Currently Watching – Casshern (1973)

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       I am having a blast watching Casshern (from 1973). It’s fun watching him fight robots and seeing one of the early anime titles of that era that was the source for one of my favorite anime titles in middle school. One thing that was surprising for me though, was how both Luna (Casshern’s childhood friend) and Casshern’s mother both are treated much differently than what I would have expected for not only the girlfriend character, but the dead parent, as well: Luna actively fights by Casshern’s side, whereas Casshern’s mother is a spy for the robot army.

       In Casshern, lighting strikes the android BK-1, which awakens and decides to destroy humanity. He attacks his creator Azuma, his wife Midori, and their son, Testsuya, who barely escape with their lives. Their dog is critically injured, and is turned into a robot dog with the original’s brainwaves (Vision and Wonder Man did the same thing in Avengers in 1970). And this robot can turn into a car, jet, sub, and spaceship. However, BK1 now calls himself Braiking Boss, and creates an army of robots with Azuma’s factory and begins taking over the fictional and unnamed country he was born in. Tetsuya, realizing that the UN is no match for Braiking Boss and his robots, merges his body with a robot, becoming an android; neither human nor robot. Now, he fights to defeat Braiking Boss and save humanity.

       Enjoy the theme song:

       One of the themes of the series is that of identity. Casshern hides what he is because all humans hate robots of any kind now, and Casshern frequently finds himself outed, and yet continues to fight for a world that shuns him. However, just by watching Cassherns actions, most people learn to accept him at the end of each episode.

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       Luna has a father who invents a gun which can kill robots with one shot. He is killed when his invention is discovered, and Luna is determined to fight with his weapon no matter what Casshern says. In the beginning, Casshern constantly tells her to leave so she will be safe. Yet time and again, because Casshern can only use so much energy before being helpless, Luna comes to his aid. In the end of the 4th episode (in which she saves Casshern’s life, by the way), she actually leaves on a boat, and you think they are writing her out of the series, but then Casshern interrupts her boats path, and realizing he can’t win this battle alone, asks her to join him in the battle, no matter what happens. Starting out as the damsel that Casshern needs to rescue (2-3 times), she eventually turns into a warrior to fight Braiking Boss’ army.

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       One of the weirder and unsettling moments is when Braiking Boss kidnaps Casshern’s parents. He is going to kill Midori to prove a point to Azume, but Azuma (asking his wife’s permission first) says he thinks he can save her, but it will come at a price. Braiking Boss thinks she escaped, but what Azuma has done is transplant her brain into their robot pet Swannee (a robot Swan). Braiking Boss takes Swannee as a pet and is never suspicious of what she truly is. Here, Midori gathers intel and reports to Casshern, helping them stop all of Braiking Boss’ evil plans. Midori (usually every episode) puts her life on the line constantly to help all of humanity. And though Casshern wishes they could all 3 return to the way they used to be once this is all over, it sometimes seems that Midori knows this can’t happen, and only helps him have hope to see the battle through.

       I’m so used to seeing the parent’s dead, and the son trying to move on, that I was surprised at how refreshingly different it was to have the parent now be the spy for the villain of the series. Her life is in constant danger (again, she is only a robot swan), and seeing Casshern and Luna save each other on a near equal basis makes it feel more of a team effort. It somehow feels more progressive than most anime titles I watched in the 90sat the time.

       I have never seen this series before. I grew up watching Cassharn (it was re-tittled) on the Sci-Fi channel back in the early 90s, and was always bummed that it was so awesome, and yet only had 4 episodes (or OVAs, as I would later find out). So much so, that watching the original series, I’m seeing similar ideas and themes that are in Mechanaflux that were not in the original 90s show I watched. So far I have only finished the first 12 episodes, but I know that it, too, will end. Oh well, I suppose I can watch Casshern Sins again and cry at the the really bleak and depressing future and character stories in every episode. I will revisit Casshern again, because there is an episode in Casshern Sins that is definitely a modern re-telling of one of the 70s episodes, and I’d like to examine the way the story is told in each one.

       If you are interested, you can check out Casshern’s 35 episode original series from 1973, or the 4 part OVA from 1993.

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