Following the recent release and success of the live-action sci-fi epic Casshern, it was only a matter of time before somebody decided to release one of the anime series that inspired it. However, Manga Entertainment's release of this 1993 OVA series - itself based on the original anime series from the 1970's - is good enough to be more than just a cash in.
The film is set in a future where 'Neoroid' robots built to protect the Earth have turned on their creators and enslaved the human race. A determined resistance movement are struggling against the Neoroids and are praying for the return of Casshan, a near mythical cyborg hero who has the power to defeat the Neoroid leader Black King. Casshan was once the human son of the scientist who created the Neoroids, and although his cybernetic enhancements give him awesome powers they will also ultimately cause his human side to die completely. Can Casshan really save humanity by sacrificing his own?
Casshan is a real slice of early '90's sci-fi action and a bit of a return to the old days for Manga, who have distanced themselves in recent years from the 'beer and curry' anime they were once known for. You know what to expect from Casshan - tonnes of action, some cheesy dialogue and a post apocalyptic future - and you either love that or hate it, but there is more to Casshan than meets the eye. There is plenty of time devoted to Casshan's anguish over the dilemmas he faces and even the main villain is presented as a more sympathetic character as the story progresses. The animation isn't bad for the time either, although be warned that there is a huge amount of strobe effects used during the frequent action scenes, and the retro designs are excellent, particularly on Casshan and his transforming dog.
Although Casshan is an enjoyable action romp with a bit more brain than usual what has really impressed me about it is Manga's handling of the release itself. The first disc contains the old American movie edit, with four episodes condensed into one, a cheese-tastic English dub and some scenes cut out, whereas the second disc contains the original uncut (shower scene reinstated, hooray!) four episode series in Japanese with English subtitles. Manga have put some effort into this, the inclusion of the uncut second disc will please purists and provides an interesting comparison with the American edit, whereas the inclusion of another superb Jonathan Clements commentary is the icing on the cake.
Casshan is a budget release and its brand of post-apocalyptic action will not appeal to all, however, it draws you in to its story surprisingly well and puts some interesting ideas behind all the flashes and bangs. The two discs and highly informative commentary provide plenty of re-watch value and the OVA itself is an enjoyable old school actioner. If you prefer flashy new computer animated titles then you may not enjoy this as much as I did, but if you are old enough to remember a time when the Daily Mail was getting it's knickers in a twist over Akira then you'll love it.
Apart from the various audio options, the extras effectively consist of a few trailer reels and a commentary by anime pundit Jonathan Clements. The commentary is enough to buy the DVD for on its own, Jonathan Clements gives a huge amount of insight into not only the anime itself but also the Japanese film industry and the editing of the OVA for US audiences. His insights actually improve your viewing experience, which is a rare feat, if only more anime releases benefited from his commentaries!