Spriggan is now streaming on Netflix.
The first season of Netflix’s Spriggan provided a great start to what could be a promising animated series. Its compelling premise, almost non-stop action, and charming, yet mysterious protagonist, practically make for a good party spectacle. – as long as you can forget about its uneven animation and unfortunate relationship with 1998’s superior film.
Based on the Japanese manga series created by Hiroshi Takashige and Ryōji Minagawa, this anime follows the exploits of Yu Ominae, a 16-year-old super soldier tasked with finding and securing a powerful out-of-place artifact (OOPArt). Seen as a potential weapon of mass destruction, several paramilitary groups and nationally backed entities are secretly fighting for their control. The result was a public Cold War that was anything but. Fortunately, the ARCAM Corporation – ready as the voice of reason and Yu’s current employer – seeks to protect the artifact in a bid to save lives.
Best Anime Series on Netflix
Spriggan works as a manga because of its fun characters, action overload, and interesting twists on world history and religious doctrine. Netflix’s six-episode adaptation largely benefits in the same way from closely following the source material. The action is, at times, solid; Yu could definitely take a hit, even if it sent him through several walls. OOPArt created by technologically advanced ancient civilizations lends credence to accepted ideological shifts. 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 carefully treads the line between hopeful for the future and foolish naivety. That said, he isn’t portrayed as a goofy hero with questionable decision-making skills; he would kill the enemy if the situation allowed. His friend and rival Jean Jacquemond (Xander Mobus/Yohei Azakami), on the other hand, is as charismatic as violent. He never hesitated to behead enemies and that was before he turned into a werewolf. This is in stark contrast to Yu’s character, morally. However, that doesn’t make Jean any less attractive. He is more Vegeta than Yu Goku. He always works towards the greater good while applying some of the darker thrusts that audiences might have when presented with some of the show’s truly evil characters.
Yoshino Somei (voiced by Jenny Yokobori/Mariya Ise) provides a bit of levity amidst all the bloodshed. Always looking for artifacts or other expensive bobble items to sell, he was always at odds with Yu. Funny at times but always resourceful – seeing him slip an automatic weapon from his backpack in the middle of a zombie battle was a win – Yoshino acts like Yu’s unwanted little sister. This is played for laughs, considering he almost always gets what he wants, despite Yu’s insistence that he stay out of ARCAM affairs. Deep down, Yoshino is a well-meaning thief who saves the day more than once.
Spriggan is interesting enough to recommend to fans of the manga and the film. That said, newcomers might be put off by the lack of an overarching plot. Shows, like manga, spend most of their time setting the stage for upcoming events. Shady company introduced. Criminals are killed or disappear. There is little way of character growth, with only the tiniest glimpse into the past in relation to current events. Other than the segment where Yu is at school, where his friends question why he’s always tired and full of bruises, not much ties each event together. Even the supporting cast is shuffled from episode to episode.
However, this endless storytelling does facilitate Spriggan’s episodic format. Yu’s round-the-world adventure allows for some inventive encounters. He quickly goes from fighting cybernetic soldiers in an apartment complex to fighting zombies in a cursed forest. There is always something new to fascinate you. Those who already know what to expect from reading manga won’t be surprised to see heroes and villains in and out of the show quickly. And since the expectation is that these first six episodes are just the beginning – while Netflix has yet to officially confirm another season, it makes sense that Spriggan will be released in multiple parts/seasons which will eventually allow for better bonding between shows – more emphasis is being placed in action isn’t necessarily a bad thing… well, at least until it happens.
There are plenty of action-packed segments between cybernetic-enhanced individuals. Arm removed. Broken bones. Entertaining battle. Unfortunately, these fights are not always well animated. Spriggan uses hand-drawn and computer-generated animations, but not in the same size. 2D animation flows with realistic motion. When that’s combined with the CG, the action slows down as the character stiffens. At least it makes sense when used with mechs or robot foes, though that doesn’t mean the mechs look good, mind you. This gigantic metal machine looks heavy and metallic, sure, but is ultimately alien when grouped alongside everything else on screen.
The Spriggan movie released in 1998 still looks amazing in comparison. It only focuses on one incident, doesn’t cover all of the characters, and is limited, 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 this film has apart from its strict adherence to manga is voice acting. Dubbed or renamed, the cast as a whole did a great job.