'Batman Ninja' Directors Were Inspired by Adam West's Classic TV Show
For nearly 80 years, countless versions of Batman have leapt across the comic book page and onto screens big and small. But Batman Ninja, a new film inspired by Japanese anime, shows off a wholly different take fans of the Dark Knight have never seen before. But the filmmakers behind Batman Ninja admit to an influence from a very unlikely source: the late Adam West, whose Batman lives forever in the camp classic TV series from 1966.
Available now on Digital HD and hitting Blu-ray on May 8, Batman Ninja is a new stand-alone animated film that transplants Batman, Catwoman, and Gotham City’s worst criminals into Sengoku-era Japan. As Two-Face, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Deathstroke, and Joker and Harley Quinn assume control of their own feudal states, Batman teams up with clan of heroic ninjas to stop his deadliest enemies from destroying history.
At the film’s New York premiere, director Junpei Mizusaki, screenwriter Kazuki Nakashima, and manga artist Takashi “Bob” Okazaki tell Inverse they wanted a lighter take on Batman than the recent film versions. Nakashima further revealed that Adam West’s Batman was a major inspiration for Batman Ninja.
“In Japan, Batman has been coming over from America even in the Adam West days,” Nakashima told Inverse via an interpreter. “I personally watched the original Adam West Batman. Batman has a very long history, but recently it’s been very dark and serious. I decided I wanted to bring Batman to his roots: a lighthearted, comical side of Batman.”
Looking at each talent’s creative output, it’s not hard to see why they love West’s groovy do-gooder. Nakashima, 59, was a writer on 2004’s Re: Cutie Honey, about a cosplayer who becomes a master of disguise. He served as head writer on 2013’s Kill la Kill, about a vengeful, fashionable schoolgirl, and Kamen Rider Fourze, the 2011 season of Toei’s long-running Saturday morning superhero franchise. Mizusaki, 45, became famous for his stylistically bonkers opening credits to 2012’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure; compare his work to the intros of West’s Batman and it’s not hard to see the evolution.
It’s also not hard to see Mizusaki’s unique style of JoJo in Batman Ninja. “What I brought to this project was that these characters have never been to Japan,” he explained. “That’s how we set it up. So fans see Japan from the eyes of these Gotham characters. Whether the background or the clothing or texture, I wanted to make sure we’re doing it from the POV of these characters.”
“Bob” Okazaki, 44, has the darkest sensibilities of the three. Between 1999 and 2000, he wrote and drew the manga Afro Samurai, which was adapted into an Emmy-winning miniseries with Samuel L. Jackson in 2007. Though a master of illustrating medieval Japan, Okazaki had to do extensive research in the Sengoku period for Batman Ninja. “I’m not actually knowledgeable in that period,” he says. Luckily, Nakashima — whom he calls ‘Professor” — was an expert. “That’s where my main influence for the costumes came from.”
Style, superheroes, and totally insane storylines? That’s pretty much Batman Ninja, where Batman and ninjas run wild against transforming robots and giant monkeys. (Seriously, those are all in Batman Ninja.) But will the rest of the DC Universe get to slip into ancient Japan as well? All three filmmakers hope so.
“We did one of the two kings of DC, so of course the next has to be Superman,” said Mizusaki. “If not Superman, Justice League. There’s infinite number of characters we’d love to incorporate.” Okazaki reveals he wants to expand their inclusion of Harley Quinn to feature the rest of the Suicide Squad.
But Nakashima has a different idea, however. “I’d love the visuals Mizusaki brought to Batman Ninja, to have him make Sandman,” he said. “That’s a personal want, but if I had my say, I’d say Sandman.”
Batman Ninja is available now on digital and on Blu-ray on May 8.