Batman, the Joker, and numerous other characters from Gotham are taking a trip to Japan in the upcoming anime film Batman Ninja. Fans were given a first look at the movie during a panel at New York Comic Con Thursday featuring screenwriter Kazuki Nakashima (Kill La Kill), director Jumpei Mizusaki (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure), character designer Takashi Okazaki (Afro Samurai), an interpreter, and English-language screenwriters Leo Chu and Eric Garcia (Supah Ninjas).
Batman Ninja, which is a coproduction of Warner Bros. Japan and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, will see the heroes and villains of Gotham time-traveling from 21st-century Gotham to the Middle Ages of Japan where they have an epic battle. According to Okazaki, the combination of these two worlds was perfect for him. He described himself as a huge fan of Batman and very familiar with both ninja and samurai, which made him “very conscious of not going too overboard with [his] character designs.”
“I wanted to make sure that when you fans watch this, you can still tell that character’s Batman. That character is that character. So I was very conscious of that when designing the characters,” he said.
That was a concept that went beyond just the character design for the creative team as they brought these familiar faces to medieval Japan. Nakashima told attendees he was also careful when writing the script.
“I wanted to preserve the character’s true identities and true personalities so that you wouldn’t feel that it was really odd seeing these characters in this film. They’re set in Japan and yet they’re still the familiar characters that you grew up reading,” he said. “That especially goes for the Joker. I wanted to make sure that the Joker was still the Joker that you all love and respect and so he is still the Joker even though he’s set in medieval Japan.”
If the footage shown at the panel is any indication, it looks like a balance between these two worlds was struck. The world premiere of the Batman Ninja trailer revealed stunning animation in which a number of familiar faces redesigned to fit beautifully into the setting could be spotted. Harley Quinn, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Robin, Catwoman, and more made an appearance. After the footage was shown the creators discussed what they were particularly excited about fans seeing, such as the appearance of Gorilla Grodd and a scene between Harley Quinn, Red Hood, and Joker. To Chu, this Joker might be “the best Joker [he’s] ever seen.”
While working on the English-language version of the script, Garcia said it became clear that in the film “we’re not seeing Japan through the eyes of Batman. We’re seeing Batman through the eyes of the Japanese.” They couldn’t reveal who the English-voice actors would be yet for that version — though they teased the voice of the Joker has the initials T.H. — because the movie isn’t quite done yet.
After a brief Q&A, where it was revealed the movie will be rated PG-13, they showed the trailer one more time and then ended the panel. After this first look, it certainly seems like this anime will be a unique and interesting entry into the ranks of animated Batman films.
Batman Ninja will arrive in 2018.