When lightning strikes the prototype android BK-1, a new horror is unleashed on the world as the resulting monster Braking Boss 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 Andro Force’s mechanical army, mankind’s only hope may be in the hands of Tetsuya Azuma, son of the creator of BK-1, who transfers his consciousness into an android body to become a newly-built man, the ultimate robot fighter: Casshan! Now together with his robot dog Flender and the beautiful Luna Kozuki, 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 and save the Earth from the iron clutches of Braiking Boss! But things aren’t going to be easy, not when you’re three against thousands and Braiking Boss has some shocking surprises in store that will rip Casshan’s world in two! It’s the ultimate blast from the past as the battle for the future pits good bots against the bad in CASSHAN!
The Japanese Dolby 2.0 stereo track sounded good and although sometimes you could hear a slight screech from some of the higher-pitched sound effects, there was no distortion for the most part.
This show was originally broadcast in 1973, and looks good here. The cel animation holds up fine and colors are vibrant and steady. The nuances of old-school sketch-line animation are still fun to watch. The subtitles are colored (primarily yellow with occasional whites) and detailed appropriately, which makes them easy to read as needed.
Front of the box has an image of Casshan, Friender and Swanee breaking forward (similar to the closing credits of the show) on top of the red and white emblem on Casshan’s chest. The back has the text from the “what they say” section with screencaps midway down. Credits and specifications are in the lower thirds of the box, which hold 6 DVDs containing the entire series.
The menus have Casshan on the left and a vertical listing of episodes on the right side with a cursor highlighting choices as desired.
The story takes place in the not too distant future at a time when humanity has been somewhat prosperous and industrialized but still has to deal with the terrible pollution that comes with such a lifestyle. In his castle, renowned robot engineer Dr. Kotaro Azuma works one creating an pollution disposal android called BK-1 which has superior strength and intelligence compared to the other androids laying in stasis chambers next to it. He is the leader of said robots and many others that have been built up in the laboratory.
However, lightning strikes the castle and BK-1 gains a nastier personality to augment his physical might and takes the viewpoint that humans are the ones who created pollution. Changing his name to Braiking Boss, an enormous regal-looking dictator robot, he has determined the best way eliminate pollution is to make sure the race most responsible for damaging the Earth is never allowed to hold power, and thus be subjugated at every turn, or eliminated to cut down on consumption of resources. Suffice it to say, the result is a twisted combination of The Terminator’s Skynet, and Batman villain Ra’s Al Ghul.
Braiking Boss gathers a vast mechanical army known as the Andro Force and slowly begins his unstoppable march across the world. At home, Dr. Kazuya and his son Tetsuya discuss how to stop them, while in the nearby village, Tetsuya’s lifetime friend Luna and her dog Lucky have a near fatal encounter with one of the robots. Luna grieves for Lucky at the Kazma home, but afterward, Dr. Kazuma tries an experiment where he transfers Lucky’s mind into a robotic canine body with crazy abilities, and renames the new pet Friender. Tetsuya sees this success and offers to have his father turn him into a powerful “newly-built man.” The doctor initially doesn’t want to since it’s likely he wont be able to turn Tetsuya back human, but they both decide humanity is in dire straits and nothing else can even slow down the robots, and thus Casshan is born.
It isn’t long before Braiking Boss comes for the family, capturing Dr. and Mrs. Kazuma in the process. Cashaan and Friender fight valiantly, but are unable to stop everything. Eventualy, Dr. Kazuma decides the best way to protect his wife is to put her spirit into a robotice swan he had as a pet for many years. He does so in secret so Braiking Boss won’t know to use her as any sort of hostage, and thus she proceeds to feed Casshern information on various Andro Force plans throughout the series. One such plan involves stopping Luna’s father who creates an electric weapon known as the MF Gun, capable of destroying robots while being non-fatal to humans. Things don’t go well for Dr. Kozuki, but Luna unites with Casshan in his memory and the pair resolve to defeat the Andro Force and hopefully restore and reunite the Kazuma family someday.
The series goes on to be a nice adventure drama that became a benchmark style for Tatsunoko Productions in the 60s and 70s. There are fantastic elements of course for this era of sci fi, such as Friender’s ability to morph into a car, jet, tank or submarine whenever Casshan needs a ride. (Braiking Boss naturally builds his own pet to counter this.) We also get sentient henchmen robots with varying colorful types of evil personalities. The 70s were a fun time for this time of entertainment geared toward kids and adults alike. Tatsunoko produced this and several other heroic anime such as Tekkaman The Space Knight and Hurricane Polymar, long before any of these and other characters would appear on the popular Tatsunoko Vs Capcom game for the Wii.
Still, it’s their other two more famous U.S. exports which invariably come to mind as I watch this show, namely Mach Go Go Go (Speed Racer) and Gatchaman (Battle of the Planets). I can’t help but to feel there’s a house style that the creator of these shows Tatsuo Yoshida had implemented. Beyond the sketch lines and sleek futuristic curves on the vehicles in these shows, there’s the serious emphasis on taking the perspective of the vehicles approaching their targets, as well as the characters’ martial arts chops and kicks, and depicted use of machine guns.
This typical action style remains present throughout Casshan for all 35 episodes. Many of the scripts either focus on Braiking inventing a new type of robot to stop Casshan or on the effect the growing conflict has on the people in the way, as Braiking sometimes works with humans willing to build new inventions (right before he kills them). Some stories sometimes people who may not be able to accept Casshan as a “newly built man” who isn’t human. Others focus on the fact that Casshan only has so much energy in his system, taken from solar energy recharges. As he gets weaker, he starts to become blind and can make a mistake in battle, even though he has a unrelenting spirit.
The weapons he faces get varied ranging from a set of robots who do their stack-&-attack bit into one big gestalt, robotic rats who swarm their enemies, a giant robot which Tetsuya used to pal around with as a kid, and many other varieties. Also, the world governments debate what to do as the Andro Force presence becomes bigger throughout the world while conventional military forces ineffective. Meanwhile Swanee, Friender, and Luna all help Casshan work to save humanity, but Braiking Boss becomes more intelligent and ruthless each day….
From a historical perspective, it’s interesting to note the talents who contributed to this series. For example, Takao Koyama served as series director long before he went on to write the screenplays for many of the Dragon Ball / DBZ movies and shows. Also, famed Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino did storyboards and directed several episodes here, and Yoshitaka Amano did character designs before moving to Gatchaman, Vampire Hunter D and Final Fantasy illustrations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aG2W05xJ76o
I’d been very curious to see this series as my only real exposure to the franchise had been later adaptations including a 90s OAV series, the live action movie and the recent revamp Casshern Sins. Each adaptation presented the story in a bleak and depressing fashion. Watching the original was more fun both from a nostalgic perspective and for the fact that, although serious, the events here aren’t as morbid as later versions. Also, this is one of the most intriguing takes on environmental issues I’ve ever come across. So from a historical perspective and for those who like to reminisce about the sketch, cel and paint techniques of anime, I’d recommend grabbing Casshan when you get the chance.
Content Grade: A-/B+
Audio Grade: A+
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks.
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Running Time: 875 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Review Equipment: Panasonic 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3