I'm just going to come out and say it— anime wouldn't be where it is today without Tatsunoko Productions. In fact, I don't think shounen heroes would be what they are today without Casshern. I just hope that someone will try this anime for him or herself and see if I'm right or wrong. I highly recommend it, which is not going to be a secret.
Set in a world where robots cooperate and work for humans, the story of the anime Shinzou Ningen Casshern, a 1973 post-apocalyptic shounen-like anime, revolves around the relationship between both human and machine. Dr. Kotaro Azuma is a genius engineer who wants to create androids or automatons in order to assist and progress the future of humankind. However, things take a turn for the worst when the renowned scientist creates a powerful android unit named BK-1 and it suddenly spirals out of control. Yeah, this is how the story begins... in a crapsack world. While Casshern is a superhero by all means, this isn't a kiddie tale. This series stays on one tone level for the majority of its episodes-- DARK.
The main story revolves around Casshern butting heads with the out of control android, who names himself Braiking Boss, while protecting the human race and its pride...what's left of it. This feels like a juvenile set-up for a Saturday morning cartoon, but I kid you not-- Casshern kicks butt and takes names almost every episode and his heroism is inspiring, leaving a legacy in anime to this day.
The series is mostly episodic and is presented in a sort of villain-every-week format, however, that doesn't mean that it doesn't have quality.
Shinzou Ningen Casshern develops a very interesting atmosphere within its story, as the humans who once had rule over the robots for a long time are now losing their rights, privileges and even their lives to the might of Braiking Boss and Andro Force, Braiking Boss' army, at a startling and uncontrollable pace. The story also uses its episodic nature interestingly; the anime seems to focus on the robots' call for domination and the dehumanization of mankind. It shows off these concepts through the various characters presented regularly in every episode and the many emotionally striking situations they are roped into over the course of dozens of episodes. This anime doesn't try hard to make you feel for the characters, especially since they may not even make it to the end of the episode alive, but it IS hard not to feel for them since the emotional impact is surprisingly deep. The main character ends up making a grand sacrifice-- giving up his humanity to save everyone else's. At the very least, with Casshern, the pull is there. Watching this show, I begin to think to “what can I do… what should I do?” to myself. Shinzou Ningen Casshern isn't winning a prize for heavy continuity, but it does get major points for pulling off numerous moving and action-packed scenarios that take themselves seriously. Few anime did this in the early 70's, and I believe that this particular anime holds up to today because of its story telling quality.
Honestly, I love Tatsunoko... but this was 1973. You ain't gonna find any pre-rendered vehicles or high definition special attacks. However, I believe that Casshern '73 looked good for what it was. Unlike numerous TV anime from its time, Casshern had very fluid animation including its fight scenes (and there are tons of them). Every now and then, when Casshern is fighting a multitude of robots the scene will rehash the same scene a couple times but it's nothing to get worked up over. One thing that does stand out for Casshern's animaton is the special effects. For once, there aren't a ton of flashing lights that might give you a seizure if you look at them. I love the series, but I can't say the same for Macross and that's a late 80's anime...
Getting back on track, the explosions are detailed and the backgrounds look nice and fit in with the anime. There aren't any real bad points about the art style or animation, but of course, this anime is leagues behind in that respect. It's obvious that it is an old series and whether it aged well or not in terms of animation is irrelevant. Shinzou Ningen Casshern's animation is okay, and most importantly, it gets the job done.
It is a shame that this series never received a dub for North American audiences, but there is no shortage of quality with the Japanese cast. All of the voice actors sound marvelous and fit their roles well, whether they are strong and buff, young and brave or girly but bold. Ikuo Nishikawa as Casshern and Emiko Tsukada as Luna make this show. But the most prestigious voice of them all belongs to good old Braiking Boss played by Kenji Utsumi, who does an excellent job of making me hate him in all three versions of Casshern. There are vast amounts of other actors and minor roles in the anime that do substantially well too, as the production values were very high. The soundtrack is classic orchestral superhero music with stingers, slow, sad songs of defeat and epic battle themes too. It is very memorable, even if you only remember it because the opening and endings for this anime (and many other early 80's anime) are so cheesy... no getting past that fact. Eventually, the soundtrack will grow on you. If not, no big deal.
The only displeasing thing I can say about the characterization in Shinzou Ningen Casshern is that outside of Luna, Casshern and Braiking Boss and company, there are not very many characters with the same level of depth. Development is saved for the climax of the supporting characters, and it is generally slim outside of the main three—Casshern, Luna, and Braiking Boss. Casshern is a boy who put aside his own life to fight for the people who were too weak to do so. He is strong-willed, yet very shaky. There are many scenes in the anime where he is torn between his existence as a "newly-built human,” and his fate as being no longer able to live like a normal man. The irony is crushing, since even if he saves the world and Luna and his family from Andro Force's control, no one can save him from his fate. Despite that, he deals with it. He sets the example for other shounen heroes that came and still exist today. While Braiking Boss is the typical renegade bent on world domination who is very cunning, he treats everyone below him like trash. He is not above breaking promises or breaking bones to get what he desires. Luna is the typical girl companion until her love for her friend turns her into a pivotal and essential character that is soft, but bold. She stands and fights alongside Casshern forgoing the impending doom and I like her a lot, actually.
Even though those three are the ones you get the most interaction out of, it is worth noting that there are a multitude of characters with their own personalities and passions that are set as a basis for the episodes. You are bound to find a character or two that really grows on you throughout the course of any episode, and that can't be overlooked.
Shinzou Nignen Casshern does not falter in the entertainment factor. It SPOILS. I'm not saying this because I'm a nostalgic, because I watched this when I was 17...From episode one I could feel that this anime was not going to be a typical old style anime. It seems almost experimental, especially when it comes to its episodic structure, and the robots are... very silly at times. In fact hilarious, even, to a fault because it is different from the show's overall tone, however, this anime goes outside of the box just slightly and dives deep into a great tale that really gets the ball rolling. Shinzou Ningen Casshern just seems to show off its 35-episode-glory to me very well. I hope others can understand that.
Story: Exciting. Sad. Emotional. Silly. Very silly at times. This anime is just plain fun and enjoyable at times as well as tear jerking and melodramatic. Moreover, it doesn’t try hard at all to get that across. Not to mention that the episodes have brilliant writing and pacing. If the episodic nature really bothers you, take your opinions and toss them aside. Just watch and see what Casshern can do. (10)
Art: It looks fine, and fight scenes look the best over everything else. Sadly, I can’t say much else. The animation is just dated and even in the 70’s this anime was average looking, not the best-looking thing ever. Of course, this is a minor flaw in the series, if you can call it a flaw at all. It isn’t a big deal, so I’m going a half point here. (7.5)
Sound: Wonderful actors who scream and yell boldly. A nostalgic and incredible soundtrack. Tatakae, Casshern! (10)
Characters: I’m just into Luna the most, but the characters are fine and are also the driving force of the anime. Every character has his or her gripes and troubles, strengths and weakness. I think it is interesting to be able to see them all play out over the course of an episode…and even be able to relate to a few of them. It isn’t hard to pick a favorite. (10)
Enjoyment: I relish the chance to watch this anime a third, fourth, or tenth time! I believe that it is wonderful and amazing to just sit and watch this story play out because everything comes together in this anime. Highly entertaining in my opinion. (10)
OVERALL: 9.5(weak 10) OUTSTANDING - For those of you who have seen any of the other versions of Casshern, you understand what I meant earlier. If you haven't, I'll go into more detail: the Robot Hunter OVA is an extravagant battle that blows away your expectations...even though it weirds me out a tad bit. Casshern Sins was a masterpiece; it is probably the best-looking anime of the 2000's and presents a dramatic and thought-provoking story across every episode, which was simply amazing. But Shinzou Ningen Casshern is the opening tale of a classic character in a classic battle of good vs. evil, mixing the roles of humanity and machine. Best of all, there is no pandering or stalling.
This anime strikes one level and keeps going, accomplishing what it sets out to do. If you don't get with that, you don't have to. Casshern may not be for you, but don't bash something you know absolutely nothing about. Instead, educate yourselves--this action-packed, battle-oriented and dramatic animated tale is nothing short of pure entertainment.
I dispel all of the hate that this character and series gets because there is no justification for it. Casshern is top quality and proves himself as such on more than one occasion. Even though this time, it’s actually an opinion, I still won’t hesitate to recommend this to everyone who is an anime fan because you won't be disappointed.