VOICES OF: Christopher Pattono, Kevin Corn, Ted Pfister, Randy McAvin, Kelly Manison

1998, 90 Minutes, Directed by: Hirotsugu Kawasaki

An ancient civilization has left various powerful and technologically advanced artifacts scattered across Earth. A top-secret organization is sworn to protect these artifacts from evil and depend on superpowered warriors named "spriggan" for this task. 

Or something like this. I'm not too sure because like a lot of anime I've seen recently, this 1998 movie (which actually got a theatrical release in the States) can get quite convoluted at times. Think the bureaucratic divisions plotting against each other in Jin-Roh - The Wolf Brigade and you'll get the idea.

Part of the problem is that it is apparently part of a longer series and no doubt things will be explained later on. However, for the moment the net effect is like trying to follow a TV series after having missed a few key episodes. On the one hand the plot is complicated, yet in another way it is quite simple: at its heart Spriggan is nothing else but a hyperkinetic action movie - a mixture of James Bond, Indiana Jones and Akira.

If you had seen Akira then a lot of elements in Spriggan would seem familiar. The action sequences are similarly staged and some plot elements (particularly a young boy with what seems to be incredible telepathic powers) would seem familiar. Apparently Akira director Katsuhiro Otomo had a hand in Spriggan as "supervisor" (whatever that means), but while this may serve as a drawing card for anime fans, his input would seem actually to be to this movie's detriment to a degree. At times Spriggan is just too darn familiar, even to a casual anime viewer such as myself.

But don't let this put you off. Despite its faults the movie remains watchable - things move along briskly and technically Spriggan is very well done indeed. The animation (mixing traditional animation with computer-generated animation) can be quite spectacular at times. 

The dubbed English voices are quite good too, even though the main characters themselves are, erm, badly drawn in that characterization is kept to a minimum. One never really connects to the characters since only cryptic background and personal traits are supplied. Newcomers to anime would be better off checking out the likes of Ghost in the Shell or maybe even Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. Anime fans won't be disappointed and for them the movie actually warrants a three-star rating instead of the two-and-a-half I gave it.

(Disclaimer: the violence in Spriggan can be quite graphic to viewers unfamiliar with anime. It is not as upsetting as that in Akira though and there is no sex. Parents are advised to check it out first though. Ten-year-old boys will probably enjoy it a lot, but younger children may be distressed.)



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