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ADV Films presents
Spriggan (1998)

"We went to so much trouble to brainwash that kid, and this is the best you can do?"
- Fattman

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: July 11, 2002

Stars: Christopher Patton, Kevin Corn
Other Stars: Ted Pfister, Andy McAvin, Kelly Manison, Mike Kleinhenz, Spike Spencer, John Paul Spephard, John Swasey
Director: Hirotsugu Kawasaki

Manufacturer: JVC
MPAA Rating: R for violence
Run Time: 00h:90m:26s
Release Date: April 23, 2002
UPC: 702727021527
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B-A-A B-

DVD Review

For ADV Films, Spriggan (1998) marked their first theatrical release in the US when brought over in 2001, and became only the second anime feature to be invited to the American Film Institute Festival in New York. As one of the premiere titles in their catalogue, it is also one of the least traditional in terms of content for the company. There are no love triangles, no cute girls (there's only one woman in the entire film), and no ecchi fanservice. There is, however, a great deal of graphic violence, elements of mysticism and biblical overtones, and pure, high octane storytelling which amounts to a continuous thrill ride for its audience. Make no mistake about it, this is an action flick, relying on high adrenaline combats sequences and intense conflicts over character depth or breadth of story.

Spriggan is set in present day, where deep within Turkey's Mount Ararat, Noah's Ark has been located. The ancient artifact is actually an alien device which possesses unknown powers, and its discovery triggers a massive pulse that destroys an orbiting satellite. While the public is unaware of the event, various organizations now take an active interest in controlling the device for their own purposes.

Scientist Dr. Meisel and his assistant Margaret are conducting research on the ark, and to provide security for the project they contact ARCAM, the secret global organization whose purpose is to safeguard relics from lost civilizations from falling into the wrong hands. ARCAM calls in their best agent, teenaged Yu Ominae, a biomechanically enhanced Spriggan, who is dispatched to Turkey, only to find himself caught by the forces trying to overtake the Ark. The U.S. Machine Corps, a rogue branch of the American military, is headed by a maniacal young cyborg psychic known as Colonel MacDougall, who has enlisted the deadly team of militia cyborgs Fattman (fitted with an arm-mounted gattling gun) and Little Boy (whose razor sharp wire tendrils dice his adversaries) to aid in his acquisition of the artifact. In the remote mountaintops a battle for possession of the prized ark is about to ensue, with the fate of mankind hanging in the balance.

The film version was created after a heated bidding war for the rights to the hugely successful manga from creators Hiroshi Takashige and Ryoji Minagawa, which was serialized in Shonen Sunday from 1989 until 1986, and which has sold in the tens of thousands in its US incarnation as Striker. Anime legend Katsuhiro Otomo (director of Akira) oversaw the production, and hand picked director Hirotsugu Kawasaki for his first full length assignment, after previously working as a supervising director on a number of Otomo projects.

The character designs are based largely on the manga, but several modifications were made for the screen version. With much of the story taking place in Turkey, great attention was paid to get the details accurate, including scouting locations and using photographs as a guide to the atmosphere and design. The complexity of the animation (over 80,000 cells) is combined with state of the art CGI work for some of the effects sequences. The look is highly detailed, and the movement fast with a lot of quick edits. There are several stand out sequences, with the car chase through the Turkish marketplace among the highlights.

The story is focused on the battle for control of the Ark. The violence is explicit and frequent, the intensity palpable. The soundtrack enhances the presentation measurably in its effective use of ambience and surround activity. The ending sequence gets pretty ethereal in concept, as the true nature of the Ark is uncovered. While lacking in terms of character depth or overall plot, it aptly succeeds as an engrossing and exciting action adventure.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The image presentation of the anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer is extremely good, capturing the film quality of the feature. This isn't an eye popping colorfest, but the muted tones are consistent and suit the tone of the film. Colors are rendered well, blacks are solid, and film grain is evident but natural. As noted in the commentary, the contrast is handled well, bringing out details that could otherwise be lost on the small screen. The usual offenders are some aliasing, and the odd compression fault, but nothing that really spoils the image.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
Japanese, Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is offered in both Japanese and English dubbed 5.1 surround, and both tracks are highly enveloping with good use of directionality. The atmospheric nature is presented well, with attention to subtlety and dynamics. Frequency coverage is impressive, and there were no technical deficiencies noted. There are some interesting details exposed in the commentary about how the dialogue was recorded for the dub, which adds to the authenticity.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Tekken, Gasaraki, Evangelion, Ninja Ressurection, Sin: The Movie, Samurai X
1 Feature/Episode commentary by ADR director Matt Greenfield, ADR engineer Christopher Bourque
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Concept artCharacter designs
  2. Vehicles and equipment
  3. Key background art
Extras Review: Menus are highly animated, and subsections have thematic names that are referenced on the insert card.

The principle extra here is a feature length commentary track from ADR director Matt Greenfield and ADR engineer Christopher Bourque. The challenges faced dubbing a feature film like Spriggan are discussed, as are cast choices, and decisions made for the atmosphere and foley work. The only downside of this track is that there are many occasions where Greenfield is commenting on a particular performance, but the dub track isn't audible during the commentary. There is a fair amount of information on the original production, and on how the transfer for the DVD was handled.

A 02m:24s video showcases the principle character designs. This is a nice deviation from the traditional static pages, which has the backgrounds animated with a musical backing track. A similar format is used for vehicle and equipment designs (02m:24s) and key backgrounds (03m:44s), though the latter presents the main concept image, then zooms in for a closer look at the details.

Standard previews for Tekken, Gasaraki, Evangelion, Ninja Ressurection, Sin: The Movie and Samurai X are included. A hidden Spriggan trailer is included off the main menu.

Unfortunately, ADV neglected to include Japanese seiyuu credits.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Spriggan presents an intense, action filled story, with a unique look, excellent animation, and a great soundtrack. The plot is straightforward, and the characters one-dimensional, but as an engaging popcorn flick this does the job nicely. Kick back and hang on for the ride.


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