Casshern Sins Review - Sinfully Bad
Well this is one hell of a shift in quality, isn’t it? I debuted my reviewing career with Summer Wars, an absolute trip of a film that I loved very dearly, and now I have to deal with this shambles. Somehow, between then and now, and with very little fanfare in between, I have gone from reviewing something amazing to slashing apart something completely terrible. I’m not entirely convinced this is actually happening to me. I’m half-expecting to wake up any second now with my keyboard’s home row imprinted across my forehead, and I’d actually appreciate that a ton. Because that would imply I didn’t just spend part of my precious life watching Casshern Sins.
I apologize for the bad pun in the title there, by the way, but good luck trying to find another word to adequately describe this animated dumpster fire. It’s bad. It’s extremely bad. It bored me to tears and then it had me slamming my head into my desk. So incoherent and jumbled were the pictures in front of me that at one point I was expecting my phone to ring and tell me I had seven days left to live - a sweet release from this drab, desolate, dreary disaster of a show that I have wasted precious time watching. I could’ve been grinding for gear for my Demon Hunter in Diablo 3. I could’ve cleaned out my apartment and donated some stuff to charity. I could’ve dug around in the pantry for all the granola bars and fed them to the squirrels outside.
But no, instead I had to put up with this…thing. And now I guess I have to do something about it. I don’t want to. I’d much rather talk about good anime I like as opposed to bad ones I vehemently loathe. But if I can save at least one person from putting this on and making the same mistake I did, then I’ve done my job.
Whenever I put on a new series, no matter how good or bad I think the overall product is, I can almost always think of one positive thing the series does well. Karen Seki is still the worst short series I’ve seen in ages, but it had a cool color scheme and interesting setting that would’ve set it up for decency had the series not been directed by a baboon. I might think Black Rock Shooter is pretentious and that it thinks it’s saying way more than it actually is, but the “action” scenes are interesting enough and pretty well choreographed, so if you have a thing for that you can definitely do worse. And if you let me assert that Tokyo Ghoul should’ve stopped after the first season, I’ll gladly admit there were some amazingly horrific scenes that had me cringing and wincing for minutes on end.
Casshern Sins is special for me, however, because I legitimately cannot tell you one thing about this anime that I liked. The closest I can get to complementing it is that the action scenes remind me a bit of One Punch Man but with robots, but that’s an insult to One Punch Man. That name shouldn’t even be in the same paragraph as Casshern Sins, how vast the rift in quality is between the two. Make no mistake, there is nothing worthwhile to see here. There is no redemption to be found anywhere. This series is a wasteland, devoid of all life and meaning, wrought with one-dimensional characters, awful direction, horrible writing, and a plot more flimsy than wet toilet paper.
The “story” behind this unrehearsed middle school play is that the world’s majority population is robots, and some unmentioned amount of time ago, a guy named Casshern (Toru Furuya) killed a girl named Luna (Akiko Yajima) and brought about the start of what’s effectively Armageddon. The robots have all been afflicted with something called the Ruin (somehow), which pretty much means they run the risk of spontaneously decaying and dying whenever the plot calls for it. However, a rumor has been circulating that whichever robot kills and eats Casshern (because robots need to eat in this universe, why the hell not) can gain immunity from the Ruin, and this pretty much serves as a vehicle for most of the fight scenes.
And, oh yeah, Casshern (holy hell, that’s a stupid name) has amnesia now, because the writers needed an easy way to drop exposition onto the audience and they didn’t want to worry about developing actual characters or letting us figure stuff out by ourselves.
What then follows is a drawn-out, ill-conceived, egregiously boring trek from sandy worn-down city to sandy worn-down city to sandy desert - slow down Casshern Sins, I can only take so much variety in one sitting - as our protagonist brazenly seeks for answers, occasionally taking a five-minute break to punch a machine out of his way. That sounds intersting and fun enough by its own, but watching a machine disintegrate doesn’t have quite the same impact as watching something organic disintegrate. That hyper violent feel is why we love OPM and Attack on Titan so much.
Also, there are mobs of robots wanting to kill Casshern at any given time, but if I understand this anime’s major plot point correctly, only one of them is going to gain immunity from the Ruin by eating him. Unless his body is like The Last Supper bread and all you need is a bit of it to gain its effects? That’s the only reason I can think of as to why there isn’t massive infighting among these losers to claim Casshern before anyone else can.
Worse still, the fight scenes are really not well-executed to begin with. You know how in terrible action movies the footage will constantly be cutting away to different things, making the actual action hard to focus on? Casshern Sins commits the exact same crime. You’ll have no clue what the hell is going on during these scenes, which is really bad seeing as how the fights are pretty much the only things that could’ve broken up the drab monotony that plagues the rest of the series.
Even without the Edward Scissorhands treatment, the action on screen is not that impressive in the first place. It really isn’t. Which makes that last point even worse in my opinion. It’s almost like the animators knew the action wasn’t going to be satisfying, so they tried to mask it behind rapid edits and unintelligible footage and hoped nobody would care enough to pick up on it. That’s… borderline insulting to the audience’s intelligence there, don’t you think? I don’t necessarily have a problem with unimpressive fight scenes, as long as you make up for it somewhere else, but cutting it down to the animated equivalent of white noise then trying to pass it off as something just as good if not slightly better? Yeah, that’s not cool.
Which brings me to my next major complaint on the list that’s extending out my front door and out my apartment complex: the direction. Right from the OP, you can tell that this series isn’t really going to go anywhere special. The song is “Aoi Hana (Blue Flower)” by Color Bottle, and after listening to it a couple times, I guess it’s a little catchy. Nothing memorable, and I feel like it’s trying a little too hard to be the third FMA: Brotherhood OP, but it’s okay.
Here’s the thing, though: it just doesn’t work as an intro song. When I first saw this opening, I thought the series had pulled a Daily Lives of High School Boys and played the ED first to shake things up. But no, this acoustic easy-listening ditty that sounds like the Japanese equivalent of a Nickelback single is what you’re listening to before every episode of an allegedly dark, post-apocalyptic action adventure. Are we sure this song wasn’t supposed to be the closer?
The visual editing doesn’t do it any favors either. It’s like the director said, “Yeah, just put in a bunch of stills of Casshern looking serious and show off his outfit a little. That’ll get the audience revved up!” It reeks of laziness. In fact, it’s hardly even animated! Outside of a first shot of an eye opening up (because that’s meaningful and unique and definitely not a cliché for 2008), less than a second of Casshern’s hair blowing in the wind, and a lens flare, there is no movement in Casshern Sins' OP whatsoever. I could probably recreate it in a PowerPoint presentation, and I slightly suspect that was actually the software they used.
“SnYves, come on now, aren’t you being a little facetious here? After all, there’s more to an action anime than just the fight scenes and opening theme song. It’s about the characters and the story and…”
Reader, I’m going to ask you to put those goalposts back where you found them and back away slowly. I don’t turn on an action movie to see the characters diplomatically work out their shortcomings for two hours; I turn it on to see the titular action. That’s 90% of the final grade there, and the story attached can only do so much to pick up the slack.
But okay, I’ll humor you. After all, every anime that focuses on action does indeed need a story to tell to help build the setting and set the stakes. That said, you’ll recall from twelve paragraphs ago that I stated this anime’s plot holds up worse than a house of cards during an earthquake, and now I’d like to show you why.
In Episode 2, Casshern stumbles into a community of friendly robots that are just trying to get by and survive until the Ruin comes to take them. They’ve more or less accepted their fate and are just trying to enjoy their last few minutes “alive” with friends and family. And for a brief, fleeting moment, I actually held a little bit of hope. Maybe there’d be some incisive commentary on how fleeting love and relationships can be: lifelong bonds eroded and eventually destroyed in an instant by a merciless, unyielding and unstoppable foe known as Time. Maybe this series was getting deeper than I initially gave it credit for.
But then I was treated to a poorly animated dialogue with the city’s head mechanic effectively, saying that part exchanges and maintenance are getting more costly, and also that he assumes new robots are impossible to build. Of course Casshern the amnesiac asks why. You wanna know what the answer is?
“I don’t know. But I’m certain it’s unavoidable.”
Then how do you know it’s impossible to build new bodies? Did you even try? There’s salvageable if not straight up usable materials in your workshop, and your previous dialogue suggested you do have some tools available and ready to use. Are you seriously telling me you’ve had all of these resources on hand and haven’t tried at least once to build a new body for the decaying robots over the however many years since the Ruin’s come down? For that matter, if you don’t know if this is possible, then how can you be certain that ruination is an inevitability? Better yet, how do tell how far along someone is on the path to Ruin? The obvious answer would be how worn down and rusted they look, but a few minutes later they kill off some randy who seemed to be in pretty good shape over the fifteen seconds of screentime he had. So was his Ruin infecting his insides? Then why did his arm fall off for no reason? Did he have a lower Ruin threshold than everyone else? Is there a way to determine that? And what about backups? Did we really come around to a robot majority population on the planet and not remember the first thing you learn in an elementary school computer class, that being saving your freaking work? Is there really no feature available in the robots that would allow them to transfer bodies without having to completely rebuild them from scratch? And wouldn’t that be an excellent opportunity to try building a new body and seeing if maybe you can port someone into it? Or does this show also want me to buy that those backups were the first things to go for every robot in existence right now? And while we’re on it, how exactly does the Ruin work? Is it just some way to accelerate the rate at which the robots wear down? Wouldn’t you have researched it a bit by this point and know a little more about it then? Did the air suddenly become 80% humid constantly? Then why are there so many deserts around, which I should remind you are dry? Did it go acidic instead? Then how is the human character from Episode 3 managing to breathe without coughing up more blood than Izumi Curtis?
This plot is so under-cooked you could get salmonella from it.
Overall, Casshern Sins feels a twelve-year-old’s attempt to write a post-apocalyptic novel with “dark and complex” characters and fails just as badly as you’d think. The characters are forgettable cardboard cutouts with no personality behind them, the action is an incoherent mishmash of confusing edits with almost zero prelude or build up, and the story has so many holes in its narrative I’d need to take a topology class to analyze them all.
All that aside, its biggest sin (ha, haha, I made a funny) is that it’s ultimately just lazy. No effort seemed to be put into this in any respect. Don’t want to animate a character’s mouth? Just have them stand in the dark corner of the room. Need some way to pad time in between scenes? Cut to a close-up of Casshern looking directly into the camera if not slightly below it. There is really no excuse for animation this uninspired and apathetic.
Mad House, you are better than this. I know you are. Sure, Law of Averages kinda says they had to make a not good series at some point, but this just shouldn’t have happened to you.
Does this thing maybe get better over time? I couldn’t tell you. Casshern Sins failed the three-episode test so hard I’d give it a G if I could. And even if it did pick itself up after a few episodes, I still wouldn’t recommend it, because you’ll be so turned off by the first half you won’t have the patience to continue.
Oh, and it turns out this is a reboot of a series from 1973. That should tell you everything you need to know.
THE VERDICT: F
Next time: Not KonoSuba and not Re:Zero.