Batman Ninja Blu-ray Review
Batman tackles his greatest foes in a steampunk feudal Japanese setting, with Batman Ninja boasting the best visual style of any animated DC title.It's not just the visuals the are striking either - although the full anime style of Batman Ninja is breathtaking - with an engaging little Elseworlds-esque jaunt seeing Gorilla Grodd (Flash's longtime foe) launching a number of key villains into the past through a time portal which Batman, and a few allies, just about manage to get through too, only to find themselves in... feudal Japan. It's not the Japan that they know, however, since Batman's key enemies have been languishing there for a few years, building various empires and factions, with the likes of Two-Face, Bane, Poison Ivy and Penguin all having carved out their own territory, but his arch nemesis The Joker reigning over all of them. On paper, Batman Ninja sounds like a slightly far-fetched, left-field attempt at stretching the audience for this kind of animated fare, but it's actually a memorable little gem.Unlike almost any other Batman animated production (notwithstanding perhaps a chapter or two of the Gotham Knights shorts, which were also anime in style), boasting fast and frenetic action with superb close quarters combat as well as ground-pounding epic battle sequences which blend period weaponry with whatever the various characters have managed to procure (or carry with them) in their arsenal. It's fun and feverish, drawing you into this alternate universe and blasting away the memories of not only some of the lesser DC animated universe entries, but also the Big Screen live action productions, whose desire to emulate the Marvel model has been their perpetual undoing. Batman Ninja doesn't care about any of that; it's classic anime through and through, only with the Batman in the midst of it all, and it's an unlikely but surprisingly great fit.
Picture QualityWarner's Region Free UK Blu-ray release affords this title an impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen. The highly unusual style immediately distinguishes it from previous DCU titles (although this isn't technically a DCU entry) and leaves them feeling positively bland by comparison. It also affords the presentation some tremendous detailing, way beyond the simple line drawings fans will be familiar with, streaked with fine anime flourishes that define every movement, and every landscape shot, giving the image life and textures and, in turn, allowing the presentation to lap up and disseminate the same with impressive attention to detail.
A great presentation that does justice to the memorable visual style.
The colour scheme is also quite striking, run through with a wash of period tones but still defined by some vibrant primaries, and (particularly in the brief video-game-esque sequences that set the stage for the hierarchy of villains) vivid almost neon tones that pop superbly. There's a classic painted feel to much of it, however, with The Joker in particular standing out with his trademark purple and green, whilst black levels remain strong enough; evading crush for the most part. It's a great presentation that does justice to the memorable visual style.
Sound QualityBatman Ninja comes to Blu-ray complete with an option of audio tracks and, whilst normally it would be blasphemy to suggest not watching a movie in its original native language - in this case Japanese - but, as with many of the Ghost in the Shell productions, for most the viewing experience will arguably be much more immersive in English. An argument could even be made to say that the characters would have come across as out of place not speaking their 'native' tongue. Still, the option is there to flip to the Japanese track, even if the majority will stick to the default English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.
A strong, engaging accompaniment.
Dialogue is firmly prioritised across the front and centre channels, clearly and coherently disseminated whilst the chaotic and energetic piece kicks off some seriously spectacular set pieces, drawing upon the full weight of both the surrounds and the LFE channel to deliver the goods. Dynamics are impressive and discrete observation of some of the elements is noteworthy. The score provides enthusiastic background, maintaining the steampunk feel and fuelling the action sequences with verve. It's a strong, engaging accompaniment.
ExtrasA trio of Featurettes - East/West Batman; Batman -Made in Japan and Batman Ninja Comic Con make for the only extras.
Blu-ray VerdictDC's live action output (Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad, Justice League) has often been bested by its DC Animated output (Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay), even if there have been a few recent hit and miss titles in that regard (Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman and Harley Quinn). Batman Ninja isn't quite traditional DC Animated fare, blending traditional Japanese anime stylisation with the classic DC characters and throwing them into feudal Japan for good measure to further spice things up. The mix works, and it's a great little Elseworlds-esque outing, considerably better than the DCAU's own attempt at bringing Elseworlds to the small screen with Gotham by Gaslight.
Batman Ninja is a memorable little gem.
Warner's UK Blu-ray release of Batman Ninja affords the exciting and innovative anime-ted addition excellent video and audio and a smattering of extras, and comes recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £12.99
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