Author: Robert Mullarkey
Computing graduate who works in an office. Still finds enough time to watch a lot of anime and play a lot of video games
Batman Ninja Creators Interview
We are very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to interview the creative team behind the Batman Ninja film. Director Junpei Mizusaki, Screenplay writer Kazuki Nakashima and Manga Artist Takashi Okazaki all took the time to speak to us - please enjoy as we get to meet the men behind the mask!
With Batman having such a long history of adaptations through animation and live action, did you have a particular goal in what you wanted to do with this film to set it apart?
Mizusaki: The version I first knew was the Tim Burton version. I found it very attractive that the depiction of Gotham City was very artistic. I also thought the style of Batman, taking everything seriously and corresponding calmly even against the most comical enemies, was very different from other heroes. Mr. Nakashima who did the script and Mr. Okazaki who did the character design picked up elements from the version of Batman that’s closer to the original comics but I worked on this project as the generation who has known Batman from movies.
Nakashima: Because it will be created by the Japanese staffs, I tried to merge the Japanese anime style of expression and American Comic Heroes.
Okazaki: I wasn’t really conscious about the differentiation. Because “Batman Ninja” itself is a wild concept, I rather tried to keep Batman to be “properly Batman” even under such crazy situation.
The film takes a character and franchise established in the west and takes it to a Feudal Japanese setting. With that in mind, were you looking for this film to appeal more to a Japanese audience than a Western audience?
Mizusaki: From the direction point of view, I definitely targeted audiences in the American culture areas. I wanted the audience to instantly understand that the story takes place in Japan but if we made it to take place in the modern time, it would have been difficult because the cultures in Asian countries are pretty much standardized nowadays. Somewhat in that sense, we judged that is good to bring in the unique atmosphere of feudal Japan. Personally, it was relatively easier for me because I was released from the elements that are required to target Japanese anime fans.
Nakashima: It’s the opposite. We focused on how we can broadly interpret the fantastic elements of Japan/the East that are depicted by Westerners and took those elements to establish entertainment.
Okazaki: I didn’t really have specific target in mind. I did the designs to appeal to all Batman fans.
With regards to the creation of this film, were there any particular elements of the Batman mythos that you felt needed to be included?
Mizusaki: Bruce Wayne is not a character who has super power and his gadgets have their own identities so pretty much all the gadgets are brought in. It starts from the scene where Batman tries to use his grapple gun but not being able to use it because the buildings are too low in feudal Japan. Even Batmobile of Batpod cannot perform at its full potential in this world.
Nakashima: Batman’s secret weapon such as gadgets and mobile. The highlight of the movie is to show the ability of them and see what Batman will do when he becomes unable to use them.
Did you find the process of creating this movie different from others projects you've worked on, given that Batman's origin is a Western comic book?
Mizusaki: Although Batman is a hero from American comic, we stayed with the way how we usually create Japanese anime. There is a saying “Do as the Romans do” so even a foreign hero, if he jumps into the Japanese anime industry, we will have him follow this country’s rule.
Nakashima: In the sense that we made an anime based on an original work, what we had to be careful about were pretty much the same with other projects. When working on anime based on original works, I tried to be very careful about taking the essence of the original work and further develop it. Since Batman and Villains of Gotham were characters that we were sufficiently familiar with, the process was the same as usual.
Okazaki: Rather than this project being “different” from others, What I thought was “my dream has come true!” when I was first appointed. I have always been hoping to “draw Batman someday” for a long time, so even though it wasn’t an easy project, every single experience was great fun for me.
We are seeing a lot more western adaptations of famous Japanese works like Ghost in the Shell, All You Need is Kill (Edge of Tomorrow). With this being an anime adaptation of a Western property, do you think we'll see more studios following suit and adapting other works with a western origin in the same way?
Mizusaki: If people in the western culture like Batman Ninja and if they say they want to see more anime based on Western characters created by Japanese creators, then I think there will certainly be more of these. I’ve put in my full potential as an anime creator into this film, so hopefully people will think that way.
Nakashima: As a mere writer, I cannot assure but I think Japanese staff and projects should aim to appeal to the global audience more.
Okazaki: Personally, I do hope there would be more of these and if this title becomes a trigger in some way, I’d be more than happy.
Do you have any words to the fans of Batman who may not necessarily be fans of anime and words for the fans of anime who may not be fans of Batman?
Mizusaki: To those who are not a fan of anime: I try to not create films differently just because it is either an anime or live action. I always put in my full effort to provide visual contents that have cool movements on the screen, so please also disregard those “boundaries” and enjoy all you can.
To those who are not a fan of Batman: I might be criticized by Batman fans for saying this, but I wasn’t actually a super fan of Batman to begin with. I kind of share the same perspective with you who are not Batman fans so please be assured. As I became further involved in this project throughout the production, I became more and more a fan of Batman ,so I hope everyone becomes Batman fans after seeing this film, just like I did.
Nakashima: I understand that people have different tastes but please overcome such boundary and just watch this film. There are all kinds of enjoyment in this film that cannot be found anywhere else.
Okazaki: This is an anime, and also a Batman that no one has ever seen before. I hope both the fans of anime and Batman can “experience” this brand new Batman!
With regards to creating original works; do you feel you have more freedom when there is not an established canon you need to adhere to?
Okazaki: For me, it is actually easier when there are regulations to some extent. It is fun to think about how freely I can play around under those rules. There was a lot of freedom in this project so I had to set my own concept and overall rules to come up with the designs.
What would you say is the main differences in creating a film as opposed to a television or videogame?
Misuzaki: If the run time is about 3 minutes, there are no room for depicting the characters’ emotions so I tend to emphasize more on the visual impact that gives strong impression in short time. Those short contents are watched over and over for many times so I take the utmost care even in one frame and on every element on the screen. As for movies, the visual expressions is focused on for only the first few minutes, so I tried to put more emphasis on things like showing the characters’ motivation in actions so that the audience can follow the character’s point of view for a long time.
In this movie, Batman is unwillingly drawn into the all kinds of situations and I think we were able to make the audience swayed by the events like how Batman is.
Given that your previous works: Gurren Lagann and Kill La Kill are known for their over the top action scenes that take things to extremes; can we see this style of action present in the film?
Nakashima: Definitely yes. Please look forward to it.
UK Anime Network would like to thank all involved for their time.
Batman Ninja is out now!