Netflix Anime has been hitting it out of the park, with the new IP it’s landed and the remakes of existing ones as well. Spriggan may be new in anime series form (a feature film anime adaptation came in 1998), but the manga from author Hiroshi Takashige and illustrator Ryōji Minagawa is over 30 years old with the first chapters released in 1989. The balancing of 90s storytelling with 2022 expectations and technology is a rough one, but one that Spriggan mostly handles fine, ebbing and flowing between “oh no honey what are you doing” and “oh that actually works.”
To start things off Spriggan is produced by David Productions (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Diamond is Unbreakable) and is directed by Hiroshi Kobayashi. While this science fiction story deals with themes and historical events from reality, much of the constructed timeline is off—in an Ancient Aliens kind of way. In Spriggan, a great civilization once existed on this Earth. They possessed knowledge and scientific prowess which far exceeded that of modern man. This power was hidden in relics of this ancient civilization across this world.
As high-speed communications networks begin to cover the globe, satellites begin to expose all, leading the armies of great nations to clash as they seek to uncover and research these artifacts and claim an unfathomable “power.” But, with a message left in the ruins of the ancient civilization stating to “Protect our legacy from evildoers,” ARCAM is formed. A secret organization with one goal: to seal away the ancient powers for good. Known as Spriggans, the elite ARCAM agents track down evil, the relics, and more across the world for six episodes, with Yuu Ominae as one of the strongest and youngest among them.
Spriggan brings globetrotting adventure, some thrilling action sequences, and a lot of violence that doesn’t pull any punch. While the bulk of the animation is done in 2D and embodies that early 90s shonen aesthetic (for better and worse), the action sequences come to life with a small 3D addition that makes the fighting field come to life in an exciting way. Strong and powerful, each action animation sequence only gets better as the episodes go one. With super power, super suits, and a bunch of blood, the fight sequences are the best work of the series as a whole. While the bulk of the episodes feel flat and slightly too slow in the animation speed, the action moments are true highlights and worth watching on their own. But I mean, I expect no less from the studio behind multiple seasons of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
That said, the sheer scale of Spriggan’s story makes the pacing absolutely chaotic—only one-uped by the nefarious plans of the people they’re trying to stop, a hot lead that is apparently a lycanthrope that only transforms when he sees his own blood, and a crystal skull that is of course linked to fascist assholes trying to bring around the Fourth Reich. It’s a lot. And in much of the execution, it’s a real mess, especially when you bring in the fact that the badass spriggan you’ve been following that is the best of the best, Ominae, is a high school kid.
Yes, a high school kid. So you get moments of fighting nazis with a crystal skull cut away to high school drama. The tonal dissonance between scenes is hard to overcome with the high school elements feeling absolutely out of place and a slog compared to the fast-paced fight sequences and danger in the mission segments of the episodes.
Another characteristic of the series is how much the 90s is blended with today. From overall aesthetic to the opening theme song, it’s all throwback—and so is the weird choices made in dialogue. Had the series pushed hard in on the nostalgia of 90s shonen animation, there may have been one cohesive story; but instead, there are bits of the contemporary world worked in, like social media and other everyday technology that feel extremely out of place.
While Spriggan is a muddled assembly of great action, conspiracy theories, and high school drama, it is a fun and wild watch. The action sequences alone are a bloody good time and the absurdity is something that, when embraced, can work. Messy, uneven, and ultimately a nostalgic note for past anime, Spriggan may not be worth a binge right away but if you find yourself with three hours to kill and are looking for chaos, go ahead and hit play.
Spriggan is available now, exclusively on Netflix.
- Rating - 6/106/10
While Spriggan is a muddled assembly of great action, conspiracy theories, and high school drama, it is a fun and wild watch. The action sequences alone are a bloody good time and the absurdity is something that when embraced, can work. Messy, uneven, and ultimately a nostalgic note for past anime, Spriggan may not be worth a binge right away but if you find yourself with three hours to kill and looking for chaos, go ahead and hit play.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.