Funimation // 2008 // 600 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Josh Rode (Retired) // August 21st, 2011
Ruin is the salvation of man and machine.
The original Casshern was a 1973 anime series based, of course, on a manga serialization. It bears almost no resemblance to the 2008 reboot, Casshern Sins, only the character names remain intact.
Casshern is a cyborg who assassinated Luna, the "Sun Called Moon," and thus brought to an end the countless years of immortality that the robot denizens of earth once enjoyed. Now, years after Luna's death, the entire planet has become a vast desert and its occupants are on the brink of extinction due to the unyielding ruin that erodes their metal bodies.
* "At the End of the World" -- Casshern finds himself being attacked for a crime he doesn't remember committing and meets a little girl robot named Ringo.
* "The World is Filled With the Cries of Death" -- Casshern comes across a colony of robots who have accepted their ruin.
* "To the End of Suffering" -- Casshern meets a human who teaches him a lesson in mortality.
* "The Angel of Ruin" -- Casshern meets a robot whose only wish is to fight.
* "The Man Who Killed the Sun Named Moon" -- Casshern is beset by Lyuze, whose sister was an attaché of Luna...and a victim of Casshern's.
* "Reunion With Fate" -- Casshern meets Dio, his virtual twin, and learns a bit about his forgotten past.
* "The Woman of the High Tower" -- Casshern meets a woman whose only goal is to build a tower with a bell in order to bring some semblance of beauty to the world.
* "The Praise of Hope" -- Casshern escorts a singer to her final performance.
* "The Flower Which Blooms in the Valley of Ruin" -- Casshern finds a little girl robot who has lost her sanity and serves a doll she thinks is Luna.
* "The Man Captured in the Past" -- Dio and his partner Leda start gathering a robot army to create a new empire.
* "For One's Own Mission" -- Casshern gets trapped under a broken ledge and is rescued by a rag tag group of robots who share a rumor that Luna may still be alive.
* "Coloring the Moment of Living" -- Casshern meets a robot artist who wants to paint a city.
* "The Past Will Rise Before You" -- Casshern comes across Braiking Boss, his forgotten former commander.
* "Truth Illuminates Darkness" -- Dio's army attacks a place where Luna is purported to live.
* "God of Death Dune" -- Casshern comes across Dune, Luna's former guardian, and spares the old robot's life.
* "For the Strength to Believe" -- Dio and Leda face off against last-gen robots Vulcan and Mars.
* "The Glass Cradle" -- Casshern meets a trio of children who give Ringo a colored rock, their "secret" given to them by Luna.
* "Time Spent Living, Time From Now On" -- Lyuze has a series of dreams that help her sort out her conflicted feelings.
* "Believe the Flower Which Lives in the Heart" -- Casshern and Lyuze face a pair of strong robots.
* "For Whom the Flower Blooms" -- Casshern, Lyuze, and Ringo find Luna but discover she's not what they expected.
* "Paradise of Despair" -- Lots of exposition as parts of the story are filled in; the upshot is that Casshern feels the need to learn what it's like to face mortality.
* "The Drop Called Eternal" -- Dio and Casshern face off again while Leda coerces Luna for eternal life.
* "Those Who Will Return" -- Dio defeats Casshern, then Casshern rescues Leda before leaving Luna behind.
* "For the Flowers That Wander and Bloom" -- Casshern faces Luna once again so she will stop shirking from her duty.
Casshern Sins is different from your average anime series. Sure, it has some of the typical conventions -- a post-apocalyptical world covered in sand, lots of robots, most of whom like to fight, a hero who is untouchable -- but it sets itself apart from the rest by being unrelentingly bleak. No one is happy in the world of Casshern Sins, except for one girl who is too innocent to know better.
This is hammered home time and again throughout the repetitive first half of the series, which features Casshern wandering aimlessly and fighting rogue robots while bumping into other robots who are trying to find answers to their impending ruin. It affects them gradually; pieces of their bodies flake off a little at a time, then something major fails and they collapse to the ground where they are immediately blown into oxidized dust. Some robots accept their fates stoically, doing nothing at all as they let the ruin take them. Others try to make a difference before they go; create a bell or sing a song or paint a city. Their efforts create only fleeting oases in the desolation and are covered by the flowing sands soon after.
At around the half-way point, a bit of momentum finally kicks in and for a short while it appears that there will be a strong payoff. The episode "Time Spent Living, Time From Now On" seems like a catapult to an emotional climax, but the series quickly scurries back into unremitting pessimism, as if giving up and succumbing to its own ruin. After twenty-four episodes of relentless despair, the takeaway point of the series is this: you're going to die someday. Try to find some meaning in it if you can.
I really wish they had found a better answer, because all the ingredients exist for a really outstanding show. Casshern (Eric Vale, Dragon Ball Z) is a likeable guy and his chemistry with Lyuze (Brina Palencia, Evangelion) is really good. Ringo (Monica Rial, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) is playful and sweet but never goes overboard. The bad guys have real motives and real fears. In fact, aside from the generic bandit robots, who all look, sound, and act basically the same, everyone on the show does a great job.
The gesture-inspired art and animation are great as well. The desert landscapes don't give much opportunity for color, but that's atoned for with vivid character designs (especially the eyes, which seem to hit all the colors of the spectrum). The only named character who doesn't look great all the time is Casshern; when he's in full battle gear, he bears an unfortunate resemblance to Speed Racer. Even the 5.1 surround sound does a good job of keeping the audience immersed, with nice balance and decent bass response. Everything is beautifully done, all for the purpose of bringing everyone down.
There are hints that a different show might have been in the works. The heroes are given a shiny stone that seems to be the key to the salvation of the world. Then they come across a secret cave that might lead to the elusive Luna. Either of these scenarios might have led to something interesting, but they're abandoned as soon as they're brought up.
Extras are few: just the opening song's band playing it onstage, a couple of commercials for the show, and textless opening and closing credits. The package comes with the standard definition and Blu-ray (which was not available for review) versions, so you'll be able to be depressed just about anywhere.
Casshern Sins spends its considerable assets on a nihilistic worldview, but it's well made and presents a unique anime experience. Just watch it on a bright, sunny day with a group of friends.
Depressing, but not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2011 Josh Rode; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Blu-ray Version
* Music Video
* Alternate Credits