"Casshern Sins" Complete Series: Repenting Won't Save This Soul
When FUNimation first started marketing Casshern Sins, I thought the series looked rather neat. The animation had a simple, charming feel while the humanoid robot premise reminded me of Cyborg 009, a series I nostalgically enjoyed. But as a story that depends largely on its characters, Casshern Sins falls short due to those characters’ inability to connect with the viewer. The story itself is tiresome and tedious, trudging through an unnecessary 24 episodes. There are some genuinely interesting moments in Casshern Sins but they are few and far between.
Man created robots. Robots destroyed mankind. Unfortunately for robots, their hopes of living long, eternal lives ended when Casshern killed Luna, a robot known for granting life. When Casshern killed Luna the “Ruin” started, causing robots to rust and eventually die. Casshern, however, doesn’t remember killing Luna, nor does he understand why he doesn’t rust; he knows only that there is a rumor going around that if a robot eats him they will live forever. So Casshern travels and meets various robots, including Dio, his near-identical rival. Dio, along with his female companion, Leda, raise an army in an effort to stop the Ruin and rule over the Earth. Casshern’s struggle becomes even more complicated when his creator, Braiking Boss, enters the mix, and rumors of Luna actually being alive surface. While the robots seek salvation, Casshern wishes for answers.
For the most part, I find I am more accepting of languid plots than most other viewers. But I still have limits, and those limits are tested when the same uninteresting storyline is repeated over and over again. Here is what the story of Casshern Sins boils down to: Casshern wanders around wondering about who he is; Casshern finds robots being attacked by other robots; Casshern saves the robots being attacked; and Casshern goes berserk and nearly destroys everyone. When Dio and Leda are introduced it seems as though the plot might take a new direction, but instead it continues crawling along. The only difference is that Dio raises a (useless) army and fights Casshern when they meet, and suddenly everyone starts searching for Luna. When Casshern Sins finally passes the finish line, the payoff is not only confusing, it is anti-climactic. If you are going to make the viewer wait so long it is best to at least make sure the ending is top-notch quality.
Typically a series can offset slow pacing with entertaining action. Casshern Sins certainly has plenty of action and fighting, but it is just as boring as the storyline. Casshern is not only very powerful, he can also heal himself. This means the fights always end the same, no matter how bad Casshern’s situation may look. With such an obvious outcome there is no tension in the fights. Even Dio, who gives Casshern a run for his money in terms of power, can’t really do any harm to Casshern.
Casshern’s struggle to accept what he has done to the world (by killing Luna) and figure out his past is the major focus of the series. It says a lot about a show when the ‘character of the week’ tends to be more interesting/sympathetic than a protagonist with this kind of problem. But that’s the consequence of Casshern’s incessant whining and complaining. Casshern Sins takes too long to flesh out his past, and by taking so long it drains the character of his likeability. But the secondary cast often comes off as unnecessary baggage and doesn’t add anything special to the show. Lyuze in particular is rather infuriating to watch as she goes from hating to Casshern to loving him all too quickly.
If there is one note Casshern Sins hits correctly it is in making the viewer emotional over various robots and their struggle to survive. It is especially disturbing when the robots begin turning on one another, and when robots that look like little children are being destroyed. I will also say that Leda has a fairly enticing storyline as she seemingly had the ability to procreate despite being a robot. The direction it goes in isn’t well realized, but at least it starts out solid.
The animation in Casshern Sins looks old-fashioned, giving it a nostalgic cast with its dull colors and simple designs. The animation fits the atmosphere of the show quite nicely, with the ‘Ruin’ destroying lives and leaving the world a desert wasteland. Unfortunately, the desert also looks the same no matter where the characters go, which only amplifies the feeling that the series wanders over the same barren territory to no effect. Extras this time around are scarce, which is disappointing. I was under the impression we left the days when extras consisted solely of trailers and textless openings, but apparently not.
Casshern Sins presents a rather disturbing society, one where everything is succumbing to ruin and will eventually be left with nothing. But presentation is one aspect while execution is another, and regrettably Casshern makes too many mistakes to be enjoyable. In the end it becomes frustrating to watch a series with potential fail to rise even the slightest. A series can survive with a slow (weak) plot, but not when all the other elements in it are equally as bad. If they ever reboot the franchise it would be best if they condensed the plot, constructed a likable primary cast, and created an ending that leaves the viewer feeling satisfied.