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Casshern
  |     review    |     notes     |     availability     |










Notes:

• Purchased for North American distribution by Dreamworks, a film company run by some guy named Spielberg.
• Pop megastar (and wife of director Kazuaki Kiriya) Hikaru Utada sings the closing credits theme.
• Besides the original television anime from the seventies, Robot Hunter Casshan was also the subject of a early-nineties Original Animation Video. A collection of the four half-hour episodes has been released stateside by ADV Films under the title Casshan: Robot Hunter.


Availability:

DVD (JAPAN)
Region 2 NTSC
Shochiku Home Video
3-Disc Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital EX 6.1 / DTS-ES 6.1
Removable English Subtitles
Various extras

 
Year: 2004
Director: Kazuaki Kiriya
Producer: Hideji Miyajima, Toshiharu Ozawa, Toshiaki Wakabayashi
Writer: Kazuaki Kiriya, Dai Sato, Shotaro Suga, Tatsuo Yoshida
Cast: Yusuke Iseya, Toshiaki Karasawa, Kumiko Aso, Akira Terao, Knanko Higuchi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Jun Kaname, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Mitsuhiro Oikawa, Susumu Terajima, Hideji Otaki, Tatsuya Mihashi, Mayumi Sada, Ryo
The Skinny: Live-action anime adaptation lives up to its billing almost too completely. As stylized and deliriously dazzling as anime, and as dense and dramatically obvious, too. Casshern features effective parts arranged into an unengaging static form—not necessarily the best way to make a movie. However, for eye candy and sheer technological whiz-bang, Casshern is near-impossible to top.

  Review
by Kozo:

Put your eyeballs back in their sockets; Casshern is just a movie. Directed by music video director (and husband of pop megastar Hikaru Utada) Kazuaki Kiriya, Casshern is an adaptation of the early-seventies anime Robot Hunter Casshan, which was in turn adapted from a seventies Japanese live-action television show. Casshern is also a gonzo, balls-to-the-wall tech demo that overshadows—or perhaps sidesteps—the usual nuts-and-bolts requirements of narrative filmmaking. While that might seem like a fatal transgression, forgiveness for the film's shortcuts will likely be easy, or simply a fleeting afterthought. When you're subjected to visual crack, little things like logic, character, and coherent storytelling understandably fall by the wayside.

Taking place in a war-ravaged future world, Casshern brings to the screen the usual sci-fi perils complete with a cluttered, post-apocalyptic landscape. A fifty-year war between the Great Eastern Federation and Europa has left Mother Earth a beaten-up wasteland. Mankind's vast arsenal of technological weapons—biological, chemical, and nuclear—is the culprit, but the true blame goes to the dehumanized souls pushing the buttons. Fittingly, many of mankind's upper crust citizens suffer from a variety of synthetically-produced postwar maladies. The answer to their problems: more technology, specifically the "neo cell" project from Professor Azuma (Akira Terao). In layman's terms, the crusty old coot is creating a big genetic swimming pool to manufacture replacement body parts. Yay, science!

But things go wrong—naturally. The neo cell project spawns mutants who literally crawl out of genetic sludge to claim their place in the brave new world. The problem: man isn't too happy about that, and puts them down with machine guns and other assorted weaponry. The result: hurt feelings and ill will, as the surviving mutants name themselves "Neo Sapiens", and declare war on their creators/oppressors. Led by the white haired Burai (Toshiaki Karasawa), the Neo Sapiens decide they must cleanse the earth of human beings, and manufacture an army of CG robots to do their bidding. But there is a hope for mankind: Tetsuya Azuma (Yusuke Iseya), son of Professor Azuma, and a soldier who perished while fighting for the Great Eastern Federation. Thanks to pop's awesome techo-nutrient bath, Tetsuya gets to live again. With a suit of white battle armor and newly acquired superhuman skills, Tetsuya can now fight for mankind as Casshern! Cue CG rumbles galore.

The immediate problem: it's not clear what Tetsuya is really fighting for. The official ad copy says he's fighting for mankind, but given that this is a Japanese film, love is a major factor too. Aside from his mother (Kanako Higuchi), who's been kidnapped by Burai and the Neo Sapiens, Tetsuya has Luna (Kumiko Asou), his true love heartbroken after his death on the battlefield. Even more, there are severe emotional, social, political, and probably regional, technological, and philosophical reasons for Tetsuya's struggle. Basically, he wasn't too keen on returning from the dead, because war was hell and being a good soldier meant offing harmless innocents hunted by the Great Eastern Federation under the guise of "rooting out terrorism". The opponents of the Federation's postwar cleanup include seemingly peaceful individuals from a place called Section 7, who are shoved around and slaughtered like cattle by the "good guys" of the Great Eastern Federation. The GEF puts a nice face on it, but it's basically ethnic cleansing that Tetsuya was a participant in. Armed with that knowledge, perhaps rooting for the Neo Sapiens isn't such a bad idea.

But Casshern never reaches that level of righteous pontificating. On some level, everybody is right and everybody is wrong. Mankind blows, but so do the Neo Sapiens for going Skynet and siccing robot armies on the Great Eastern Federation. Casshern fights to protect the little people, but he also goes postal over his missing mom, his father's opaque motives (Dad created everything, and is not shy about taking it away either), and finally his own tortured existence. Director Kiriya slams all his themes into the audience and then some, and doesn't appear shy about using voiceover, sudden monologuing, or copious montage to foist his encyclopedia of tough existentialism on the audience. All of the material is potent, but also incredibly dense. Kiriya formerly worked as a music video director, so getting messages out in flashy, disjointed style is business as usual for him. But in a two-hour and twenty-minute movie, MTV-style jumps and lightning-quick interludes only prove tiring, and ultimately unengaging.

Still, anyone who's ever watched anime may be used to such dense philosophical storytelling—and they may like it too. The celebrated saga of Mobile Suit Gundam is just as much about politics and the terrors of war as it is about big robot action, and the works of Hideki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion, and the shojo series His and Her Circumstances) have carved out their own particular niche for multi-level, ultra-existential imagery at the expense of actual story. Casshern seems to be cut from the same cloth, and is so unapologetic about its emotional and thematic excess that it might as well be beating you over the head with a giant plastic Pikachu.

So screw all the thinking; just sit back and prepare to "geek out". You can dissect the murky depths of Casshern until your frontal lobe bleeds, or you can simply let your eyeballs do all the work. It hasn't been mentioned much in this writing, but it was the first thing said: Casshern looks simply astounding. The set designs, lurid cinematography, and impressive CG all add up to one deliriously dazzling package that should delight everyone who owns an X-Box—and also a lot of people who don't. It's questionable if everyone who catches Casshern will dig through the glorious exterior to find its densely-packed inner core, but it's all good even if they don't. Chances are that the abundance of top-notch eye candy will satiate even the most ADD-afflicted. Casshern succeeds on more than one level—especially the superficial one. (Kozo 2004)


 
images courtesy of www.casshern.com
   
 
 
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