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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Batman: Ninja


Starring (voice): Kōichi Yamadera, Wataru Takagi, Ai Kakuma, Rie Kugimiya and Hōchū Ōtsuka
Distributor: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

5 051892 212700

Certificate: 12
Release Date: 14 May 2018

As part of their high quality on-going animated films, Warner Bros. in conjunction with Warner Japan releases Batman: Ninja on Blu-ray, Steelbook and DVD. This 85 minute anime feature is written by Kazuki Nakashima and directed by Jumpei Mizusaki. Gorilla Grodd has developed a time displacement machine. Batman is after putting it out of action, whereas his arch enemies are desperate to secure it for very different and nefarious reasons. The resultant clash zaps them all off to ancient Japan. The Joker seeks overall power, forcing the Batman to make reluctant alliances in order to get them all back to contemporary Gotham. He soon realises that technology can’t help him here; only ingenuity and a willingness to change to suit this new environment...

Batman: Ninja is a difficult one to quantify. The plot device used to place Batman in a period Japanese setting is a little contrived, to say the least. The likelihood of the time displacement machine transferring not only Gorilla Grodd and the Batman, but top villains The Joker, Harley Quinn, The Penguin, Poison Ivy, Deathstroke, Two-Face and Bane is unlikely. Whilst the chances of Catwoman, Nightwing, Red Hood, Red Robin, and even Alfred extend that to the point of being ridiculous.

The idea is that The Joker has taken over the machine, but is missing some of the power rods, one each of which is held by opposing Feudal Lords Penguin, Two-Face, Poison Ivy and Deathstroke. Although these villains are adorned with Shogun-like armour of real Japanese history, we see very little of them. The main characters are undoubtedly Batman and The Joker, so why not just have these two? It would have made a tauter and more realistic battle. The point is proved with the one-on-one Samurai sword fight on a rooftop at the film’s finale. As for the Sumo Wrestler version of Bane: Batman sees him off in about ten seconds! Conversely, Catwoman looks really good, but is under utilised, except for the odd skirmish with Harley Quinn. Other than that she stands near The Joker pretending to be a reluctant ally.

I realise the idea is to strip Batman of his technology; certainly, the moment when he goes to use his grappling gun, only to realise there are no tall buildings, is priceless. However, everyone else seems to possess anachronistic tech. Where does The Joker’s robot temple and vast array of firepower come from? Recent Japanese anime culture dictates the appearance of a robot or monster somewhere along the line. But Transformers and warring robots?! Batman leads the good guys without doing much but a little fighting and exerting of his presence. Red Robin and his associate monkey do more by calling together hundreds of armoured monkeys – which looks impressive until they form an opposing robot (which looks like a rubbish Teddy Bear) to go up against The Joker.

In between the manic, in-your-face, action (punctuated by mad visuals in the vein of Pokemon character screens) are quiet introspective moments. Here the animation changes to a likeness of watercolour paintings: two birds singing on a branch or seeds floating on the breeze. This portrays a culture of peace and harmony amidst the chaos of warring factions.

Although Batman: Ninja has its fair share of nice original moments, this iconic American hero doesn’t sit well in an historical Japanese setting. I suppose that is the point Warner Japan is trying to make. Compare it with the stylistic Victorian setting of Gotham By Gaslight, for example, and you’ll see what I mean. Much of what happens in this film is quite obviously for the sake of convenience eye candy. Am I being too fussy about loose plot strands? Technology which has been damaged or discarded is carelessly left behind with no consideration of how it could affect the historic timelines. Perhaps the reality should be changed when they return to Gotham City.

Nevertheless, you’ve got to appreciate the attempt to do something different with these characters and situations. I am a dedicated follower of these animated Batman films targeted at a more adult audience. I have Batman Year One, Mask of the Phantasm, Under the Red Hood, Gotham By Gaslight, Mystery of the Batwoman, Gotham Knight, Assault on Arkham, Batman Vs Robin, Son of Batman, Bad Blood, The Dark Knight Returns – Parts 1 & 2, The Killing Joke, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, and a few of the Justice League titles in which Batman is prominent in the storyline. They are generally of very high standard; certainly, a line that DC excels in. Okay, this one is no Batman Year One, or The Dark Knight Returns, but is a slightly above average release and worth seeing.

Extras include: East/West Batman and Batman: Made in Japan featurettes; and New York Comic Con Presents Batman Ninja.


Ty Power

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