Anime Review: Spriggan
Directed by Hirotsugu Kawasaki
Produced by ADV Films
Written by Jon Minners
Remember when anime first started making a true name for itself in America? You’d sit and watch Akira or Ghost in the Shell and you would be confused throughout the whole thing until you got to the end when suddenly everything was explained and you thought to yourself, this anime was so complex it had to be the greatest thing ever. Of course, you found out anime didn’t have to be that way, but sometimes the over-convoluted nature of the genre rears its ugly head and you get masterpieces like Jin-Roh, which did a wonderful job of depicting Little Red Riding Hood with guns and violence or you get Spriggan, a beautiful anime with little else to enjoy.
The story of Spriggan, which has been compared by some to Akira, centers around the discovery of Noah’s Ark buried on Mt. Ararat in Turkey. Of course, being an anime, Noah’s Ark is not the biblical device we read about in religion class, rather it is a giant machine that is made out of an unknown material which cannot be opened; at least until the proper people are called to the scene.
Obviously, there is great power inside and therefore, there are going to be people who want it for good and people who want it for evil. Guess who is evil in this film. Yes, it is the good old United States of America. Got to love the Japanese; they seem to be the only ones who stand up to America’s ‘we’re better than you attitude’ and get away with it. Wanting to do right is an organization called ARCAM, whose top agent is Yu Ominae, a high school student who is nothing like your normal teenager. He is a killing machine known as Spriggan. How do you think the movie got its title? Yu’s goal is to stop the imperialistic nature of America and their world conquering philosophy.
Sounds good, but it isn’t. It’s sad because the animation, hand drawn and computer rendered, is beautiful and the action is exhilarating, including a great chase scene in Turkey involving Yu that reminded me of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was also cool watching him as he dodged his knife wielding enemy in a way that felt so real and the way it appeared camera angles were used to capture Yu’s jump from a roof and his life saving grab of a wire to break his fall. The characters were moving like real people and it excited me, because this was just at the beginning of the movie. There were also tons of explosions and action packed shootouts, but for once, that was not good enough to carry this film.
The story of Spriggan just plain sucked. Besides Noah’s Ark not being fully explained properly to the laymen viewer, the big point is that there was just no character development. I did not care about Yu at al, because only in the end, and very briefly, do they even talk about his past and why he battles the very nature of what a Spriggan is. In fact, an equally unknown Spriggan Jean Jacques Mondo, who reminds me of Gambit from X-Men, stole the show despite even less character development given to him. In this case, his way of mouthing off and coming out of nowhere to save Yu made him a likeable character, but all in all, viewers were given little reason to cheer either of them.
And we don’t really have a reason to hate the bad guy, Colonel MacDougal, a gifted psionic who thinks he can use Noah’s Ark to start the world over again, a nifty idea considering why Noah’s Ark was created in the first place coupled with the amount of sin in the world today. MacDougal wants to play God, but his religious and scientific rationalizations bored me to tears. They either pumped our adrenaline with explosions that ended up numbing us or bored us with crap that did nothing to further the story; only complicate it. There was no middle ground and it left the film rather weak.
In an age where the super soldier story has been done to death, Spriggan did little to set itself apart from the rest. Highly touted by so many people at various anime conventions, I just don’t see the justification for the hype and in doing my research, I wasn’t alone. Spriggan was a novel idea, but in the end, it left me with an empty feeling inside. Spriggan just doesn’t deliver.