CASSHERN (Japanese)

Some Facts about "Casshern":

- Opened in Japan on 24 April 2004. Top 10 Box Office for 5 weeks. Grossed US$14.3 million. Singapore will be the first country outside Japan to open the US$6 million budget film

- The author behind this project is Kazuaki Kiriya, an acclaimed fashion photographer and music video director. In addition to co-writing and directing the film, he also served as its cinematographer. Though it is Kiriya’s first feature debut, he has started near the top of the industry in terms of use of budget, tools and staff.

- Japan’s finest creative talents were recruited to help Kiriya in his film debut, many are from the cream of the Japanese animation world. This project marks a new phase in the development of “Japanimation” which is already enjoying worldwide popularity.

- CASSHERN is an ambitious, visually stunning and jaw-dropping film that redefines its genre ~ marrying 3-D animation and live action, it has the energy and leaps of imagination purely Asian.

- It features original song by Hikaru Utada, Japan’s pop diva.

- The cast, a mix of veteran actors and rising stars, is a veritable who’s-who of Japanese film talent and many household names make up the superb supporting cast.

- Usually filmmakers try to blend CG cut into live-action images as seamlessly as possible. Kiriya, however, has done the opposite, making the live-action shots fit the CG-created images

- The aim is to make a totally new world in which the boundary between fantasy and reality, and animation and live-action has been erased. Every frame is touched up with colour adjustments and 70% of the film is created with CG effect.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Director: Kazuaki Kiriya
Starring: Yusuke Iseya, Kumiko Aso , Toshiaki Karasawa , Akira Terao, Kanako Higuchi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Mayumi Sada, Hidetoshi Nishijima
RunTime: 2 hrs 16 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Prestige Pictures
Rating: PG

Release Date: 25 November 2004 (Exclusively at Cathay Cineplex Orchard)

Synopsis :

It’s some time in the 21st century when, after 50 years of continuous war, the whole planet has been poisoned by chemical, biological and nuclear warfare, and the human race is exhausted. Then a geneticist Azuma develops a revolutionary “neo-cell” treatment that can rejuvenate the body and regenerate humankind, including his wife, Midori.

Luna’s fiancé, Tetsuya (Azuma’s son), dies in a tragic incident whilst on military service in Zone Seven. An accident occurs in Azuma’s lab, a race of mutant humans escape. The mutant’s self-appointed leader, Brai, vows to eliminate the human race with his robot warriors. A hellish battle ensues involving human and robots.

Azuma revives his son and asks Luna’s father, an armour scientist, to look after Tetsuya. Casshern, the warrior reincarnated with an invincible body, tries to stop the war to save the human race.

An extraordinary tale of science fantasy and social relevance, CASSHERN is a story of man's best-laid plans paving the way to potential destruction.

Movie Review:

A great war has left the world dying from pollution and disease. Dr. Azuma’s “Neo-Cells” promise to save humanity, but when a bizarre fork of lightning strikes the military research facility, the spare human pieces he is attempting to grow for the experiment are turned into a race of mutant humans. The military quickly overreacts and guns down all but a few of them, who manage to escape.

Dr. Azuma’s son, Tetsuya, left for the battlefield a year previously was killed in action, and his body is delivered to the lab on the very day of the incident. The mutants having escaped, the Dr, in grief, takes his son and immerses him into the “neo-cells,” bringing Tetsuya back to life. However, the regeneration of the cells is too much for Tetsuya’s body, hence the introduction of a prototype military power suit, built by Luna’s father (Luna is Tetsuya’s fiancée).

Meanwhile, the mutants escape into the mountains and stumble across an abandoned castle housing an army of robots. The leader of the four remaining mutants declares that the humans, who have created and spurned them, must all die.

This is where you would think it settles into the mutant vs. human, super hero spectacle. And for a while, it almost does. The scene in which Casshern first appears, and the following two fights, is so incredibly cool that any attempt to describe them just falls pathetically short. Running up the sides of buildings, leaping high into the air, catching shells with his bare hands and throwing them back are just some truly insanely intense stuff. With this halfway through the movie, I really wondered how they where going to top it for a finale.

Unfortunately, they don’t. The movie continues to go deeper with just sword fights and things blowing up. There is a climactic final battle between the human army and the mutant’s robots, and Casshern plays a part in it – but by this point it is very much a story about him, his family and the characters around him, and why they are all fighting. There is no “super hero saves the world” here, no clean cut answer, and I think many people not accustomed to the Japanese style of story telling my well be uncomfortable with the fact that Casshern could ultimately be seen to fail in his role as a “super hero.”

There are other elements here that may not wash in mainstream audience. The fork of lightening that strikes the lab and causes the whole incident in the first place is never really explained. Very little explanation is given as to why there is an abandoned castle full of robots out in the mountains. Japanese story telling does not require even major plot points to be spelled out, or even explained at all, and Japanese audiences don’t expect everything to be explained either.
One aspect that I was truly impressed was its style. First time movie director, Kazuaki Kiriya is famous as a photographer and music video director. His background in visual arts shows through in almost every shot, especially as he is also director of photography and the editor of the film.
The first hour of the movie is all story and characters mainly. It was nice to see an action movie putting story and character development first, but I didn't understand what the hell was going on for about 45 minutes. The story itself was a good story but sadly their execution confused the hell out of me.

I will say that the ending to the movie was great and quite risky, especially to the mainstream audiences. I did like the ending though for the most part since it brought its message home and left it off on a somewhat positive note. That, the action sequences and the addition of some great looking girls were the only things I really liked in this movie. Maybe if only I understood Japanese, I would have even loved the story even more.

Movie Rating: B+

Review by Dgital


  Publicity Stills of "Casshern" (Courtesy from Cathay-Keris Films)

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