What They Say:
Casshern, a cybernetic assassin with no memory of his past, awakens in a corrosive wasteland where nothing survives for long. A plague known as the Ruin sweeps across this once-vibrant world, reducing everything in its path to rubble and scattering any chance for salvation. Robots and humans alike – or what little remains of them – seek vengeance against Casshern for the life he took and the role he played in their Ruin. A machine built to kill, Casshern murdered the last hope for this world, but now, lost in a future he does not recognize, he will fight to save the dying.
Contains episodes 1-24.
Please Note: The technical portions of this review deals with the Blu-ray portion of the release.
The bilingual track here offers up a pretty good experience overall with a pair of Dolby TrueHD lossless tracks. The Japanese track gives us a stereo experience which has a fair bit of depth and impact across the forward soundstage with some nice placement of dialogue in a number of scenes. The English 5.1 mix takes it up a few notches though the rear speakers don’t get a huge turnout. There’s a definite bump in the overall volume level here but it works well for blending the English voice acting with the background and music track. Of the two tracks, the English track definitely makes out better, but the Japanese track is solid throughout and gives us a good representation of the original mix. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2008 and into early 2009, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across four discs in a nine/three/nine/three format using an native HD source, not an upscale. And it shows. Casshern Sins has a very distinct style to it with its visual approach where it’s a mixture of soft colors that almost feels like charcoal combined with strong line work to give it definition. Colors are really beautiful here as they blend in a rather unique way and the fluidity of the animation mixed with the darkness of much of it really allows the show to stand out as something you don’t see. The transfer does a great job of capturing it as this release really stands out.
The combo release for this set is done in a double sized DVD sized clear keepcase with multiple hinges to hold the DVDs and Blu-ray discs. The keepcase is wrapped in an slipcover that uses the same artwork as the case artwork itself. It goes for a very minimal approach where it’s a white background for the most part with a few little bits of ruin mixed in that lets Casshern himself stand in the center to draw the most attention. It’s a good look for it as it has a cool and distant feeling, something serious yet aloof. And the Blu-ray banner along the top gives it that extra bit of color that ties it together well. The back cover goes for a bit more color and atmosphere as it has a very dark image of Casshern along the top with a lot of darks that’s pretty striking. The premise section of the back cover is a bit slim considering how much show there is here, but it does fit when you get down to its nature. The discs extras are clearly listed and we get a good selection of shots from the show as well. Add in a good technical grid that covers both formats well and it’s easy to read, if a bit small. The reverse side of the cover breaks down the episodes and extras by disc with the left side covering the standard definition release and the right side with the high definition. There’s no artwork featured on it at all nor are there any show related inserts included.
The menus for the release are par for the course for FUNimation with a large amount of the main menu given over to clips from the show which come across as pretty stylish here. The menu navigation is along the top, which is what doubles as the pop-up menu, and we get something that’s very basic with an off white strip that has the very basics of the navigation. Individual episode selection is nicely done with full names besides the episode numbers and the language setup is solid, but the menus continue to be too small when it comes to the font even when it comes to larger setups. The layout is easy to navigate but the discs don’t read the player’s language presets and defaults to English with the sign/song subtitles.
The extras are laid out on the second and fourth discs as they use the original releases FUNimation put out. The second disc contains the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a twelve minute pre-air event from Japan where they go into the shows production a bit with those involved. It’s mostly fluff, but I do like seeing the people behind the show getting a chance to promote it a bit and to try and share their energy and enthusiasm.
The fourth disc contains the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a brief live action music number and a quick commercial for the Japanese DVD and Blu-ray release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Casshern Sins is a twenty-four episode series which takes the classic property from the 70’s and reboots it for modern fans. It’s not unusual to completely reboot a property like this of that age and Casshern has certainly had a few interpretations over the years. I haven’t seen the original but I rather enjoyed the live action movie from a few years ago, from a stylistic perspective at the least. Casshern Sins takes some of its cues from the original and in its character designs, but it looks like it takes what has come before and reworks it in a rather different way. While Casshern had something of a super-hero sense of flair about it, Sins goes for a more atmosphere and introspective piece.
The first half of the series is a curious piece of work that doesn’t feel like many other shows out there. Taking place at a future time when the world has been completely doomed, everything has fallen to something called the Ruin. Humanity is decimated though there are some scattered survivors out there. What makes up a lot of what’s roaming out there now are robots of varying shapes and sizes. Many are basic humanoid in nature and there’s even little child robots running around trying to eke out an existence before they succumb to the Ruin. The ones that are the most dangerous are the large ones that leave destruction behind them as they try to figure out a way to survive.
It’s into this world that we meet Casshern, a curious looking young man who isn’t human and who isn’t a robot but looks like a man in white spandex with a large red C across his chest. Casshern has lost his memory and hasn’t a clue about anything. All that he knows is that he can transform slightly with a mask that appears over his head and he has incredible hand to hand skills. These skills are very useful because the robots of the world have a problem with him. They’ve been told that if they eat him, he’ll grant them immortality and that instance will also cause the Ruin to stop and the planet to recover. Casshern is rather confused by this, but there’s a moment later into this set where he comes across someone very similar to him who informs him that there’s something in his body that helps him heal very easily and has essentially made him immortal. And he intends to defeat Casshern so he can figure out what this mysterious thing is and use it to gain immortality himself.
The show gets a bit of actual progress with these kinds of events towards the end of this set, but the majority of what’s here is s curious kind of series. Casshern’s lack of memory makes things difficult and we only get a few snippets of it where we come to understand how he was the cause behind the Ruin by killing a young woman named Luna. There’s a lot of mystery left there, but what we do get is intriguing. The difficult aspect is in watching Casshern wander across this landscape. He encounters numerous robots along the way, many of which are trying to kill him, but also those that are trying to survive. There are questions about what it means to be alive, what the Ruin really is and the truth about Casshern’s role in it, but so much of it is simply moody material with Casshern wandering around, being attacked or trying to understand what the peaceful robots are doing.
The second half thankfully offers a bit more to the story to help bring it all together. What makes this part work well from the start is that the thirteenth episode on it brings the Braiking Boss back into the picture as he’s been watching Casshern for a bit. He throws a lot of information out there that clarifies a few things, but mainly points out that what he did was for a good reason and that Casshern would still do what he was told because the rightness of it is now apparent. The explanation works well and I do like the approach to it as we learn that because both mankind and the robots achieved immortality, nobody was truly living anymore. The removal of the fear of death and the consequence of it made them less than what they were, and that was the primary reason for what the Braiking Boss did.
That knowledge helps propel Casshern to understand more of what has happened in the world since then. Because of what he learns, he and Lyuze end up in an interesting supporting relationship that comes as they learn that Luna is still alive, or some fake Luna may be out there, and they set off to find her to find out the final truths. They run across a number of robots along the way, including something that’s reminiscent of a Trail of Tears of sorts as they find hundreds of robots going towards the castle where they believe she is, but they also deal with Leda and Dio as well. Those two have an unusual relationship and very different goals for what they want out of this world and with Casshern, but they do bring their arc to a definite conclusion that gives each of them a proper showcase that adds well to their overall storyline.
Watching this series in the midst of a few of other end of the world kind of series there is something to definitely like about Casshern Sins when it comes to dealing with the interactions between man and machine. As it gets to Luna and deals with what she really is and fleshing out what Braiking Boss revealed at the start, Casshern’s approach to dealing with the world makes sense. There are some really neat little revelations along the way, particularly with Ringo and Ohji that builds the mythology of the world nicely, Leda and Dio make out well with their back story getting clearer as well, but I really wanted more of Leda to understand her view of how the world should change. Dio’s arc ends well though since his main goal has been to beat Casshern and watching the two of them fight it out is definitely a high point in terms of action and actual emotion.
Casshern Sins is a show that definitely has things going for it, but it has some significant downsides as well, depending on what kind of show you’re thinking it’ll be like. I love the visual design of it and the choreography of the fight sequences and I’m really keen on the way they took a classic property and rebooted it in a way that wasn’t expected. Considering the nature of the original work, they went in an interesting direction here and played it in a semi-philosophical way about the meaning of life and how critical death is to make it all worthwhile. The problem side to the series is that it takes its time getting to these points, though there’s a very definite reason for it all. It’s not a series that works well for marathoning but you almost need to do that in order to see how it all flows together well. Casshern Sins is definitely a show that will leave an impression on you but it’s one that you have to work through to get to the rich material.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Pre-Air Event, Mini-Concert, Original Commercials, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August 2nd, 2011
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.