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“Anikulapo: Rise of the Spectre” Is An Ambitious Mythological Saga Lost in Its Own Maze

Kunle Afolayan’s “Anikulapo: Rise of the Spectre” dazzles with its visual splendor and impressive ensemble cast, but this Nollywood series struggles to maintain a cohesive narrative.
March 23, 2024
2:39 pm
Anikulapo - Rise of the Spectre

The series picks up where “Anikulapo” left off, thrusting the philandering Saro (Kunle Remi) into the afterlife to repay his debt to death by undoing the resurrections he previously caused. Returning as a specter tasked with reclaiming 20 souls, Saro navigates a complex web of characters and storylines spanning the kingdom of Oyo. Meanwhile, the revitalized Arolake (Bimbo Ademoye) discovers newfound wealth and reunites with King Ademuyiwa (Taiwo Hassan), further complicating the kingdom’s political intrigue spearheaded by the cunning Bashorun (Owobo Ogunde).


While admirably ambitious, the narrative quickly takes a detour as it juggles an overwhelming number of subplots and newly introduced characters. Promising subplots like Bashorun’s Machiavellian pursuits of power become increasingly muddied amidst the large volume of secondary storylines. The introduction of Prince Kuranga (Uzee Usman) and his romantic entanglement with Princess Omowunmi (Eyiyemi Afolayan), though initially intriguing, ultimately feels disjointed from the central narrative arcs.



Character motivations lack consistency, with sudden shifts that undermine investment in their journeys. The blossoming romance between Omowunmi and the mild-mannered Awolaran (Lateef Adedimeji) is upended when Kuranga’s kinsmen forcibly whisk the princess away to Ede, leaving viewers to wonder whether Awolaran will muster the courage to fight for his love’s return. Even more perplexing is Saro’s increasingly ambiguous state – is he truly alive or simply a wraith haunting the living?


Despite the narrative’s multiple threads, the series undeniably shines in its visual opulence and reverence for Yoruba culture. Afolayan’s deft direction captures the vibrancy of traditional settings with breathtaking cinematography that imbues the mythological world with a palpable sense of wonder. The veteran cast delivers powerful performances, with Ogunde’s charismatic turn as the ruthless Bashorun and Remi’s nuanced embodiment of the conflicted Saro deserving particular praise.



Yet even these strengths cannot untangle the series from its overreaching ambitions, which frequently disrupts moments of genuine cultural exploration or emotional depth as the narrative jumps between subplots. The sheer number of characters and storylines results in many becoming mere afterthoughts, present only to maintain a sense of Epic scale rather than serving any cohesive or truly compelling purpose.


Anikulapo’s exploration of Yoruba mythology is particularly undermined by the narrative’s lack of clarity around the central conceit of resurrection and bearing death. While the original film revolved around Saro’s unsettling power over life itself, the sequel relegates this to a vague background concept, never fully reckoning with the implications or rules governing this metaphysical world.



Comparisons to sweeping mythological tales like “Game of Thrones” seem almost obligatory, but where that series succeeded through meticulous worldbuilding and character work “Anikulapo: Rise of the Spectre” flounders. Rather than a richly textured tapestry, it presents a tangled skein of underdeveloped threads possessing great potential, but failing to properly interweave them into a unified, engaging whole.


There are glimmers of insight amid the narrative tangle, with the series touching upon profound themes of mortality, redemption, and humanity’s fragile place in the cosmos. Saro’s internal struggle as he wrestles with his newly regained life while haunted by the debts of his past self holds real emotional weight. However, such moments are fleeting, constantly overshadowed by the sheer narrative bloat weighing down the series.



The greatest disappointment lies in the unsatisfying, open-ended conclusion that raises far more questions than it answers. Saro’s fate, Arolake’s status, the implications of Bashorun’s demise – all are left dangling, with little sense of resolution or payoff for investing in this expansive journey. One can’t shake the suspicion that the mayhem of mismanaged subplots exists solely to set up future instalments, rather than service a cohesive, self-contained narrative experience.


“Anikulapo: Rise of the Spectre” feels like a missed opportunity – an admittedly gorgeous story, expertly woven in its visual and cultural authenticity, but unraveled by its creators’ inability to maintain the structural integrity necessary to support its ambitions.



While undoubtedly stuffed with the rich exploration of Yoruba folklore, impressive production values, a talented ensemble cast, and a deep exploration of Yoruba mythology, Afolayan’s mythological saga becomes so entangled in its own densely layered narratives that it struggles to breathe life into any of them fully.


The series ultimately succumbs to its own ambition, losing itself in a labyrinth of subplots and underdeveloped storylines. Fans of the original may find moments of intrigue, but the overall experience is a mixed bag, leaving one to wonder if a more streamlined approach would have better served this fascinating mythological world.



Release Date:  March 1, 2024

 Runtime: 60 minutes per episode

Number of episodes: 6

Streaming Services: Netflix

 Director: Kunle Afolayan

Cast: Jide Kosoko, Gabriel Afolayan, Adewale Elesho, Owobo Ogunde, Uzee Usman, Lateef Adedimeji, Kunle Remi, Bimbo Ademoye, Sola Sobowale, Taiwo Hassan, among others.

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