In a distant future, Earth has become a wasteland and humanity as we know it has died out. All that remains are sentient robots. They were supposed to be able to live forever—until the one called Luna died and The Ruin started. Their bodies will rust, and there is nothing that can be done to fix it. Now the robots are left only to contemplate their deaths, kept going only by the rumor that if they eat the one called Casshern they will gain immortality.
Casshern knows nothing about his past, why he exists or what he is, but he must find out or he will face the constant torment of being hunted by robots who don’t want to die. Casshern leaves death wherever he goes, but he must face it if he is to find out the truth of this world.
Casshern Sins is not for everyone. The show pretty much moves at one pace, and that pace is ’slow’. There is a lot of silence, introspection, and philosophical dialog. Ordinarily, this would make one assume the show is pretentious (especially since it has a lot of similarities to Texhnolyze), but it really isn’t. Casshern has a very simple plot, very simple dialog, and is easy to understand, so people looking for a mind-blower won’t find it here. The plot and messages of Casshern Sins are much more along the lines of Kino’s Journey or Mushi-shi. However, just like action fans will be turned off by
the slow pace, fans of more quiet, contemplative anime might be turned off by the fact that there is at least one fight scene per episode and they can at times be lengthy. So the niche here is kind of small, requiring that you like a good variety of styles. I happen to fall into that niche.
Like most good shows, Casshern is amazing in a number of areas and wouldn’t be the same without any of them. The soundtrack, voice acting, animation, directing, fights, dialog, art - everything aligns just right to create a show that is just about perfect for what it is. I’ll be getting into detail on that now.
Casshern Sins has a very powerful and gripping soundtrack composed by Kaoru Wada (Princess Tutu, Tekkaman Blade, To Heart). The songs are all symphonic, ranging from minimalist and pretty to towering and sinister. The loud songs are very intensely dramatic and dark to the point that some (like the first track Sins) sound outright evil. (Interestingly, that song sounds like the symphonic version of an Opeth song.) The calmer songs are usually very airy and often acoustic-guitar driven. They definitely evoke images of Casshern’s world where you’ve heard them in the background. While either type is great, I prefer the calm songs if only because the more dramatic ones would go better with the show.
There is something very mysterious but also very charming about these calmer songs. They bring a sense of wonder mixed with familiarity. It’s a sense like seeing something totally new, but so enthralling that it feels like home. The ultimate song that captures this feeling is ‘Memory Past’ which is the song that usually played whenever Casshern met someone new and learned their story. The closest real musical comparison I have for this OST is the music in Phendrana Drifts in Metroid Prime which has always been some of my favorite composition. In the context of the series, all of the songs work superbly well to add ten extra layers of tone onto the already tone-tacular series. The music is notable straight from episode 1, which I guess it’d have to be to make me go and find the OST.
In addition to the OST, there has been a Best Theme Collection from this series. The show has one opening theme (Aoi Hana by color bottle) and 3 endings (Reason by KANA, Aoi Kage by Otoya Kichiemon, and Hikari to Kage by Kuno Shinji), the second of which is only used for one episode. The best theme collection has the op and main eds in TV size, several instrumental versions of Aoi Kage, two original tracks by Wada Kaoru, two important vocal insert songs from te series (Sky and A Path by Nami Miyahara who voices Lyuze), and finally, both the original Tatakae! Casshan! theme and a new, heavy version of the song by Otoya Kichiemon.
I personally didn’t care much for the 2 main eds, but I found myself completely unable to skip the op for even one episode. It is easily one of my favorite opening songs in a while. Aoi Kage and the modern Tatakae! Casshan! are both awesome because they manage to play heavy metal acoustics. Anything that can do that is automatically awesome. The old-school Tatakae! Casshan! is the ultimate great touch for lovers of old-school tatsunoko songs. However, great as that all is, Sky and A Path were the real reasons I was interested in this release. These songs made episode 8 of the show amazing and reappear at many great moments later in the show. Both are extemely pretty and wonderful, and Nami Miyahara’s English is excellent (evidently she studied English in Australia).
It’s worth making the statement that Casshern Sins has some of the coolest sound effects ever. The effects during fights are visceral, intense, and completely full of impact. Care was taken to make the sound effects just right and give every hit that needed extra edge. I’m thinking that they made a lot of the effects in the studio, seeing as there were very organic sounds of like pots breaking or the creak of metal. It’s pretty rare I think these days for so much craft to go into sound effects in anime, so it’s pretty notable when it does.
As far as voice acting goes, this show amassed a royal fuckton of talent. Being as there were so many minor characters, a lot of voices were required, and Madhouse didn’t skip out on giving every single character a standout voice. For starters, Casshern himself is voiced by Tohru Furuya (certainly most notable as freaking Amuro Ray, as well as Tuxedo Mask, Pegasus Seiya, and Yamcha) which is a very interesting performance. The voice of Casshern is certainly unique, sounding strong but never stern, and in pain but never really weak. The voice adds a lot of mystery to the character, sounding like the robot he is, who doens’t quite understand emotion even though he seems to feel it. The best part though is his wails in agony which are used frequently when Casshern’s body self-repairs. That dude’s wails are frightening.
Nami Miyahara plays Lyuze with the perfect mixture of resolve, confusion, rage, and love. Like Casshern, hers is a very distinct voice. Yuko Minaguchi (Videl - Dragonball, Yawara, Akiko - Kanon) does a completely superb job as Ringo. She should be cast as every single little kid in anime. I’ve never heard a kid voice that managed to sound young and yet in no way annoying. Best kid voice ever. ‘Cho‘ reprises his role as every old man in anime, lol. Akiko Yajime (Diva - Blood+, Shin-chan, Relena Peacecraft, Kuu - Haibane - damn that’s range) brings her mysterious voice to Luna which tricks you with it’s very regal sound until you start to see another side… well that’s a spoiler. Kenji Utsumi (Shenlong - DBZ, Zodd - Berserk, Lt. Armstrong - FMA) is Braiking Boss who he played in the old version of the show as well, bringing a nostalgia factor.
Toshiyuki Morikawa (Who is in everything. His list is totally nuts.) is awesome as Dio. He plays the perfect rival character. His voice has a darkness to it, but not like an evil bad-dude, more like a man driven by dark purposes but full of resolve, which Dio is. Mami Koyama (Lunch - Dragonball - yes, most of the cast worked on Dragonball, Balalaika - Black Lagoon) brings the thunder as Leda who is convincingly evil and conceited, but also has an inner emotional side. Some of my favorite minor character performances include Mami Koyama’s second roll as Lizbell in episode 7 (which is interestng because Koyama is Tohru Furuya’s ex-wife, which when you think about it makes certain scenes very awkward), Tomoko Akiya whose performance as Sophita is borderline creepy and very fun, and Taeka Kawata who plays Nico, the little girl whose brain has been fried.
Casshern Sins is animated by Madhouse. The dudes who brought you (alphabetically) Black Lagoon, Boogiepop Phantom, Death Note, Dennou Coil, Gunslinger Girl, Nana, everything Satoshi Kon, Texhnolyze, Trigun, and X, just to name a few. If you’ve seen none of those, I’ll just say it - they have incredibly high production quality and have been around forever. To give you an idea of how high their budget is, the first half of Casshern Sins aired simultaneously with three other Madhouse shows, the second half with one, all of which had unfaltering high-quality animation throughout. There is pretty much no other studio who can do something like that. So it really comes as no surprise when I say that Casshern Sins has incredibly beautiful animation.
The most instantly and consistently notable thing about Casshern’s art is the luscious backgrounds. The background art is almost incomparably beautiful - almost. Probably only one show matches up to it, it being Mushi-shi, which is why it’s no surprise that Yoshihiko Umakoshi was the art director and character designer for both series (a dual job he’s done for Zipang, Street Fighter Alpha, and Boys Over Flowers, none of which I’ve seen. He also did it for Air Master which doesn’t matter because that show is fugly, probably thanks to budget.) I’ve actually watched an interview with this guy on one of the Mushi-shi DVDs and while he is very boring to listen to, I do remember him saying that he was a perfectionist and would always stress that there be boatloads of detail in the backgrounds, which I guess he’s still up to.
Casshern’s art is almost always barren, lifeless, and cold. The world of Casshern faces ruin (basically, apocalypse) and so there is little life to be found. The landscape is jagged and covered in large mountains, hills, valleys, craters, and deserts of sand and snow. Remnants of civilization can be found, some cold cities have buildings that still tower while others have fallen apart and buildings have become decrepit husks. Some places have become so dry and ruined that the ground has actually crystallized and cracks under every step. Occasionally, though, there are places of lush, brimming life to be found. Secret gardens surviving in caves or wellsprings and oceans. There is definitely a sense of mystery to the world that you can find anything if you look around enough. And, as a character in one episode teaches Casshern, every place in this world is beautiful. As a big fan of dystopic art, I found myself completely enraptured in these wastelands as much as I was mystified by the lush outcropping of life in unexpected places.
Umakoshi’s character designs are drop-dead gorgeous. It takes skills to make a masked superhero with a big red C on his chest and ornamental horns on his helmet fit into a dark, somber setting. But, somehow, he’s done it. Casshern looks like a badass but also looks like he fits into the setting. He is supposed to be a beautiful person, and it’s certainly visible in his design. All of the characters are very tall and lanky, almost like CLAMP designs, but have an added sharpness to them and are actually consistent. I can easily call them some of the best character designs I’ve seen in anime.
What’s most impressive, though, is that a definitive 70s style remains ingrained into the designs. Every one has absurdly big hair and their facial features are very old-school. However, these elements have been perfectly crafted so that the designs still look modern and not ridiculous as they often do when new shows try to use old style. The robots especially represent the old school with their very basic designs, but they have a bloodthirstiness about their designs that makes it unsurprising when they are killing machines. Overall, I’d say my favorite designs from the series were definitely Lyuze and Luna.
Naturally, since this is Madhouse, there are also plenty of exemplary animation techniques. Unfortunately, ANN doesn’t have any animators listed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hiroyuki Imaishi’s (director of Gurren Lagann and animator of all those wacky scenes in shows like FLCL, Mahoromatic, and even FullMetal Alchemist) name ended up on that list since his trademark over-the-top and hyperactive style is used in many of the fights. The show features a lot of ‘sketchy lines‘ and badass shadow effects. The fight scenes often contain mind-blowing animation tricks that will make people who notice these things cream a huge load.
I think that series director and storyboarder Shigeyasu Yamauchi probably had the biggest impact on the way this series turned out. As you can see on his ANN page, he directed a bunch of the Dragon Ball/Z and Saint Seiya movies and had involvement with their main series (and going by their ANN pages, he would have had experience with nearly all of this show’s seiyuu during those times). The experience with those series can be seen heavily in the fight scenes. When Casshern and Dio fight, nearly every strike rockets someone into a wall which explodes just as the other fighter shoots at them like a bullet for the next blow. There are several scenes where the ground around Dio craters under the sheer fluctuation of his power. Yamauchi definitely wanted to bring the scope and intensity of a DBZ fight to this series, which is something I personally have always wanted to see done in a serious anime. It is made a thousand times better by the huge budget of the show which allows the fights to look amazing, cool, and fluid.
Yamauchi definitely has a great sense of dramatic cinematography. Every shot is carefully composed to look as cool as possible, with characters nearly always in some kind of dramatic pose and the light hitting them just right. This is taken to an almost hilarious extent in some of Casshern’s fights against robot armies because he will literally attack them by kind of jumping at them, striking an epic pose, and somehow causing them to explode. Lighting is impeccable and the use of color is very important. Most of the show has a sort of blue and grey hue to it, but when other colors appear they are striking and noticeable against the backdrop of blue. Overall, I think Yamauchi just does a splendid job and probably had a lot of fun with it.
The overall plot in Casshern Sins is so simple that I could detail the whole thing thoroughly in a small paragraph (but I won’t for spoilers’ sake.) The show’s focus is more on the themes that drive the series and the characters representing or interacting with those themes. That said, while the plot is simple, it is very well-presented and interesting, making it a great driving force for the action and themes.
All of the show’s themes relate directly to the conflict between life and death. The dark, barren world of Casshern is on it’s way to ruin and death is ever-present. Every person is directly grappling with death and the end of the world, and those who don’t die just from the ruin usually die at the hands of other robots, especially if they try to attack Casshern. There are few characters who survive their own episode, much less the whole show.
What Casshern, who is immortal, learns in his travels through the dying world is how death effects different people (usually robots). Most of the world desperately clings to life. The strong robots fight and kill each other constantly to steal each other’s parts and try to prolong their lives. The weak search for any means of survival, clinging to little hopes or loosing to despair. Some merely accept the ruin as pleasantly as they can, but more often than not they will turn from this mindset at the slightest sight of hope - namely, the supposed immortality that one will gain if they devour Casshern.
However, not everyone is desperately clinging to life. Casshern encounters some robots and humans who aspire to something without the fear of death. Some teach him that the world is beautiful even in ruin, that there is hope in the world, or that they can live forever in the things that they leave behind. Casshern’s conflict becomes whether or not eternal life is justified or death necessary. He is torn between the sadness of death and the liveliness brought out by it’s presence.
The themes of each episode are interesting and deep, sometimes moving, and more so as they culminate into the over-arching theme. Casshern, as a stark contrast to the world around him that he desperately tries to understand, makes for the perfect receptacle to these themes.
Casshern Sins features surprisingly complex main characters in light of it’s simplistic plot and usually episodic nature. Casshern himself starts off as basically a blank slate with no memories and only knowledge as far as he learns from others. As he experiences the world, he has to weigh his experiences against each other to figure out his own beliefs. His character is kept interesting by the conflicting ideas he develops in relation to those experiences.
Lyuze’s conflict is between her desire to kill Casshern because of him ruining the world, effectively killing her sister, and her growing care for him and changing perception of the world. Casshern’s first companion, Friender, has some pretty great development considering that he is a robot dog who cannot speak. Friender’s emotions are represented through actions, and in those actions we see how he slowly transitions from hating Casshern to trusting him and eventually both protecting him and keeping him under control.
Without spoiling, the villains, Leda and Dio, have their own interesting development. Dio has dreamed of nothing but killing Casshern, while Leda is using dio to try and make the world her own. Each of them is thoroughly explored and developed. Luna, Oji, and Braiking Boss are also great characters with a lot of development, but those are spoilers.
There are a whole plethora of minor characters, most of whom appear just for one episode. Every one of these characters feels alive - they don’t merely expunge their beliefs onto Casshern, but show him the way that they live (or, of course, die) through their actions. Characters come in all variety of personality, shape, and size. (inside joke) Casshern could be said to have the best pseudo-harem since Ginko from Musi-shi.
Casshern Sins is episodic much in the same sense as Cowboy Bebop. The chains of episodic parts are broken up by plot-related episodes, the major characters get their own introspective episodes, and the last group of episodes form the conclusion. There were a couple of less-than-amazing episodes (I remember finding 15 and 16 a bit boring and 21 is kind of ill-done but the next episode justifies it) but otherwise, every episode was great.
All of the plot episodes were superb, especially whenever Casshern and Dio fought, which was always quite epic. Besides the wonderful climactic episodes, I pretty much had 4 favorites. Episode 7, where a woman in a high tower teaches Casshern about the beauty of this ruined world - Episode 8, where a woman wants to spread hope through her song - Episode 12, where a man tries to paint his city his color so that the world will remember him - and Episode 18, and excellent cuckoo nest episode into Lyuze’s psyche.
As I stated in the beginning, Casshern Sins is definitely not for everyone. If you like all kinds of anime regardless of genre and are easily interested in something without it having to be fast-paced, Casshern may be for you. If you’ve always wished that the philosophical plots of pretentious anime would mix with the good fun and awesome fights of shounen action, Casshern may be for you. However, if slowness leaves you bored or action leaves you disinterested, you’ll want to stay away. For me, the show was everything I could have wanted and filled a niche that I’ve long waited for an anime to fill.
What would you do if you couldn't change your fate? Would you grasp at any slither of hope that presents itself, even if that hope required you to hurt someone else? Or would you accept your fate? Just letting it pass over you? This is one of the many questions that Casshern Sins asks. "What is the answer" you might wonder? Well, let us sit down together and discuss it shall we.
Casshern Sins is a remarkable feat, in that it somehow captures every single, minute detail of the human spirit. It achieves this by starting from the very basics and quickly developing on the basics
as the series moves on.
One thing that really took me in, is how Casshern Sins truly captured my fear of death. It achieved this through an odd but clever display of writing, by showing us that even the machines that we make will some day fall into decline as rusting scrap metal.
I for one like to identify myself through the materials that I collect and make, and even this review right here is constructing another aspect of myself. Casshern Sins asks, what is the point of all this? I believe the materials that remain after my death will serve as a reminder of my existence, but nothing can escape the harsh reality of time and a millenium from now, it is an almost inescapable fact that those materials that I had so carefully constructed, so thoughtfully made, will just vanish. It is quite frightening and puts true emphasis on the word death.
Things change however, a chance of hope comes along. An ideal that preserves life, immortality.
Many religious affiliations pervade Casshern Sins series. God from the perspective of Catholicism promises a chance of eternal life, I make this comparison as Sins as a robot stands as a metaphor for this deity, a promise for immortality. Building on that concept, the precious beautiful skin of his body only serves to emphasize the prize of such a trait, but being immortal comes at a price. A price that one may not expect. As time wears on, one discovers an infinite sea of potentials, this quest to transcend the boundaries between being just a simple robot engineered to destroy, to becoming 'human', not physically but consciously has begun, but once this has been achieved. Who is left to bear witness it? Even though this concept and theme is not exactly original, it must be said that Casshern Sins is particularly noteworthy on how it manages to effectively show this journey of emotional discovery in every excruciatingly painful detail.
Watching this show reminded me of Paulo Coelho's quote "It is the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary" and it is the simple things in life that Casshern Sins detaches from and allows us to witness as realistically as possible; both the efforts and dramas to recapture these important and sometimes trivial things, but it is these aspects that only elevate the potency of Sins journey. Even when the helping hand of a loyal friend may seem far away, capturing that relatable and simple essence of loneliness has rarely ever made such a profound impact.
A negative aspect to the story can largely be centered on the extremely pessimistic nature of the series and it can arguably fall into the category of angsty melodrama rather than insightful, and many of the concepts that are brought up through the entire series can come across as completely redundant by the series conclusion simply because of the handling. One scene that I wanted to bring up in particular is a scene where a robot finally submits to her desire of wanting to be immortal after reflecting for an entire episode that she wants to die naturally. Whilst it was certainly a powerful scene at the time, thinking back on it, the series only seems to want to be as depressing as possible. Whilst this isn't always a bad thing, it comes across as forced, and lacks a level of fluidity.
However, with those observations out of the way, it still can't be dismissed that the overall series has very solid writing and is riveting in how it plays out. Never failing to provide a delicate balance of answers to the many questions that the series asks.
Much of Casshern Sins' characters are truly integral to the story that the show is telling, and because of the theme heavy story in respect with the series episodic nature. It is only inevitable that many new characters are constantly introduced in order to represent another aspect of a philosophical question/s that the series imposes. A lot of the characters become representations for the themes of mostly hope and despair, but entangles within many varying levels of regret, remorse, guilt, jealousy, occasional romantic struggle and sometimes optimism.
Considering the series episodic nature, a large majority of the episodes do an absolutely splendid job of building characters in such a short time and it is a truly commendable aspect because at times I was almost pushed to tears in some of the more powerful episodes. Saying that, I will have to discredit some of the episodes for having an inconsistent quality, this inconsistency is mostly due to the characters that are being presented, but for the most part the character development is well above average and occasionally phenomenal but these cases are few and far between.
I can only appreciate the characters so far though, because as I said previously there is a varying level of quality in the development of many of the characters, another problem I had with the characters is that many of them have very similar intentions throughout the entire series, it can get a little repetitive at times. Adding onto that; some characters only seemed to be placed there to plunge Sins into a more intense state of guilt and regret. Even though this can be perceived as a problem. The fact remains that this can be ignored to an extent because these characters show that this the series is remaining true to the premise that it has given and does not cop-out, even at the moments when the series becomes unbearable.
Many of the motivations for the characters are understandable, as a dying breed of life suffering from an incurable disease; I imagine it would only be natural for someone to carry out desperate measures when they have been pushed to their breaking point. This is one theme that Casshern Sins portrays better than anything else.
The series artwork does nothing but do what it sets out to do, abysmal and ruined, wrapped up in an unusual mixture of bluish-greyish brownish textures that builds the apocalyptic landscape with powerful ease.
The series takes time to build on its own sorrow in order to emphasize some lovely landscapes that capture the quintessential and brooding style that is reminiscent of an Edward Hoppers painting, two that come to mind are "The Lighthouse at Two Lights", and "Screaming Monkey Drive In", pleasant to look at but cringing with a landscape of heart-ache and desperation.
Much of the animation is carefully designed. One noticeable moment was a touch of rust painted below the eye-line of a robot. The moment was heart-breaking and is something that took me by absolute surprise. Rust is deterioration and its symbolic connotation within this scene was used to its utmost potential.
I always look forward to bear witness to the fascinating ideas of art that series from Madhouse Animation studios have to offer and Casshern Sins is a beautiful edition to the collection that is sure to become an influence in the future.
One thing I noticed about the OST was the consistently monotonous style across the board. Which certainly works in the series favor, but a couple of tracks stood out for me: the first one being "Roamer" as it captured the image of one man, simply standing a-top a hill graced in a red sunset, contemplating as to where his feet will take him next, it's a classic pose and one that holds much weight.
The second one was "Memory Past", I'm not entirely sure what it was about this track but it just pushed a button in me. It was like I was floating in a sea of water feeling the waves softly carrying me. An interesting perspective to say the least, but I couldn't help picturing myself as a robot resting in the sand of the shallows feeling the water brush over me. It was a vivid moment, and a beautifully foolish one, it is simply a moment of passing time awaiting the day of no-return.
At the time of watching this series. I think I was in the exact state of mind that was required to enjoy Casshern Sins and I finished it up in a marathon sitting. I tend to love a nice happy show as much as the next fellow but my thirst for drama can be over-bearing at times and Casshern Sins knew how to keep me glued to the couch. I was engaged with every detail that was playing out before me and every bit of terror, every moment of blissful decadence only served to invoke a greater emotional response from me. Those special moments of heart-ache scattered throughout, only serves my interest as keeping Casshern Sins as a worthy investment of my time for years to come.
From what has been discussed I believe that Casshern Sins is a fantastic work, capturing every rigid emotion of the human spirit and melding every element so effectively. Constantly serving as a reminder to the breadth of questions that have been brought up and sought after in this series. Deep, often beautiful questions that serves as a recipe for sympathy and empathy towards all its characters as you bear witness to there destruction.
I find it difficult to recommend this series mostly due to its overbearingly negative nature, and time has shown that not many people like pessimistic series. Nevertheless, for all of those out there who can withstand or perhaps immerse themselves in Casshern Sins battlefield of depression, they will surely find solace in the beauty of its melancholy.
When it comes to an experimental anime like this, it’s quite difficult to give a conventional score. Even more so, Casshern Sins tends to polarize the audience into two groups: either calling it a work of art or being bored as hell by it.
Here’s a good test whether you may or may not like it.
Are you an anime fan one who:
A) Tolerates a continuously oppressively grim atmosphere and a snail-paced plot?
B) Forgives gaping plot holes for the sake of appreciating the heavy symbolism and existentialism?
C) Is fine with an acrobatic fist-fight for every single episode?
D) Doesn’t mind sparse dialogue, one-note and
melodramatic characters, and numerous silent introspections?
E) All of the above
If you picked choice E, the chances are in your favor and you may like this style over substance anime.
**No Spoilers really. And I’ll be vague in the analysis as for the most part, you should be the one doing that. Keep in mind, that it can be a depressing anime. **
Concepts, Character, Story-
It doesn’t have much of a plot but has some unique and interesting concepts.
The first half starts episodically, featuring heavily on the surrounding bleak world. Our main protagonist, Casshern, wanders around the barren wasteland and sees how the various humans and robots react towards this post-apocalyptic event that he caused. Suffering from amnesia, he intends to find answers in his placement for this world. Meanwhile, the second half starts explaining the mysteries of what occurs. But it never gets fully resolved and makes gigantic jumps in the narrative. There were sudden shifts in characterization and in the end, becomes incredibly ambiguous.
As for the cast of characters, “naturally wooden” would be the best way to describe them.
The main quintet of Casshern, Lyuze, Ringo, Ouji and Friender appear one-note and simple to evaluate. Their dialogue is sparse, often calling each other’s name many times or simply staying silent the entire time in an artistic way. Also, Casshern may seem also too melodramatic at first, but very slowly develops because of the other characters. The antagonists and robots (if I can even call them antagonists) have simple motives but gets confusing as it changes pace in the second half and stumbles itself near the end.
Regardless of their flat characterization, they give out further meaning towards this post-apocalyptic world in a crucial, yet subtle way. However, for Casshern Sins, it becomes a double-edged sword as non-recurring secondary characters of each episode suffer from redundancy. There are no surprises from seeing what may occur to them (it’s quite predictable and repetitive), but taken upon further necessary examination, they provide some heavy symbolism that manages to be new in its own right episodically.
In all, it depicts a metaphorical setting that not many anime generally would take. There are lengths for ambiguity for it and different interpretations on what they may mean. However, most of the themes are rooted in existentialism and the meaning of life.
Granted, despite its slow pacing and episodic format, I had to binge watch this over the course of 3 days as I’ll end up forgetting the impact of the setting and atmosphere.
Sound and Art/Animation-
As for the OST, Kaoru Wada made it seem like a déjà vu for his InuYasha’s OST. Seriously, I could replace some of the tracks and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. However, it does well to bring out the bleak aspects of the atmosphere and manages to blend into the ambiance. The opening “Aoi Hana” by Color Bottle has a catchy sound that I like but doesn’t fit well overall.
On the other hand, “A Path” sung by Nami Miyahara has some pretty good English pronunciations (even more so with the English version by Caitlin Glass) and bears weight to the overall themes to the anime. It’s very emotionally moving, but it noticeably gets repeated a couple times, though.
Voice acting for both English and Japanese carry out their part when necessary and manages to project the character's angst for catharsis. One thing that I may have overlooked would be the sound effects. The visceral crunches of the iron clad robots and the most minor of movements such as rustling fabric embellish the complexion of its environment even when dialogue remains tacit. And there are occasions of a show-and-don't-tell presentation.
When it comes visually, it does well for it. It’s Madhouse what do you expect.
The brown rusting of the robots gives a good contrast to the azure sky. The details are quite beautiful to gaze especially since not much else is going on. The specks of dust and other particles splinter into the air on many occasions and it's very aesthetically pleasing especially with the flora that sometimes gets presented.
Childlike character designs are juxtaposed towards its more depressing background. The contours are bold and sleek but details are quite simple. The animation features very solid figures with hand-to-hand combat, although I can’t help but easily see the numerous repetitions of each scene. I distinctly remember certain fights and robots being re-used. Because of these repetitions, it makes it feel even more monotonous. It's a bit unique though as choreographed scenes quickly pan to the smaller details of the area rather than focusing on the characters, having that elegant flair.
While certainly not the most high-budgeted and most amazing animation, its presentation and style is what makes work well for the atmosphere and the anime as a whole.
What made me enjoy this anime would be its world. The pacing is intentionally slow and not hamfisted with details, allowing for some thought-provoking ideas on existentialism to leak through. It establishes that ambiance and truly makes it a post-apocalyptic world. Because of this, even if I found many scenes to be melodramatic and not relatable, it manages to get me emotionally that some other anime can’t pull off.
It takes the conventional heroism where the main character is OP, and there are continuous strings of fights for a sense of justice. However, it subverts it as the fights are never thrilling, mostly everyone (including the antagonists) are victims of the decaying society, and the meaning to continue to pursue a goal is grimly lost as one mindlessly wanders around the world, knowing that he is different and must be alone as he loses everyone around him.
Once it starts trying to unravel its mystery, my focus shifted towards that and I was expecting some sort of large revelation that would solve everything. But it doesn’t. Near the end, the pacing speeds up, makes a large shift in unresolved details, and fizzles out in the end.
If I would make an analogy, it’s kind of like Ouji’s dilapidated jeep. It works well slowly, but when it puts the pedal to the metal and makes a large U-turn, the rusted parts start crumbling away because of the Ruin. At least there is still some meaning for that ending.
Overall- a mid-high 7/10 (Good, not average)
The flaws are apparent such as its monotonous pacing and unrealistic characters. If taken at face-value, this anime will be a terrible chore. This anime is not the most accessible as it doesn’t cater the audience’s general accustomed tastes. However, its quality is mostly based on the eye of the beholder through individual experience and appreciation for analyzing. If read in-between the lines in its atmospheric presentation, it will be a unique experience that few ever dwell upon.
Erected from the pillars that once cradled human civilization, the Robotic Empire reached its pinnacle under the iron-clad rule of Braiking Boss and the grace of the Sun that was called Moon. Then came the Ruin, and with it the end of those fabled days. Once thought immortal, the empire, its structures and citizens, and even nature itself into rust and decay and death. A landscape dotted with the deceased and dying, attributed to the sins of one machine... Casshern.
Directed by Shingeyasu Yamauchi, scripted by Reiko Yoshida and Yasuko Kobayashi, and produced by Madhouse, whose resume includes the popular Death Note, the recent Chihayafuru, the
somber Gunslinger Girl, and the short Death Billiards, Casshern Sins is a reboot of earlier Casshern franchises, Shinzou Nigen Casshern and Casshern: Robot Hunter. The old-school character design by Yoshihiko Umakoshi is meant to be a tribute to those earlier eras of Casshern and anime itself. This new reincarnation, however, takes more similarities in substance from, say, the Rebuild of Evangelion than the Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica Movies in that they both seek to tell their own separate tales. However, unlike the Rebuild of Evangelion, a copy and paste of personality and drive of its earlier counterpart, Neon Genesis Evangelion, this show hosts vastly dissimilar character backstories and motivations. Now, as grave his deed may be of killing Luna and, consequently, unleashing the Ruin, the Casshern the audience follows at the show's opening, as opposed to the Casshern of flashbacks, has no recollection of his deed nor much knowledge of the consequences of the devastation aside for the obvious absence of life from organisms and machines alike, hounded by hordes of robotic thugs wishing to consume his flesh so they can live forever, or so the rumor goes (a fallacious conclusion due to Casshern somehow gaining immortal himself) and Lyuze, a robot in the likeness of a woman, that seeks vengeance for his supposed crimes. Yes, robots are defined, in part, by gender. It's not for guttural reasons for once, mind you.
Consider the philosophical classification of being and personhood. Being refers to concrete qualities such as a blood vessel or a wired transistor, whereas personhood refers to more abstract qualities, yet qualities the majority of us can't deny doesn't exist, such as emotion, reason, and free will. Now, put aside any preconceived notions of mechanical agents save their hardware and understand that the robots in this setting are both beings and persons, much as humans typically are. Factoring the fact that a robot can exist indefinitely and coupling it with the effects of the Ruin, these elements are a conceptual build for this question: how would one react when suddenly confronted with the reality of mortality? It's something humanity has long since acknowledged, but robot-kind? What we have here isn't mainly sci-fi or action. People looking for primarily one or the other will be disappointed. Instead, we have life's meaning. If you're not interested in topics pertaining to existentialism, as too many people are unfortunately, then you might want to pass this show by. If you are, then, by all means... read on.
Casshern and ourselves ignorant of the Ruin, its effects on all persons, places, and things it encompasses, we learn about this destitute world's people as well as the world itself bit by bit through his eyes, his encounters. Each of these encounters follow an episodic format: the inhabitants of the hospice, the man who coughs blood, the angel of ruin, the maker of bells, the singer, the artist, etc. Some romantic, others tragic, still others enigmatic, but most... inspiring, and soon a theme takes shape. A matter of living vs. existing. Our female warrior confronts the same internal conflict in Episode 20, complete with a host of surreal spatterings. Kudos to Madhouse, or rather, some studio other than Shaft, for putting the effort to experiment, to challenge the bounds of what constitutes a meaningful visual experience. The more conventional visuals are excellent as well. The devastation of the Ruin and the traces of life in plants and people in between, already striking to the eye, become more poignantly bleak and beautiful in juxtaposition than they would otherwise. The same can be said of peoples' that have given in or carry on in the face of death and the way they carry themselves, whether on the move or in a fight, from clunky and cluttered, to impassioned and empowered.
With shows of episodic natures, specially ones that have more to do with observation than action, they can afford to take a few more liberties than would otherwise be acceptable. However, the conveniences have piled up in Casshern Sins to a point where they are too noticeable to ignore, particularly the frequency and timing of generic mobs assaulting Casshern and whatever company he keeps for generic reasons: misery loves company, and desperation begets savagery. It's not that these reasons aren't worthy for illustration, but they lose their impact when they become cliches. It gets tiring when the show has to resort to them to make a point. Devoid of much in the way of substantial variance, the fighting and imagery can get fatiguing, even if they aren't merely for the fighting and imagery's sake. I can only look at flowers and Casshern going apeshit on metallic husks for so long until I have to shout “I get it already!” to get rid of the frustration. The recurring cast too, for that matter. Then there are just moments where both feel out of place, particularly towards the end. Speaking of endings, the show decided to forgo episodic beginning at the half-way mark and finish plot-driven, namely, discovering how to end the Ruin. Unfortunately, plot-driven narratives permit far less wiggle room and require more solid development, and the content of before hadn't done much of a good trying to map out the developments of this overarching plot. The result toward the end were that certain mysteries from before were completely neglected and others after were suggested but forgotten or too ambiguous to really appreciate. New material is rammed in, scattered throughout, and resolved without enough time for it to settle and concentrate. Some developments occur that even within episodic paradigm are hard even for me to swallow, not to mention certain themes are just stabbed over and over like a mentally battle-scarred greenhorn trying to make sure his bloated, putrid husk of an enemy adversary is dead with his equally odorous bayonet. The time the show took toward overemphasize would be better served trying to address more pressing issues. And finally, the resolution that Casshern ultimately decides to act on, one of arrogance, is one that, given his journey and my convictions, leaves a foul taste.
The aesthetics for the OP “Aoi Hana” or “Blue Flower” by Color Bottle is mainly composed of a sequence of pictures of Casshern and Lyuze doing aloof poses. However, combined with the acute climb in musical intensity from rest, the images take a transitional quality, blurring the seams of stagnancy into motion, a blurred barrier between still artwork and animation frames, blurs of vocals. The music itself is comprised of a freewheelings of the drum set, electric guitar, and male vocals. They give off this air of freedom in how each of these parts, summed together, can so effortlessly careen in speed, volume, and dynamic. The OP and EDs have lyrics fitting for the subject of the show, but while the OP appears to mimic fits of passion, the EDs take on more subdued, reflective tones. That, of course doesn't diminish the enjoyment I got from either. The EDs for Episodes 1-12 and 14-23 are “Reason,” by K∧N∧ and “Hikari to Kage,” or “Light Like a Shadow,” by Shinji Kuno respectively. Both are pleasant, the former, upbeat and uplifting, the latter, dreamy and drifting. Episode 13 has a separate ED entitled “Aoi Kage.” While the rest of the OST excels in helping establish a tonally appropriate mood for each scene that it is present in, a noteworthy mention goes to the OST, “A Path,” by Nami Miyahara in the sub and Caitlin Glass in the dub. Sung by the main episodic one-shot character Janice in Episode 8, the number recurs throughout the series. If there's one factor that may lead one to watch the dub over the sub, it's that the English voice actor on this particular piece does a better job than her Japanese Seiyū counterpart. In addition to being fluent in the language that the lyrics for the OST was written in, namely, English, Glass just conveys more passion, more power, more consistency, more expression, more flourish into the words. In Episode 8, she works with the motions of her character as Janice has her moment on stage, whereas Miyahara work feels, comparatively, distant and disconnected.
Though distasteful the ending may have been received by me personally, I'm grateful toward the show and all its moments throughout its beginning three fourths worth of content, splayed out in those many encounters, those many moments, for taking on such a bold and contemplative topic in such an inventive and imaginative way.
The Doomsday Clock - a metaphor designed to represent how close humanity is to destruction - is at 3 minutes to midnight. To help you prepare for our rapidly approaching destruction, we've got you covered with some top-notch post-apocalyptic anime.