What should you expect from new ‘Aníkúlápó’ series? We watched 2 episodes

In this series, a sequel of the 2022 Netflix original film, Aníkúlápó from Kunle Afolayan, Saro (Kunle Remi), the dashing yet shallow, boorish, and dim-wit of a protagonist, is on the move.

Following his apparent death in Aníkúlápó, he is made to return to the land of the living by a kind of light-skinned gatekeeper with long hair. Coincidence maybe, or god is a white man? It’s not clear.

In the prequel, Saro stole Akala’s gourd to play god over who lived and who died, so now he must pay what he owes. He has to return as a spirit to collect all the souls of the people whom he resurrected against the natural order. He immediately strikes a deal with one of them and becomes an Akudaya, the Yoruba mythical ghosts who return to the world as humans and start new families far away from where they are buried.

Despite the mercy of a second chance, Saro will not live a life of meaning and soon falls into old antics. He stumbles on a new town with a welcoming community. With the help of ghosts, he immediately sets up shop, starts a palm wine bar, and begins to court the village Belle played by Oyindamola Sanni.

Just like in the prequel, Aníkúlápó: Rise of the Spectre flirts with the sexual freedom that Yoruba women once experienced in their communities, long before it became palatable to physically harass women in the name of protecting decency on the streets of Lagos. While Sola Sobowale’s Awarun finds a new suitor in Basorun, far away another young maiden is experiencing her sexual awakening in the hands of Saro, and with it the contours of a culture that for centuries didn’t conceive of consent as part of the equation.

Is she in love? Or is Saro a high-powered predator? Somewhere in this dilemma, is something visceral in the way Afolayan deploys the “sexual” scenes, making them a powerful case study for a time when consent has entered the group chat. It is at the same time grey as it is also very clear the woman has gotten more than she had bargained for in the hands of Saro.

From the periphery, however, the kind travellers and hospitable communities, one must pause to think, some two centuries later, how did we get here? It is unlikely in modern Nigeria that the hospitality Saro once received remains. Try being an Igbo person house hunting in Lagos. There are fragments of that kind of hospitality for the luckiest no doubt. But not as it was once flagrant, not with those nasty X posts advertising apartment vacancies with “No Igbos” or “Yoruba preferably” as noticeable footnotes.

In all of this, Afolayan’s refusal to free himself from the conventions of old Yoruba language Nollywood production remains another layer of stumbling block for the series and for his trajectory as a director. The dialogue is at times too monotonous and the themes too didactic, like a sermon on ancient Yoruba morality.

But there are reasons to rejoice, watching Aníkúlápó: Rise of the Spectre. If there’s anything that Afolayan has become a master of, it’s creating perfect period sets, finding old objects, and making films real. The palatial halls where the Kabiyesis hold court are resplendent for the time. If you’ve ever wondered what those tiny huts in epic Nollywood movies looked like on the inside, then Aníkúlápó: Rise of the Spectre is a treat. And the towns succeed in looking like massive cities for the time. But they are not particularly Apartment Therapy-ready.

Regardless, when Aníkúlápó: Rise of the Spectre starts streaming on March 1, 2024, fans will flock to it, as it remains at the forefront of a new Nollywood production that strives heavily for excellence. The problems with Aníkúlápó: Rise of the Spectre is less about the series and how Afolayan made it, and more about Nollywood. This is just how far the Nigerian film industry has come.

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