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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/20/02

1998 (2002) - Toei (ADV Films)

review by Jeff Kleist of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs


Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/C+

Specs and Features

90 min, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 56:48 in chapter 13), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with ADR director Matt Greenfield and ADR engineer Christopher Bourque, Character Designs, Vehicles & Equipment and Key Backgrounds animated production art galleries, ADV previews, animated film themed menus with sound, scene access (18 chapters), languages: Japanese and English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

Spriggan is one of those rare imported anime titles that actually made it to the American theaters, albeit it as a limited release. Detailing the efforts of ARKAM, a secret government agency trying to prevent powerful ancient artifacts from falling into the wrong hands, Spriggan specifically tells of the discovery of Noah's Ark, and the efforts to keep evildoers from gaining godlike power from it.

Sounds kind-of generic doesn't it? It is. But it's not like you'll care while you're in the middle of some of the most beautifully choreographed gunplay and action sequences found in anime this side of Akira. There may not be a lot of depth here, but who cares - it's all about pumping that subwoofer and wowing away at the visuals.

On DVD, Spriggan is presented with a very nice anamorphic transfer, which I assume was remastered by ADV for this release. Holding this disc next to the Japanese release, you'll find that the Japanese disc emphasizes purity of image, while the ADV philosophy seems to be a more film-like transfer, with a light layer of grain. I don't know which I prefer, as both presentations seem to be equally valid, with their own unique pluses and minuses. I spotted a couple very minor instances of artifacting in the transfer, but only the most trained eyes will ever notice it.

On the sound side, Dolby Digital 5.1 is provided for both the Japanese and English tracks - a welcome addition since the Japanese track usually gets shafted. Both have good fidelity, but the dub mix seems to have been "cooked" quite a bit. There are tons of little additions, voices in the background, greater split surrounds and noticeably greater punch to the explosions and gunfire. While it's a very impressive mix, the performances drag the quality down. The Japanese track is more subtle, but very effective in its own right. I always advocate listening to any film in its original language, and this is no exception.

For an anime disc, there are quite a number of extras included. First up, are three video montages of production art and drawings. If you're interested in these aspects of the production, I'm sure you'll find the highly detailed artwork fascinating. Next, we get a commentary with the director of the American soundtrack dub (otherwise known as Additional Dialogue Recording or ADR) Matt Greenfield and sound technician Christopher Bourque. This is a good commentary - contrary to tracks on films like Pokemon and Godzilla 2000, the participants don't relish on how they "improved" the movie, but instead concentrate on the difficulty of producing such a complex multi-element mix. I found a lot of good information in here, and even if dubs make your ears bleed, at least you'll walk out of this track with some insight you might be able to use someday to put your money where your mouth is.

If you're looking for an action title that doesn't take too much mental effort, Spriggan is your flick. This is one of the best discs to come out of the domestic anime studios on all levels, and I can't do much other than recommend it. Give it a spin... at the very least you can impress your friends with your sound system.

Jeff Kleist

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