Casshan: Robot Hunter is a 1993 OVA series from Tatsunoko Production, spanning four episodes. It is based on characters from Tatsunoko’s 1973 television series, whittling the narrative down to roughly two hours in total. The franchise and character are also more commonly known as Casshern, though the OVA series has retained the Casshan name up through its most recent North American release. Some of you reading this may be familiar with the protagonist through his appearances in the series Casshern Sins, the live-action movie Casshern, or perhaps the Wii fighting game Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All Stars.
Casshan is the tale of a boy and his dog. That is, a boy that has chosen to give up his humanity to become an android, and his robotic dog with the ability to transform into a jet. The boy, the teenage son of a brilliant scientist, allows himself to be merged with an android body when an AI designed by his father, Black King Boss, determines that the best way to save Earth’s environment is subjugate humanity.
Giving up his former life, Tetsuya becomes Casshan, a being powerful enough to destroy Black King Boss’s neoroid warriors with his bare hands. As the world has fallen into war-torn desolation, Casshan is the only one with the strength to make headway against the neoroid army with the aid of his robotic dog Friender, as well as his mother, whose will lives on in a robotic swan that Black King Boss keeps as a pet of sorts.
Casshan’s only human ally is Luna Kouzuki, Tetsuya’s girlfriend, and the daughter of a friend of Tetsuya’s father. Doctors Azuma and Kouzuki both were disgraced in the neoroid uprising, with Azuma being blamed as its creator and Kouzuki for being his supporter. While their means and abilities differ substantially, both Casshan and Luna wish to redeem their fathers through the defeat of Black King Boss.
Though it was made in 1993, the OVA still retains much of the visual flair of the original television series from two decades prior. The primary characters remain distinctive in their appearances, but with all of the benefits that twenty years of advancements in animation and an OVA production budget and schedule can provide. Each of the four episodes contains beautiful artwork and entertaining action that highlights just how superhuman Casshan is.
Casshan isn’t invincible, however. His body requires solar power for energy, and as the series progresses, he begins to wear down. He’s also conflicted; he no longer considers himself Tetsuya Azuma, and at first tries to stay distant from Luna after they’re reunited. Yet he keeps in contact with his mother, who visits him periodically in the body of the swan to aid him, and he fights to redeem his father. He recognizes that he’s no longer human and will likely never be human again, but regardless of that, he can’t entirely fight Luna’s still-strong feelings for him.
He also can’t deny that, at least on some level, Black King Boss is fulfilling Dr. Azuma’s orders, despite how their meanings have been twisted. As Black King Boss has taken over the world, he uses his resources to restore the environment that the humans destroyed. But he does this all for the sake of creating a neoroid utopia while cowing humanity. Despite what benefits Black King Boss’s aims may have, Casshan ultimately fights for the humans as their last and only hope, pushing his body to its limits.
Casshan: Robot Hunter holds up remarkably well. Though it’s been twenty years since its release (and forty since the premiere of the original series), it does a remarkable job in delivering the essence of Casshern. It’s short and sweet, but it’s a demonstration of Tatsunoko Production in fine form.
Casshan: Robot Hunter was released in North America on DVD by Eastern Star, a Discotek Media label, under the title Casshan: Robot Hunter Casshern. The release features both the original Japanese with English subtitles, as well as the English dub previously produced by Streamline Pictures. It is not rated, but contains violence and brief nudity.