entertaining to see so many characters from Batman’s rogue gallery in that era, especially rogues like Joker, Harley, Deathstroke, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Penguin and more.
Not only that, but this is also the first time we get the four most known Robins together onscreen alongside Batman and Alfred. I’m talking about Nightwing (a.k.a. the first Robin a.k.a Dick Grayson), Red Hood (Jason Todd), Red Robin (Tim Drake) and Robin (Damian Wayne). All of these iconic characters are there to help Bruce in his crusade against the Joker, dressed up in traditional Japanese attire of the time. That’s something amazing on its own.
However, the film is not without faults and one of them is the way it portrays the female characters. I know anime is “mostly known” for oversexualizing female characters, but DC has a recent history of not “treating right” their female characters, so it’s a shame to see them not changing their ways in this particular film. Although, it is appreciated that there is no random sex scene in here.
Another flaw in the film is that while visually it’s perfect and packed with action, the truth is that in the story, character development and substance, Batman Ninja leaves a lot to be desired. They don’t explore feudal Japan as much as they could. They don’t dwell on character’s personalities as much as they should. Some things feel a little underused, especially because they had much more potential than what the film showed us.
As it is the first time we get four Robins onscreen together, I somewhat expected the characters to be developed in mainstream media a little more. Unfortunately, they are just presented and that’s it. There isn’t much to tell about them. The same goes for Batman and every other character in the film. This movie says “you already know them, there’s no need to explore them or make them change”, which… I don’t know, feels odd.
I saw this film in its two versions, English and Japanese audio, and while the translations sometimes are misplaced, every actor that lends their voice to this film does a great job. However, the dialogue of the film tends to be just a little cheesy in both versions. Believe me, there will be times where you’ll be watching the movie asking yourself “What?” at what you’re hearing.
Don’t get me wrong, it is an enjoyable film, especially in seeing how Bruce must adapt to lose the technology he was so used to in order to defeat his opponents. However, it lacks that something in the storytelling department that makes you say “Wow, this is the best Batman film I’ve seen”.
Overall, this is a film you should see for its outstanding visuals. Okazaki’s character designs are simply astonishing, full of great moments of fun and action that will keep you hooked throughout the entirety of the film. Despite that, this film is far from the best. You might enjoy watching it more than once, but in terms of story… There isn’t much to tell.