Adapted from a 25-part anime TV series made in the early ’70s, this Japanese computer-generated science-fiction epic is plot-heavy and stuck in a time warp. It’s as if fashion photographer-turned-pop video director Kazuaki Kiriya was determined to cram every single one of the small screen version’s predictable storylines and ragged sub-plots into his movie’s tedious 140-minute running time. Pieces hacked from ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Metropolis’ and ‘The Terminator’ are stitched together in haphazard fashion, creating a monstrous patchwork.
In a retro-future world ravaged by nuclear war and the resulting environmental fall-out, genetic scientist Dr Azuma (Akira Terao) researches a ‘neo-cell’ technology that he hopes will save his dying wife, Midori (Kanako Higuchi). A freak bolt of lightning strikes his lab, creating a race of mutant super-beings from a pool of cadavers and severed limbs. Most of these ‘Neo Sapiens’ are killed by the military, but the survivors flee and swear revenge on the human race, building an army of battle robots to do their destructive bidding. Back at the lab, Dr Azuma succeeds in resurrecting his dead soldier son, Tetsuya (Yusuke Iseya): clad in a rocket-powered suit of armour, the half-mutant ‘Casshern’ is the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy.
Most damagingly, whereas ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’ inserted human figures into a coherently imagined 3-D environment, the actors here move about in front of randomly designed 2-D backdrops. So, no matter how many repetitive, hyper-kinetic fight sequences the director flings up on screen, their impact is lost and they fall flat. A bombastic symphonic score and some dull, pounding rock music only make things worse.