Batman Ninja (PG-13)
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This came out in 2018, but I didn't see it until 2023. At first, I wasn't sure if I'd put my review under "feature films" or "OVAs", since I thought it might be direct-to-video. However, Wikipedia informed me that it was originally released in the U.S. in digital format, which meant I might want to consider ONA instead of OVA. (It was released on DVD and Blu-ray like a couple weeks after being released online.) But since it's anime, I ultimately decided to go with the format of its Japanese release, which was in theaters, more than a month after it was released in physical formats in the U.S. So yeah, I'm going with "movie". I can never be completely satisfied with that choice, but whatever. Um... I also read on Wikipedia that the English translation is quite different from the original Japanese script. Maybe someday I'll watch it in Japanese audio and hope the subtitles are true to the original version, but first I'll be watching it in English. (As far as I know, I've included links to the English version for all the streaming sites, but I could be wrong. And some sites also offer the movie in Japanese, in case you want to search for that yourself.) Anyway... I think your ability to enjoy this movie will be based on two things: your feelings about different genres of anime, and whether or not you're willing to embrace chaos. Personally, I loved it. But it took me a little while to get there.
It begins in Arkham Asylum, where Batman (Roger Craig Smith in the English dub) is trying to stop Gorilla Grodd (Fred Tatasciore) from activating his latest invention, a time machine called the Quake Engine. Unfortunately, the machine does get activated, and Batman finds himself in feudal Japan. He eventually meets up with Catwoman (Grey Griffin), who informs him that she has been there for two years, as have various Gotham City criminals, who have each taken over a different Japanese state. They all want to unite Japan, by battling each other. Currently the one with the most power is Joker (Tony Hale), along with Harley Quinn (Tara Strong). The others include Penguin (Tom Kenny), Poison Ivy (Strong), and Deathstroke (Tatasciore), though we don't see all that much of them. They each have their own castle, as does Two-Face, who is a vassal of the Joker. (Bane also seems to work for Joker, though we see very little of him.) Batman wonders where his allies who were also at Arkham when the Quake Engine was activated are, but Catwoman hasn't seen them. They include Nightwing/Dick Grayson, Robin/Damian Wayne (Yuri Lowenthal), Red Hood/Jason Todd (Lowenthal), and Red Robin/Tim Drake (Will Friedle). Eventually it turns out they have teamed up with a clan of ninjas led by a man named Eian; the clan have an ancient prophecy that is apparently about Batman, so they're instantly loyal to him when he shows up in Japan. Oh, and Alfred is also in Japan, and has established a Bat-cave in anticipation of Batman's arrival. He has also maintained the Batmobile.
Now, all of this is obviously perfectly reasonable and logical. It takes awhile for the real chaos of the plot to blossom, and I don't want to spoil any of that for you. I'll just say it gets increasingly ridiculous and while I found it awesome and really funny, I'd totally understand if it's beyond some people's capacity to accept some of the crazier plot developments. If you're not like me, you might just find them cringe. And that would be fair. But if you're like me... this is an incredibly fun movie. Most of the action is Batman and his allies against Joker and his allies (and some allegiances shift throughout the movie). And oh, I should probably mention that Robin has made a little monkey friend named Monkichi, who provides some help along with an army of monkeys in the final battle. Plus there's a cool swordfight between Batman and Joker. And each of the villains possesses a piece of the Quake Engine (or power converters or whatever), while Joker possesses the engine itself. So whoever wins the battle and brings all the pieces together will control the ability to return to their own time. Man, I just keep thinking of details to add, while still leaving out a couple of major plot points that I think are just too integral to the chaos that I love.
So, I guess I don't want to say any more about the plot. I have to say I thought the character designs were great, and I really dug the animation in general. (I think it was CGI with 2-D cel-shading, but some things looked more CG than others, I thought. It might have been partly traditional animation, or it might not, I'm not really sure.) I particularly liked how the sky was drawn with a pattern of little arcs, which made it look like traditional Japanese art. Oh, and there was something- I think it was Joker's ship's masthead- that looked like the Joker but I thought also looked like an oni. (There may have been similar touches that I missed.) The voice acting was... scattershot. I felt pretty neutral about Batman's acting, most of the other characters were just a little bit better. I loved Harley (as usual), and I mostly thought Catwoman was pretty decent. I feel like Nightwing and Red Robin didn't play much of a role in the story, and Red Hood is notable mainly for a scene I don't want to spoil, but which led to a revelation later in the movie that I quite liked. (Incidentally, I don't know enough about the comics to have ever heard, or at least I don't remember having heard, of Jason Todd becoming Red Hood, but I guess that's not a new plot point. I also don't think I remember hearing of Tim Drake becoming Red Robin, and I'm barely aware of Damian Wayne's existence at all. And he's nothing like I'm used to him being in this movie; though I basically just knew him from Son of Batman.) I do think Damian, the current Robin, was slightly more important to the plot than any of the former Robins, and I liked his acting well enough, despite the difference from his normal personality. As for Joker... it took a while for me to warm up to his acting. I did like how insane he was, but there was a touch of... I guess I would say "effete aristocracy" about it that felt a bit out of place at first. But as time went on, I started thinking it seemed in keeping with any number of anime characters who sound like that, in other anime. So I ended up finding it a fitting acting choice. What else can I say? I mostly liked the humor of the English dub, though I look forward to watching the Japanese version someday and comparing it to the dub. (Also, Catwoman has one line where I was like, "Did you really just say that?!") Um... I enjoyed all the action, both the crazy kinds and the more normal kinds. And... yeah, I just really liked the whole movie a lot. Oh yeah, and I wanted to say Batman ends up seeming more like a samurai than a ninja, but whatever.
Also there's a mid-credits scene you should wait for, set after everyone returns to present-day Gotham. More like two scenes, actually: one with Batman and Alfred, and one with Catwoman, or rather Selina Kyle.