It isn't unusual for popular anime and manga franchises to get stage shows. In fact, it is often a rite of passage for many franchises, a sign that the franchise has achieved mainstream popularity. And while Batman is a global franchise and one of the most well-known superheroes in the world, it is unexpected to see the dark knight heading to the stage. It is even more surprising to learn that it isn't Batman's main continuity being adapted. Instead, it is a stage adaptation of Batman Ninja.
However, when Batman lands, he finds out that things are much worse than first thought. Due to how the machine works, the villains landed two years earlier than Batman and had quickly set themselves up as warlords and have taken over massive chunks of the country. Now, the villains are fighting each other while trying to unify the country under their control. Batman has to defeat them all if he hopes to stop them from totally destroying history. What follows is an action-packed romp that involves ninjas, fighting monkeys and castles that turn into gigantic war robots that resemble Sengoku-era Gundam suits.
The film was written by Kazuki Nakashima, writer of Gurren Lagann, Promare and Kamen Rider Fourze. And Kazuki's style really jumps off the screen during this film, as it is full of over-the-top action. The film did decently well when it was theatrically released in Japan, but when the film was released in English, the writers Leo Chu and Eric Garcia basically rewrote the script. Meaning that American audiences got a very different version of the story, despite having the same visuals.
The stage version of Batman Ninja was initially meant to debut in 2020. However, it was pushed back to this October due to COVID-19. Surprisingly, the show is an absolutely gigantic production, running three shows a day for most of the week. Due to this, the show will have four rotating casts, dubbed Night, Black, Dark and Shadow. And each of these casts has different actors in the starring roles.
Interestingly, this show is packed full of ex-Kamen Rider actors. Which makes sense considering Kazuki Nakashima's influence on the story. Takeshi Nadagi from Kamen Rider W will be playing the Joker in the Night cast. Another cast has Kamen Rider Hattari actor Takuma Zaiki playing the Joker and Minami Tsukui from Kamen Rider Gaim as Harley Quinn. On top of this, the show's theme has been written by the legendary metal band GYZE.
On the surface, it seems slightly odd that Batman Ninja is getting a stage adaptation considering its status as a non-canon one-off movie rather than something that fits into the current Batman continuity. It is even more unexpected due to the content of the film. While combat-focused franchises like Kamen Rider have moved to the stage before, a big part of Batman Ninja was the massive castle robots, and it's going to be interesting to see how this element is brought to the stage. It is also a surprisingly large show, with lots of performances and a strangely large cast. While the rotating cast is undoubtedly a good thing due to both the physical strain of the show and the continued risks of COVID-19, it is still unexpected. But hopefully, this large cast is indicative of a good production that manages to capture the energy and awe-inspiring fights of the film.
Batman Ninja is both an expected and unexpected stage show. While the film has become a mostly forgotten curiosity in the US, it can't be denied that its fast-paced combat would suit the stage environment. Hopefully, the script and staging can find a way to capture the chaos and intensity of the film's hulking robots and more over-the-top battles. It will be interesting to see if the show does an international tour at some point, as Batman is eternally popular in America. If you want a slice of Batman Ninja action, the movie is currently available to buy on Blu-ray and stream on HBO Max.