Anime Review: Spriggan – A promising reboot?

If there is an ancient artifact, it’s our job to deal with it!

Spriggan was originally a sci-fi manga by author Hiroshi Takashige and illustrated by Ryouji Minagawa. The series got adapted an animated film in 1989 – although just one arc of many in the manga. And Netflix announced in 2021 that it is making an ONA for Spriggan, with 6 episodes planned to be released on the streaming platform. The production met with many delays, however, on the 18th June 2022, the episodes finally made its way to the audience.

The series premise is set in our “present day” – but our world is riddled with mysterious artifacts known as OOParts – Out-of-place Artifacts – left behind by ancient civilizations with access to power that can only be described as supernatural. To prevent these artifacts to fall into the wrong hands, an organization named ARCAM employ the service of a private army as well as elite special agents known as Spriggan. The series follow Yuu Ominae – a teenage Spriggan agent on his missions to protect the world from world powers, maniacs and straight-up insane villains.

To be honest, this is the finest sci-fi anime that Netflix has adapted in 2022. So, for a completely new viewer who hasn’t read the manga or watched the old movie version, in my opinion, there is no need to worry because the series has really done well with the story-telling and setting up characters and their premises. Each episode is built as their own self-contained arc with minimal call-back to the previous, making it ideal to be viewed in separate sessions.

The format of the series is also interesting, instead of limiting it to 12 episodes of 22 minutes each, the producer chose to go for 6 episodes with an average of 45 minutes each. It’s quite rare to extend an episode like this for an anime series because usually this only apply to western tv series or tv dramas, the only anime I know of that also has this length – 45 minutes per episode like this – is Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar, which is also another mecha series. This choice surprised me when watching the series, both ensure that the quality of the content of that episode does not affect the next episode and is not interrupted in the middle by the 2-episode narrative style like in the early Kamen Rider series in Neo Heisei era. It does feel like you’re watching a separate OVA each episode like Gundam Unicorn. But instead of every episode connecting to each other tightly, Spriggan’s episode are quite standalone.

Next is about the animation, and it is above average at best, not very impressive (well par for the course for Netflix). During the 6 episodes, the transition from 2D to 3D can be noticed very unevenly, I know that this maybe a scheduling or budget issue, but it was a really bad experience for some people, it could be possible to cause eye strain or dizziness. The blend of 2D and CG wasn’t executed well when two characters – one CGI and one hand-drawn – appear together in the same frame and interact with each other is quite jarring for the eye, especially in a heavy hand-to-hand combat series like Spriggan. However, the special effects are very well done, especially for Yuu’s special armor. The choreograph of the series is very good, sorta like Ip Man on steroid, but the method chosen really undermine the quality, which is a shame.

Then the sound department, besides the pros of a 45-minute episode, this is something that I really appreciate. Both the opening and ending were made by Taisei Iwasaki who has contributed to music in other anime projects like Blood Blockade Battlefront or Belle and now Spriggan. Through those above anime, my personal assessment of this composer is that he has a very western style, and in this Spriggan anime, even the two who sings for the opening and ending is American. That is very suitable for the context of a team of secret agents with an important role in protecting the world heritage treasure (which is very common in American TV series even though this anime is roasting America a lot lol). The vocal soundtracks are very nice, and the BGM music isn’t bad either.

In terms of Story and Characters, everyone has a clear-cut personal characteristics and motivations and the main character: Yuu Ominae – is pretty much a classic shounen main character with above average chadness level. It is very refreshing to see both a capable and decisive main character but also empathizing and kind-hearted. You can say he’s sorta a Garu Stu but it doesn’t break immersion for him to be one. He was trained, he has experience and equipped with state-of-the-art technology, and he acted according to the situation he found himself in. When he needs to be prudent and quick-witted, he did so. When he feels like he can kick-back a bit, he does, so he feels “human”.

If I have to say what I regret after watching it is that there are only 6 episodes and each character line has a lot of potential for development as well as a character that is very impressive to me but only appeared once like him. Frenchman Jean Jacquemondo or Iwao Akatsuki they are both pretty cool things and have really caught my attention. Yoshino is probably the most insane side-char in the series. A smol loli that lug around automatic rifle in her backpack with crazy athletic abilities while being…a relatively human character. She doesn’t seem to be using a superhuman gimmick yet was still able to keep up with Yuu and the other suited-up characters. And of course the real Gary Stu character is voiced by Takehito Koyasu – Mirage is literally a perfect human being (maybe except his fashion sense).

In the end, Spriggan is really the shining gem of Netflix after a lot of the flops so far this year. An ONA does well in every aspect. Although there are still a few limitations – particularly with the animation, it was still enough to keep me hooked for 6 episodes. Compared to the old OVA (just for that particular arc), both did a good job with the story and the Netflix one got the edge on the visual. As an adaptation of the manga, the series also stay quite true to the source material without changing too much and break any characteristics. Not gonna lie, but when I watched this series I watched 3 episodes a day in a row and if it wasn’t for my personal works in life I would most likely spend 1 day binge-watching this series. Good music, quality content, acceptable animation. I suggest you give this series a shot because it’s really worth your time.

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