Spriggan - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 17 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 90
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Spriggan


By Chris Beveridge     April 07, 2002
Release Date: April 23, 2002

© ADV Films

What They Say
Directed by first-time director Hirotsugu Kawasaki and supervised by
Katsuhiro Otomo, the legendary creator behind the cinematic masterpiece
Akira, Spriggan is based on the comic Striker by Chu Takasige and Ryoji
Minagawa, which originally appeared in the Japanese monthly magazine, Shonen
Sunday. The comics were a popular success, selling millions of copies of
the paperback releases, which led to a fervent bidding war over the right to
make a movie based on the property. Otomo and Kawasaki eventually won out,
and with the backing of acclaimed animators Studio 4°C, masterfully combined
traditional cel animation with ground-breaking computer animation to create
a stunning action film.

Story: At the top of the world, the ancient artifact known as Noah's Ark
has been uncovered. Buried and forgotten since before the birth of history,
it holds the potential to elevate its holder to the status of a god... or to
wipe mankind from the face of the Earth in a second! Now, a desperate
battle erupts across the planet as two secret organizations race to recover
the lost artifact - one seeks to destroy it, and the other wants enslave the
human race! Monstrous half-human cyborgs face off against Earth's ultimate
defenders, the secret organization known as ARCAM and their elite agents,
the Spriggan, in an epic duel with the future of our species as the prize!

The Review!
Spriggan is a movie that?s been a few years in coming to home video in the US, but it?s finally made its way to the shiny disc format. With a good stretch of time between release and people seeing it in various forms over the years, it?s a flick that?s generated much reaction among fandom. Aren?t the ?controversial? titles fun?

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Being a big budget production, the original language was done in a 5.1 mix and this is pretty solid overall. And once you learn some of the details of how the audio was done (via the commentary track), things really click and make sense. One of the things that was done was adjusting the placement of the microphone in front of the voice actors so when in frame they?re further back from the front of the screen or other characters that are talking, their voice is lower and more accurate for the sequence. Partially, I think this is just a ploy to get you to crank up the speakers so that the big action sequences sound ever more lush. The English track is also recorded in 5.1 and we gave that some spot checking and didn?t notice any issues.

And yes, this is my obligatory ?Fanboy? whine session for the inability to acquire the DTS Japanese track that is also available. With as much as I enjoyed this movie, it?s now a given that I?ll acquire the import version to see what kind of differences there are between the two and which I like best.

Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, ADV has given us an excellent looking anamorphic transfer that shows off the films detailed character designs and backgrounds. The show has a lot of dark backgrounds to it and underground areas, both of which show up very good here. The film has the usual amount of grain one would expect to see in it and helps give things even more of a theatrical feel to it. This definitely looks nothing like you get used to with TV or OVA animation, and reminds me why I lust after most big budget anime movies.

The cover for Spriggan is definitely fairly busy with several character shots across the front with a mix of background images and the usual array of text. Most of the colors are fairly earthy so they do mesh well, but it?s almost just too busy and doesn?t give you a central character to focus on. The back cover is a bit more subtle in the animation shots shown here since they?re all done p in a similar blue hue. There?s the usual rave quotes from places like scifi.com and a couple of paragraphs for the summary. The discs features are clearly listed here as well as a few screenshots of the menus. The insert provides another shot of the front cover while the reverse side is where you get to see most of the original Japanese cover, which is white on one side. This gives space to do the chapter listings and listing all the extras.

The menus are solid looking CG pieces of work that give you the feel of a system you?d use before going off on an op for ARCAM. The main menu does take a bit of time to load as it?s trying to get you in the mindset of the movie, returning to it from submenus doesn?t result in the same loads but brings you to the end result, which is perfect. Menu navigation is good though they?re only highlighting a sliver of a block in some screens which makes it a bit hard to see what you?re selecting at times.

The extras are something of a mixed bag here, depending on what you?re interested in. If you?re not a film fan, you?ve basically got three sets of production sketches that run in a video gallery for about 2 minutes each. There?s also a hidden trailer for the English release in the main menu. For the film fan though, there?s a feature length commentary track done by Matt Greenfield as the ADR director and ADR engineer Christopher Bourque. This means we essentially get a 90 minute extra where the two talk about everything about the movie from the English dubbing to the Japanese cast to the print colors and everything else in between. It?s got a ton of great interesting information that really fleshes out things and makes you pay attention to things that you otherwise would miss.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the main comments you?ll hear people make about Spriggan is that it?s a ?shut your brain off at the door? kind of flick, or an anime version of the summer popcorn movie. To some extent, both are true, it?s a very visual piece of work that is heavy on action sequences for the first two thirds and even the final third has some truly brutal piece of action.

And I?m certainly not going to try and defend the film for the plot that is there, which is about the discovery of Noah?s Ark in Turkey and the race to unlock it and control it. There?s plenty of metaphysical stuff going on in the last third that some will find it to be ?just added?, but it?s something that those who?ve read the manga will look at as ?well, that?s just a given, why spend time talking about it??. Having liked what I?ve seen of the manga, I?m not surprised I enjoyed the movie, particularly for what it was trying to be.

Set in ?present day? time, the movie kicks off with a few minutes where we see some archaeologist/adventurers come across the location of Noah?s Ark. Their arrival is timed to or either triggered the reactivation of it, as it sends off a massive pulse that goes so far as to destroy an orbital satellite. Odds are most people have no clue, but you know that there are organizations that simply leaped once this happened.

This is just prelude though as we?re fairly quickly shifted to the character of Yu Ominae. At age 17, he appears to be a typical teenager but we?re shown that he?s something more. He?s actually the top agent for ARCAM, a group dedicated to keeping track and securing of objects related to the bible and other ancient artifacts that are actually too dangerous to let loose in the world. Yu?s just returned from a mission and is fairly banged up from it, but has still returned to school. But even here he can?t get away from his other life as someone has used one of his schoolmates to try and get him.

The way they used this particular student was enough to trigger something in Yu?s head that he knew it had to be related to something his boss hasn?t told him. A quick confrontation reveals the discovery of the ark months prior and a large group of ARCAM people already there working on it. Though told to stay away, Yu heads out in the middle of a night and commandeers a plane and heads off to Turkey. Turkey doesn?t go as planned though and another group is already one step ahead of him and have changed their flight plan and compromised the people they were supposed to meet. Yu now finds himself weaponless and with only one contact person.

This leads into the first really big solid action sequence that goes from a car chase to one on foot through a bazaar and then across the rooftops as the mysterious bad guy locals try to take him out. It?s a visually exciting scene with the way it all plays out with detailed characters and sets. It plays half like a Bond flick and half like a Jackie Chan picture through it. While we don?t get much on the pursuers, we?re able to draw a decent connection later on when we start to get to know the big bad organization.

The big bad is a group whose also been acquiring ark related artifacts over the years and employs a variety of different groups to achieve its goals. It?s also ostensibly run by the good old boys in the Pentagon. So yes, once again, America comes out on top in Japanese cinema. The Pentagon has their inside men controlling the one in charge of the group, and they?ve also got a few folks from the US Machine Corps working there. That?s right, a group of cyborg projects who are under the control of the military. That helps explain why we can get some slightly outlandish characters to participate in what is otherwise a fairly normal worldview. So with the ?normal? attackers going after Yu at one end of Turkey, they send in their two big weapons to attack the actual mountain encampment and underground lair. The Fat Man, with his huge body and attatched gattling gun, and Little Boy, a psychotic with gloves that shoot razor thin wires, both cause massive amounts of destruction at the base, but ultimately find themselves repelled.

Yu finally makes his way to the base and after a few misunderstandings, meets up with Meisell, the white haired old genius scientist and his younger assistant Margaret, a woman who talks very little and is really the only woman in the movie. In the time ARCAM has been working there, they?ve practically built a massive mini city under the mountain where they?re excavating the ark. The tour goes on until they reach an area where the professor indicates that it?s the door inside, but nobody has the right key to open it. He goes so far as to say that the layer surrounding it is actually a time dampening field and that things simply stop there.

Yu?s time spent in the base doesn?t go problem free for long as both Fat Man and Little Boy get backup from their support group as well as having their boss, Mac Dougall, a rather young kid with some kind of special powers, arrive on the scene and taking final action to acquire the massive artifact. There?s plenty of firefights as things progress and both sides make gains and losses. But as things move into the final third of the movie, it?s all coming down to a one on one match that you can see coming.

Spriggan is something that really and truly excels at what it?s trying to be, and that?s an action flick with western based legends and religious ideas mixed into it. While there is definitely a plot going on, the main focus for the first two thirds of the film is getting the various characters to where they should be for the fight to actually claim the prize and then for the reward aspect. I?ve seen many harsh judgments against the film for its lack of plot, but generally these are coming from people who you couldn?t get to even recognize any western piece of media having any merit. Too many people in anime fandom go too far in throwing away all their ?roots? when they get into anime and forget what a simple piece of fun a good action movie can be.

Spriggan was good fun for 90 minutes in Japanese. It was then a really interesting listen for 90 minutes as I heard Matt and Chris talk about the film. And then we had another 90 minute session listening to the English track while writing this review. All right in a row no less! Each viewing really started to show more and more detail and nuances. Spriggan is a solid addition to my library.

Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,English audio commentary with the English ADR director Matt Greenfield,Character Designs,Vehicles & Equipment,Key Backgrounds

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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