Casshern (Live Action) -

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Mania Grade: C-

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: F
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Other
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 141
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Casshan: Robot Hunter

Casshern (Live Action)

By Dani Moure     May 17, 2005
Release Date: April 25, 2005

Casshern (Live Action)
© Other

What They Say
The debut feature from acclaimed fashion photographer and music video director Kazuaki Kiriya, 'Casshern' is a visually stunning science fiction epic based on a popular 35 episode anime series from 1973 entitled 'Cassan: Robot Hunter'.

It is late in the 21st century. After 50 years of devastating war between Europa and the Eastern Federation, the latter has emerged victorious and the new federation of Eurasia is formed. There can be no glorious peace however, as the planet has been ravaged by chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons and the entire human race is dispirited and exhausted by half a century of war.

The only hope for long term survival lies with geneticist Dr. Azuma and his breakthrough 'neo-cell' treatment that can rejuvenate the body and could regenerate mankind. But when his experiments go wrong, a race of mutant androids is released and only Azuma's dead son, reincarnated as the legendary hero Casshern, has the power to lead the war against the super robots...

The Review!
Sometimes ideas for a great movie don’t translate all that well to screens. Sadly, Casshern is one such occasion.

I listened to the only track available for my main review – the Japanese 5.1 mix. As you would expect from a recent movie, there’s a lot of directionality as the different effects and music make use of all the speakers, and I noticed no dropouts or distortions during playback. It is disappointing, though, that only the 5.1 mix is provided (I would’ve liked a dub too, but subtitled-only is par for the course with most foreign live action imports, especially those that bypass the US initially). Downmixing to stereo didn’t show any problems though.

One place where the film does stand out, for better or worse, is its visuals and thankfully the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Momentum Asia is very good indeed. I noticed no problems with artifacting or cross colouration, though there is some grain present (again, something you’d expect from a live-action film). Overall this transfer was really pleasing.

No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

Dear oh dear, the menus on these discs are absolutely awful. I honestly can’t imagine who thought these designs would be a good idea, and then who checked the discs once produced and wasn’t frustrated after two seconds of using them. They really are that shocking. The first disc’s menu presents the two options – “Play” and “Chapters” – as giant pieces of text scrolling over a vast cityscape while some theme music plays. The only problem is that the options are moving in and out of the picture one at a time, and to pick your option you have to time your press to when the option is on screen. I kid you not. The chapter sub-menu is even worse, as I could go forward and backward pages, but I’ll be damned if I could figure out how to actually select a chapter. It was so unclear that I gave up after a short time trying.

The second disc’s menus are no better. This time there are more options, and again they’re moving (differently to the first disc, though). You still have to time your choice of option to when the text is on screen, and yes, if you miss it you have to wait for it to cycle back through. Honestly, these are positively the worst menus I have ever come across on a DVD; they’re absolutely abysmal.

There are quite a few extras on the second disc, though your enjoyment of them may directly correlate with your feelings about the film itself. First up is a selection of 11 deleted scenes, all with commentary. Unfortunately, the commentary is not optional like most releases, so we can’t hear the original dialogue. Nonetheless, a few of the scenes are quite interesting, and with the commentary from the director it’s nice to know why he did certain things the way he did.

Then comes the 8mm film footage, again with the commentary. Running about ten minutes, these clips are what was shot with the younger versions of Tetsuya and Luna, and other characters, for use in flashbacks during the film. There’s also a nice, vast selection of interviews with the key cast and crew members, and things are rounded out by two different trailers for the movie.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Released last year in Japan to quite a bit of success, Casshern was always going to quickly snapped up by cult labels looking for a new big release. Unfortunately there are a few things working against Casshern, despite the fact that it’s received a fairly speedy release here in the UK.

It’s amazing how sometimes you can watch something and then, halfway through, you’ll suddenly think to yourself “I haven’t a clue what the heck is going on”. At such a time you may also be asking yourself such questions as “who is that and why are they so important?”, “do I really care what happens to these characters?” and probably “when will this ever end?” Unfortunately, in the case of Casshern I asked myself all of these questions, some several times over.

It’s not that I even hated the movie with a great passion, I’ve seen far, far worse, it’s just that after about 45 minutes I found myself gradually getting more and more confused as to who each character was, what they were doing and what exactly the story was meant to be. In fact, I had to watch the film in three sittings for various reasons, and even then I found myself looking at the clock several times and checking exactly how much more I would have to see.

The story of the film goes something like this. After 50 years of war the Eastern Federation has claimed victory over Europa, forming a new federation called Eurasia. However, this has triggered terrorist attacks due to oppression and anti-government feelings, and many young men are being sent to war. With the use of all kinds of weaponry (chemical, nuclear and biological), the planet has been devastated, and mankind is on the brink of extinction. But one man, a geneticist called Dr Azuma, has made a breakthrough in neo-cell treatment that can regenerate the body and potentially solve mankind’s problem. Of course, his experiments with this new technology go horribly wrong, creating a race of android types that decide they want freedom over their creators at any cost, leading an army of robots into battle against the humans.

But there’s hope in the form of Azuma’s dead son Tetsuya, who, once revived, takes the form of the legendary hero called Casshern, to lead the fight against these “Neoroids”. There’s more to it than that, with a few subplots going that involve Azuma’s wife and the Neo Sapiens, as well as Tetsuya and his girlfriend Luna. Thankfully though, I had a good description on the press sheet to jog my memory, because to be honest I had trouble remembering any of the more intricate details.

I think the biggest problem that proves to be the film’s major stumbling point is that it’s a victim of the director just trying way too hard; too hard to cram everything he wanted in, too hard to juggle a so many characters, too hard to tackle as many themes as possible, and too hard to make it look stylish.

The biggest offender for me was definitely the attempt to stylise the film. While quick and choppy editing has become quite popular in recent years, and has been used to great effect in places, the editing here is absolutely awful and is the most distracting hackjob I’ve ever seen. Someone will be speaking when you’ll suddenly cut to some CG of a robot and then back to them, then some more CG with a really loud sound effect, or the cut will lead to a pause in dialogue. This might not sound like a problem, but it’s very distracting because the cuts tend to last all of two seconds – literally – which breaks things up enough to really interrupt the film’s flow. And many of them seem completely random at that, which really doesn’t help.

The story suffers in that it’s clearly trying to cram way too much into a relatively short space of time. The film is based on an anime series that ran for 35 episodes, and trying to encapsulate that story into a two hour movie seems like too big a challenge for the director. There are a number of interesting themes explored, such as Luna’s struggle with her boyfriend no longer being human when he becomes Casshern, and obviously the main theme of created life forms wanting their own freedom. But they’re not really examined in a way that is particularly satisfying, and several other things are touched on but not fully explored or realised.

I’ll freely admit that I’m not familiar with the cast at all, but they all seemed to be trying hard with their performances, and I did appreciate the struggle portrayed by Yusuke Iseya (Casshern) and Kumiko Aso (Luna) in particular. They all seemed quite involved with their characters, which was a good thing in my book.

Another plus for was some of the action. Some of the fight scenes and war sequences were quite well done and did a good job of drawing me in. Unfortunately, some were marred by the previous editing issue I mentioned, and also the awful CG in places that stood out like a sore thumb. The visuals in that respect were a real hit-and-miss aspect; some things looked great, and others were so blatantly CG it was almost cringeworthy.

In Summary:
While it’s not devoid of all merit, it’s very hard to recommend Casshern at all. It might be worth watching for hardcore anime or sci-fi fans, but even then the story and editing problems will stick out like a sore thumb. It’s a shame as it seems for every little good point about the film, there’re two or three negative things that far outweigh the good. I really wanted to like Casshern, but in the end while it attempted a lot of good things, it just failed in its execution and I can’t bring myself to really give it a good recommendation.

Japanese Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Deleted Scenes with Director Commentary,8mm Footage with Director Commentary,Cast and Crew Interviews

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.


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