Spriggan is now streaming on Netflix.
The first season of Netflix’s Spriggan provides a decent start to what could be a promising animated series. Its interesting premise, nearly nonstop action, and charming, yet mysterious protagonist(s) practically encourage a good binge-watch. – as long as you can get over its uneven animation and unfortunate relation to the superior 1998 film.
Based on the Japanese manga series created by Hiroshi Takashige and Ryōji Minagawa, the anime follows the exploits of Yu Ominae, a 16-year-old super soldier who’s tasked with finding and securing powerful out-of-place artifacts (OOPArt). Seen as potential weapons of mass destruction, multiple paramilitary groups and nationally backed entities secretly fight over their control. The result is a public Cold War that is anything but. Thankfully, the ARCAM Corporation – poised as the voice of reason and Yu’s current employer – seeks to safeguard the artifacts in an effort to save lives.
Best Anime Series on Netflix
Spriggan worked as a manga because of its likable characters, over-the-top action, and fascinating twists on world history and religious doctrine. Netflix’s six-episode adaptation mostly benefits in the same fashion by adhering closely to the source material. The action, at times, is solid; Yu can certainly take a punch, even if it sends him through several walls. OOPArt being created by an ancient, technologically advanced civilization gives credence to the shifting of accepted ideologies. The reimagining of Noah’s Ark as a giant weather machine remains a creative narrative thread.
As for the cast, Yu Ominae (voiced by Kyle McCarley and Chiaki Kobayashi) still delicately treads the line between being hopeful of the future and foolishly naïve. That said, he isn’t depicted as a goofy hero with questionable decision-making skills; he will kill a foe if the situation warrants it. His friend and rival Jean Jacquemond (Xander Mobus/Yohei Azakami), on the other hand, is as charismatic as he is violent. He never hesitates to remove an enemy’s head and that’s before he turns into a werewolf. It’s a stark contrast to Yu’s character, morally speaking. That doesn’t make Jean less appealing, though. He’s more Vegeta to Yu’s Goku. He’s always working towards the greater good while invoking some of the darker urges that the audience may have when presented with some of the show’s truly evil characters.
Yoshino Somei (voiced by Jenny Yokobori/Mariya Ise) provides a bit of welcome levity amongst all the bloodshed. Always looking to snag an artifact or some other expensive bobble to sell, she’s constantly at odds with Yu. Sometimes comical but always resourceful – seeing her slip an automatic weapon from her backpack in the midst of battling zombies is a win – Yoshino acts like the little sister Yu never wanted. This is played for laughs, considering she almost always gets her way, despite Yu’s insistence on her staying out of ARCAM affairs. Deep down though, Yoshino is a well-meaning thief who saves the day on more than one occasion.
Spriggan is interesting enough to recommend to fans of the manga and movie. That said, newcomers might be put off by the lack of an overarching plot. The show, like the manga, spends the majority of its time setting the stage for future events. Shady companies are introduced. Villains are either killed off or disappear. There is little in the way of character growth, with only the smallest of glimpses into the past in relation to present happenings. Aside from the segments where Yu is in school, where his peers question why he’s always tired and covered in bruises, there isn’t much tying each event to one another. Even the supporting cast is shuffled from episode to episode.
This open-ended storytelling does facilitate Spriggan’s episodic format, though. Yu’s globe-trotting adventure allows for some inventive encounters. He quickly goes from fighting cybernetic soldiers in an apartment complex to battling zombies in a cursed forest. There’s always something new to be enthralled by. Those who already know what to expect from reading the manga won’t be surprised to see heroes and villains enter and exit the show in quick fashion. And since the expectation is that these first six episodes are just the beginning – while Netflix hasn’t officially confirmed another season, it makes sense that Spriggan would be released in parts/multiple seasons that will eventually allow for better connective tissue between events – more emphasis being placed on the action isn’t necessarily a bad thing…well, at least until it is.
There’s plenty of action-packed segments between cybernetically enhanced individuals. Arms are ripped off. Bones are crushed. The combat entertains. Unfortunately, these fights aren’t always animated well. Spriggan utilizes both hand-drawn and computer-generated animations, but not in equal measures. The 2D animation is fluid with realistic movements. When that’s combined with CG, the action slows down as characters become stiff. It at least makes sense when used with mechs or robotic enemies, although that doesn’t mean those mechs look good, mind you. This giant metal machine looks heavy and metallic, of course, but ultimately foreign when grouped next to everything else on the screen.
The Spriggan film released back in 1998 still looks amazing in comparison. It only focuses on one incident, doesn’t include all of the characters, and is finite, story-wise (which is fine given the nature of the medium). This anime is a better representation of the manga. But visually, the Spriggan show is rough around the edges. The only thing it has over the film besides a strict adherence to the manga is the voice acting. Dubbed or subbed, the cast as a whole did an amazing job.
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