BATMAN NINJA (2018)

Batman Ninja (2018, directed by Junpei Mizusaki) is an utterly bizarre hoot; the most refreshing take on the Batman character since 2014’s The Lego Movie. It’s about time that the Dark Knight got a face lift. Reportedly, fanboys are heading to drugstores by the busload, buying out all the Preparation H. From the reactions I scanned on IMDB, the general consensus is “Batman can’t be in Feudal Japan!” Uh, boys, do you remember the day mummy told you that the Jolly Green Giant wasn’t real? Ditto.

However, it’s more than concept alone that makes Batman Ninja a thoroughly enjoyable, off-kilter adventure. It’s also one of the most visually dazzling animation efforts I’ve seen (famed anime designer Takashi Okazaki practically has a kaleidoscopic, calligraphic watercolor orgasm onscreen, and its gorgeous). Additionally, Batman Ninja takes a nothing-is-sacred approach, which undoubtedly is the inspiration for the sound of exploding, angst-ridden batfundie heads heard all over social media.

Batman and Catwoman are having a  bit of a tiff with Gorilla Grodd (the old Flash nemesis) who has a time-teleporting thingamajig . Lo and behold; Batman is in feudal Japan. The film is hyper-kinetically paced. Within seconds, he is dueling with a small gang of Joker-faced samurai, which of course leads him to Lord Joker himself as well as Harley Quinn.

Catwoman arrives, too. She is a geisha with a kitty puppet, and she makes Dolly Parton look like an A cup. Oh, and she bought Alfred (not me, Bruce Wayne’s butler), too, and the Batmobile. Smartly, Misuski and company resist the boring temptations of Batman traditions. They get a new use out of the Batcycle, turning it into a suit of armor. When the battle begins, Batman has an arsenal of batninjas backing him up. Grodd, the Penguin, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Deathstroke, and sumo wrestler Bane (!) all exist in feudal Japan; each has his or her own territory, and they are fighting for control—a bit like the mafia in Godfather.

Batman needs all the help he can get, so several Robins come to save the day, including a red Robin, and one with a green mohawk who has a chimpanzee for a sidekick! Robin himself is no longer Robin: he’s lost his primary colors and become a gray clad-ninja called Nightwing.

The battles come fast and furious, including one in Joker’s castle, one at sea with a Joker clipper ship, metallic simians, magic bats, and Bane mantling George “Watch Out for That Tree” of the Jungle.

In addition to the anime style (which suits Batman well), Batman Ninja has its tongue-firmly-in cheek with purple dialogue: “I am no longer the Batman. I will be what the bat clan calls me. I will be their prophecy. I will be Sengoku Batman.” Batman as a samurai isn’t even half of it. He disguises himself as a monk and gets a tonsure hairdo—in the shape of the bat signal. Harley Quinn and Catwoman engine in pseudo-lesbian combat (busty lesbians, with groan-inducing dialogue, of course). In-jokes are aplenty, with wacky nods to Transformers, Planet of the Apes, War of the Gargantuas, For a Few Dollars More, Legend of the Seven Golden VampiresPower Rangers, and The Empire Strikes Back, to name a few.

This is the opposite of ‘s white trash take on super people, and of all the Freudian Batmans we’ve been inundated with since Frank Miller. Thankfully,  unnecessary character development  and formulaic writing go the way of the dinosaur, and with all that out of the way, Batman Ninja is a creative and surreal romp. After seeing a 70-year-old plus character go from camp to dystopian, and to just plain godawful, Mizusaki actually does something new with it. Sure, Hamburger Helper-variety batfans will probably keel over from seeing their pedestaled funny paper deity put through the wringer and their formula diet challenged, but the rest of us can invite our weirdest friends over for one helluva extra anchovy pizza party and Batman Ninja.

P.S.  Stay put for the credits.

4 thoughts on “BATMAN NINJA (2018)”

  1. “heading to drugstores…buying out all the Preparation H.”

    No, that would be you, Eaker. Your “articles” are often a good 40% whining.

    1. Ah, the young, but i’m going to help you along. You see, with a wee bit of age one can distinguish between whining and calling out whining, which reminds me of an ex-wife who once said I was narrow-minded for being narrow-minded about narrow-mindedness. However, as I am navigating toward my doctoral (well , we will see) we’re going to pretend I’m a doctor and I’m going to help you along. My prescription is: wake up each morning with a glass of milk (because , holy cow, Batman only drinks milk) and for exercise; a rollicking Batusi (you can reference the King Tut episode) . Then, before you know it, you’ll be like Winter Warlock putting one step in front of the other and soon, you’ll be walking out the door. 2 months of that should make you all better. If you have any questions, take a batpill and call me in the morning.

    2. Jiminy mixed animation metaphor, Batman.

      Not to get off topic, but I always reckoned that if the Winter Warlock and the Snow Miser teamed up, the world wouldn’t stand a chance against their thermal & tonal totalitarianism.

      Only 187 shopping days until Christmas.

    3. re: “if the Winter Warlock and the Snow Miser teamed up, the world wouldn’t stand a chance against their thermal & tonal totalitarianism” Indeed, and what an epiphany! Alas, one of life’s most profound disappointments was in never getting to see Scooby Doo meet Yukon Cornelius and company. I mean, they met Kiss, the Addams Family, Batman and Robin, and Don Knotts for Chrissake, and I kept waiting and waiting and waiting, but they never met the Rankin and Bass gods! There is no justice, which is, I suppose, a valuable life lesson.

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