Well this looked trippy. And yet, somehow this makes almost too much sense. Batman was trained as a ninja, after all, so he ought to feel right at home in a setting like this. Plus, anime, this is going to be insane.
The story looks like it’s about… an alternate reality where Batman is in Japan? I honestly don’t really know what to make of the story itself, it’s a pretty generic trailer showcasing action and animation style rather than plot.
Here’s the cast. The voice talent includes Roger Craig Smith (THE STAR  and STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II ) and Tony Hale (LOVE, SIMON , TRANSFORMERS 5 , ANGRY BIRDS , and ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS 4 ). In support, we have Tara Strong (MY LITTLE PONY , KILLING JOKE , and the upcoming TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES ), Tom Kenny (BATTLE OF THE SEXES , TRANSFORMERS 5, and MIDDLE SCHOOL ), Grey DeLisle (BATTLEFRONT II), and Fred Tatasciore (THE STAR and KUNG FU PANDA 3 ).
Now for the crew. As the crew is all Japanese, I won’t know who they are or be familiar with their previous work, but credit where credit is due. Directing is Junpei Mizusaki. The original Japanese screenplay is by Kazuki Nakashima. The English translated script is by Leo Chu and Eric Garcia, both known for stuff that I’ve never heard of. Finally, the composer is Yûgo Kanno.
Overall, like I said, this looks insane, especially the Joker. Seriously, this anime-drawn Joker might ruin any animated Joker in the future for me because he looks unreal, and I mean that in the best possible way. Crank that insanity level past ten and all the way to twenty. Shit, his look is scary.
This is my honest opinion of: BATMAN NINJA
Failing to stop Guerrilla Grodd (voiced by Fred Tatasciore) from using his latest invention within Arkham Asylum that would grant him control over time and space, Batman (voiced by Roger Craig Smith) succeeds only in damaging the machine enough that he, some of Arkham’s inmates, as well as Batman and some of his allies, they all get whisked away to ancient Japan, with a twist. While everyone was transported at the same time, Batman was only seconds behind, translating to two years for his teleportation. Within that two year time frame, the criminals of Arkham have taken over Japan’s feuding territories and plan to seize control over the entire country for themselves.
… Ugh. Damn it, I really wanted to like this. Like… a lot, but… no. Just a whole ton of no.
Okay, so I’m pretty sure this movie is popular among those who’ve seen it, so I’ll start with what I liked. Yes, the animation is absolutely stunning and lends its way for some really awesome action and an insane design for Joker that just might be his craziest yet. Ironic how when America tries to adapt something from Japan, we royally screw it up, but when Japan does something, they almost do it better than we can. And I won’t lie, I’m usually not a fan of Hale. He’s usually known for his comedies and unless he’s in CHUCK (2007 – 2012), I’ve never found him funny. But again, leave it to a Japanese animated film to bring out what just might be his best performance ever. He’s seriously not that bad of a Joker. I might even say he’s right up there with Richard Epcar and John DiMaggio. But not Mark Hamill. No one’s up there with Mark Hamill. Also, it’s really awesome to see Tara Strong reprising her role as Harley Quinn. You’ll never hear me complain if I see her name attached to anything.
With all that said, I don’t like this movie. At all.
When I saw the first trailer, I was under the impression that this movie’s premise was that it was an alternate universe where the world was basically a Japanese setting that was a combination of the past and the future, as I imagine most anime is. But that’s not the case. And because that’s not the case, nearly everything that happens in this movie is complete nonsense. It’s not explicitly mentioned what year the setting is, other than “Feudal Japan,” which encompasses, what, 150 years? But you can’t convince me that in two years, the criminals of Gotham managed to not only take over the largest territories, but also managed to create giant robots that go all Power Rangers and morph together. All in two years no less. I wouldn’t make such a big deal about it if this was a fictional world, but this takes place during a real period in time where the the technology couldn’t possibly exist yet to make such machines. Like I said, the biggest fix is simply an alternate universe with made-up rules.
If that weren’t bad enough, there’s even more choices that are beyond weird. Like, there’s a bit where Catwoman (voiced by Grey DeLisle) narrates and introduces the other villains of the movie… via Street Fighter-styled character cards. Um… what? And there’s a pointless bit where Bruce has to blend in without the suit and dress like a friar. I forget what that bald patch is called, but instead of that bald patch, he literally shaves the bat-symbol. Okay, problems. Joker’s samurai are looking for a man dressed as a bat. All it takes is for someone to look down from a few feet above Bruce in order to find something suspicious in some way. And not that the disguise matters because Joker starts bombing the crap out of the hide-out he and Catwoman use. And he’s absent-minded too! During this very scene with the bat-symbol hair, he’s handed a cup of tea by an old dude with a British accent. Somehow, it takes Bruce a solid minute to figure out that it was Alfred (voiced by Adam Croasdell). Again… Batman isn’t this dumb. And who thought it was a good idea to make Batman some kind of prophesized hero?! Aren’t “Chosen One” stories overplayed by this point? And if Batman was forced to work with a villain, why would he not suspect that villain to not betray him later? And since when did Batman think his gadgetry is what made him useful? Yeah, he has this existential crisis beore the climax where he thinks his technology is what gives him the upper hand. Not his intelligence, his resourcefulness, his ninja training, screw all that, it’s all about the gas bombs!
Also, while I’m all for different interpretations of Batman, I really didn’t agree with this one. Upon arrival to Japan, he’s confronted by samurai with masks that clearly look like the Joker’s face. Yet, what is Batman’s first question? “Who’s your master?!” Um… guys, Batman isn’t called “the world’s greatest detective” just because it’s cool to say. It’s because he’s a smart dude. Batman was just portrayed as a dumb ass. This is a cardinal sin that even the DC EU hasn’t managed to achieve, and that’s saying a lot. Even the banter between the arch nemeses is stupid. It works for the Joker because, you know, bad jokes work for him. The scene in question is when Joker and Batman first fight and Joker starts throwing razor-edged fans at Batman, which cut down branches from trees, prompting the following dialog:
Poison Ivy wouldn’t like you destroying these trees!
You’re the one throwing the fans!
Because you won’t let them hit you!
See what I mean? I believe the Joker would say these things, but Batman stating the obvious in a complaining, deflective manner? Uh, no.
Also, as much as I love the Joker’s design and voice acting, I can’t say that I’m a fan of how he’s a fighter on Batman’s level. In nearly every incarnation of the Joker, he’s not a fighter. If he ever got the upper hand on Batman in a fight, it’s because it was through trickery,not because he truly knows how to fight. He certainly can’t expertly wield a sword, or leap from tree to tree with lightning speed like a ninja.
Bane’s in this movie. Actually, that’s not clear. Was it actually Bane, or just a jacked up sumo wrestler? You got me! Red Hood is constantly referenced, but we don’t see him until well past the half-way mark, and even when we do see him, it’s during a random scene where the animation changes to water colors (I don’t know). A computer screen’s layout looks like paper cut outs attached to string. That was random. And pointless. Which might as well sum up the entire movie. Oh and let’s not forget the crowning jewel of stupidity: an army of monkeys combine themselves to create a giant monkey to battle the Joker megazord, but when that’s not enough, an army of bats show up to combine with the giant monkey made of monkeys, all to create… a giant Batman from the 90s animated series. Guys, I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
Speaking of water color scenes, there’s subplots that go nowhere. By this point in the story, Grodd’s betrayed Batman and Joker attempts to kill Batman by detonating explosives that are supposed to hill himself, Harley (voiced by Tara Strong), and Batman together. Two days or two weeks later, Joker and Harley make an obvious reappearance, but they’ve lost their memories and become kind-natured farmers. This plotline lasts about two minutes before they turn back to their normal selves. That added a whole lot to the story!
The truth is, I can see someone having fun with this movie, getting sucked in to the balls-to-the-wall insanity, but I am not one of them. Like I keep saying, this movie should have taken a page from GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT (2018). Batman wasn’t trust into a Victorian era Gotham, that was the setting and it was treated accurately for the time period, as far as I can tell (I never actually saw it). If this was just some random multiverse where it was purely a Japanese setting and Batman and every one of his featured allies and villains were all samurais surrounded by crazy tech, a little like the world of Dragon Ball, I would have had no problem embracing the craziness… well, most of it. The giant monkey and giant Batman thing will always be something hard to swallow. But as is, that’s not what’s been produced. It’s like someone said, “think of anything that’s a staple of anime, and throw in Batman.” For me, it doesn’t work. I’m sure this will find a fanbase, so if you’re one of them, more power to you. As for me, give me JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017) any day. At least I enjoyed myself in that movie.
My honest rating for BATMAN NINJA: 2/5