In the future there has been a fifty year war between East and West, with the Greater Eastern Federation winning out. However, there are still many terrorist acts being perpetrated and the East, despite now controlling everything from Japan to Western Europe, is still technically at war. That's not all, as the pollution is causing mutations among the general population and a scientist, Dr Azuma (Akira Terao) is experimenting on new ways of transplanting specially grown body parts onto humans. It's just that he hasn't been entirely successful at his vast laboratory so far and the military rulers are growing impatient...
Handsome looking but morose and achingly pretentious, Casshern was scripted by its director, Kazuaki Kiriya, from an old cartoon series and features an unusual take on the old story of Frankenstein, dragging in troubled family relationships, romance and meditations on the meaning of war for good measure. Designed almost completely on a computer, it joined a number of such similar films, from the George LucasStar Wars prequels to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Sin City which had its actors performing in front of large green screens and adding in the scenery later - in fact the addition of scenes shot in a genuine location at the end of this film is quite jarring.
Who knows, perhaps a computer was utilised to re-fashion the plot as well? What happens is that Azuma and his son Tetsuya (Yusuke Isera) don't see eye to eye as Tetsuya plans to leave his family and new fiancée Luna (Kumiko Aso) behind and go to fight in the war. Off he goes and a year later he's killed in combat; meanwhile Azuma is still experimenting and has huge vats full of body parts and a wife who is growing more and more ill by the day. The day of the son's funeral arrives, but there's an out of the ordinary hitch: a huge bolt of lightning that strikes Azuma's castle and makes the body parts come to life.
For some reason the authorities don't take kindly to all these new born people running about and send the soldiers in to shoot them all dead, which they almost succeed in doing. A handful of them get away, and naming themselves Neoroids they plot their revenge. While all that happens, Azuma is inspired by what he's seen (but doesn't feel any responsibility for the safety of the Neoroids) and carries the body of Tetsuya into one of the vats, reviving him. But wouldn't you know it, the new improved Tetsuya has to wear a special suit designed by Luna's weapons creating father so he doesn't explode (or something).
What this all leads up to is a whole bunch of fight scenes, a number involving the now superpowered Tetsuya. The Neoroids build their own fleet of killer robots to devastate the land and the plot descends into chaos, but still finds the time to stop for pretty philosophy on the themes the action has thrown up. If you like this kind of thing you'll like it a lot, and it is very well assembled with a sleek, glossy appearance, but the convoluted character relationships can get a little wearing. One of those anti-war movies that takes great delight in blowing things up, Casshern decides that you can't get through life without harming someone or something, and we're all connected really, so we should all get along. Wise words, but you may find your patience tested by the way the story is extended past its own benefit. Television might have been the best place for it. Music by Shirô Sagisu and Satoshi Tomîe.