Anime review: Casshern Sins

It is common knowledge that Casshern, the strongest being in the world, killed Luna and in turn brought about a decay known as the Ruin. A world once full of life is slowly dying - humans are few and far between, while robots rust and gradually fall apart. Yet the only individual who does not seem to recall the events that led to the spread of the Ruin is Casshern himself. Confused about who he really is and whether he did what everyone claims, Casshern sets out to find Luna and set the record straight.

Along his journey, Casshern takes on a few companions. The first he encounters is Ringo, a young child whose curiosity and bright nature act as the initial spark that leads Casshern to ultimately question what it is that divides humans and robots, as well as just what he himself is. Ringo's happy attitude is a rare find in a world counting down to extinction, and her positivity stems from her relationship with Ohji, her adoptive father figure. The two intend to make their own journey, but have numerous run-ins with Casshern that become increasingly frequent as the story progresses. Also of significance is Lyuze, a robot who lost her sister to the Ruin. When she discovered Casshern was responsible for killing Luna, she set out to seek revenge. But she grows frustrated when Casshern does not respond with the violence she expects, and begins to contemplate the possibility that maybe Casshern is not as horrible as she made him out to be in her own mind.

With regards to the antagonists, Casshern faces many rogue robots that want to devour him, under the impression that doing so will grant them immortality. While Casshern is able to easily dispatch these lesser foes, two of his kin named Dio and Leda prove much more intimidating. Leda's dream is to gather all the robots she can and make an army that will bow before Dio. It is clear from the earliest of Leda's appearances that she would much rather play puppet master, leaving Dio to be the face of a new robotic empire. Dio, however, wants little more than to fight Casshern and prove he is stronger in battle.

Each of the minor characters that Casshern meets has their own individual story to tell. Sword-wielding Sophita loves to fight, and believes that combat brings out the true inner beauty of others. An artist sheds light on the history of war and conquest that built a majestic city, but now that it is abandoned, all he wishes to do is paint it over in one final and definitive color. While such characters see inclusion for a single episode each, their impact on Casshern is noticeable, and their stories play out well. What proves perhaps most interesting through their exchanges is the way in which robots behave very human in nature - or at the very least, behave in a manner aligned with their understanding of what it is to be human.

The world that Casshern and company travel across is equal parts haunting and beautiful. Watercolors decorate key locations in an otherwise grey and desolate realm, while environments are host to empty towering structures and natural formations that are borderline-alien in appearance. Character designs appear as a sort of combination between comic book styling and tick traditional Japanese brush strokes. The soundtrack follows a similar formula, with soft vocals accompanying string pieces. All of this makes for one of the most strikingly original - as well as one of the most gorgeous - visions of a post-apocalyptic world realized in contemporary media.

Casshern Sins is a rare gem among reboots and reimaginings. Casshern's constant internal struggle is fueled by each and every interaction he makes, and though there is a constantly looming cloud of uncertainty regarding the future, the writers make the endgame clear from the outset of Casshern's journey. The storytelling is gritty at times, while it also teeters into the realms of existentialism and philosophy. Casshern Sins constructs a world through a magnificent blend of fantasy and science fiction, and manages to throw a few plot twists along the way that flow very well with the overall direction and pacing of the series.

My rating: 9.25 (out of 10)

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