Movie Review: Casshern

This is a difficult review to write because this movie is one of my favorite movies of all time, but it isn’t for everyone.  My brother while watching it got bored and decided the movie would be more entertaining at high speed so he could get the cliff notes of the action, ditching off the plot entirely.  I can sum up who will like and who won’t fairly easily though.  If the ambiguity of the movie Akira, the Ghost in the Shell movie, and the series Evangelion bothers you, then skip this one out.  Enjoy my review, but this movie isn’t for you.

Casshern was originally an anime that aired in 1973, featuring a protagonist that was a human turned robot with the goal of destroying evil robots.  It was then revived in the 1990’s with a 4 episode anime.  Finally we get to the live action movie in 2004.  The American version is a re-cut version that gives away the ending at the very beginning of the film.  Therefore, import the original version.  The English subtitles is the second option in the subtitles menu.

Casshern is directed and written by Kazuaki Kiriya who previously had only professionally directed music videos.  While this shows very much in the artsy style of some of the films sections and subsequent confusion, I’ve found each time I watch the movie the scenes make more and more sense in what is actually happening and what human emotions they are emulating.

The movie uses the technology Sin City used for its effects and is also one of the first 3 movies to use this technology.  The effects were incredibly awesome for its time and still don’t look bad.  The movie basically has three large action scenes.  I’m writing this so action fans won’t look up the preview and decide to see the movie based on these three scenes.  Yes these scenes are in the neighborhood of amazing but they are only a combined length of 30 minutes out of a two and a half hour film.  What makes the action scenes amazing is that Casshern basically moves like a anime character, slicing large robots in half with a karate chop and leaping off of any piece of flying weaponry or debris.  If a person who dislikes artsy films with ambiguous endings and sequences but loves action movies looks up these action scenes they will be compelled to watch the entire film because these action scenes are so balls to the wall awesome.  The problem is the person will hate the movie.

Now with that warning out of the way, lets talk plot.  Well, let me briefly talk plot as its as complex as they get.  There’s a militaristic government in search of medical cures for its leaders.  Dr Azuma offers the solution of neo-cells which can be used to grow replacement parts for humans.  Tetsuya, Dr Azuma’s son who basically hates his father, joins the war effort and subsequently dies.  During a freak accident involving a mechanical lightening bolt, all the spare neo cell parts form the self proclaimed “Neo-Sapiens” who are quickly gunned down.  Five Neo-Sapiens escape and declare war on humanity.  Dr Azuma uses the neo-cells to bring his son back to life.  Tetsuya’s girlfriend’s father creates a suit of armor to keep Tetsuya from tearing his own body apart with his apparent might gained from the neo-cells and thus he becomes the primary protagonist.  This movie has no clear cut heroes or villains and follows the paths of approximately eight characters so it is difficult to tell the plot any further.  And honestly if this paragraph made sense to you then you’ve probably already seen the movie.

The majority of the characters in the film are fleshed out exceptionally well and an emphasis is placed on the human condition.  It is incredibly difficult to talk about the characters because the characters voyage and ending montage are what make this movie so amazing.  The only character that really suffers from poor development is Luna, Tetsuya’s girlfriend.  There are around six characters all with their own philosophies all pitted against each other whose stories interweave and climax.  Pulling this off in the span of a movie is really, really magnificent.

The soundrack is by Shiro Sagisu of Evangelion fame and is absolutely fantastic.  From orchestral sweeps to KMFDM style guitar driven industrial, this soundtrack pretty much has it all and makes a good chunk of the movie.  Even the Japanese music artists included in the film have been edited in such a fashion that their music is actually better in the cut and context of the film.  Whatever confusion the camera work and effects of the film might render, the music will ground the viewer in the emotion the sequence is meant to have.  Plus this movie uses several montages, mostly to display the current emotional state of the plethora of characters.

Again, Casshern isn’t for everyone but it is one of my favorite movies of all time.  From the soundtrack to the action to the characters, this movie is phenomenal.  But Casshern doesn’t hold your hand.  While it explains the emotional message of the movie very clearly, much is left to the viewer to figure out.  And the ending doesn’t explain itself.  I wish this was a simple movie I could recommend to all, but it isn’t.  But for those of you who are interested, I believe you will find something near that of an emotional masterpiece with robots.

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About MusiM
Musician, writer, Gundam model hobbyist, video game lover, host of The Carousel Podcast, and all with a day job.

One Response to Movie Review: Casshern

  1. george says:

    i agree buddy, this is an amazing movie, one of my favorites, and one of the greatest movies in the history of cinema…

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