Matt Kamen wanders the philosophical wasteland with Casshern Sins.
Casshern Sins is about redemption. The hero – if you can truly call him that – wanders an abandoned wasteland, plagued by amnesia, unaware that his own actions led to the collapse of civilisation. Humanity is all but gone, and their robot heirs are faring little better. Survival is a burden at best, made worse by a plague known as ‘the Ruin’ infecting organic and inorganic alike. Except, that is, for Casshern himself. Clad in gleaming white and seemingly in perfect health, a legend has formed that eating his body will grant rejuvenation and immortality, making him a dark messianic figure in this future wilderness.
Casshern Sins is one of the deepest, most engaging anime series of the year. The art style belies this fact – after all, the superflat designs of the characters and the world they inhabit bring to mind the frantic Gurren Lagann or Dead Leaves, while those who know of its origins as a 1970s kids’ series might be expecting something equally mainstream, full of robot fights and a positive moral at the end of each episode. Well, the ‘robot fights’ part is at least accurate – with a lead character prone to violent, superpowered rages, the series has action to spare, but that’s not really what it’s about.
In the original 1973 series, Casshern was Tetsuya Azuma, forced to modify his body into a cybernetic fighting machine in order to combat the evil robots created by his father. In Sins, Casshern is a robot from the start, human in appearance only, and questioning his outlook on life and reason for existing. His travels give the series an almost picaresque air, each episode encapsulating a different viewpoint on the human experience.
Luckily, Casshern isn’t entirely alone. His loyal canine robot from the original series, Friender, is reimagined here as an mistrustful outcast, who eventually joins forces with Casshern. The innocent girl Ringo and her mysterious guardian Ohji – who seems to know more about the past than he lets on – play pivotal roles in the quest for redemption, as does the female robot Lyuze, tracking Casshern to exact vengeance for another sin of from forgotten days.
In Casshern Sins, director Shigeyasu Yamauchi and esteemed animation studio Madhouse have crafted a perfect balance of introspection and action. It’s a series that fans of the earlier incarnations will find enthralling and emotional, while remaining inviting and captivating for newcomers. If you’re tired of action anime with no substance, this is the antidote – powerful, poignant and personal – essential viewing for fans with discerning tastes!