Judge Paul Pritchard's sins include greed, envy, and chronic flatulence.
Ruin Is The Salvation Of Man And Machine.
Rebooting the 1973 anime series Neo Human Casshern (better known in the west as Casshan), Casshern Sins follows in the footsteps of 1993 mini-series Robot Hunter Casshern, and the 2004 live-action adaptation, Casshern.
My personal knowledge of Casshern is rather limited. Apart from the audience dividing 2004 movie adaptation (that I liked a lot, despite some glaring flaws), my only other experience of the character is the awesome Tatsunoko VS Capcom videogame, so I come to Casshern Sins without much baggage.
Facts of the Case
Splitting the series into two parts, Casshern Sins: Part One contains the first 12 episodes of the show spread over two discs.
• "At the End Of The World"
• "The Woman Of The High Tower"
Casshern Sins: Part One opens at the end of the world, and it's all Casshern's fault. Following orders, Casshern assassinated a young girl named Luna, an act that led to "The Ruin," which has seen most of mankind wiped out and the world's robot population on the verge of total decay. Yep, you could say Casshern is about as welcome right now as a turd in a swimming pool. Adding to Casshern's woes is the fact that he's experiencing a severe bout of amnesia, and can't remember his fateful deed; there's also the small matter of a legend that is spreading that whoever devours Casshern will obtain immortality and put an end to "The Ruin."
If that very brief synopsis of the show suggests to you a less than cheery anime, you'd be quite right. Though action sequences frequently permeate the story, Casshern Sins is extremely melancholic in tone; I'm struggling to recall another anime series that has so frequently had robots struggling to come to terms with their own demise, let alone have them breakdown while attempting to hold together what remains of their fractured psyche.
In spite of the large number of robot warriors left to wander the wasteland that Casshern walks, most of whom are heavily armed, there's a lot of talking to be had. I suppose considering the cataclysmic consequences of Casshern's actions it's to be expected that there's very little cheery chitchat, and sure enough most characters only open their mouths to give voice to their anguish. Even our hero frequently expresses his wish to die.
Taking all of the above into account, Casshern Sins doesn't exactly sound like much fun, but thankfully there are a number of elements that make the series worth stumping up some of your hard earned cash for, chief amongst them being atmosphere. Like the live action film, and other similarly themed end-of-the-world stories, Casshern Sins is drenched in foreboding and despair. Though life goes on while the world dies, Casshern Sins does little to suggest reasons for hope and is morbidly entertaining for it. Second, the infrequent action scenes are brief, but kick ass. Casshern has an unfortunate tendency to go postal at the drop of a hat, leading to bodies being torn apart and faces being caved in. This leads nicely onto the third point: the slick animation. The character designs are, with the exception of Casshern himself, a little generic, but Madhouse have clearly put a lot of effort into the show and ensure the carnage is delivered with style, while the barren landscapes do a nice job of increasing the sense of despair. The fourth and final saving grace is the element of mystery contained within the story. Why did Casshern kill Luna, and more importantly, who ordered her death and why can Casshern not recall any of this?
A standout of this set is Episode 10, "The Man Entrapped by the Past," which focuses on Casshern clone Dio, rather than Casshern himself. In what could easily have been a gimmicky episode, the shows writers instead use the shift in focus to progress the storyline and shed more light on the murder of Luna.
The disc offers a choice of a Japanese 2.0 soundtrack, or an alternative English 5.1 track. Both are perfectly fine, with no flaws. If I had to recommend one over the other, I'd suggest the English 5.1 shades it, not necessarily for any technical reasons, but because the voice acting is marginally superior on the English dub, which I'm sure will be seen as blasphemy by anime purists. The 1.85:1 transfer is occasionally a little soft. Colors are often intentionally muted, but flashback sequences reveal a real depth of color in the transfer.
Supplemental materials are disappointing. Apart from the opening and closing animation sequences available without any text, the only other extra is a short feature that contains a Q&A session with the voice cast and series director.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There's certainly no reason why Casshern Sins: Part One couldn't have been trimmed down by a couple of episodes. The show frequently ambles along, completely oblivious to the fact that large members of the audience are going to be turned off by the lack of urgency shown in progressing the plot. This isn't necessarily a bad thing when building on the oppressive atmosphere, but it does grate when an entire episode passes by with little in the way of real incident.
Casshern Sins: Part One is also hampered by its episodic structure, with a new protagonist appearing in each episode for Casshern to either reconcile with or tear to shreds. After a while this does get a little repetitive, especially in the slower paced episodes.
Casshern Sins: Part One is a solid attempt at adding substance to the genre. The apocalyptic setting, coupled with its deep, if a little hackneyed musings on mortality make it an interesting proposition, and one I'd recommend to both casual and hardcore anime fans alike, as long as they don't mind the slightly depressing tone.
The lack of quality extras is a real shame, and loses the set some points.
Robots, existentialism, and ass-kicking; I'd say that warrants a not guilty
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