The new animated movie Batman Ninja – created by director Jumpei Mizusaki (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure), writer Kazuki Nakashima (Gurren Lagann), and character designer Takashi Okazaki (Afro Samurai) – is an action-packed film featuring many of DC’s top superheroes, including Catwoman, Robin, Red Hood, Nightwing and, of course, the one and only Batman. What makes it different is the setting: rather than the normal Gotham City, the story is set hundreds of years ago, in Feudal Japan. Sadly, considering the combination of two really cool things – Batman and ninjas – it’s not really as exciting as it should be.
The adventure sees the Dark Knight and his allies taken back in time by Gorilla Grodd’s time displacement machine, where they must fight to return home, as they face some of comics’ most powerful villains, including The Joker, Harley Quinn and The Penguin, who have taken over the feudal lords that rule the land. Unfortunately, there’s no real explanation for why they have done this; the villains just appear to have taken over ancient Japan for no apparent reason. The characters’ unclear motives make them appear rather unintelligent, which is particularly out of character for the normally evil scheming, Joker, for example, and doesn’t make for a gripping story.
Indeed, the story line is very simplistic: Batman turns up in ancient Japan, happens to run into a couple of enemies, fights them and goes home. Compared to other anime series that are currently popular – such as Fairy Tail, Vampire Knight, or Snow White With The Red Hair – Batman Ninja is somewhat shallow. Indeed, the animation isn’t as good as the aforementioned series either, being more similar to something more conventionally Western-influenced, such as Transformers: Robots In Disguise.
Even the title is also a slight misnomer, as by the end of the story, Batman doesn’t become a ninja as such, although he does change into various historically-relevant ‘Bat-outfits’ throughout the movie, and learn some ninjitsu moves. There are some very talented ninjas who dress up as Batman, if that could be considered compensation.
On a positive note, the acting is generally okay, with Grey Griffin’s Catwoman being particularly strong. And there are an awful lot of awesome action sequences, such as the humongous fight involving a couple of dinosaur-sized boats getting blown up. Plus the whole historical aspect makes the movie somewhat unique, allowing potential for a second Batman Ninja movie, or even further sequels set in other historical periods, such as Ancient Greek or Ancient Egypt. (Although I personally feel Batman works best in his home of Gotham City.)
Lacking in any real emotional depth or maturity – being just ‘goodies versus baddies’ – Batman Ninja is an average action-packed “Saturday morning cartoon” adventure, albeit a slightly stronger, more violent one – it’s rated 12 – that would appeal to 7-10 year old boys looking for something slightly stronger than they would normally be allowed to watch.