Shiny dude fights Japanese people and robots.
The first hour features some intriguing setup and kickass action, but in the original cut the climax/ending is so convoluted with random plot and exposition that it bogged down the entire movie AND still managed to feel anti-climactic. (It could just be different sensibilities between Japanese and American audiences—I find the same issue with a lot of anime). Thankfully, this new version trims some of the fat and the finale seems a lot less complicated and more in line with the rest of the story.
But let’s discuss the real reason you’re interested in CASSHERN: the glorious eye-raping you stand to be subjected to. Shot on a digital backlot (ala 300), the visuals are breathtaking, the colors lush and varied, and the overall look and feel unique—simply one of the sickest looking films of the decade. With a budget of only $6 million, it easily looks ten times that. As an anime adaptation it also succeeds masterfully; the angles, movements and style as a whole fit well within that medium. And for the most part, the digital effects are great. Everything is obviously stylized and hyperreal, but it looks perfect for the world it inhabits. I will point out that if you’re expecting a flat out action movie based on the fight-heavy trailer, you might be disappointed. There are some killer action sequences—the giant robot battles and the fights between invulnerable Neo-Sapiens stand out—but a lot of CASSHERN is a human drama more in line with Shakespearean tragedy and Shelley’s “Frankenstein” than balls-to-the wall mayhem like 300.
The pacing is a tad off (a little rushed at the end) and there’s still chunks of the story that I don’t fully comprehend, but overall I enjoyed CASSHERN a lot more the second time around thanks to some much needed retooling. And even though it commendably puts its story at the forefront, this is one case where it’s hard to want anything more than style over substance.
Extra Tidbit: CASSHERN is based on a 1970s anime TV show called “Casshan,” which was made by the same people responsible for “Speed Racer.” In the film you can see Speed Racer’s helmet in Dr. Kozuki’s lab.