Title: Casshern
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Adventure
Language: Japanese

"At last I understand. We hurt others by our very existence. That's just the way we live."

Set late in the 21st century, following the aftermath of a long war with the European Union, the Eastern Federation consisting largely of the Asian nations emerge victorious, and the new federation of Eurasia is formed, but the war has taken its toll. The cities lie in ruins, the pollution and use of chemical, nuclear and biological warfare have left the situation so severe that the entire human race suffers, dispirited and dying from the pollution in the atmosphere. Such is the desire to extend their lives that the fate of the world lies on the research of one man: Azuma. Claiming to be capable of growing any human organ, things go awry when his research results in the creation of a new race of mutated humanoids, bitter and filled with hatred for mankind, the world is once again plunged into war, and only Azuma’s son, reincarnated as Casshern has the power to fight back.

Now, if you’re thinking this sounds rather complicated you’d be pretty accurate, but for the most part it is fairly well explained. It requires you to be attentive, as some explanations come abruptly, and they won’t be repeated. It seems as though many attempt to compare this to ‘The Matrix,’ but the comparison doesn’t hold; if you go into this expecting an action film as I initially did you’ll be disappointed, with only three real ‘action’ scenes throughout this 140min film. There is no glorification of war to be found here, and no clear enemy, exploring in detail the humanity of the new race of mutants, far more readily compared to Frankenstein’s monster in their misunderstood situation.

There is a large amount of CGI used, and though it looks fairly dated is well utilised in the creation of a rich backdrop filled with crumbling cities, epic dramatic battles, majestic dark hallways and distinctly ‘Asian’ looking designs for technology whirring in the background, easily likened to the level of detail found in the likes of ‘Blade Runner.’ The soundtrack is superb in capturing the emotions, often better than the acting is capable of, being for the most part mediocre, with a few shining stars (in particular, the lead mutant and Azuma), displaying simplistic emotions which given the complexity of the plot is not necessarily a bad thing. There were, however, certain short scenes that still baffle to me as to their purpose. There is a lot of talking (be prepared for a lot of subtitle-reading), and whilst well written, often seemed excessively long.

This is no short film, and even for the most attentive can at times get a little confusing, though becomes much clearer towards the end of the film. This is a film that, if nothing else, can be called unique in its profoundly pessimistic style. With Live-Action-Animé inspired fight scenes, excellent use of colour and contrast, light and shadow to display mood in an almost film-noir manner, and dialogue that questions ethical situations as well as the nature of humanity – both cruel and kind – in a war torn world ravaged by a third world war. It’s certainly not without its shortcomings, but if you persevere, this is one film that doesn’t quite feel like anything else.

Note: In Japanese cinema and theatre, ghosts are often portrayed in far more corporeal forms, rather than translucent floating objects as is the western stereotype. Without trying to give too much of a spoiler, this information may make more sense of a section of the plot.


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