I’ve talked about some Marvel related anime before with Blade & X-men. It seemed about time I looked at something DC related. This film came out in April & June of this year with a screenplay by Nakashima Kazuki and relative newcomer studio, Kamikaze Douga, handling the animation. So, how well does it portray the Dark Knight? Will it surpass Mask of the Phantasm as the best Batman animated film?
We open with Bats headed for Arkham Asylum where the villainous Gorilla Grodd is conducting an experiment. Now, you may wonder why they would poach a villain from the Flash for this when Bats has such a stellar rogue’s gallery of his own. I don’t know, because no one cares about the Flash since they de-powered Wally West. The result of the experiment is Batman, Catwoman, the Arkham inmates and some other people who were nearby being sent to feudal Japan where The Joker, Penguin, Two Face, Poison Ivy & Deathstroke become warlords. You may wonder why Deathstroke is in this when he’s primarily a Titans villain and not insane so he should never have been in Arkham. Well, they poached him because no one cares about the Titans since the reboot gave it to one of the worst comic writers in history, Scott Lobdell. Yes, the same writer who portrayed Starfire as an emotionless sex robot. You may also wonder how his villains all learned to speak Japanese but don’t worry about it. Grodd’s time machine has a universal translator function like the TARDIS. And now Bruce has to reunite with his allies and stop his villains before they can change history.
The big issue with this film is that it tries to throw in random, out of place, stupid shit because it’s popular in action anime. For example, the Gotham criminals all build giant robot bases that can combine into one massive giant robot base. Fortunately, the monkeys and bats are able to coalesce into a massive humanoid form to combat it. It is, no exaggeration, one of the dumbest action sequences you will ever see. There’s also this ancient bat prophecy that the bat ninja clan follows which leads them and their massively conspicuous bat adorned vehicles to Batman. Because ninja were definitely known for their ostentatious displays.
Honestly, the final showdown in this doesn’t make much sense either. They basically set it up as a duel with Batman, master martial artist and hand to hand combatant, against the Joker, a man who’s dangerous because he’s unpredictable but who has very little skill in hand to hand fights. Yeah, this film had literally three characters who could reasonably match Batman in hand to hand combat; Deathstroke, Bane & Grodd. They only used the Joker because he’s the most famous Batman villain. Which isn’t good form for a narrative.
They screw up quite a bit with the characters in this. First off, neither Deathstroke nor Bane should be here since they aren’t the types of insane villains who would go to Arkham. They’d go to a regular prison. Neither one gets used well either. They have very brief appearances and do basically nothing. The same could be said for Two Face, Ivy and Penguin. None of them serve much point. The film could have been much cleaner and less cluttered sticking with Grodd, Joker & Harley. But let’s talk about the various Robins for a moment. Honestly, there’s no reason for any of these guys to be here. They do basically nothing but go off to have ten second confrontations with the villains who do nothing. And it seems really counter to Damian Wayne’s character to have him befriend a little monkey.
Even the more major characters are off. The Joker doesn’t come across as particularly crazy in this. Then we’ve got Bruce. There’s this scene I actually kind of like where Bruce expresses uncertainty over how he’s going to manage trapped in the past without any of his usual resources. And I’m all for Batman being more humanised and less of a Mary Sue who can beat anyone in the galaxy with a week to prepare. The problem is that his “solution” is that he needs to learn to move and fight like a ninja. This is freaking Batman. He already knows how to move in the shadows, how to use gadgets to obscure his presence and how to fight as a world class master in any martial art. Batman doesn’t need to learn ninjutsu, he’s already an expert. I like the idea of showing his vulnerable, human side but that execution is rubbish.
The film does look pretty good. Some of the action scenes are kind of bad, especially the giant robots versus combined animals one. It also does suffer from some dumb art decisions like giving Bruce a monk’s hairstyle with a fucking bat cut into the middle. Even the goofy Adam West version would consider that too embarrassing. Still, the art style is pretty good, the film does have a nice visual aesthetic to it and when it has a strong action sequence, it does have a good spectacle to it.
The acting is pretty decent. Even without a strong script to work off of they did get some strong actors like Kugimiya Rie, Kakuma Ai, Ono Daisuke & Yamadera Kouichi. The music from Kanno Yugo is all right as well. It’s not his best.
There isn’t any. Don’t expect the canon Harley Ivy relationship that they’ve had going in the comics for a while. Which is fine because this film probably wouldn’t have done a good job with it, like they don’t with most things.
Ninja Batman is a pretty pitiful attempt at showcasing the Dark Knight. It doesn’t know how to use a lot of the interesting characters it has in its cast. It doesn’t know how to tell a compelling narrative. Bottom line, it’s a bad film that has some decent spectacle moments. My final rating is going to be a 3/10. Next week, Garo: Honoo no Kokuin.