ADV films, one of the main distributors of anime in the English language, have been well known for their releases of anime television shows such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Blue Seed, and Bubblegum Crisis 2040. Until Spriggan, they had been releasing their titles on video and DVD. But last year, ADV made the leap to the big screen as they imported the Japanese anime film Spriggan, although it was very limited in its release in America.
Spriggan is the story of two government organizations trying to recover Noah’s Ark, which has been found in Turkey, along the slopes of Mt. Ararat. With the ark’s discovery comes the race between the organizations to be the first to control it, as the ark has the potential to give the holder powers of a god with the ability to wipe all of mankind out in one second. One organization wishes to destroy the ark while one organization wishes to use it to enslave humanity.
The ARCAM organization wishes to destroy the ark before it falls into the wrong hands. They have the most elite agents, known as the Spriggan. Yu Ominae sets out to stop the ark falling into the hands of the dangerous Machine Corps who want the ark for world domination.
The Machine Corps however are not to be taken lightly as their agents consist of an armored and well-armed Fatman, a psychotic and deranged Little Boy armed with wire cutters to cut enemies into pieces, and physic cyborg kid known as Colonel McDougall leads this team. But the Colonel himself has his own intentions for the ark.
Most anime reviewers have said that this is a ‘shut off the brain’ animated picture. I can’t disagree with them, this is an action movie. By the time the film has reached half way you’ve had an explosion at a school, a chase through a Turkish market and a fight sequence between ARCAM and Machine Corps agents. The other half of the film is also action as well, but it comes with the deeper spiritual meaning similar to other anime titles (such as Akira) to explain the purpose of the ark and the theories behind it. There are some plot holes along the way but it doesn’t stop it for being a good action film.
I’m impressed of how this anime film looks, especially with the fight sequences. They’re fluid, fast, and excellent. Some of the fight scenes are too violent in places, especially when Yu faces off against Fatman. It’s not surprising that the film received the R rating in the states. The film has been screened recently on the Sci-fi channel on Sky, though if it was released in the U.K, it would clearly receive a 15 certificate.
The English dub for Spriggan is performed well. After viewing the film in Japanese, the English voices were generally on target with the Japanese cast. Some cases, a perfect match, like the voice actor who dubs Colonel McDougall; not bad for a 12 year old child voice actor. Though the English dub isn’t translated word for word of the Japanese version (it is a rarity if it’s the same) as the subtitles point out. This shouldn't put you off the dub as it still manages to give the full story and it doesn’t have annoying voices like other badly-dubbed anime. It will never beat the great anime dub of Cowboy Bebop but it is a good job done by ADV.
I can easily recommend this title to those anime fans looking for some good action. If you liked anime action films such as Ghost in the Shell, then you shouldn’t pass on this. It’s not one film to challenge the magnificence of Akira, but it can certainly set itself as an enjoyable film. ADV should be proud of their first theatrical release, as it’s excellent.
In terms of video, Spriggan is presented in an anamorphic widescreen format (1.85:1) and it’s an excellent transfer. The image is clear throughout without any troubles. It shows the excellent fight sequences between ARCAM and the Machine Corps in the fullest detail.
Just like the picture, the sound is also very good. Using the channels to effective use and having its speech, explosions, effects and musical score coming out of different speakers making Spriggan a very enjoyable experience in Dolby Digital 5.1. Both soundtracks are in 5.1 and are mixed very well with no detectable problems. It's up to the viewer which language to watch the film in. Either way, you shouldn’t be disappointed with this DVD sound mix.
Moving on to the extras, the headline extra on the disc is the commentary by English dub director Matt Greenfield and ADR engineer Christopher Bourque. I love to see commentaries on animated releases (anime or not) and this commentary was great. Greenfield and Borque continuously speak throughout with information on every aspect of the English release such as the casting, to creating the 5.1 mix and the origins of Spriggan. I heard some things I never knew about the dubbing process, especially for a film like this where Greenfield and Borque speak of how much they put the English actor of Yu just in order to record his voice. It’s also nice to have the director point out other ADV regular actors who don’t have a big part in the film, though if you don’t like the dubs ADV films tend to produce then it isn’t really necessary to take note on that. The commentary gave me a new way of seeing Spriggan after I watched it with the commentary track.
The other extras found on this disc are video portfolios of the character designs, vehicles and equipment and key backgrounds. These three short videos show off all the drawings used in the production of the film, very interesting to look at. However, to me, it’s only a 'watch-once' feature.
The final extra added on this disc is previews of ADV’s other anime titles. These include noteworthy titles such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Sin: The Movie, Tekken, Gasaraki, and Samurai X.
Overall, ADV have started their theatrical releases with a great title. While technically seen as a 'shut-your-brain-off-and-enjoy' action film, it still has some deep meaning elements anime such as Akira and Ghost in the Shell have. The ending of the film sets up for a sequel, which I hope there will be because I enjoyed this film. A great feature, some good extras including a brilliant commentary track, ADV continue to show they're able to release big anime titles along with Pioneer, Bandai, and Manga.