What started out as a really interesting look at the neo-apocalyptic genre turned out to be a show whilst not bad really didn’t make the episodic structure look too good when there were too many gaps between things happening and things not happening.
What They Say
Ruin is the salvation of man and machine!
Casshern: Sins is a millennial update of a beloved 1970s classic of Japanese animation, which saw a lone cyborg hero opposing a robot empire that threatened to overthrow the Earth. This darker reimagining mixes frantic action with heartfelt humanity, as Casshern fights to survive a bleak dystopian future – little realising that he caused the end of the world!
There were 3 discs (the series lists this will be released in 2), so for the 12 episodes, I alternated between English and Japanese – the English audio track is in 5.1 Dolby whilst the Japanese is in 2.0 Stereo. The Stereo track is good and overall flows well with the nature of the show – the English track is obviously more powerful though and definitely felt it was a good release in both languages, with a few niggles though on the Japanese track which seemed to dim from episode to episode with some being clearly better heard than others. However there was no problems regarding the Japanese track in terms of transition between audio and subtitles so it’s a very clean release.
The video quality is superb, as mentioned above no problem between audio and visual when subtitles was involved, but it felt like it was a remastered release at times from an earlier release (perhaps because it is a re-telling from an older version?) because the gritty animation on the HDTV really seemed to have a real flavour to it. The animation flows through well, no notice of water marks or transition problems, and it’s just a great show to watch. There are a few minor niggles when some of the darkness makes it a little harder to watch, but it does flow in the nature of the series, so when Casshern is fighting one moment and then mooding in another, it does work so it’s an almost perfect visual spectacle.
There was no packaging for this test disc.
On all three discs, the pattern of the menus are there are moving images from the show on the left, whilst on the right side has the menu itself, with the selections to be play all, episode select, set up English/Japanese, subtitles English on, non-dialogue, off, and in the third disc only, extras. Episode select just has the episode titles, no pictures at all. Also original set up is in Japanese, not English so if you’re like me and prefer to watch it in English first, you need to catch it on the menu screen.
There are only a small selection of extras on the third disc – there is the textless opening/ending which is standard on most releases now, and also a small 4 minute music featurette – clips to the show to insert music almost like an anime music video.
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A show I’m not that familiar with, but I did know it was a remake of a 1993 series so it was a case of how well the remake faired in this day of age. To be honest, I was mostly a little underwhelmed by it but it’s half way through, and I must admit there was a lot to like as well, as it reminded me of one of the favourite series of all time at points (see below) so whilst some of the ideas seemed a little bit repetitive and even boring, there are some real juicy scenes and some dark stories of the past which just do enough to make you hooked.
Each episode mostly starts with a similar scene – involving one being against another mystical being known as Luna. The other figure we discover is a futuristic looking being named Casshern, a warrior who is very out of place in the setting of a very dystopian world, caused by the death of this Luna…which was caused by him. Casshern is an amnesiac, and has no recollection of doing this, but in doing so, brought forth what is dubbed ‘The Ruin’ – an apparent apocalypse which caused the futuristic robotic world to actually die, with little to no human contact apparently surviving.
The episodes delve into Casshern travelling around this world, encountering people and things as he wonders why everyone is talking about his role in killing Luna, as well as the rumour that if any robot devours him they will return to being immortal. This at first, reminded me of one of my all time favourite shows, Kino’s Journey, a realistic journey into alternative worlds as she discovers that the world is so different in so many ways, and Casshern at first has elements of that as he travels to discover his past, as well as encounter people who either want to befriend him or kill him. The main difference is this is definitely more of an action show, though I will confess the action at times seemed way too rushed, and was probably the poorest element of the show, and the good parts were mostly his discovery and journey…and even then it does feel a bit slow.
It is episodic in nature, the first episode for example, introduces us to him, a little robot girl named Ringo who at first befriends him, but when he kills a robot, she become frightened of him. It’s told well, the prejudice and fear that he brings combined with the need to kill him, whether for vengeance…or to try and live. Episode 2 continues that theme, where we learn more of the fact that he seems to hide a repressed raged side, and his abilities to kill what appears to be a god are not unfounded, where he goes berserk and kills both potential friend and foe in a robot refuge. Episode 3 however brings us a human character showcases that they still live, and wonders if Casshern is human or robot, as is quoted many times, he is too new looking and doesn’t seem to be effected by the ruin to be a robot, but his fighting skills are too powerful to be of human capabilities, scared that he’s considered the Grim Reaper in this form.
Like Kino, there is only one main character of note (bar sarcastic motorcycles) being Casshern himself, though he is joined by a robot dog after the massacre of episode 2 named Frienders visited by a woman named Lyuze, who is intent on killing him because of his murder of Luna. His berserk nature always seems to manifest and it is intriguing what happened between the two of them, but bar some small flashbacks at the end of the first season we learn very little, but it does enough to get you ready for the future episodes. I guess the main problem though is Lyuze appears so sporadically that she isn’t interesting enough during their fights for you to really care, mainly as she isn’t on the screen long enough.
The other plot of note is the character Dio, who is like the evil twin to Casshern and says they were created, but Lyuze now realises that Casshern can’t die until his memory returns. There are other one episode characters that Casshern meets, and mostly gets to see them hurt or die. This formula is what did lower my opinion of the show after a strong first 6 episodes – it’s trying to get into Casshern’s psyche, whether he will go berserk or if he will recover more hints of his past. Lyuze and Dio are added to aid him in a small respect, though neither as friends – whilst most of the time the show basically revolves around robots trying to kill him. The lack of interesting dynamic when the same ideas are recycled as it all focuses on him makes sense as he’s the only real character, but at the same time the way they tell the story isn’t interesting enough to really keep a viewer’s interest bar the unique animation and battle scenes.
It does however redeem itself right at the end, the final episode which is the best comparison to Kino I felt when Casshern meets a disabled artist robot named Margo. Casshern actually learns from him how to live life and learn from it, he is enthused about his optimism despite knowing his life is to end shortly – whilst most of the robots are angry about it and advise him he should accept his fate. I really wish these stories in this world were told more often giving Casshern more to think about – this and episode 3 were the best examples of a food episodic anime in conjunction with the plot. This is what Casshern Sins does well when they have a moment to go against the norm and bring him outside of berserker mode, or being depressed about his role in the Ruin, without other characters trying to confuse him or kill him. It does show this series can be really good when it wants to be, sadly there isn’t enough of it, which limits the series so far as a whole, but at the same time does enough to keep you interested to see what happens in the future.
Casshern Sins first twelve episodes are a bit hit and miss. The story of a warrior travelling to locations trying to find himself is nothing new, but the lack of any good people to carry the series with him as he travels combined with some dull background characters you couldn’t care about and recycled plot and rumour can get a bit droll. However, there are definite hints that this series has more than meets the eye, and there are some stand out episodes combined with the plot of Luna/Casshern slowly becoming more and more explained, Casshern Sins isn’t a series I’ll give up on yet, because it’s picking up and hopefully will get to the finale in good stead.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Textless opening/ending – 4 minute music featurette – clips to the show to insert music.
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: May 9th, 2011
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.With 100-Watt Subwoofer.