Japanese comics are often noted for their wide breadth of subject matter, in contrast to the superhero-heavy comics found in America. But just as America has many non-super comics, Japan has its own breed of super hero; though the genre doesn’t seem to have evolved all that much over there.
There’s a remarkable lack of variety to be found in Japanese superheroes. If you’ve seen any of the variations of Power Rangers, you know all the basics. Either one or a team of people in skin-tight bodysuits with a symbol on the front and a helmet of some kind fight monsters using technology-enhanced martial arts. Kamen Rider, UltraMan, they’re all the same; and so is Casshan.
The four episode OAV picks up four years after robots have taken over the Earth. They’re very ‘human’ robots, with individual personalities and emotions. It kind of makes you wonder if the guy who created the series knows what a robot is; at the very least, he clearly didn’t put any thought into developing the villains for this series. It should be noted that this is a remake of an older TV series, so the this time around the producers are a little more self aware. For instances, the robots keep humans alive for use as slave labor, which leads to a debate between the robot commanders as to why, since keeping them alive uses up resources that outweigh their value.
Casshan, we learn, is the son of the man who invented the leader of the evil robots, Black King Boss; though he never intended it to be evil. To make up for his father’s sins, Casshan becomes part robot; and in doing so gains the power to fight back. We don’t get a clear picture of what exactly his change entailed. He has a human face and seemingly human body, but he’s stronger than the average man. He says that he can never go back; but then in the last episode says he’ll return as Tetsuya, his human alter-ego.
I suppose his parental history can be considered character development, but it’s fairly shallow. Beyond that, Casshan is a fairly blank slate. Ironically, he’s more ‘robotic’ than the robots he fights. His sidekicks are Luna, his childhood friend turned resistance fighter, and a robot dog named Friender. There’s also a robot swan that gives him advice from time to time. These are all standard cliches that you’ll find in any show of this genre; there’s really nothing unique about Casshan, and the execution is utilitarian. It’s a straight-forward homage to the classic Japanese superhero; whether you’ll enjoy it or not depends on what you think of the source material.
The DVD from Eastern Star / Discotek reuses the video masters from ADV Films’ release. That means credits changed into English. Particularly galling is the opening, which uses a thick white font to (partially) cover the Japanese writing beneath. That said, the episode titles and series logo are left alone. The video is nice, though with the occasional composite video flaws that were so common in the ’90s.