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Casshern is a Japanese Sci-fi film, for which a trailer was recently released. A trailer in Japanese. Beautiful, musical Japanese. Every damn word of it. I don't speak a lick of Japanese. So, I am faced with a dilemma: How do you write a node about something you can only half understand?

Research!

Why even bother?


It is one of the most amazing bits of film I have seen in long while. And the fact that I understood nothing but the visuals and swatches of emotions cemented in the forefront of my mind. How did I come to see this tidbit of pure eye candy? Well, both the e2film usergroup has been buzzing about it, and it was mentioned on Penny Arcade, a web comic that I read fairly often. Needless to say, I was intrigued.

I was the same way with the Rubik's Cube until I found a screwdriver.


Spoiler-esque materials from here on in, if I am even half right about this film.


I take the advice of my peers and download the Quicktime trailer. My jaw is still a bit sore from hitting the floor. The words epic and pure style come to mind. A few noders who have commented about it in e2film are also floored. Some are reminded of Magnus Robot fighter. I chime in with a comparison to the classic film Metropolis. As I talk to others, it is clear that I am not alone in my confusion. When I finish grinning like an idiot, I take stock: This is movie trailer. Therefore, all these scenes are bits of the story. People who pop up more than once are likely major characters. I name them for frame of reference.

A breakdown of the trailer by scene and character:

Cloaked figure: Standing under a huge blue moon filled sky, looking out over the city below him. A definite Batman vibe.

Old Leader: featured on campaign like posters in a victory parade. Maybe a president or a general.

The Doctor: Speaking in front of screens showing viruses and text, giving a speech. He is also seen speaking in the scene after the cloaked figure, with his back to the camera. I asked the wonderfully helpful greyblue to give me a rough translation of things said: The first thing said sounds like "Koko ni, hitotsu no seikou happyou sashite itrarakitai" 'Here, we intend to (do something) with an announcement of a single(unified?) peace.' Then, "Sono nawa shinzou saibou" 'That rope, a heart cell!' (It might be "na wa" in which case its, 'As for that name, it is a heart cell!')

Slick: smooth grinning young man in a snappy suit, oozing style and smarm. He is speaking to the Doctor, after a scene with what appears to be clones or bodies in a large industrial vats of blood. In the background of the vats, you can hear speech. greyblue can't tell what the guy is saying, but it sounds like "Are wa something something"/ Maybe "kore wa". He says 'Its a reference to what you're seeing as they're both demonstrative pronouns, but I don't know what he's saying.'

The Doctors family: A group posing for a picture with the Doctor. We hear "oku sama" meaning "your honorable wife" (your is implied, but you wouldn't use sama for your own wife) and implying that the person spoken to is of higher rank. We get a close-up of a woman in a gold dress, presumably connected to the Doctor, maybe a wife. We hear "ruuna wa dou suru ka?" greyblue is sure about the first word, but says it is probably a name, making this "Luna, how are you doing?"

The Young Woman: On a motorbike, she is briefly shown. It then cuts to her sitting on a bench in an empty hall, looking pensive.

The Doctor's son: The man who was standing beside the Doctor in the picture posing scene is shown dragging a screaming solider across a rumble filled street. Cut to the picture group, and the man is taking to the Doctor. we hear "tomodachi ga tatakatte irun. Jibun dake (something). "Friends are fighting. Only I myself, (something)"

The panicked medic: A man in a facemask monitors a screen and exclaims in panic about what he sees. It appears to be at the same factory as the blood vats. The alarmed guy says "something desu" "It's a something!"

The Dinner Party: The Old Leader, I think, is sitting at an ornate table in a extremely fancy hall, fitted with pillars. He is breathing with a machine that looks like an oxygen mask. A man argues across the table at him, surrounded by standing people, formally dressed. We hear "shinzou saibou wa, mada kansei something" 'As for the heart cell, it still something completed'. Slick is briefly shown, seemingly amused by what the man has to say.

The Young woman from the hall is standing under the blue night sky, holding the hand of someone crouched in pain on the ground, maybe the Cloaked Figure. She is looking at something apprehensively. A group of soldiers run through a corridor, firing. The Old Leader is speaking, face turned down. A man, possibly The Doctor's Son listens with a look of contempt. We hear "Dou yuu koto ga gun gu gao tte yoto yuu koto desu", something like 'What is this thing called 'gun gu gao' ?' (Not very certain about this, sounds odd.) A fleet of bombers fly in formation. A man stumbles in from of a gray building, at the top of set of wide stairs. He holds himself as if he is sick and falls to his knees. A motorbike drives down a highway across a lake, scattering millions of birds into the air.

Another Young couple is holding each other closely, on the shore of a green pond. The woman speaks on the mans shoulder. The girl says, very clearly "Naze hito wa tatakau no kanaa?" 'Why does a man fight I wonder?' (male gender is not implied). She appears to be the other woman from the Doctor's family picture. She looks content, where as the young man appears lost in thought.

A series of quick flashes. The woman in the gold dress appears in an alley, standing over a body, looking upset yelling a question. We hear "something, nani wo shita no desu ka?" 'What is (something) like?', literally something like 'what is its attribute?'. A man with a dirt caked face appears before what look like flames. A young couple, maybe the ones from the pond, lie in the grass. A statue of white marble, of what looks like an angel appears. Two people walk on a snowy mountain top in the distance. A couple is shown by a forest pond, clouded in misty green lights. Someone whispers "ningen wo" meaning 'Humans' as the direct object of an unspoken sentence. A young boy and girl stand together outside. greyblue says the thing said when they show the people laying, and then the mountain I can't follow. "ningen" means "human".

The Man in the White Mud: A man appears caked with white mud. His hair is matted with it, and it streaks on his face. He stares at the camera and calmly says something important, as his eyes flare with intensity. We hear "Minnagoro shiniseru" 'Almost everyone' The end is some conjugation of "shinu" meaning "die" but greyblue don't recognize it. Something like, "Almost everyone will die/is dying/has been dying". This is an important transition. The dreamy, sleepy melodic music from the first half of trailer is over.

A pounding drum and guitar riff punctuate a screen full of marching giant robots, stomping in lockstep and filled with glaring red lights. They pound in unison and spin menacing metal arms. A man stands in a doorway, maybe Slick, screaming into an intercom, clearly panicked. A red cloaked figure rides atop a tank-like carriage, which is traversing its gun to aim at something. Cut to a stunned man, and a figure carrying a woman trough a blasted wall, wreathed in flames.

The young man from the pond is shown. He appears to be the hero, as it seems that he is the figure that was carrying the woman from the flames. He is shown facing the camera, just before some kind of high-tech white armor covers his mouth. He also appears to be the figure crouched in pain from earlier on the steps, and the white clothed hunched figure that the first young woman was holding hands with under the blue moon. From this point, I will call him Cyberninja. He is also likely the Cloaked Figure from the first scene.

The gun is shown; a blast hits a building, causing a huge explosion, which is wreathed in the marching robots. This may be the same building that Slick was yelling in the intercom, and the blast may have created the fiery hole that Cyberninja carried the prone girl.

Cyberninja is shown on a rooftop ledge; look down on throngs of robots. The Man in the White Mud is looking up at him menacingly. He appears to be the red cloaked figure from the tank.

The Doctor is shown holding the Woman in the Gold Dress closely, and she looks shocked or dazed.

Zoom in to the Cyberninja on the roof ledge from the robots on the street. The Man in the White Mud, looking cleaner, but still white-haired, spits out an order to the robot army. We hear "kiisama wa futari da" (greyblue is not sure how you spell that first word, not the sort of thing they put in dictionaries.) but this means "There's two of the bastards!"

Cyberninja jumps from the roof, lands on a robot, and rips its head clean off. A army of vehicles is shown on a blasted plain. Missiles fire and robots explode spectacularly. Cyberninja is shown at the green pond, half armored, screaming angry words. Flash to him at night, armored and glaring at the woman who was holding his hand earlier. She looks shocked. A red haired woman kicks at Cyberninja in room full of paper. Cyberninja looks down a katana blade as he crouches in a stone alley way. His opponent also looks down the blade of his sword and licks his lips. They stand and point blades.

Cyberninja makes a huge karate chop down onto a robot's head. Flash to his hand cleaving the robot in slow motion, from head to crotch, as stares through the spreading crack. The robot bursts into two halves. Flashes of faces and credits in Kanji. A panoramic of a futuristic city with the words CASSHERN shown. We hear a long speech. One of the lines said is "Tetsu no akuma wo tataite kudaku" "(unspecified subject) fightingly smashes the iron devils." (Not sure how to translate it. The verb "to fight" is applied adverbially to the verb "to smash".)

Cyberninja leaps into the air, silhouetted by the blue moon, a metallic hissing sound screaming from him. He spins impossibly fast in a tight ball and rockets toward a giant robot, punching a hole in it like a tank shell. He then falls to his knees in a dramatic pose. Fade to black.

Wow.

Now confused, I turn to E2 for help. Asking around a bit, I find izubachi, who knows a smidge of Japanese. Izu knows a lot more than me, as he pulls a few details out that I had no hope of finding on my own.

He tells me that most of the characters continue talking about, with no small amount of urgency, "shinzou ningen," which he think means 'newly-created human'. The clones from the vats perhaps? He also notes that during the business meeting in the first part of the trailer, one of the men asks respectfully, "What are you going to do now?”. The Woman in the Gold dress, when standing in the alleyway with the body, asks "What the hell are you?" and at one point the Cyberninja declares decisively that, "I'm not at all a human being!"

Fascinating what you can dig up if ask around. I speak to greyblue, who gives me an amazing rundown of what is being said, which I have added above. On a whim, I try www.casshern.com, a site that did not exist as briefly as yesterday. It works! I pulled this synopsis from there:

An alternate world with an alternate history.

The entire planet was divided between two opposing alliances. After fifty years if bitter warfare, the greater Eastern Federation triumphs over the forces of Europe and gains dominion over the Eurasian continent. It is an empty victory. Years of chemical, biological and nuclear war have poisoned the land and left an exhausted population at the mercy of every pestilence and newly mutated disease

There is little hope for the future. Debate rages over the chance of finding some way to stave off the end of civilization.

One man comes forward with a solution. Dr. Azuma is a geneticist who proposes a "neo-cell" treatment that can rejuvenate the body and regenerate humankind. He is driven in his studies by a desire to save his wife Midoru, from the ravaged of pollution related disease

He appeals for funding to the government, but politicians in the Health ministry turn him down, fearing the new technology will threaten their entrenched powers

However, a sinister faction in the powerful military makes a secret offer to provide the support he needs for the research

When an incident occurs in the lab that sends the professor's neo-cell experiment haywire, a race of mutant human beings (shinzo ningen) is release upon he world.

Instead of saving the world, the Professor's miraculous technology looks set to threaten its very existence.

Also, RoguePoet sent me this translation that was posted to slashdot. Again, the accuracy of this piece is debatable, but it helps the uninitiated listener. Here is the time-cued script in its entirety:

00:00:02 I'd like to present, to this body, one of our accomplishments.
00:00:13 It's name is "neo-biology." more like "newly created bio"
00:00:17 You've made all these already?
00:00:19 I've heard your wife is ill...
00:00:25 What are you going to do about Luna?
00:00:28 I can't stay alone in a place like this when my friends are fighting.
00:00:30 Cause unknown!
00:00:31 "Neo-biology"is still incomplete?!
00:00:38 What are you saying?
00:00:40 That the military is moving. its forces, etc, whatever
00:00:44 I wonder why people fight...
00:00:46 What have you done?
00:00:49 Beats me
00:00:53 I'm going...
00:00:57 ...to annihilate the human race.
00:01:03 Code 2-0-6!
00:01:04 Hurry! DO IT!
00:01:13 I will save you.
00:01:17 Who the hell are you?
00:01:22 I'm not human anymore!!
00:01:35 One life, cast aside
00:01:39 and reborn with an invulnerable body
00:01:41 will strike and destroy the iron demons.
00:01:45 If Casshern doesn't do it,
00:01:47 who will?

In addition to that tidbit, jasonm sent me a few links to the 1970s anime series named Shinzo Ningen Kyasshan that the movie is apparently based on over at greencine:

http://www.japanhero.com/animation%20hero%20reviews/casshan.htm
and
http://www.japanhero.com/profiles/casshan_ova_profileL.htm
and
http://www.phantasmagoriaonline.com/reviews/anime/casshan.htm

It looks to be quite the film. I can hardly wait!

Thanks to izubachi,greyblue,RoguePoet and jasonm for their help.
http://www.apple.co.jp/quicktime/trailers/casshern_large.html

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