Hey folks, Valkor here. I remember when DC and Marvel would go toe-to-toe with their animated universes, which left many comic book fans as happy campers. However, it would be DC that would come out on top, producing some of the finest animated films to date (Marvel still owns it on the live-action front - at least with their films). And after the awesomeness that was Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, the next DC animated adventure to hit my desk is one of the most anticipated DCAU films this year – Batman Ninja, which is the first full-on Japanese anime to feature the Bat. But don't get too hyped about this one as some things work and others... yea. Expect spoilers!
Batman Ninja kicks things off at Arkham Asylum where we find Bats duking it out with Gorilla Grodd over his creation of a time machine. Unfortunately, Grodd sets off the device and Batman as well as much of his rogue gallery is sent back in time to feudal Japan. Now here’s the twist: Batman arrives two years after everyone else, and now most of his famous baddies such as Two-face, The Joker, The Penguin, Deathstroke, and Poison Ivy have broken up into factions, controlling different areas of Japan. Thankfully, Bats isn’t alone in the fight, as he’ll have aid from a troupe of ninjas, his trusty sidekicks Nightwing, Red Robin, Robin, Red Hood, and even Alfred and Catwoman join the party.
The Bulk of the film finds Batman taking on The Joker and Harley Quinn, who prove to be way more trouble than their worth in this era. Eventually, the Joker is taken out or rather he takes himself out in an attempt to wipe out Batman and his crew. However, Joker returns in the midst of a battle between the different villainous factions whose fortresses have become battling robots. This turned out to be a part of Gorilla Grodd’s master plan to take over the villain’s minds and use their robots to form one super bot. But the Joker puts a monkey wrench to that plan, taking out Grodd thus taking over the robot. Batman steps in and using the power of a mystical flute, he summons a horde of monkeys who form to become one super monkey (I’M NOT KIDDING). Unfortunately, Joker’s bot proves to be too much for the simian beast. Luckily, a swarm of bats gathers around the giant monkey beast to form the legendary Bat God (OH GOD I’M NOT KIDDING). The film ends with Batman and Joker facing off in a one on one battle to the death, where Batman reigns victorious and the Joker gets to live on to see another day. And with that the troupe head back to the future where we see some changes have taken place (Bruce is riding around in a horse-drawn Batmobile). But is it truly the end? Maybe. I don't know. And after watching this film, I don't want to know.
Batman Ninja is something like Gotham Knight, where we’re introduced to different art styles as the story progresses. However, the two films vary in that Batman Ninja takes a more narrative approach rather than an anthology. Along with the visuals, there’s also some historical notes tossed in, which thankfully isn’t too heavy. But really it was unnecessary considering the fantasy nature of the film. In the end, does Batman Ninja sink or swim? We’ll find out in the TOV Breakdown!
Batman Ninja will rank as one of the most visually stunning films in the DC Animated Universe. The opening scene alone justifies the purchase as it’s filled to the brim with some of the most stunning, eye-popping animations I’ve seen in quite some time. And each new section is a work of art all its own. I honestly enjoyed the watercolor look in the scene where Joker and Harley have lost their memory and Red Hood is kicking the crap out of them. And if you took away the voices, it would all come together to form one amazing work of art. Lastly, the final battle between Batman and Joker was badass! It was pretty brutal with neither one holding back, which drew me back into the film after the giant beast battle took me out of it. But those two going at it made up for that silliness. And yet once you get past these bits you’re not left with much else.
I thought "The Killing Joke" would be the one animated Batfilm I’d dislike. But then Batman Ninja came along and changed all that. To me, this might have worked as a mini-series or even a couple of films as the entire project felt rushed; the opening scene alone wastes no time in getting right into the Batman/Grodd conflict, zipping us from present to past before moving on to the Joker/Harley threat. Some scenes are better paced than others, but I think the film would have worked best if it had been spread out more rather than condensed into one piece. There are also parts of the story that, to me, doesn’t make much sense. My first issue: why is it that EVERYONE else arrived at one time and Batman shows up two years later? Next, how does each faction build a fully functional robot that can combine into one super bot in a two-year time frame? I get it that Grodd is the mastermind behind it all, but given the time period, you’d think they be mad short on resources to create such machines. And don’t even get me started on the Super Bat/Monkey God… just don’t! Finally, and this might be me nitpicking, but is Robin in this film supposed to be Damian Wayne? If so, that kid is waaaaaaaay out of character. And giving him a monkey sidekick didn't help much. Ultimately, the story doesn’t work for me. It’s simply too over the top for my taste – and I’m a fan of Dragon Ball Z!
Batman Ninja is available on May 8th in a single disc DVD or Blu-Ray triple combo pack; I had high hopes for this film, which ultimately turned out to be a letdown. But if you’re into anime artwork, you’ll find the visuals to be a real treat. However, don’t expect too much from the story because it definitely will disappoint. And in the end, out of TOV 5 stars, I’m giving Batman Ninja 2 stars.