Cine-Men: Batman swaps Gotham City for feudal Japan

Mitchell Baltosser, Staff Writer

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What happens when you take an already completed movie, but replace almost every line of dialogue? What you get is the Japanese-made, American written version of the animated film “Batman Ninja.”

As you can glean from the name alone, this is a unique film to say the least. “Batman Ninja” tells the story of (you guessed it) Batman and his motley crew of villains: The Joker, Harley Quinn and Catwoman, to name a few, getting transported back in time to feudal Japan, where Batman must figure out how to stop them from taking over Japan and rewriting history, but also find out how to get them back home.

Now back to that script. See, when this movie was made, it came across a strange occurrence. This animated film was originally made in Japan, where their animation process is a little different. To simplify it, their process goes starts with storyboard, followed by animating, writing and acting. In America, the animation process comes after the voice acting.

Because of this difference in styles and overall production schedules, the American team didn’t have a concrete Japanese script to translate accurately. In fact, they only had 6 pages to work with. To fill in the gaps, they wrote new content to them in.

Around 90% of the American version is totally different from the Japanese version, containing everything from small cultural translations to full character and plot developing scenes were rewritten.

My Take:

Honestly, I could go on for hours talking about this movie critically. There are a lot of talking points to say the least. To start, this movie should not be your first if you have never watched a Japanese made movie before.

This movie is filled with tropes and other nuances of Japanese media that will fly right over most people’s heads. The same goes if you only have cursory knowledge of Batman, since some major plot points and even characters rely on the fact that you have read or at least know what happens in some of the main comics. But if you are a huge fan and reader of the comics, this film is filled with things for you.

There are several hints and nods back to the tales of classic Batman, my favorite being the old Adam West Batman’s theme song being played on a classic Japanese bamboo flute. Even the very first appearance of Batman for Detective comics #27 from 1939 gets referenced. So, if you, like me, are entrenched in obscure comic book knowledge you will enjoy this movie.

With this being an animated movie, there are some things that stand out, like how the lip-synching between the Japanese mouth movements and the English dialogue are easy to spot at some points. Also how the 3D animation in general is not that great in some scenes.

I have so much to say about the finer points of this movie but sadly, I don’t have the space for it here. A 7.5/10 multicultural experience.