Spectrum Nexus

Anime Info

Creator: A Madhouse Production
Director: Shigeyasu Yamauchi
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 24 Episodes

Anime Not Licensed

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Summary

+ Tackles philosophical issues
+ Beautiful animation
– Philosophical issues slow the series
– Casshern broods too much

Overview

Casshern Sins isn't terrible just too heavy. It weighs its characters down with all kinds of philosophical baggage that slows the show to a snail's pace. However, when the characters aren't philosophizing or brooding and the plot finally kicks in, it can be an exciting and original show. People who want more action and adventure in their science fiction and less deep philosophy should probably avoid this series. If you are patient when the characters are being "deep", underneath all that philosophy is an interesting show.

Public Rating

Our Rating

Score of 3 out of 5
3 out of 5

Casshern Sins Anime Review

Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 3/31/2009

Introduction

In an ideal world, the producers and distributors of anime would strive to create fresh and original productions. However, anime, like other forms of entertainment, is not immune to remakes, reimaginings, and reboots. Japanese producers, like their American counterparts, enjoy the easy profits to be had from "sure things" and recognizable brands; they prefer productions that have a "built in" audience over unique but financially risky and untested material. In 1973, Tatsunoko Productions created the anime series Neo-Human Casshern; lasting 35 episodes, Neo-Human Casshern told the story of Tetzuya Azuma AKA Casshern, a super-powerful cyborg out to destroy the robots created by his father to serve mankind but that enslaved it instead. In 2008 the series was reimagined with a darker edge, Casshern is now a robotic assassin, who has killed the savior of mankind, doomed the Earth to ruin, and must now undo the evil he has wrought.

Review

Our taste in heroes changes over time, vacillating between pure and noble heroes such as Galahad or Superman and troubled anti-heroes who're rough around the edges such as Robin Hood or Batman. In the original series, Casshern is a cyborg superhero battling the robots who have taken over the world following a revolt against their human masters. In this revamped series Casshern fits squarely in the mold of the anti-hero. He is an assassin who once worked for Braiking Boss, the leader of the robots, and killed the savior of mankind, leading to Earth's ruin.

Like many science fiction anime series, Casshern Sins focuses on the hero's personal quest to find out who he or she really is and what their place in the world is. Typically the hero has some fate related to the ultimate development of the world or society. Most of these stories are fast paced adventures that do a nice job of balancing philosophical musings, interesting character developments, and action, Casshern Sins avoids all of that. It moves at a snail's pace, and focuses on philosophical musings and Casshern's brooding to the detriment of creating an involving story.

As the series catches up with Casshern, he is wandering through the wasteland fighting berserk robots who believe destroying him will bring some sort of salvation and has lost all memories of his life as a professional killer. The robots actually chant words to the effect of, ""Kill Casshern! Devour Casshern!" One of these rusted out hulks actually believes he will gain immortality if he devours our hero, since the demise of human civilization the robots have had increasing trouble repairing themselves and actually fear death. Other robots simply believe Casshern's destruction will bring about the end of the world's decay. All of them know more about Casshern's importance than Casshern does. He's not even certain if he is a human or a robot. All he knows is that he is remarkably skilled at killing robots, which he does with great strength and agility, ripping out their inner electronics with his bare hands.

After one of his many violent battles with giant robots, Casshern encounters Ringo, a cute, sweet, and innocent little girl who, like Casshern, is actually a humanoid robot. She thinks that Casshern is the most beautiful person she has ever seen and believes he must be a human because only a human could be so beautiful. She gives Casshern a seashell she has collected from a dying sea and when she hugs him, he momentarily flashes back to his encounter with a woman named Luna. It is his first clue to his real identity, a memory just below the surface of his consciousness. Their friendly interlude is ruined by the sudden arrival of yet another berserk robot. Casshern rescues Ringo from the thing's clutches by destroying it in the most violent way possible and frightening Ringo in the process. After the battle is over, Ringo is taken away by Ohji, a mysterious old man in a battered pick-up truck who looks after Ringo and keeps her in good repair. He seems to know about Casshern's real history but keeps quiet about it as he and Ringo disappear in his truck. After their departure, Casshern is confronted by Lyuze, mysterious woman who claims to know enough about him to want to kill him. In his compendium of movie clich├ęs referred to as Ebert's Movie Glossary, Roger Ebert refers to the fallacy of the talking killer. The talking killer is a villain who prattles on and on about why the hero must die instead of just killing him. Lyuze is like that, except she never actually tells Casshern anything important, at least not directly. She tells him that he is evil and a killing machine that killed "the Sun which is named the Moon", an apparent savior figure but then she actually talks herself out of killing him. She is about to strike Casshern down when he says he has no idea who or what he really is. Taking him at his word, Lyuze rushes off after telling Casshern that she won't kill him until he knows what a monster he really is. Instead of telling him, she decides he needs to learn it on his own.

Show More Not all of the robots Casshern encounters are berserk killers. Besides, Ringo, there are many other robots populating the post apocalyptic world trying to eke out some sort of peaceful, meaningful existence in the time they have left before they are overcome by ruin. Many of these robots are wistful, sad, contemplative, and deeply philosophical beings that almost seem human, at least in the psychological sense, as many still have machine-like appearances. Amongst the ruins of an ancient city, Casshern encounters a commune of robots who have accepted what they call "the ruin" as the robot's path to finally becoming "human", because of the ruin they can die. However, even these robots go insane and try to "devour Casshern" when they learn he is amongst them and Casshern is forced to destroy them in self defense.

Even for anime, where long, drawn out plotlines are the norm, Casshern Sins moves at a slow pace, largely due to the amount of time Casshern spends brooding about his problems rather than doing anything about them. Taking a cue from Neon Genesis Evangelion, the creators of this series too often replace any meaningful plot developments with gorgeously animated but tedious scenes where Casshern stares off into space while the wind plays with his hair. For instance, in the third episode Casshern meets Akos, a petty thief running from his past, however, nothing of significance actually happens, instead we are treated to 10 minutes of Casshern's brooding alternating with 10 minutes of Akos's musings on the difference between humans and robots. Near the end of the episode, Casshern is joined by Friender, a robotic dog from the community of peaceful robots Casshern was forced to destroy. Friender, at first seems bent on destroying Casshern but after fighting him to first "blood", Friender accepts Casshern as a new companion. Afterwards, Akos and Casshern depart company, and Akos quietly dies in the desert from an undisclosed lung ailment. That's it. While the philosophical musings are interesting and Akos is a fun character (one of the few in the entire series) the episode contributes nothing to the plot or our understanding of Casshern and only serves to add extra length to an already long series.

Show More
Visually, the creators of the series have done a masterful job creating a post apocalyptic wasteland, all grey skies and wind eroded rocks populated by an imaginative assortment of demented, rusted, and broken down robots. It's in the character design that the series fails -- at least in Casshern's case. The original series was created in 1973, and it shows. Like other Japanese superhero characters from that period, Casshern is dressed in a skintight spandex leotard and tights with a high "wing collar" (the sort used on Halloween store Dracula capes),a mask with a huge, metallic chevron on the front, and a stylized letter "C" emblazoned across the chest. This was fine in the original series when Casshern was depicted as a superhero. While Casshern Sins updates the costume to make it seem slightly more contemporary, it doesn't fit the brooding, troubled anti-hero depicted in the series or the scarred, dying world he lives in. Something less flamboyant would be more appropriate. The series changed Casshern's origins and motivations. Why not his costume as well? The other characters, (the human looking ones at least) wear clothes more in keeping with the rugged terrain such as what appear to be denim and khaki jackets, heavy boots, and duster coats. Casshern is the only character saddled with an outfit more suitable for a Cosplay convention than life in a post apocalyptic wasteland. It is especially distracting when some of the characters talk about the legend surrounding Casshern to Casshern without realizing who he is, however, he is the only person in the world running around with a giant red "C" across his chest, he's impossible to miss.

However, in spite of the fact that the series is incredibly slow paced, some would say deliberate, and it occasionally stretches the viewers' willing sense of disbelief, Casshern Sins is not a terrible show. It is a good show that could have been better. It needed more focus, less philosophizing, and more action. It is immeasurably watchable, great effort has gone into creating the world of the series; it ponders interesting questions about the nature of being human, and is occasionally surprising. For instance, Braiking Boss, the leader of the robots when they rebelled against humanity, is never depicted as a typical cackling evil villain but rather as a deeply conflicted, questing, and human figure who comes to regret his destructive actions. He spends much of the early episodes traveling in disguise a la Henry V, studying Casshern and pondering his actions. Much of the series' narration is from his point-of-view and he is one of the more thoughtful and philosophical characters in the series. He is possibly more interesting than Casshern, at least he doesn't spend so much time staring off into space contemplating his existence.

Conclusion

Manji Focus. That's what's missing from Casshern Sins. In an effort to give the series significance, the series creators weighed it down with every philosophical conundrum they had ever thought about. They slowed it down to a snail's pace in order to discus every one of them and in the process they lost focus on what the series should have been about: Casshern fighting robots and finding his true identity. Questions of mortality and identity have their place in science fiction; however, they shouldn't form the bulk of a series at the expense of story and character.

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