One of the most popular manga of the late 80s was that of Spriggan. Chronicle of the life of an incumbent Agent Spriggan in its task of sealing off ancient technology, it’s spawned an animated movie and now a new animated series, but this new iteration doesn’t quite make the cut.
Arcam’s purpose is to seal away old and potentially dangerous technologies from people who would misuse them, namely the military weapons of various world governments. Arcam’s field operatives, known as Spriggans, are tasked with this enterprise, often by any means necessary.
The manga then hit all the good times of the 80s, from the Japanese high school student who is actually a super secret agent with incredible physical powers, to discovering a mysterious ancient technology called OOParts (or simply “displaced artifacts”).
The use of the word “spriggan” was also not accidental. An Old English word, it describes magical and powerful beings that guard places of power or hidden treasures.
Over the manga’s seven years of operation, it’s covered a bunch of specific story arcs and found a massive enough following in the process. Naturally, an anime adaptation was inevitable but this is where the Spriggan the curse began to be felt.
Adapting any long-running manga is no easy task, even with separate and distinct story arcs. However, the Noah’s Ark story from the manga was chosen for a movie and was to be directed by Katsuhiro Otomo.
Suffering from lengthy production delays, it looked like the film would never get made. However, with some production changes and Otomo stepping down for a more secondary role, it made for a decent movie but one that didn’t really represent the manga very well.
To be fair, this kind of thing has already happened with the first animated film adaptation of ghost in the shell by Mamoru Oshii. It was much more in line with Oshii’s past work, rather than the original manga that was its source. Granted, Oshii felt he failed to adapt ghost in the shellbut the resulting film was still remarkable.
Maybe the reasoning with Spriggan was that Otomo was a manga creator himself, thus adapting Spriggan would be simpler under his direction, but it didn’t work out that way.
Don’t get me wrong, the 1998 film by Spriggan isn’t bad at all and captures most of the rhythms of the manga’s main story, but lacked much of the action vibes and 80s attitude of the manga.
We then had the Spriggan game on the original PlayStation. Called Lunar Verse and developed by FromSoftware, it was a clunky, clunky mess. Again, the curse of Spriggan had hit another adaptation.
Why mention all this? Well, it’s relevant in how this new anime series adaptation of Spriggan approached the source material and tried to be more faithful accordingly.
Taking place over six episodes, each episode covers a distinct story arc from the manga, including the Noah’s Ark story that the movie adapted, but more on that later.
Each story is faithfully recreated from the manga, but with an emphasis on bloody action scenes, which leads to this series’ main problem.
The whole problem the movie had with its story was that it had to be rushed. The manga took its time with the construction and setting of each story, so when the OOParts were revealed and the action started, the slower pace was worth it.
With this series, we barely have time to figure out what’s going on because Yuu eviscerates all the shady government forces that got in his way before the story really gets integrated.
To make matters worse, the approach to animation is an odd mix of 2D and 3D. Normally with hybrid animation setups like this, the 2D side handles the characters, the 3D covers the hardware. In this case, both 2D and 3D cover the characters, with 3D being used in more complex action sequences.
The overall result of each episode is that each story is truncated and rushed with the gory action sequences that just look wonky because they switch badly between 2D and 3D.
It was also a mistake to cover the story of Noah’s Ark in this new series format, as it draws obvious comparisons to the previous film. While the series’ version of the story is arguably more faithful and handles the characterization better, as well as a much more compelling portrayal of the Ark, its shorter runtime and off-key animation don’t make service to the serial version.
Much like Spriggan agents trying to seal off ancient technology, it looks like the Spriggan manga should be treated the same way. From the movie to now this new series, it seems like the magic that made the original Spriggan so special manga is beyond the means of modern comprehension.
Spriggan is currently available to watch on netflix.
Read my Forbes blog here.