Spriggan is now streaming on Netflix.
The first season of Netflix’s Spriggan offers a great start to what could be a promising animated series. Its interesting premise, nearly non-stop action, and charming yet mysterious protagonist(s) practically encourage a good binge watch. – as long as you can get over its uneven animation and unhappy relationship to 1998’s superior 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 tasked with finding and securing powerful displaced artifacts (OOPArt). Considered potential weapons of mass destruction, multiple paramilitary groups and country-backed entities covertly vie for control. The result is a public Cold War that is anything but. Luckily, ARCAM Corporation – posing as the voice of reason and Yu’s current employer – seeks to protect the artifacts in an effort to save lives.
Best Anime Series on Netflix
Spriggan worked like a manga due to its likable characters, over-the-top action, and fascinating twists on world history and religious doctrine. Netflix’s six-episode adaptation mostly benefits the same way by sticking closely to the source material. The action, at times, is solid; Yu can definitely take a punch, even if he sends it through multiple walls. OOPArt being created by an ancient technologically advanced civilization gives credit to the change in accepted ideologies. The reimagining of Noah’s Ark as a giant weather machine remains a creative narrative thread.
When it comes to casting, Yu Ominae (voiced by Kyle McCarley and Chiaki Kobayashi) still delicately walks the line between hoping for the future and stupidly naive. That said, he’s not portrayed as a clumsy hero with questionable decision-making skills; he will kill an enemy if the situation warrants it. His friend and rival Jean Jacquemond (Xander Mobus/Yohei Azakami), meanwhile, is as charismatic as he is violent. He never hesitates to take an enemy’s head off 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 any less appealing, though. He’s more Vegeta than Yu’s Goku. He’s still working for the greater good while invoking some of the darker urges audiences can have when presented with some of the show’s truly evil characters.
Yoshino Somei (voiced by Jenny Yokobori/Mariya Ise) provides some welcome levity amid all the bloodshed. Always on the hunt for an artifact or other expensive bobble to sell, she’s constantly at odds with Yu. a win – Yoshino acts like the little sister Yu never wanted. This is played for laughs, given that she almost always gets what she wants, despite Yu’s insistence that she stay out of ARCAM’s business. 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 the 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. The bad guys are either killed or disappear. There is little character growth, with only the smallest of glimpses of the past compared to present events. Aside from the segments where Yu is at school, where his peers wonder why he’s always tired and covered in bruises, there’s not much that ties each event together. Even the supporting cast is shuffled from episode to episode.
This open storytelling facilitates Spriggan’s episodic format, however. Yu’s globe-trotting adventure allows for inventive encounters. He quickly goes from battling cybernetic soldiers in an apartment complex to battling zombies in a cursed forest. There is always something new to be captivated. Those who already know what to expect from reading the manga won’t be surprised to see heroes and villains jump in and out of the series quickly. And since those first six episodes are expected to be just the start – although Netflix hasn’t officially confirmed another season, it makes sense that Spriggan will be released in multiple parts/multiple seasons that will eventually allow better connective tissue between events – more emphasis on action isn’t necessarily a bad thing…at least until it is.
There are plenty of action-packed segments between cybernetically enhanced individuals. The arms are torn off. The bones are crushed. The fight entertains. Unfortunately, these fights are not always well animated. Spriggan uses both hand-drawn and computer-generated animation, but not in equal proportions. 2D animation is smooth with realistic movements. When this is combined with CG, the action slows down as the characters get stiff. It at least makes sense when used with mechs or robotic enemies, though that doesn’t mean those mechs look good, mind you. This giant metallic machine looks heavy and metallic, sure, but ultimately alien when bunched up next to everything else on screen.
The Spriggan movie released in 1998 still looks amazing by comparison. It only focuses on one incident, doesn’t include all the characters, and is finished, story-wise (which is good considering 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 he has on the film besides a strict adherence to the manga is the voice acting. Dubbed or subtitled, the cast as a whole did an amazing job.