Title: Casshern SINS
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 1 Oct 2008 – 15 Mar 2009
Synopsis: The world is in ruin. Everywhere, robots are rusting and breaking down, unable to repair themselves. Humans come few and far between with extinction inevitable. Chaos is ensuing, despair consumes the hearts of most, and all of this can be blamed on the actions of one robot by the name of Casshern. Chased by hordes of the vengeful, the now amnesia stricken Casshen walks the Earth slowly remembering his greatest sin; killing Luna, the Sun that was name Moon. With no place to hide, he must reconcile with his past. However, those around him are not so soon to forgive.
Atmosphere: Exactly what you’d expect from Madhouse; engrossing.
Characters: Quick to grow, and Casshern grows with them.
Fight scenes: Frightening, well animated, but not exactly fun.
Episode style: Some make you feel warm; others will break you down.
Animation: Rich with symbolism.
Mystery: Never feels fully resolved.
Horror: A single frame is all it takes.
Tatsunoko Productions is not the kind of studio one would expect any sort of substance to sprout from. With such shows like The Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, Space Knight Tekkaman, and the insanely inappropriate Yatterman, it is hard to imagine any sort of artistic merit from anything they are responsible for. Leave it to Madhouse to be able to take their work Neo Human Casshern, and actually turn it into something truly memorable.
Considering that the original premise of Casshern is something relatively similar to Mega Man, the first thing to do was doing away with the old story. In essence, SINS is Casshern in name only. With the exception of four characters, everything in this anime has been revamped, deconstructed, and painted over with a nice rust finish. The result of which is a Kino’s Journey-esque tale of self-redemption filled to the brim with moral ambiguity and “robot leprosy.”
Each episode, for the most part, explores a different aspect of humanity, usually regarding hope and despair. These stories rarely end up being simple optimism or unfettered rage. Instead, we get moments of naïve, almost sad hope, as well as rage evolving into love. Not every story clicks with the same intensity. The first half has its fair share of dull episodes, while the second explores a mystery that, by itself, doesn’t hold its own weight. However, as early as episode 2, which represents how even the most unlikely chance at life can bring out the ugliest in anyone, the emotional impact creates such unrelenting momentum that these roadblocks do nothing to deter anyone from the end.
Despite moments where the story feels incomplete, SINS makes up for it with a rich artistic touch that comes out of left field. An entrancing atmosphere is to be expected from Madhouse. And even then, they surpass all expectations by changing it when necessary. At first, it’s not hard to expect a depressing setting with some above average, albeit grizzly, fight scenes. However, in only a short time, this evolves into an introspective piece, symbolic in every facet. So much of the storytelling is derived from the animation that not everything really needs to be explained verbally. Subtlety is an art, which the staff had mastered exceptionally. The very emotional depth that can be drawn from a single blue flower is uncanny, especially as it becomes an unusual personification of death. And yet for all the beauty, Casshern is second to few at leaving the viewers in the state of shock. With just a glimpse of rust on the cheek of a robot, or the emptiness in one’s eyes brings out a sense of terror that should make any horror work feel ashamed.
As an anime, Casshern SINS is a rather hard one to categorize. While it starts out as a fairly ambitious reboot, it proves itself not to be some episodic action series that ambles along with one shot characters as the focus. And even then, mystery, Evangelion style introspection, genuine romance, among other things, enter the mix in order to create something that doesn’t stay as one genre for too long. Whatever label you put on this show, however, is moot, because Casshern SINS stands on its own as a piece of true artistic integrity that show just how far anime has come over the years.
The Rating: 8
Reviewed by: Kavik Ryx
NHRV Editor’s Choice – April 2009: awarded by Shadowmage