This might take me a bit to unpack, so bear with me a minute or two. (Who am I kidding, it’s not much different than any other time I get to blathering). We’ve touched a bit on some cross overs in the past. The last one being fairly recent with the Aliens and Judge Dredd mash up. This time I am looking at an entirely different direction that can be taken. When I first saw the commercials for it, I knew I wanted to see it. But of course, as always, it’s a matter of timing to get it into the lists of things that can be explored.
I’m talking about Batman Ninja (Warner Brothers, 2018), as the title of this piece pointed out. The concept is fairly simple as a super hero fantasy should go. Through nefarious means, Batman and various villains are sent back in time to feudal Japan. The how and the why are not as important to the thoughts this morning. For the sake of the path my mind is following we accept it and move on. Basically, the main thing we are looking at in this, is the mash up and how the interaction works with a set piece (the characters).
See, this isn’t a mash up like we have looked at in the past. Instead of characters from different universes mixed together, we have different genres mixed together which in turns changes the character interactions as a whole. But not so much. Batman is Batman is Batman. Even when you take away all the toys he has been given over the years as we on the outside have developed better and better tech (a show of how the world we live in affects the worlds we read about), at its heart, the Dark Knight stories remain detective stories. They are the battle of a hero mastering himself and his environment to overcome impossible odds.
Which brings us back to the underlying idea of the story as a whole. Batman is a powerful martial artist. In his histories he has studied around the world absorbing the ideals and cultures he has experienced along the way. It isn’t a big leap for him to adapt to feudal Japan. Yes, of course, the world was different then. That is always going to be a hurdle. Ignore the voices in the sidelines trying to distract the discussion here. I mean it isn’t really a big leap for us to accept that he would adapt to the situation fairly quick. The more interesting aspect of the situation is how easily the rest of the time travelers have adapted. Everyone else arrived in the new time a while before he did and had a chance to assert themselves into the new world.
And I realize I haven’t really explained the mashup here. This one is a genre mashup. We’re looking at anime vs super hero. And yes, that type of thing happens but it’s done in a way fairly different than what we see in this one. The aesthetics are held separate enough in this one that we can discern the line where they connect. The elements of both flow around each other in such a way that we can sense the atmosphere each brings to the story. While at the same time, everything feels natural.
So, where was I? There is this moment after Batman is getting a handle on where he is and the world around him that the villains are introduced to the rest of us. We didn’t really see who came back up until this point, though the time portal opened in Arkham Asylum. The way they are all introduced, I felt like I was watching the prologue to a fighting game (yeah, I know there are some anime stories that follow the same path). It pulled me out of the story for a moment as I am watching it happen while at the same time, it pulls me right back in as I am looking at the new designs of the various villains specific to this story. It’s a form of storytelling where we are shown specifically who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. We know the hero is meant to win but our adventure stems from the path to that victory.
I think this is one that would require several viewings to unpack everything within it. As a super hero tale, it is pretty straight forward. Villains do villainy and the hero comes to kick butt and set things to right. While that is going on there are elements outside of the straight story that add flavor to the larger picture. And then don’t get me started on the art. I have always been a fan of anime for the different art styles. What they used for this story hearkens back to the styles that first pulled me deep into cartoons as a child.
But with all that said, I am not sure this is one I would go out of my way to see again. It’s good but not great. At times the different elements make for too much distraction to what the story is at its heart. It’s one to put on a watch list for when you have time, but I figure you might have other stuff more pressing right now as well.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.