Reviewby Mark Sombillo, Feb 28th 2011
Category :: Anime
Casshern Sins (TV)
The Ruin has arrived and all the robots living in this earth are slowly but surely dying. Humans have all but gone extinct themselves and the world is falling to its inescapable demise. And all of this is due to a being named Casshern and an act he performed which forever changed everything. Or so the rumours go. Trouble is, Casshern doesn't know what he is to begin with let alone what it was that he did which caused all the chaos. He is desperate to find the answer soon because also according to the rumours, he who devours Casshern will gain eternal life. And that's an enticing meal for mortal robots.
Years ago a little trailer came out on the internet for a live action movie titled Casshern. The trailer was utterly cool and embodied everything that a growing young man envisaged a post-apocalyptic Japan might be like, full of samurai swords and cute chicks. Quite some time later I finally managed to get my hands on a DVD of it and we strapped in to our chairs and got ready to witness awesomeness unfold. Unfortunately this was one of those cases where just about all the exciting bits were already shown on the trailer and the rest (over 2 hours worth of it) was rhetoric dribble that I'm sure the translators had a brain haemorrhage for trying to make sense. I don't recall actually ever getting to the end of that movie; it felt too tiresome to even press the fast-forward button.
So you can only imagine my hesitation to take on a series of the similarly named anime. I was even mildly thankful that Siren Visual only released half of the collection in this volume, but that is still about a dozen episodes! At this point in the review, the literary gimmick that's often employed after building up a fairly negative introduction is to proclaim that the anime is dramatically the opposite. But it's not.
Let me clarify. Casshern Sins does not offer a positive reflection of the Casshern movie because besides the name and basic costume design of the protagonist, they really don't have much else in common, so it's probably a bit unfair to make such a comparison. I also can't however say that this series is just as bad as the movie. Mediocre probably sums it up best. So for those who have seen the movie first rather than the original anime series in the 1970s, you're better off clearing your mind of any preconceptions.
Let's go through what was good. The soundtrack is fantastic. The word “epic” is far too often thrown around today with total disregard to its real meaning and applicability but I'm left with not many other words in order to describe the background music. Essentially it's the kind of orchestral performance that would be at home in a movie about the gods of Mt. Olympus fighting it out with the Titans. The ending credits song is also a first in a while that has struck a chord in me. K∧N∧'s soulful singing perhaps doing more to remind me of how lonely Casshern's world is turning into rather than the story itself. Character design also has a bit of nostalgic feel to it, a light nod to the original series and the era it was re-envisioned from; you can be forgiven for thinking you were watching Battle of the Planets all over again.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the opening song seems a bit on the awkward side, perhaps trying to capture the feel of the original series but ends up only being corny. The pacing of the story is a bit like a learner driver having great difficulty with the clutch, prone to stalling on insignificant parts and just as likely to accelerate uncontrollably past things that could be interesting. The fight sequences are also cumbersome to watch where you're more likely to just see swipes of light to represent that an action has occurred before it skips to the scene where the bad guy is falling apart. And just back to the background music, or rather the bits where it doesn't play, there were just too many elongated silent moments often accompanied by cheap zoom-in shots of the characters with nothing happening.
Above everything else, I think it's the formulaic delivery of the story that prevents this show from really taking off. It's always robots finding out that Casshern might be able to grant them eternal life, followed by a fight scene that lacks punch and then it's back to shots of Casshern looking lonesome and questioning his existence yet again. I'm sure that towards the end of the series this pattern would change, but in this volume, you really can't expect much more than that.
Voice work by both Japanese and English cast seems a bit too over dramatic but that could be more due to the script rather than acting by cast. An exception could be made for the character of Akoz which for his ironic dissertation of the world, even for the brief moment of his appearance, gave the show a bit more soul and a reason for being melancholic. Siren hasn't included very much in terms of extras in the DVDs and the box art is fairly bland concoction of black and Casshern's face.
Casshern Sins belongs to a different age. It's claimed as a “reboot” of the original anime which is disappointing then that they've stuck to the art style of that time. Yes, I highlighted the design as a positive for nostalgic purposes earlier on but that really relies on you having something to be nostalgic about to begin with. Essentially the series is likely to pique the interest of the older generation who might have already seen the original for comparative purposes but newer viewers are more likely to baulk at this style and storytelling approach. It has a few good points namely the expansively brilliant orchestral soundtrack but I just don't think they combine together to form a saving grace. Unless the second volume shifts gear entirely, I can't say that there's much else to look forward to.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C
Animation : C-
Art : C-
Music : A-
+ Wonderful orchestral soundtrack
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