Casshern is an unusual beast. It has an anime aesthetic with rich visuals that are clearly animated yet it is a live action film. It’s dark, brooding and soulful yet also action packed and anime confusing. The anime is much more like a moving painting than a Saturday morning cartoon.
Casshern is a Japanese film therefore there are subtitles. This would be a problem for some as there is a lot of exposition regarding the society in which the characters live and the science behind the main storyline.
Set in a future dystopia after the end of the 50 Year War between Europa and Asia, the Earth has been decimated and the scenery is dominated by destroyed infrastructure and the blood red suffering sky filled with the pollution of so many years of war. This future is steam punk influenced with the great machines of coal and steam dominating the skyline. Even the robot armies of Europa have a feeling of World War I about them more than a shiny imagined future.
Society has suffered and Asia has won this devastating war which means the signage is a mix of Russian, Japanese and Chinese. Loud speakers announce Soviet style propaganda and banners hang from the walls in a way reminiscent of World War II.
The storyline is actually quite poignant, in retrospect, with lessons about compassion, understanding the different, the ethics of science experimentation, racism, the realities of war and political corruption. It is never really clear who the baddies are but it is clear which characters think they are baddies and those who think they are good.
The world is run by corrupt old officials and the people are looking for a saviour; in steps a human restored to life by neo-cells (don’t ask me; although I think the answer is “science”). He is a reluctant hero who is suffering from his memories as a soldier and trying to understand the situation in which he finds himself. He also has some solid daddy issues. But then so do most of the characters.
I really liked this movie and it was actually in the retrospect that I think I liked it best. In some ways it was a crazy over the top sci-fi influenced anime but in others it was a poignant look at the trials of life, death and the decisions we make.
The main drawback of this film is the serious anime confusion one suffers while watching it. Maybe if I could understand Japanese Casshern would be less confusing, no doubt the more subtle concepts are lost in translation.
I certainly don’t think Casshern is for everyone but anime fans should probably check it out.