Casshern Sins is a complete reimagining of the old anime series Neo Human Casshern. Beyond the main characters, however, Casshern Sins bears little resemblance to the nearly 40-year-old original. Madhouse, the animation studio behind titles such as Perfect Blue, Chobits, and Trigun, has put together a stylized visual treat. Unfortunately, the subpar story and uneven pacing hinder what could have been an instant classic.
Casshern Sins Part 1 contains the first half of the 24 episode series. The story takes place in a desolate world that is crumbling into ruin. Robots rule the world, but where they were once thought to be immortal, they are now falling apart and are struggling to hold onto their existence. Casshern is a robot/man/thing suffering from a bad case of amnesia and self pity. While he remembers little of his past, everyone else seems to be well aware that he is the one who killed the Sun named Moon. That is, he supposedly killed a woman named Luna and this action somehow unleashed the Ruin upon the robot world. And by ruin, they mean rust. All the robots are rusting to death. The surviving robots desperately scrap around for spare parts, leading to constant raids by robot bandit gangs. The robots not only blame Casshern for all their troubles, they have been lead to believe that eating him will stop the Ruin from advancing.
The series features Casshern wandering the planet and seeking to shed light on his past. Along the way he finds himself constantly fighting off hordes of zombie-like robots who want to devour him. For his own part, Casshern would just as soon let them kill him, end his miserable existence, and atone for his sins. The only thing that prevents his sacrifice is his pesky, Wolverine-like, regeneration superpower. Also, anytime his existence is threatened, his eyes glow blue, a mask covers his face, and he goes into beserker fight mode, killing everything in sight--threat or non-threat.
Through his travels Casshern picks up a loose gaggle of followers who come and go for a variety of reasons. Casshern's ongoing supporting cast includes a little girl, Ringo, her guardian, Ohji, and a fiercely loyal robot dog named Friender. Through the first twelve episodes, it's difficult to fully label Ringo and Ohji as Casshern's companions. In most episodes, they seem to just happen upon Casshern as if they want to tag along, but are sure to keep a safe distance from the mysterious, highly unstable, bringer of Ruin. Another character that hangs around the periphery is a pink haired woman named Lyuze, who wants to kill Casshern for what he has done. Lyuze stalks Casshern and randomly reveals her presence only to promise that she will make sure that Casshern suffers as other robots have. She has an axe to grind with Casshern yet, for some unexplained reason, she seems reluctant to make her move.
There are a couple more characters, Dio and Leda, who look similar to Casshern and have similar skillsets. Dio plans on restoring the robot world by killing Casshern, stopping the Ruin, and becoming the next Braiking Boss--the previous robot dictator who lorded over humanity. While Dio and Leda's motivations of world domination are cliché, their involvement in an episode means that the story is going to move forward and more information about Casshern's past will be revealed. Consequently, the dastardly duo are always a welcome sight.
Casshern Sins is strongest when it sticks to the main storyline. When the series focused on developing Dio and Leda, establishing them as Casshern's enemy and revealing some background information, it became a compelling, albeit simple, story. Unfortunately, the show killed all that momentum with three consecutive, self-contained, tangent episodes about female robots that have completely lost their minds. The worst was a highly symbolic episode about a crazy robot lady, Lizabel, who wants find the perfect bell to complete her bell tower. The story was not awful, except for Lizabel constantly mimicking the sound of a bell, but the timing of the episode was lousy. Just when the main plot thickened, they completely abandoned it for melodramatic filler. And that episode was followed by two more just like it.
Casshern Sins spends an exorbitant amount of time to get to the point and move the story forward. By the last few episodes of this boxset, I was eager for someone to just kill off Casshern and put him out of his misery. Yes, he destroyed the world, but the excessive whining about his plight becomes tiresome. I have not watched the second boxset yet, but I suspect that this whole series could have been cut in half by removing most of the fluff, and it would have been for the best.
Audio: Casshern Sins wavers between quiet contemplation and loud robotic death and destruction. I only listened to the English 5.1 Dolby Digital track. The surrounds are put to great use throughout the series and the front stage dialogue and sound effects were clear and sufficiently loud. There is also a Japanese 2.0 track included. The voice acting of the series was decent enough. I loved some of the little touches such as hearing C3PO in the background and the music taking on a distinctive Terminator-esque theme during a few battles. Well played.
Video: I recent stated that Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was one of the best looking anime television titles to be released. Well, Casshern Sins makes that series look amateurish in the art department. This series looks phenomenal, combining some sweet retro character design, thick, stylized black lines, and oversaturated colors. The color palette is rightfully dreary for a post-apocalyptic world, but is still visually mindblowing. The art has to be seen to be believed and is easily worth the price of admission. It's that good. The video is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. If there were any artifacts, line noise, or pixelization, I certainly did not notice them.
Extras: The special features include textless opening and closing credits and trailers. Also included is a short video of the release event of Casshern Sins in Japan, which was a live panel featuring some of the Japanese voice actors and the director.
Final Thoughts: Casshern Sins is an ambitious series that does not quite hit its mark. The show has cool fight scenes and a decent main plotline, but it's weighed down by constant introspective self-loathing and philosophical nonsense. I am sure somebody, somewhere, will find this series to be groundbreaking poetry that spoke to their soul. I just didn't buy in to the fluffy symbolism found in the tangent episodes. At its core, Casshern Sins is a simple story about atonement. It's a strong anime title when it sticks to the main idea, but when it goes off the beaten path, as it often does, it gets bogged down in melodramatic sludge. It's flawed, but never unwatchable. Besides, this title is easily worth watching just to see the amazing, retro-inspired art style. If nothing else, just stare at the pretty pictures. Rent It.