Reviews: Spriggan (DVD)

Time to get your Sprig on! While this pun may be ludicrously crass, it is, at the same time, a warranted directive. If you have not seen Spriggan, you should! This Madman release takes a staple of anime cinema and revamps it perfectly for the Western eye. Spriggan is what anime is all about: scintillating action sequences, dynamic animation, breathtaking artwork, over-the-top story and blood. Lots of blood. Let us begin.

Considering Spriggan’s relative age (the film was first released in Japan in 1998), there is nothing about this film that feels old. Blending cell and cgi animation flawlessly, Spriggan sets itself apart from the episodic, creating an atmosphere that is truly cinematic. Case in point; when the narrative shifts from Japan to Turkey, the cityscape of Istanbul is rendered in near photographic quality, enhanced by an almost real level of detail. In a genre where action usually takes precedence over setting it his inherently apparent that painstaking care has been gifted to every shot; to not only frame the action beautifully, but to give the film a singular authenticity.

Interestingly, the story is an example of uniformity. Replete with secret organisations, preternatural super-soldiers, psychopathic cyborgs, and mythical powers, Spriggan is a study of what works. Ostensibly, Spriggan is a story of conflict between ARCAM – a secret organisation dedicated to protecting humanity against ancient powers – and a splinter cell of the Pentagon bent on controlling the world; maybe not the most original material, but interesting none-the-less. Noah’s Ark – now thought to be an alien artefact used to control the weather – is found, and the battle ensues. Simple and effective. The details are almost a non-factor, because what Spriggan does best is deliver the bullets!

Action! Where Spriggan elevates a basic storyline and none-too-subtle themes is in the strikingly realised action sequences. Directed superbly, Spriggan bounces through a car chase through Turkey and elegant snow battles. There is something to be said about the beauty of a perfectly rendered muzzle flash or a shocking flash of arterial spray. The action is effortless and effective, marrying near-realistic animation with a hint of the extra-ordinary synonymous with anime. Such is the impact of Spriggan’s exemplary style that its action sequences can easily hold up to the best Hollywood has to or has ever offered.

As I mentioned above, the Spriggan revolves around the discovery of Noah’s Ark. This is interesting not for its reinvention of a Christian story, but for the fact that a Christian story was chosen as the basis for the entire movie. Somewhat unique, Spriggan foregoes a traditional Japanese or Chinese mythical grounding, opting instead for a Western theme. This move, arguably one of marketing to a Western audience unfamiliar with anime, pairs wonderfully well with the English voice dubbing. Where English voice acting in Japanese animation often leaves you with a splitting headache, Spriggan may actually sound better in English. Huge pains have been taken to sync audio and visual, leaving no ridiculous flapping lips. Indeed, watching Spriggan in Japanese is akin to watching a different movie, as the dialogue differs dramatically in language and tone. That’s right people – two movies for the price of one!

Closely tied to the issue of language, the Special Features sees the inclusion of commentary from the English directors. When it comes down to it I can usually leave the commentary, preferring just to watch the movie and draw my own conclusions. In this case, however, the commentary is both informative and, at times, actually adds to the whole experience immensely. Animation techniques are deconstructed, sound editing discussed, voices actors praised (and mocked!), and thematic concepts and history illuminated. Definitely worth the extra run through for the commentary alone.

All in all, there is something very appealing about Spriggan. Be it for the hardcore anime fan or someone new to the genre, Spriggan has something to offer.


review by Dan Baker


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