Note: This review is in fulfillment of a Patreon pledge
My apologies for being late with this review, but last night I was finally able to sit down and watch Casshern (2004), a Japanese film based on the 1973 anime of the same name. I’d never heard of this film specifically before being asked to watch it, though I had heard of Casshern Sins, a reboot of the anime that aired in 2008.
Set in the far future, Casshern begins at the end of a fifty-year war between Europa (which uses robot armies) and the Eastern Federation. The Federation emerges victorious, but is soon fighting again when an uprising begins in Zone 7. Tetsuya Azuma (Yusuke Iseya), the son of a brilliant scientist, enlists in the army and ends up killed in action, only to be resurrected with the help of strange “Neo Cells” and gains incredible abilities as a result. The Neo Cells themselves are allegedly capable of forming new body parts, but it turns out they’re actually something else entirely.
Having never seen Casshern before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I do my best to give every film I watch a fair chance, but while Casshern does have its moments (more on those in a moment), by and large the film did not impress me. The biggest failing of the film is its special effects. It’s painfully obvious when CGI is being used, so much so that in several scenes it took me right out of the action because of how fake it looked. The plot is also really confusing, though I’m not sure if that’s the fault of the film itself or the subtitles (which I’ve heard aren’t the best in the world). There are multiple scenes that seem like they’re supposed to be big moments, but instead come across as head-scratchers. A good case in point: in one early scene, it seems like we’re building up to an explosion in a secret laboratory, when suddenly a stone thunderbolt crashes through the ceiling and lodges itself into the lab. Said thunderbolt is the most blatant example of a deus ex machina that I’ve seen in years because the main plot doesn’t really get going until it inexplicably arrives.
That’s not to say that the film is all bad, there is at least one moment that I thought was very well done. In a really creepy moment, the stone thunderbolt seemingly turned the Neo-Cell body parts into whole people. The military inexplicably shows up to slaughter them but a handful escape into the mountains. The bulk of this scene is done with no dialogue (aside from some crying and screaming), only music to give a sense of what is happening. It’s the one moment in the entire film where I was completely engrossed in the story.
I will also say that, having looked at images of the original anime, there are some Easter eggs paying homage to the 1973 series. For one, you can see the helmet that Casshern wears in the anime and Tetsuya later meats a dog named ‘Friender’ which references the cyborg’s canine sidekick in the anime.
Would I recommend Casshern? I’ll put it like this: if you’re a die-hard fan of all things Casshern, then I say go for it, you’ll likely find something to love about this film. But if you’re only a casual viewer then I would recommend avoiding this one, the visual flaws and confusing plot don’t add up to anything meaningful (though you can tell they’re trying).
What did you think of Casshern (if you’ve seen it)? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day! If you sub to my Patreon for $5 or above, you can also request a film review of your choice 🙂
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