With the release of DC’s summer event Dark Nights: Metal, alternative, multiverse versions of Batman are all the rage these days, and DC animation is no exception.
Along with the release of the highly anticipated animated adaption of Gotham by Gaslight, fans of the Dark Knight should keep their eyes peeled for Batman Ninja in 2018.
We had the pleasure of attending a first look panel at the Warner Bros. Entertainment and Warner Bros. Japan co production at this year’s New York Comic Con.
On stage moderating, was head of Warner Bros. Entertainment Gary Mariano, along with Kazuki Nakashima (Kill La Kill), Takashima Okazaki (Afro Samurai), Eric Garcia and Leo Chu (Afro Samurai), and Jumpei Mizusaki (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure).
The quick elevator pitch of Batman Ninja comes to no surprise. Batman and several villains of Gotham are somehow transported back to feudal Japan, with The Joker seemingly as the main big bad. Although we are not permitted to record or screenshot the little footage shown, take it from us that this rendition will be a must watch, if not for plot, then certainly for its looks. However, with a screenplay by Nakashima and directorial lead of Mizusaki, we doubt the plot will be anything but bland.
Utilizing a seeming combination of 2D and CG animation, creating a sort of Cel shaded look, the film will be fast paced, colorful, and full of katana wielding duels and martial arts fisticuffs.The climax of the footage was a rooftop sword fight between Batman and The Joker. Okazaki, who served as character designer for the film, created a stunning mashup between medieval Japanese technology and Batman’s own high tech arsenal. The Dark Knight looks to be decked out in full samurai armor, despite the film’s title.
Batman isn’t the only Gothamite getting a redesign, we got a glimpse of a shoganized Gorilla Grodd, Two Face, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and a creepy Joker, who has the look of an oversized, wooden bunraku puppet. Although not seen, when asked about their favorite characters to work with, the creators mentioned the Red Hood will be making an appearance in a scene featuring Harley and Catwoman. Director Jumpei Mizusaki said “he’d have to kill us” if he told us whether Ra’ al Ghul appears.
The sizzle reel screened at the panel was in Japanese with English subtitles, but the film’s blu-ray release will have an English translation. Eric Garcia and Leo Chu, who worked as writers for Afro Samurai, served as the writers for the English translation of the film. In talking about the difficulties in translation, Garcia and Chu were very secretive on just who the English voice cast is, and were not allowed to confirm any names yet as the English version of the film has yet to be finished. The audience was left scratching their heads when the two did confirm that The Joker’s English voice actor’s initials are “T.H.”
Fans should rest easy, Bats and Co. is in the more than capable hands of a creative team not only passionate for anime and manga, but share the same love for The Dark Knight as his longtime viewers and readers. When asked how the team reconciled the styles of East and West, and where Batman stands in Japanese culture, Garcia and Chu assured “It’s not Japan through the eyes of Batman, it’s Batman through the eyes of the Japanese.” Nakashima himself even admitted he grew up loving the 1966 Adam West series.
There is no exact release date just yet, other than we should be expecting the blu-ray sometime in 2018 and will be rated PG-13. So sit back, relax, and sharpen your samurai swords and bat-a-rangs.
-Photos by Marisa Carpico