Based on a Japanese folk legend that echoes the tale of Robin Hood, this ninja thriller follows the exploits of Goemon Ishikawa (Yôsuke Eguchi), who leaves his fighting clan after its chief... See full summary »
In a world with an alternate history, a great war finally comes to an end leaving the earth diseased and polluted. The geneticist Dr. Azuma vies for support from the government for his neo-cell treatment that he claims can rejuvenate the body and regenerate humankind. The government leaders, guarding their own deeply entrenched powers, turn down the professor. Driven to complete his work, Dr. Azuma accepts a secret offer from a sinister faction of the powerful military. After an incident occurs in Dr. Azuma's lab, a race of mutant humans known as the Shinzo Ningen are unleashed upon the world. Now only the warrior known as Casshern, reincarnated with an invincible body, stands between the Shinzo Ningen and a world on the brink of annihilation. Written by
Frank Tinsley V
I saw "Casshern" yesterday at a packed theater and I was blown away. I went in looking for a black-and-white head-busting superhero flick, but I got a lot more than I bargained for.
First off, the photography is gorgeous--as director, cinematographer, and editor Kazuaki Kiriya makes excellent use of color and grain in his film. At times it's a fuzzy, glowing dream, while at others it's stark, black-and-white sandpaper on your brain. It's an ingenious device to change the mood of the film instantaneously.
There are hints of any number of films here--Metropolis, Frankenstein, Mononoke Hime, Terminator, Tetsuo--and yet the film definitely stands on its own. By no means a slavish adaption of the original animated series, it does contain a number of nods to elements of the original that fans will surely recognize (I leave it to other viewers to catch these for themselves). I was particularly impressed by the first appearance of Luna, who looks like she stepped out of a painting by Tatsunoko alumnus Yoshitaka Amano in that scene.
The action scenes are backed by a driving rock score which reminded me of "The Crow" for some reason. Hardcore action fans who are hoping for a "Matrix Reloaded" bumper-to-bumper slugfest will be sorely disappointed, though. The fight scenes actually run counter to the message of the film--that, as one character states, "War makes humans inhuman." There is a long tradition in Japanese fiction--and animation, in particular--of the hero becoming what he hates to triumph over his enemy. The perfect example of this is Devilman, who becomes a demon to do battle with other demons. There is also a saying in Japan, "kokoro wo oni ni suru" or "steel your heart with resolve," and "Casshern" proves that some decisions will indeed set us on the road to having the hardened heart of a demon. In the end, most conflicts can never be won--even if you win, you lose, as you have more than likely sown the seeds for the next conflict.
I have no idea how foreign audiences will take to the message in this film, but I could hear a number of people crying in the darkness around me, and the crowd was uncharacteristically silent as they left the theater. As a translator, I hope this gets the treatment it deserves when it gets subtitled--the dialog isn't particularly difficult for those with a moderate knowledge of Japanese, and there are vast stretches of film with no dialog at all, but there are also a number of nuances that might be lost. The omnipresent Chinese and Cyrillic characters of the Asian Federation create an oppressive mood that'll be difficult to convey--the nearest example I can think of is the subliminal messages in John Carpenter's "They Live." Some of the other devices used in the film, such as multiple voices repeating portentous words "You don't know what war's like," might also be difficult to convey with normal subtitling. Nevertheless, I hope to see this film made available to a larger audience soon.
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