The Curator of Schlock #242 by Jeff Shuster
Batman + Ancient Japan = Awesome!
Batman Day has come and gone. The Sewer King display at The Museum of Schlock was a resounding success with a whole five patrons’ eyes transfixed on the five animation cells from The Underdwellers episode of Batman: The Animated Series that John King purchased for around $76,000.
Now, while the Sewer King may be my favorite Batman villain, Gorilla Grodd is my favorite DC villain of all time. He’s the Flash’s arch-nemesis, a hyper-intelligent, evolved gorilla with psychic powers. What more can you ask for in a super villain? Imagine my elation that he’s front and center in the Japanese-animated production, Batman Ninja (Ninja Battoman in Japan), from director Junpei Mizusaki with character designs from Takashi Okazaki, the creator of Afro Samurai.
The animation is among the best ever created anywhere.
We will be covering the Japanese language version of this movie not the English language dub which features a different script.
I don’t even know where to start with this film. There’s a scene toward the end where a giant Batman (composed of thousands of monkeys and flying bats) fist-fights a giant Joker robot composed of mechanized Japanese castles to the tune of Japanese hip hop. It’s movies like these that remind me of why I do what I do.
Batman Ninja begins with Gorilla Grodd (voiced by Takehito Koyasu) testing out a time/space machine at Arkham Asylum with the inmates as test subjects. Batman interferes, the machine gets damaged, Batman gets sucked through a vortex, and ends up in Feudal Japan. He skirmishes with some local samurai wearing Joker masks, tries to grapple hook out of there before realizing there are no buildings higher than two stories in the town.
Turns out the Joker (voiced by Wataru Takagi) and Harley Quinn (voiced by Rie Kugimiya) are in charge of this part of Japan. In fact, several of Batman’s rogues gallery are lords in charge of different territories. These include Two-Face, The Penguin, Poison Ivy, and Deathstroke. Batman learns all of this from Catwoman (voiced by Ai Kakuma) who informs him that she, the villains, and the whole Bat Family arrived in Japan two years before Batman showed up, something about him being the furthest away from the time portal. The Bat Family consists of Nightwing, Robin, Red Robin (I don’t know who that is.), Red Hood (Isn’t he a bad guy?), and Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred has been busy trying to recreate his fine English cooking in Feudal Japan, even going so far as to ferment green tea leaves to make black tea.
There’s a Bat Ninja clan who believe in a prophesy that a man dressed as a Bat will travel from the future (obviously) and save Japan, restoring order from the chaos.
What else? Gorilla Grodd wants to turn Japan into a safe haven for simians from all over the world. The Joker and Harley Quinn become poor Japanese farmers after losing their memories only to regain them and become super villains once again. There’s the aforementioned battle between the giant Batman and the giant Joker robot. Robin gets a pet monkey. Or does Red Robin get a pet monkey? I don’t know.
My mind is a scramble right now. Maybe it was seeing Bane portrayed as a sumo wrestler. Or maybe it was that hot springs scene with Gorilla Grodd.
But it was all worth it. Every single human being must watch this masterpiece.
Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47, episode 102, episode 124, episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.
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