When we last left Casshern Sins, the main story was developing an eventual showdown between Casshern and the two robots created alongside him, Dio and Leda, who want to rule the world. While the series was one of the most amazing looking series I have ever seen, unfortunately, the story was a meandering, unfocused, melodramatic stroll through a dying robot-ruled world. The characters spent an excessive amount of time thinking about how much they hate life, which made for a story that was itself, easy to hate. The second half of Casshern Sins stays much more focused on the main story. While it still dabbles in the fluffy nonsense and tangents that marred the first half, this final set of episodes comes much closer to achieving the ambitious goals of its creators.
In this set, Casshern learns that Luna may not be dead after all. He decides that it is now his duty to find Luna and protect those who are dying from the Ruin. Lyuze, along with Friender, join Casshern's wanderings. After happening upon Casshern in practically every episode, Ringo and Ohji finally make it official and join Casshern's journey to find Luna.
Meanwhile, the former robot dictator of the world, Braiking Boss makes his appearance early in this set. He is a true wildcard character who just watches the events unfold from afar. Braiking Boss claims to have no stake in the outcome, but can a man who once ruled the world with a robot army really stay out of the game or does he have his own agenda? Casshern's gang uncovers Luna's birthplace and learns something about Luna, which Ohji must examine further. He leaves Ringo in the care of Casshern and Lyuze and wants them to take her to Luna. From here, the gang makes their journey to find Luna, hoping that she is the healing goddess that they believe she is.
Casshern also must eventually face-off against Dio and Leda. After being built up as the primary enemy and someone who wants to rule the world, Dio is really a pushover. Leda uses Dio as a figurehead to do her bidding, constantly planting ideas in his head or just flat out telling him what to do. The one thing she cannot overcome, however, is Dio's single-minded obsession with defeating Casshern. Throughout his entire existence, Casshern has always been one step ahead. In their battles, he has come up just short every time. In order rule the world, Dio feels that he must first surpass Casshern. Braiking Boss even pulls Dio's strings. In one episode, he taunts a beaten and bloodied Dio. He knows Dio has an inferiority complex to Casshern and uses that to get him to jump back into a fight. Dio is merely a puppet. A powerful puppet, but a puppet nonetheless. Leda is the true threat and these final episodes are her coming out party of sorts.
The first set of Casshern Sins exhibited poor pacing by building the story to a crescendo and then ignoring it for multiple episodes. While still agonizingly slow at times, the second half of Casshern Sins mostly stays on course. The first five episodes are especially indicative of the true potential of this series. Unfortunately, there are a couple of episodes in the middle of this collection that dwell on Lyuze's obvious internal conflict, which could have been condensed. While Casshern finds purpose in his existence and, for the most part, stops staring at the desolation and hating himself, Lyuze falls into her own fit of endless self-loathing. She despises that she has fallen in love with the man who killed her sister and Luna. Someone in this story could make some serious coin if they created anti-depression drugs for robots.
Once Lyuze fights through that complication, she then agonizes over her inevitable demise to the ruin. Casshern, the former suicidal killing machine who now has a purpose in life, even demonstrates some character growth by playing the role of Lyuze's counselor, shoulder to cry on, and stabbing dummy--Lyuze gets a little violent when she's depressed. The two full episodes devoted to Lyuze's inner demons are slow and unnecessary, but at least they are relevant and do not involve throwaway characters that build bell towers or paint cities.
Casshern Sins wants to be great. It shoots for the stars with its gorgeous animation, poetic dialogue, and symbolic imagery. While the second half is far superior to the first, it still falls short of greatness. Regardless, a good series is always worth watching. The story does finally come around in this collection and the conclusion has the nice, circular irony that will set your mind pondering.
Audio: I only listened to the English 5.1 Dolby Digital track, but there is also a Japanese 2.0 track for all the subtitle fans. When there's not an epic battle between Casshern and some army of robots, the dialogue is slow and quiet. The action scenes exhibit a fair amount of directionality among all five speakers and there are some ambient effects throughout the series. I enjoyed the English dub and have no complaints about the quality. There were plenty of opportunities where a bad voice actor could ruin the experience, especially with the main cast of Casshern, Ringo, and Lyuze, but they are all well voiced in this series.
Video: Casshern Sins is a visual treat to behold. The video is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. I did not see any hint of blocking, line noise or any other artifacts. The color scheme is intentionally sullen and bland. It's a show about a dying world. Even with that color palette limitation, this is one of the most incredible looking television-based anime series ever. Once again, this show is well worth the price of admission just to admire the stylized art.
One of the few complaints I have concerns several fight scenes where the camera pulls away from the action and just shows a bunch of slashes and a cloud of dust. The idea is that the combatants are moving too fast for the viewer to focus on the detailed action. It's a cop out. I have seen this technique in countless other shows and it always comes across as a cop out. Show us the fight!
Extras: The special features include textless opening and closing credits and trailers. Also included is a short music video featuring a live performance by Color Band of "Azure Flowers," the opening theme song for the series.
Final Thoughts: Casshern Sins Part 2 is a vast improvement over the first set. Pacing problems still plague the series until the bitter end, but at the very least, the tangents were minimized in these episodes. In the review of the first set, I said that the series could be cut in half by removing all the fluff and I still stand by that statement. The characters spend a ridiculous amount of time staring at water, dreaming, posing, and overstating their obvious internal conflicts in melodramatic "woe is me" scenes. Beyond that, however, this series is simply a delight to look at and a good story actually manages to shine through all the murky drama. If you watched the first set and found some enjoyment out of it, then it is definitely worthwhile to see Casshern Sins through to the end. Recommended.