Okay, first point to be made here, I watched the American version of Batman Ninja, which was apparently rewritten by Leo Chu and Eric Garcia into something fairly different from the Japanese version, written by Kazuki Nakashima. It's hard to imagine how different the two incarnations could be, especially given how the direction from Junpei Mizusaki does such a great job of reworking the familiar Batman imagery in something much closer to the traditional style of anime, but it may well be worth checking it out when I have the time and opportunity.
Let's get to the plot. Batman is thrown into Feudal Japan, all thanks to a time machine created by Gorilla Grodd. Various villains have already staked their territorial claims, with The Joker being the one who seems to be the one with the best plan for ruling all (of course). But don't count out Penguin, Two-Face, Deathstroke, or, indeed, Gorilla Grodd himself. Any one of them could have a surprise up their sleeve to try and gain the upper hand over the others. Batman will have to rely on his ingenuity, some older battle tactics, and some other creations that I won't spoil here.
This is absolutely superb stuff. I've been a fan of most of the animated Batman movies that I have seen over the years but the recent twists on the material (I am thinking mainly of this outing and Batman: Gotham By Gaslight) have allowed film fans to get their usual dose of batty action without it feeling too repetitive and stale. Give me another example of this, even if it turns out to be an interesting failure, over something like Batman: The Killing Joke. Give me another pairing of Batman and Scooby-Doo over that.
Guided by Mizusaki, who has a small selection of projects on his CV so far, the look and feel of this is a perfect blend of the two worlds. That seems to be thanks to Takashi Okazaki, the man responsible for the character and background designs, and probably best known to anime fans for being the creator of Afro Samurai. Things start off with nice detailing throughout, drawing viewers into the world, and then the creative visuals just keep building throughout, leading to a third act that is delightful and potentially surprising (certainly to those who thought this would be more in the DC aesthetic than anime).
The voice cast all do decent work. Again, I am talking of the American version here. Roger Craig Smith isn't the best Batman, most of us will know who has the best voice for the role, but he's good. Tony Hale is a very good actor for The Joker, and Tara Strong has fun in the role of Harley Quinn. You also have Grey Griffin as Catwoman, Tom Kenny as Penguin, and Fred Tatasciore as Gorilla Grodd. Some of the cast members voice multiple roles, as standard, and there are others who also put in good work alongside the main players.
I encourage all fans of animation to check this one out. Every scene is beautiful, although I will try to avoid trotting out the old expression about being able to hang every frame up as a painting (but . . . yo could though), the storyline is well put together, the action beats are impressive, and it's yet another top-notch animated outing for The Dark Knight.
You can buy the movie here.
Americans can buy it here.