The based politics of 'Shinzou ningen Casshern'
Oppdatert: 13. des. 2019
A lot of older anime are often dismissed for a multitude of reasons, whether it be their lack of fluidity in the animation, lack of an overarching narrative, or being too cheesy. While these remarks may be true in some cases, in others, not so much. 'Shinzou Ningen Casshern' otherwise known as 'Neo Human Casshern' is a 35 episode anime from 1973. While the franchise itself is more known for the 24 episode 'Casshern Sins' from 2007, I think it's still worth revisiting the original.
To give a quick synopsis of the show, it's basically Mega Man. Or, it's literally Mega Man, though Casshern did come out first. A scientist, Dr. Azuma, has created many robots which have done well for humanity for a long time, however one day the robots revolt, their leading being the ultra powerful and fearsome 'Braiking Boss', who has created his own organization, Andro Force. That's when Tetsuya, Dr. Azuma's son, volunteers to sacrifice his humanity and become a 'shinzou ningen', or artificial human', in order to be able to fight the growing robot menace. Along with his robot dog Friender, and his friend Luna, they travel around in search of robots to beat up.
You can see how this could very quickly delve into just being a generic monster of the week thing, and to an extent it is. However, it's also the show with the most interesting take on tthe humanity of robots. In fiction, we have been told a very liberal way of thinking about robots. That they have their own thoughts, and as such should be their own being, not to be controlled by a human, as that would be cruel. Casshern however, throws all that away, and just says straight up that since humans created robots, humans should control them, and that robots controlling humans would be horrid. It makes nit no secret that the message is human supremacy over robots. There's even one episode where Casshern meets a robot who managed to turn back to being good, and the robot staunchly talks about how they should serve humans and that what the revolutionaries are doing is wrong. Now obviously, both are wrong, both human and robot supremacy would be bad. The robots in this show are a whole lot more advanced than some robot lawnmower. Although with the transhumanist party being a thing now, I guess you could say the show is actually more relevant than ever.
But I think what makes Casshern truly good, and actually worth watching, is the episodic stories themselves. They often have a moral dilemma for the humans, and Casshern has to agonize over the fact that everything is bad. Casshern himself is also a moral dilemma for those around him, as they're often not sure whether to be supportive of him. On one hand, he's fighting for the liberation of humanity and attempting to take down a tyrannical leader, but on the other hand, he's a robot. Now this is a children's show, so it's not exactly subtle, but I don't really think that being deep requires subtlety. I mean, just look at 'Berserk'.
When discussing the production side of things, Casshern holds up very well in my opinion. Some episode uses more stills and reused animation than others, but on the average, an episode of Casshern is on par with early 'Dragon Ball' (before episode 50) in my opinion. It's got a great rustic feel to it, and the backgrounds look great. If I were to criticise one aspect of the show though, it would be the character designs. Casshern himself and Friender look good enough, I especially like that Casshern can turn his mask on and off depending on whether he's fighting or not, I think it look very cool. However all the villains except for Braiking Boss look really dumb, they don't really have punch to them, they're simply not mechanical looking enough. Some more rough edges and less round designs would really do wonders.
Now did the show really need 35 episodes? Probably not, but I think it's a good number. The show has plenty of time to mention interesting moral dilemmas and concepts, although if you cut the episode number down to twenty, I think it would be a lot better. I've only watched three episodes of 'Casshern Sins', so I can't exactly speak on how it holds up in comparison, but I think I prefer the original. Now sure, 'Casshern Sins' may have incredible animation for a TV anime and a banger of an OP, but the colour aesthetic the show has is a bit too dark for my taste. There's so much black everywhere in the show, like get some colour in there! This is a problem the original doesn't have at all, many may even find it to be too bright, but I think it really works. It doesn't feel overdone or anything, and it's able to be somber when it needs to. Which leads me to my next and final point: the show is dark. Tonally, that is.
You may have thought that the show was nothing else than some weird old 70's anime with bright colours and limited animation, and while it may be that, the writing is completely different. In episode 31, Casshern meets a scientist who tried to create an artificial human himself, with none other than his own son as his test subject. And well, his son died of electrocution. Then the scientist did it again, and tried the same experiment on many others. They all died.Then he was arrested and locked up, until he was set free by the Andro Force, and allowed to continue his experiments. Then he killed some more people. And to top it all off, when the country tries to execute him for his crimes, Casshern saves him because he doesn't want humans fighting each other. Now luckily, the leader of the country finds out about this, and shoots the scientist before he's able to escape. Not to defend the leader, he's an asshole who didn't care about his son's death, but still. Both are in very in the wrong here.
And that's only one of the episodes, there are thirty four more. All of them might not be equally good, but they are certainly not bad. If you've got some time to spare, then I definitely recommend watching this, although if you just generally dislike older anime, then I don't suspect Casshern is going to do much about it. There's also a four episode OVA titled Casshern: Robot Hunter, a tokusatsu movie simply called 'Casshern' and as I mentioned earlier, a 24 episode TV show called 'Casshern Sins', so if you enjoy one of these, you'll probably like the others.