Genres: adventure, drama, science fiction
Plot Summary: It is a state of being where machines have become self-aware and rule the world. However, a mystical source of life known as Luna of the Moon has been slain and all robotic life is now decaying rapidly from a “disease” only known as the Ruin. Death and despair spread through the land like wildfire. The only one unaffected by the affliction is Luna’s assassin, Casshern. Unable to remember if he really triggered this capital sin against the entire mechanized civilization, Casshern embarks on a journey to unravel the mystery that connects him, Luna, and the plague.
Back in the day, 1973 to be exact, Casshern was known as Casshan and was a popular science show of its day. In fact, its success reached out as far as the Mega Man games, which were based largely from the show. The industrial evolution at the end of the 60s blended with the independent spirit of capitalism to produce the ever appealing idea of bots becoming self aware. While the previous series’ focus was more of Casshan’s sacrifice to becoming part human/part android to save humanity from the grasp of robotic life, our Casshern epic places Casshern as one of them in an experiment to essentially replace humans entirely. Casshern Sins starts with our hero totally unaware of what he has done or why every robot he meets wants to eat Casshern to stop the “Ruin”. Trying to avoid being eaten definitely smacked of coolness. Add that everywhere our hero goes leads only to more destruction and you’ve got yourself a pretty morbid tale discussing what life and death truly mean.
In the moral category, the show is fairly clean except for the average language of its category, of which it is fairly fond of. I wouldn’t say anything like Black Lagoon, but you will hear some language throughout the show. Other than that, there really isn’t much to note as most of the death that takes place is watching robots fall apart from rust. That is, unless you want to forget a scene where a room is filled with water and blood mixed together.
Ah yes, early impressions of Casshern will definitely be reminiscent of the olden days of story telling. Why, Samurai Jack would be proud of all the quiet walking, nothingness between actions…I personally thought the pauses were rather oppressive at times, appearing randomly throughout the series and delaying points in the story just to fill up broadcast time. I’ve always thought this is a risky move for a show, since if the audience feels the culmination wasn’t worth it, there will be a backlash on the series. As we’ll see in this case, the feelings are mixed and unfortunately that’s not a good thing.
Casshern in the beginning finds his way to an old mining outpost, etched in the barren rocks. The people there attempt to persuade us that although they are robots, they can truly love and blah like that, and are willing to accept their fate in peace. Personally, the whole idea of Robots having feelings was a bit undersold. Perhaps that is because while the robots are said to not to be able to cry with tears coming out of their eyes, you can’t help but notice these supposed impossibilities gushing out of those who shouldn’t be able to. It’s unfortunate considering some of the tender scenes given the robots here, since this ambiguity ultimately drags this down. I suppose the only thing beneficial is that Casshern can cry if he wants, or just shed blood….lots of it.
While at the outpost, Casshern is beset by a bunch of robots, and the true nature of the desire to live comes out of most of those at the site, and Casshern (after slaying countless droids) is forced to leave. While on his way, he runs into a series of events. The first I’ll mention is Lyuze, an android who had protected this mystical Luna and sought revenge on Casshern for slaying her “sister”. She confronts Casshern but is shocked to discover he has no memory and opts to let him live long enough to see the misery he has beset all robotic life. This added more intrigue to the series, seeing as Casshern might have a companion who will slay him, and when you add the run-in with Dio, the series was off to a rocking start…even if with all the nothingness…
Dio is worth his own paragraph. Here’s an android who is the twin of Casshern, and yet lacks a few things including the immortality that Casshern possesses. Not that Casshern enjoys being revived, as it appears to hurt him a bunch, but to Dio this is nothing short of mockery. I liked how Casshern isn’t the only one of his kind, and yet has this unique ability to regenerate. Dio has a strong will and seeks to break Casshern in pieces to prove himself superior and the fight scenes were fun to watch. This hit the peak of the cool factor for the story, and definitely got the viewer wanting to know more about Casshern how all this came to be. So like Casshern, the quest to find Luna and the answers was embarked.
Every now and then Casshern runs into an old scientist by the name of Ohji and a small android named Ringo, who we saw at the very beginning of the series. Throughout their encounters, it becomes apparent that Ringo is important to the story and I liked how she and her guardian Ohji are always tailing our strange hero wherever they go. Honestly, without Ringo’s constant laughter, Casshern Sins might have been too bleak from the misery that the Ruin causes everywhere (there literally is only a few places with plant-life in the show). Her innocent laugh and carelessness, weaved with her love for all things, whether robot or not, is admirable. So when we find out Ringo is actually a real girl, well….Casshern gets a first row seat in what living really means. I liked the ploy here, and felt that Ringo’s liveliness and purpose in life was solid enough for a child her age, and was well-received.
About half way we find Casshern in a lot of trouble. He’s stuck underneath a large rock after having been once again thanklessly brave and requires the rescue of a strange band of mixed robots and people. Apparently the leader Jin, a handsome robot, thinks that Luna is still alive. All of this comes across rather intriguing in the shows own way, and for a minute the pretense that Casshern might be absolved of his sins comes to mind. Even better, Lyuze at this point is somewhat conflicted in her mind and wishes to see Luna too and so follows Casshern from this point. However, while the thought about redemption is pleasant, Jin makes a rather bold (and worthless) comment how the Ruin can be stayed by sheer will-power alone. That struck me as rather odd and quite childish, but the topic would never again be touched on and Jin’s significance would disappear as fast as he came. It was sad.
We can’t always have what we want, so moving on from here, Casshern’s nemesis has a sort of a sister named Leda. She’s using Dio’s lust for vengeance on Casshern to gain eternal beauty and is entirely infatuated about it. While not as physical as her two “brothers”, Leda’s ambitions are sure to curl butter. While her plans are somewhat delayed by the former guardian of Luna named Dune, the god of death, Leda will let nothing stop her and uses the rumor about Luna to track her down for her own selfish desires. Since the show deals a great deal with what it means to truly be alive, Leda really represents those who think too much of beauty and the pleasures of youth. I liked how all the beauty in the world is as ugly as can be when Leda does get her wish, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.
There is an episode or two where Casshern and company come across what used to be Leda’s experimental grounds. Leda apparently had slain her handlers when she was unable to have a child due to miscarriage. We meet oddly 3 child robots who live here, and I thought they were rather twisty. To be sure, Leda and Dio did come around here, so more fighting occurs which leads to another defeat upon Dio (who by now is enraged). But what is amazing is that the 3 children are here for a purpose and have been keeping a secret for the right robot/human to possess. Apparently its a stone that possesses the knowledge to recreate Casshern. I thought this was neat and hoped to hear more from the secrets of the stone as Ohji (who by this time is traveling with Casshern) takes the stone to “study it”.
Skipping ahead towards the ending, we see Casshern finally come to the place where Luna lives! Unfortunately for Casshern, Luna is quite the disappointment when he learns that while he did indeed slay her, Luna has come back to a different self. Not so much in being someone else, but more that she’s twisted. You see, one of the biggest points of the show is how eternal life essentially was gained by all on earth. Disease and despair were a thing of the past (though mortals were still mortals), and the Ruin did not exist. However, when the Robots took over, many of the humans flocked to this majestic immortal, who opposed the then ruler Braiking Boss, and granted her followers protection from the tyrant bent on eclipsing mortals. So it is with extreme irony that Luna will only offer a fake eternal life in the present to those she deems not “reeking of the stench of death”. In short, Luna herself has become abhorrent to death, and wishes to rid the world of it all.
The shock at realizing Luna hates those with the “scent” of death is made more sensational in the small town and its garbage dump outside the strange tower where Luna lives. All of the people in the town themselves abhor anyone not like them, and they literally are shells of their former selves with nothing to live for. Worse, everyone with the scent of death is dumped in a graveyard of sorts to just die or whatever. The realization at how truly spiteful Luna has become is amazing. Since much of the journey, Casshern had met people who had learned to live for a purpose to the end, the apparent treachery of Luna really hit home on both the hero and the audience. It was all a lie. An eternal life on this fragile earth was clearly not worth living if that’s what became of you, and Casshern and his friends resolve to have nothing to do with her.
So now that Luna is exposed for the weird deity that she is, Casshern and his friends agree to just live out their lives to the end…well, not Casshern, but you know. Even Lyuze, who is fast approaching her death is ok with with this. But one quick question comes to mind: The fact that Luna is still alive should mean Casshern isn’t at fault. Is there discussion of this? No, not even a thought. A total waste of a topic I thought for the show and unfortunately the lack of interest in this main point felt like getting stabbed. Yeah, the twisty nature of Luna catches your breath, but at least give a statement or two about WHAT MOST OF THE SHOW WAS ABOUT….oops.
I don’t wish to seem very harsh. To be fair to the series, Lyuze has met her peace about the whole affair by this point, so her imminent death does not bother her….and she admits she fell in love with Casshern. The tender scene of her death fades, and Casshern is soon beset once again by Dio…for the last time. Leda had gotten her hands on Luna, but Dio by now has realized she is only after her own beauty and he himself is infatuated in proving himself before Casshern and leaves. There were two great scenes here, and the first has to do with Leda. Leda thought she could use Luna, but was betrayed and thrown out with all the garbage of those with the stench of death. Quite literally, Luna made Leda into a sort of a monster and humiliated her, and this sends Leda into a rage. There are some great moments here of conversation, and I really don’t wish to spoil it too much, but suffice to say Leda herself was deceiving herself into thinking an immortal would really give her all she wanted. Quite the creepy stuff with Luna…man is she dark.
The second point here is back with Dio. Casshern by now has learned from Ringo and those whom he meets, and is able to help Dio in his last moments to discover what his purpose in life is. Naturally, this involves beating Casshern, so Casshern very nobly loses to his nemesis and earns immense respect from Dio. The scene is solid, and showed how much being thought of was important to Dio. That he finally earned his respect was enough for Dio, even as the Ruin is taking his life. What I found rather sweet is that while Leda is full of herself, Dio actually fell in love with her, and so requests Casshern to save the queen of beauty from her own devices. I liked the move here, and the set is staged for a final encounter with Luna that is sure to meet epic results…it was another high point in the series and well done.
So is there a bad guy? Well, while you might be able to say its Luna (I mean, she is cruel now), its not so much her as it is the attempt to bring heaven to earth. I really liked how those who do not have consequences for their life now have nothing to live for. The shell of a soul in a pointless world isn’t pretty to look at, and it definitely comes across well here. Not that this all means you should hate Luna, I certainly didn’t, but a part of you realizes the Ruin is more because Luna stopped doing her job and now is a twisted entity in a world of chaos…thus the solution to return to human control is somewhat appealing.
All this aside, when we get to the end, Casshern must face Luna’s new guardian. Braiking Boss appears before Casshern, apparently in his allusion to regain power he thinks himself having been gifted by Luna, only to find that Luna did not truly offer this and is defeated by Casshern. Its sort of an irony that Braiking Boss’ envy of Luna brought his own destruction when he made Casshern in the first place, and there is a pity shed to the robot in it all. I liked how Braiking Boss realizes at the end how devious and dangerous Luna is really becoming, so when he asks Casshern to perform one more duty for him by killing Luna again, it felt full circle.
Luna is even more off the hook at this point. Her treachery with Leda is apparent as she even stabbed a mortal wound on the wretch when Leda realized too late she was being sold down the river. Even more so, the shock continues as Luna has the audacity to ask Casshern if he will join her in producing a new race…one without the stench of death. Casshern not only rejects her, but threatens her that if she will attempt to assert her power to stop all death in the nothingness of her “Salvation”, that he will come back and show her the door once more. It’s actually a pretty good scene and I liked how Casshern at this point has accepted who he is and what his role. Its not that he’s against people living…rather, what Luna wanted was no different than Leda, and Casshern will not stand for it. See, Casshern has learned to accept death for what it is and what the importance of living has when compared to it. Without that knowledge of death and the importance living for something, living in a fallen world as we do, Casshern sees the emptiness of life Luna would bring about.
To be fair, that is definitely true about our present life. We all groan for freedom from the pains of today and future days to come. Life is hardship, and so while we are stuck here for our own makings, it is better that a man or woman learn their purpose in life and be able to find enjoyment in those things. Eternal life in a fallen world can’t bring satisfaction, for all that you know is passing by while you are staying put. To Casshern and the viewer alike, that is true torture. So it is very honorable for Casshern to speak to Leda, as she lays ready to die about Dio’s request to save her, and was nice seeing even the worst offenders get it right at the end.
How the show ends is kinda a disappointment. Remember how Ohji and Lyuze are shown to have fallen to the Ruin? Well, for some reason Casshern leaves Ringo all by herself for what is assumed forever and we end with a decent scene of Ringo meaninglessly living out her life with Friender the “dog” at her side. I guess it was too much to ask about the humans taking over again…not even a hint is presented….and what about the stone that Ohji was studying? What was the point of that discovery? Why waste episodes on cool ideas that never flesh themselves out…it seems so frustrating.
But perhaps the biggest disappointment is how the Ruin is never explained. Luna may be able to give eternal life, but was the Sun that is called moon also the sustainer of the planet? And even if he is, Casshern clearly couldn’t keep her dead, so how did slaying her partially actually translate into the Ruin coming upon the world? Its such a major theme that is not even answered by Luna or anyone else. We are just supposed to assume that Luna is the god of the world or something, and that Casshern is responsible to twisting her mind? I don’t know….its kinda lame sauce if you ask me.
To be frank, I think closure is the inherent problem with Casshern Sins. The show never quite finishes anything its set out to do and leaves us disappointing at the lack of hints. Sure, the world seems to have life again where Ringo is at, but where is the coming humans to retake control over the earth again? As far as you know, after the death of Ohji and Lyuze, Ringo has never met a soul since the departure and yet is able to have grown up since her silliness of her childhood. She is seen in a decent scene pointlessly living out her life with Friender the “dog” at her side. I find it highly ironic that the ending statement about finding a purpose in living that alludes the one character you were sure was the thesis point of the series. RINGO ISN’T EVEN DOING ANYTHING in her older self….just growing some flowers pointlessly. What kind of ending is that? It leaves a bitter taste to a show with so much potential.
Well, I guess that’s always been the problem with the early days of sci-fi.
Emotional Draw: 4.1
Humor is actually not that prevalent in the series. Aside from a few characters that give us some laughs (like that poor robot in the graveyard where that girl was plopping flowers on his head), the series is quite serious about its topic. Ringo’s charm in being a silly child is heartwarming to say the least, and as I mentioned previously a crucial point about the series’ relief measure.
Casshern Sins actually has some very strong elements throughout the series. Many of the robots or humans Casshern meets have significant stories to bring. Take the first real human encounter of Casshern’s: Akos. Here is a guy who has always been running away from his troubles, and now is on the brink of death from an incurable disease. The interaction between the two is rather pleasant, and Casshern is both able to learn and teach the man about not running anymore. I particularly liked the scenes where Akos describes his limitations as a man and especially thought the death scene rather somber. Seeing Akos part ways was done very nicely, and really….many more scenes would be like this.
You have the 3 children guarding the stupid pointless secret of Leda’s handlers. Seeing those robots turn into stone one by one actually nailed a few chords, and seeing how puzzled and saddened Ringo became watching them say goodbye with their smiles was so sad. It was great stuff. And wow about Dio? As I mentioned before, his whole arc was splendid and so was Leda’s. I remember feeling downright repulsive towards Leda for the wickedness she shows those around her, and yet somewhat sympathetic to her at the very end. Casshern Sins does a great job with the material its given, that for the story to fail it was indeed very sad.
Lets not forget the horror that the Ruin brings. While I really wanted to feel empathetic to the robots falling to pieces from the Ruin, the show fails in differentiating people from robots and the result is a mixed bag of feelings. Remember my comment about the tears? It wasn’t just that. Part of the show acknowledges how the robots cannot quite understand how people feel about love and death, and are trying to formulate those ideas to their limited brains. Yet the show at times presents some robots magically understanding these things or have tears, and the opportunity to present what humanity really is, was a lost cause.
I say all this, because towards the very end, the conclusion is for humans should go back to being the caretakers of the world again. So knowing this, the emotions needed to match along with the statements…and yet because the differences were inconsistent, you have a hard time agreeing with the sentiment.
Another plague of Casshern Sins is the sheer length between actions. I cannot tell you how many times I longed for the aimless walking to end and see more of the story…it sucked out of the enjoyment of the series. Even the ending had its share of long goodbyes that were unnecessarily longer still.
Still, all was not lost. Friender the robot dog was one of my favorite characters. A noble robot that doesn’t speak, that thing certainly acted like the usual dog in how brave and friendly it was. Friender and Ringo made a great pair together, and their scenes together were very heartwarming. Another favorite scene was Casshern and Lyuze on that bench saying goodbye. Lyuze is nearing her death from the Ruin, and describes her realization of her love for Casshern, as if discovering something brand new. Her recapping when she first met him and now where they have led was very sweet. Perhaps you knew it all along, but having to say goodbye to so many save for Friender and Ringo felt very surreal. The show spent its time (maybe a little too long with Dio) to nail the emotions in these scenes very well.
All in all, Casshern Sins has a lot of good material to go through….it just was let down by the story. A shame indeed.
Casshern – 4.7
Eric Vale performs the role as Casshern and I thought he did very well. Casshern is rather a lost soul. Condemned by all he meets as being the reason for death and the Ruin, this noble hero is also cursed with immortality that perpetuates his lost senses. Throughout the series I felt that Mr. Vale did a great job convincing us of the changing Casshern, in particularly the last scenes with Luna.
Lyuze – 4.0
She is an Android who is convinced that Casshern is to blame for her sister’s death. But upong finding Casserhn is unaware of his deeds, she follows him from afar and begins to doubt her cause. A well rounded heroine with a few short falts, I felt that Brina Palencia did well enough with her character. Her ending scene was most spectacular and felt did her justice.
Ringo – 3.9
While at times the ever positive Ringo might get on your nerves, Monica Rial did very solid for our little girl. Ringo is always laughing despite not having any living parents, but together with Ohji she makes a life for herself in all the Ruin. She will warm your spirit around mid-story and appeared more believable as the story went on.
Dio – 4.7
The other side of Casshern, and yet denied of immortality, Dio will stop at nothing to prove once and for all he is truly the best in the world. Jerry Jewell nailed most of his scenes very well, and makes for a great antagonist to our hero.
Luna – 5.0
They say that the Sun that is called Moon is a savior…well they lied. Trina Nishimura nails every opportunity to showcase a twisty immortal bent on her own selfish desires. I really felt that Luna help finish the series just don’t be hating her too much.
Leda – 4.3
Shelley Calene-Black plays the queen of beauty who is insane for her own vanity. While some of her scenes felt a little bit flat (and partially due to the drawings), Shelley does a great job of presenting the manipulative witch.
Casshern Sins aims to be like the olden stories of sci-fi, and I think for the most part succeeded. The world of Casshern is very bleak, with nothing but clay and sand to look for miles, the scenery felt appropriately rusty and doomed. However, the artwork becomes repetitive and it seems that especially so the choreography for the fight scenes are half-haphazardly done, some of them outright repeats of the same style a minute ago. Characters other than the main ones all tend to look the same after a while, so don’t expect this to improve as time goes on.
For some staple points, Casshern’s healing process definitely was cool, and I liked the properly threaded line of avoiding looking overly horrific. After all, the show already is bleak enough. I really liked Leda’s before and after scene with Luna, and thought the show did well to show the monstrosity of Luna’s “salvation”. Added to the list is the rust, and it was impressive the way the droids fell apart and aided some of the more emotional scenes.
However, I couldn’t end the note on drawing if I didn’t mention the way some of the differences between the genders was failed. In particularly a supposedly sensual scene where Leda is showing her affections towards Dio and looks remarkably more masculine than Dio does. Its an unfortunate directional view that just doesn’t make Leda in the least look so attractive…not that the show was trying to do, but the failure to properly draw Leda as a woman made the scene rather hard to take seriously.
As for music, it wasn’t half bad though not the most memorable. Of special notice of the not memorable music was an episode where an android who sings is trying to sing about about being free. The song is A Path by Nami Miyahara, and let me tell you…it sucks. I could barely stand it whenever the song came up, it just sounded too much like some casual karaoke song someone at a bar might perform. Its really not very good writing and felt too simplistic. That being said, some of the most tender scenes did match well musically, so that ends more or less a plus for the show. The Opening Song (OP) was “Aoi Hana” by Color Bottle and was a very nice fit for the show. Its bouncy opening helped prep the view for the bleak reality of Casshern, I just wished that there was perhaps more of it. Ending Song (ED) was done by “Reason” by K∧N∧ and felt very tragic as was the point of the show. I can’t really mention this song without its sister song “Light and Shadow” by Shinji Kuno which was also tragic in its presentation. Really though, that is about the extent of the great music in Casshern is its bookends, and so sort of fell short of matching the potential the series had to amaze.
For those who are eager about some fun songs, you might enjoy this A Capella of Shinji Kuno’s Bohemian Rhapsody : This song is a Japanese spinoff of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. This song is part of the Casshern Sins Project and can be found on the Hikari to Kage single by Kuno Shinji on the B-side.
Final Score: 3.905 (Casshern Sins is a sci-fi that tries to do too much with too little investment in too many parts of its own story. While it certainly will end up being twisty, the show just lacks the proper consistency and expects too much of its viewers with clear plot holes. However, it still worth a watch.)