What They Say:
When lightning strikes the prototype android BK-1, a new horror is unleashed on the world. The resulting monster, Braiking, begins taking over all other robots on Earth, setting them against their creators in a massive orgy of planet-wide destruction! With humanity helpless in the face of the new Neoroiders and their mechanical armies, mankind’s only hope may lie in the hands of Tetsuya Azuma, son of the creator of BK-1, who transfers his consciousness into an android body to become a Neoroider himself… the ultimate robot fighter: Casshan!
Now, together with his robot dog Flender and the beautiful Luna Uetsuki, the daughter of another scientist and wielder of the most robot-lethal gun on the planet, Casshan is on a mission to clear his father’s name, avenge his mother’s death, and save the Earth from the iron clutches of Buraiking! But things aren’t going to be easy, not when you’re three against thousands, and Buraiking has some shocking surprises in store that will rip Casshan’s world in two!
Contains episodes 1-35.
The audio presentation for this release is about as you’d expect as we get the original Japanese language track only, encoded using in DTS-HD lossless codec for the stereo based materials. The show is not one that really does anything to stand out and you really don’t expect it to, but what it does is convey the source materials pretty well and in much better condition than one might think they’d be in. The series is essentially a full sounding mix where it’s all center stage and spreads out from there with a few nuggets that might seem like directionality but really aren’t. The sound effects have the big sound from the period that you’d expect and it has a familiarity to other shows of the time that worked with the same effects department. The dialogue is well played and comes across far clearer and cleaner than I expected it to be and the show as a whole sounds good and definitely captures the source well while being problem free.
Originally airing in 1973 and 1974, the transfer for this thirty-five episode TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across three dual-layered Blu-ray discs with twelve episodes each on the first two discs and eleven on the third. Animated by Tatsunoko, it’s a show that definitely is showing its age but also gets the benefits of a film based series with its richness and traditional animation. The most obvious and really only issue here is the grain and noise that comes from it with how much it may bother you, but it reflects the source materials themselves and really isn’t something that you register after a bit. The series is one that has an almost washed out color palette to it but it’s simply reflective of the time. Detail holds up pretty well and some of the scenes really look great overall with the little things that you can see here and there. Considering it’s forty years old as of this writing, it’s a very good looking release that uses the bit rate well.
The packaging for this release definitely keeps things compact and kind of belies how much content is actually here. With three discs in the collection, it’s all kept inside a standard sized Blu-ray case with a hinge inside to hold two of the discs. It’s a compact and tight little piece but doesn’t feel like it has any issues with the physical presentation. The front cover gives us a good looking shot that has Casshan with Swanee and Flender as they burst out from the logo itself, which dominates the background in a good way. With the white background and the red C that swooshes around, it’s not striking but it gives it a nice bit of weight when combined with the slick looking logo along the top. The back cover keeps things simple with a white background that has a little character artwork along the left and a fairly detailed premise along the right with a bit of small print. A few shots from the show populates it and it’s that rare time where it feels like really good choices were made here. The production credits are clearly laid out while the technical grid covers everything cleanly and clearly along the bottom for how it’s put together. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is the same across all three discs though it changes up the character artwork along the way with different pairings. The background does the circle swooshes nicely in purple against a white background while placing the logo through the center. The character artwork uses familiar pieces, such as the first disc using what we get on the packaging cover, and it all looks colorful and clean with appealing lines. The right side has the navigation strip which brings us the episodes by number and title with some nice coloring that makes it feel kind of science-fiction-y. It doubles as the pop-up menu nicely and access times are fast. Navigation is a breeze since there really isn’t anything here outside of the show itself and a few trailers for other series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The release of Casshan is an interesting one, something that was unexpected when it was announced, since it’s never really felt like there was a large audience for the series. Originally debuting back in 1973 and going on for thirty-five episodes, it has plenty of familiar aspects of other popular Tatsunoko shows over the years such as Gatchaman and Speed Racer just in terms of its designs alone. The show has had a few different incarnations in the years since, with a reboot of sort series that landed a few years ago and alive action feature as well which garnered a lot of attention. I’d seen the reboot, which used the Japanese romanized name of Casshern Sins, and that provided for a very moody piece that was more about wandering around. In a lot of ways, you can view that as an alternate ending to what we get here in this show if you excise the last episode.
The series introduces us to a world where robots were becoming fairly common in use in human life to make things easier so other pursuits could be sought after. One of the most gifted of robot designers is Dr. Azuma, who lives with his wife Midori and their son Tetsuya. Things go badly for the family quickly when a lightning strike hits Azuma’s laboratory and one of the robots in there, BK-1, comes to life and is fully self aware in a way robots had not been before. BK-1 wants to interact with people, but it goes badly and it only takes one occurrence for him to decide that his best course of action is to eradicate humanity or enslave it entirely. Renaming himself Braiking Boss, he sets about to making the world in his favor and starts building an army of varied robots along with a few trusted lieutenants to carry out his orders. Because he’s not human and is able to build a sizable army quickly, he’s an instant threat that starts rolling out across the world.
Knowing what kind of person Azuma is, he also opts to keep him close at hand so he doesn’t cause trouble. But Azuma sets to fix the mistake of his creation and he works towards creating an android that can defeat him. Unfortunately, it requires a bit of a sacrifice as his teenage son Tetsuya must become a “newly-built man”, transferring his consciousness into the android that his completely humanoid in appearance for the most part and can pass for human, albeit in a goofy costume. Taking on the name Casshan in order to protect his family, Tetsuya sets to destroy Braiking Boss and push back against the ever growing marauding army. With his father captured by his enemy though, things goes kind of worse with a useful angle as his mother is also captured, but Azuma decides to protect her by placing her consciousness in a robotic swan named Swanee. This keeps her safe from retribution, but places her in a whole lot of danger because Braiking Boss essentially takes Swanee as a pet and keeps her at his side regularly. Of course, she sneaks away regularly and provides key intel to Casshan which adds an element of danger.
Casshan’s not alone in his fight as he also has the help of his dog Lucky, who had died but also had his consciousness transferred into a machine. Renamed Flender, he’s a highly transformable attack dog that can take on the form of plans, cars, diggers and seemingly more as time goes on. He’s also pretty vicious in his own right while providing some companionship while traveling and while fighting. The other bit of help he gets comes in the form of a childhood friend named Luna, the daughter of another inventor who figures out a one-off weapon that helps to fight against the robots. Luna’s not entirely a damsel in distress character since she intends to stick with him and fights regularly at his side, but she does end up in that position more often than you’d care for across the series. What she provides is important though as it’s a connection to Tetsuya’s humanity while Casshan, and makes it easier for him to get around in human villages and cities since she looks completely human compared to his slightly off look.
For the first twenty or so episodes, we get a lot of your standard episodic adventures that often places Casshan against Braiking – not directly – but against his plans, forces and machinations of conquest. The nature of shows like this and the time it was made has it so that there isn’t any sort of large overarching storyline here with a real plan that Braiking Boss has. It’s not until the last two episodes that things start to feel like it’s actually going somewhere. If the show was a hit at the time, it probably would have gone on for dozens more episodes the same way, more fights, more stories that are neatly resolved and more moral conflicts for people to face. That’s the main thing with the show during these episodes as we see Casshan trying to rally people, protect them and fight against the Andro Force that Braiking Boss brings about. Because of the way the stories unfold, there isn’t a ton of internal consistency, but we get some interesting things dealt with in how people handle the stress of the world changing like this.
But it’s very much a product of its time. You can easily wonder why large scale weapons aren’t used against the main area Braiking Boss resides and other things as you rarely see any sort of actual military force. It’s an odd alternate world that we’re dealing with here, one that shifts across European style places, South American and a Japanese style place or two. Some people are angry and resisting, others give in to try and survive while many are just running away and trying to hide as the world falls apart. Casshan generates some positive buzz along the way as a hero that fights for them, but it’s not consistent as well since some want to sue for peace even if it means subservience. For Casshan, he can’t understand it, but a lot of that comes from just his youthful inexperience and the black and white view of the world that he has.
When it moves into the final twelve or so episodes, the big change happens in that Braiking Boss learns that Casshan isn’t actually human anymore. That’s a game-changer for the Andro Force as they can use that to sway public opinion against him, which in turn isolates him all the more. Something that he struggles with, but he has help in coping with it because of Luna and some of those that he meets along the way. It is interesting to see the change in how people view him once they know as there are far fewer people that want his help and more that just want him to go away since they aren’t aware of his actual situation or the sacrifice that he’s made. That causes trouble a few times with Swanee as well since she sneaks out to give Casshan information and people just see a robot, one they can use as a bargaining wedge sometimes since Braiking Boss is pretty fanatical about his pet.
While things resolve quickly in the final two episodes, too quickly really, the show as a whole is one that’s definitely a fun journey. One that I have to recommend is broken up and not watched over just three days like I did. The smaller stories here and the personal connections that Casshan and Luna make work nicely to show how different areas handle such threats as the Andro Force and a lot of the usual tales of morality with humanity. Casshan’s not exactly the most compelling of characters, but he’s the naive innocent in the face of a black and white threat that must be dealt with and he has the invincibility of youth that has him believing that he’s really the only one that can save the world. That he isn’t, in the end, is cosmically ironic, since he needed his dad to provide the tools and idea to do it.
With my only previous exposure being the very moody and philosophical Casshern Sins, Casshan is a far different show for a lot of reasons. Coming into this after revisiting Gatchaman as a whole a few months ago is definitely amusing since there are so many natural similarities in design that you can have fun tracing some of them. Largely, Casshan is a pure child series of the early 70’s where it’s hugely episodic and simple but still has the right kind of charm to try and prod some of the bigger ideas and issues out there. Things that could go over kids heads to some degree but serve as teachable moments as well. The high definition release here is pretty solid across the board with what it does since it has a lot of content and really allows the source material to shine in the best ways. Casshan is not a series that I thought I’d ever see make it over here but getting to spend time with it has been very worthwhile.
Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD MA Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Running Time: 875 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.