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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
"At last I understand. We hurt others by our very existence. That's just the way we live." I began watching Casshern with absolutely no idea of what to expect. Seeing a preview for it on the internet, I ordered the DVD and waited. Hearing extremely mixed reviews, I was tense. Did I spend my money stupidly? Would this movie just sit on a shelf collecting dust after I watched it? Then it came. I put it in, fiddled for about five minutes getting the subtitles to work in English (the entire DVD menu was written in Japanese), sat back, and was promptly blown away. Casshern was a visual feast for the starving moviegoer. After Star Wars, Matrix Trilogy, and other sci-fi movies that have butchered CGI special effects to the point where they should now be called "normal effects", Casshern utilized the technology brilliantly. Stylistic and visually stunning, the visuals could be compared to other recent Asian imported movies such as Hero or House of Flying Daggers. The comparison ends there, though.
Based off of a 1970's anime, Cashan The Robot Hunter, Casshern is set in a futuristic alternate universe, where after fifty years of stressing warfare, the country called Greater Eastern Federation triumphs over another country called Europa and has gained control of the Eurasian continent. It is a hollow victory, though, as the years of warfare have left the continent devastated with nuclear waste and new diseases have decimated the already exhausted population. Out of this rubble one man, a Dr. Azuma, has proposed a plan using "neo-cells" that are like stem cells on steroids, in order to regenerate humankind. Scoffed at by the government and scientists, Dr. Azuma is forced to receive his funding from a shady branch of the military. During his experiments, Dr. Azuma realizes that his "neo-cell" theory is absolute bull, but unwittingly stumbles upon a well of eternal youth/strength/reanimation. Thusly, he creates a race of mutant beings called Shinzo Ningen, that vow revenge upon the humans after the military slaughter all but four of the creatures.
Casshern was dumbly marketed and labeled as an action-adventure movie, when in fact, the movie has only three real action scenes in it. It instead focuses on the moral issues surrounding warfare. Whether it is ever right to utilize war and destruction, and it brings up many thought-provoking issues such as what is ethically and morally right? How far can one go for love? What does it mean to be part of humanity as a whole, to be alive? That was one of the reasons why Casshern received such low ratings, especially in America. After being raised on Hollywood cookie-cutter plots and car chase scenes, Casshern was an interesting break from the norm. It doesn't dumb down its plot or sugarcoat the issues it deals with, and even leaves many answers up to you to interpret. The movie rarely lets the viewer stop and take a breather, nor wastes time with superficial plot lines. Casshern wants to get its point across in the most dramatic and breath-taking way that is possible, and boy does it deliver.
This is Kazuaki Kiriya's directorial debut, and he certainly brings his unique style to the movie. Having previously been a music video director, you can see the influences of it in sharply contrasting scenes and surrealistic narrative. Casshern understands what it means to be a movie, mainly, a visual art form. That is what it is, a visually stunning piece of art with an intriguing plot line.
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