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Casshern
DVD disk
Oct 17, 2007 By: Jason Adams
Casshern order
Director:
Kazuaki Kiriya

Actors:
Yusuke Iseya
Kumiko Aso
Toshiaki Karasawa

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
In a future ravaged by war, a scientist tries to help cure the world’s ills by cultivating “neo-cells” that can rebuild the human body. However, as a byproduct of his research, a group of superhuman Neo-Sapiens are created, who naturally set out to destroy the world with their robot army. Mankind’s only hope is the scientist’s son, who died in the war but was dunked in the neo-cell goo and now has super powers too.

-or-

Shiny dude fights Japanese people and robots.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
What Schmoe watched the amazing trailer for CASSHERN a few years back and didn’t immediately begin salivating with anticipation/arousal? I don’t know who, but it definitely wasn’t this guy. I tracked down a copy on DVD as soon I could…and was pretty disappointed. Amazing visuals and some slick action, but, man, did it fall apart in the end. So when I got CASSHERN to review I was ready to simply suggest watching it with the subtitles off and Dark Side of the Moon on full blast to help you soak in all the pretty pictures. Then I saw that this was an all new Director’s Cut with twenty minutes trimmed and decided to give it a second chance (with Pink Floyd queued up just in case). I’m glad I did, because this version is a lot easier to swallow.

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.
THE EXTRAS
All you get are a couple of Previews for other movies. Why they didn’t just carry over some of the extras from other international releases is beyond me.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
After years of false hope, CASSHERN is finally available to American audiences. This new cut fixes a lot of the problems I initially had with it, which lets you enjoy all the visual bliss without suffering a headache afterwards. If you’re curious about CASSHERN, I’d rent this American version to test it out, but if you’re looking to purchase this puppy, I suggest seeking out one of better versions from abroad (i.e. the 3-disc Japanese set).

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.
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