casshern‘ is a highly stylized action drama that has some not-so-subtle messages about war, pollution, samaritanism. Beautiful cinematography and decent fx give ‘casshern’ an incredibly distinct look (film grain like tennis balls, blacks to make you rethink other blacks, super-saturated color), and a plot full of betraya, heavy emotions and intrigue drives the film. from what kyle, eric & i could speculate anyway, since it was entirely in japanese with no subtitles.


akira tarao plays professor azuma, a geneticist whose controversial cell regeneration research leads to the creation of reanimated mutants (actually spontaneously knitted together ‘spare parts’ of corpses). i think tarao did a great job – his pain and moral struggle (go forward with research if funded by dark horse meglomaniac even though it might be the key to curing his wife’s blindness?) came across quite well without understanding what he actually was saying. i was especially surprised by azuma’s character development towards the end of the film.

kanako higuchi was touching and luminous as azuma’s wife…all of her scenes were quite powerful. yusuke iseya and toshiaki karasawa as the title character (azuma’s son) and the leader of the mutant people respectively, gave visceral performances, heartbreaking one moment and full of rage and vengeance the next; how often in america do you see the two most macho bad-ass guys in the film cry?

the rest of the cast gave good performances as well. i was particularly taken with mitsuhiro oikawa, who played a sort of slimy fop.


the look and feel of the film was dirty, gritty, grainy, bleak, hopeless, [add more depressing adjectives here]. it sort of reminded me of the museum of bondaged women scenes in ‘the cell,’ and therefore of ‘street of crocodiles.’ imagine the grainy contrast of ‘the cell’ and push that as far as you can go and still see what’s going on. to counter the grain and darkness were scenes of much finer grain and some breathtaking use of a wide-angle shutter (although it got old during the end of hour two) to create a hyper-pure revelatory sort of atmosphere, in particular the scene in the woods where casshern and luna first get to speak to one another. most compositions were strictly symmetrical (although it only really jumped out at kyle), or ‘kubrickian’ as eric describes it.

the fx were a bit disappointing, but served their purpose. there was nothing new or particularly convincing-looking about the cgi, but then again ‘casshern’s’ entire visual style is a bit incredible. i liked the (admittedly odd, but strangely touching) claymation section and the nearly-anime battle and fight scenes of giant robots marching over a city and characters delivering paragraphs of dialogue in mid punch as the camera sweeps around them, capturing them in a moment that looks like it came right out of a comic book.

editing was way too fast during some of the fight scenes. eric felt, and i agree, that the editing was sort of covering up the fact that the fights weren’t choreographed in the manner that we are used to (wirework, seeing the hits and falls) so the excitement was ratched up with faster editing…not very successfully. mostly i just wanted a shot to last longer than 5 frames so i could see what was going on. otherwise the editing was completely unremarkable.

sound design is not at all my area, but i was impressed. there were a lot of weird sound fx and music and foley going on and it couldn’t have been easy to strike a balance.

if this film is released in the united states (doubtful) the musical selections might have to be rethought. the use of ‘pomp and circumstance’ reminds americans of graduations and seems really cliché in the film’s context. triple for the use of ‘moonlight sonata’ ad nauseum throughout the scenes of decadence and quiet dark reflection, etc. soooo cliché.

In summary…

‘casshern’ makes for a great movie experience, even without being able to understand japanese. there were definitely people crying in the theatre (like, practically everone) and it was dead silent as people filed out…which might have something to do with it being japan (no one moved or said a word during the movie or the substantial credits and you bet your ass those lights didn’t go up until the last reel had completely rolled off), but i suspect had to do with the powerful subject matter and ethical questions the film raises about scientific research, relationships, war and the environment.

i can only attest to those parts of the film i outlined above – the technical aspects and general feeling i got from the actors were basically the only thing i can conscientiously discuss since i still have no absolute knowledge about the plot. i have read a few short teaser synopses and the english portions of the website, but i actually think that the plot eric, kyle & i came up with might be much more interesting and complicated than what was really going on…i just don’t want to be disappointed!