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Casshern Sins: Part 1(TV) (2008-2009)
The world is falling apart and Casshern is to blame. He is said to have killed a robot named "Luna" and by doing so unleashed a plague referred to as "ruin". But Casshern has no recollection of committing such an act, none the less both the humans and sentient robots hold him accountable. Now he must struggle to unravel what has truly happened to the world to be able to make a mends for his sins.
For more about Casshern Sins: Part 1 and the Casshern Sins: Part 1 Blu-ray release, see Casshern Sins: Part 1 Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on August 16, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tōru Furuya, Nami Miyahara, Yūko Minaguchi, Ch˘, Akiko Yajima, Kenji Utsumi
» See full cast & crew
Casshern Sins: Part 1 Blu-ray Review
"Ruin is the salvation of man and machine."
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, August 16, 2010
Designed as an alternate version of the 1973 anime series titled Neo-Human Casshern, Casshern Sins is a 24-episode production, featuring animation courtesy of Madhouse Ltd.(Ninja Scroll, Paprika, and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust). Some fans of the original Casshern storyline will naturally undergo an initial sense of bewilderment at the inclusion of the same characters in far different roles, but once you move past the lack of parallels in the new series, you'll find an interesting journey slowly unraveling.
For those who may not be aware, the complete 24-episode run of Casshern Sins has been split in half for FUNimation's Blu-ray release, so "part one" of the series only extends through episode 12. As a result, this initial review will focus solely on the events of the series that take place during the leading half of the series, with a review of the "part two" box set soon to follow.
In a futuristic Earth resembling a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a lone warrior named Casshern emerges with no memory of his past and a unique talent for destruction. At some point in his earlier days, the sleek killing machine was responsible for the death of a young woman named Luna, which cast the Earth in shadow and released a wave of decay known as the Ruin. Prior to Luna's death, humanity created a robotic population that eventually turned on their creators, killing all but a handful of human survivors. Ironically, the humans and robots left standing in the wake of Luna's death suffer an equally tragic fate; poisoned and decayed from within as the Ruin chokes out what little life remains. The only hope for eternal life seems to lie in the destruction of Casshern, the universally hated harbinger of death who originally set this apocalypse in motion. As Casshern travels across the desolate landscape in search of answers, he crosses paths with robot and human friends or foesŚeach with their own story of hope, tragedy, fear, or sorrow. Knowing he must undo the damage he caused in his prior life, he seeks the help of the few allies still willing to trust him and discovers there's far more to his past than he originally believed.
The first half of Casshern Sins is an odd duck when it comes to entertainment value, switching rapidly between impressive highs and boredom-inducing lows. Such a dichotomy is actually rare among anime series, which typically fall in a love it or hate it classification with many fans, leading to lengthy debates over the merits of a particular production. In the case of Casshern Sins, I can't narrowly identify certain episodes that drag the pacing and flow of the series down, but I'd wager most viewers will walk away with a lack of enthusiasm for the overall storyline by the halfway point of the production. Instead of a densely layered plot involving recurring characters that expand on the storyline revolving around Casshern, we're briefly introduced to humans or robots that rarely make it beyond the confines of a single episode, and don't play a significant role during the early stages of the series. I fully expect this to change during the latter half of the series (when we hopefully dig into Casshern's connection to Braiking Boss and Luna), but a moderate injection of interesting revelations is sorely missed during the initial run.
The other factor contributing to my less-than-enthusiastic reaction to Casshern Sins thus far is the portrayal of Casshern himself. During the initial two episodes of the series, the star of the show is introduced as a confused, guilt-ridden being with enemies around every corner. He's capable of controlling his killer instinct to a certain extent, but when pushed to his physical limits, Casshern undergoes an almost Hulk-like transition. This obviously poses a threat to anyone willing to get close to him, but also adds to the sense of alienation he already feels. The problem with such a flawed character is you eventually grow tired of his "feel sorry for me" attitude, which all too often manifests in a willingness to sacrifice himself in order to make friends. This occurs first with the introduction of a cybernetic dog named Friender, and emerges again during a confrontation with a vengeful woman named Lyuze. While the guilt aspect is understandable (considering the misery he supposedly caused), I couldn't grasp the reasoning behind his willingness to facilitate his own demise in one episode, and hold onto life in the next. As a result, it grew a bit tiresome wading through long stretches of discourse centered on the value of life amidst a world in decay, bringing the pacing of the series to a grinding halt at some of the most inopportune moments.
Fortunately, despite some problematic elements in the pacing of the series I found enough positives to still make the experience worthwhile. First and foremost, tremendous credit should be given to Madhouse for developing an animation style that's truly a sight to behold. Utilizing bold lines and strikingly vivid texturing, the artwork is almost akin to the panels of a graphic novel, creating a new benchmark in television anime productions. As a result, the fight sequences throughout the series take on a hyper-stylized sense of violence, featuring electronic guts ripped from the belly of robots, and flailing appendages that dart to and fro in search of a victim. The end result is nothing short of spectacular, leaving us to wonder what visceral battle the artists would dream up next. Aside from the animation, the other strength in the series is the post-apocalyptic setting, which offers a depressing undercurrent to the events occurring in the series. Those of you who've remained longtime fans of anime will remember the early focus on a post-apocalyptic future during the 80's and early 90's, but more recent productions have largely abandoned the concept. Here's hoping Casshern marks a return to post-apocalyptic tales in the years to come, giving anime fans a further taste of the imaginative potential in of the somber setting.
Casshern Sins: Part 1 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 18Mbps), Casshern Sins sports an absolutely stunning image that truly showcases the impressive animation quality of the series. Line consistency never falters, clarity reveals outstanding depth, and although there are occasional bouts of intentional softening, the texturing throughout the series is some of the best I've witnessed in a television anime production. Adding to the overall strength of the transfer, the series incorporates an ultra-stylized color palette to highlight specific elements within the overly drab landscape. For instance, certain characters are created with vivid hair (such as Janice the singer), or deeply colorful outfits (Dio and Leda) that stand out with eye-catching beauty. On occasion, the color spectrum is dominated by a single prominent color occupying the background, which paints every aspect of the foreground in a similar color push. One such instance can be found during the flashbacks of Luna's death at the hands of Casshern, where the crimson of the surrounding water paints every shade in a similar hue. This focus on attention to detail extends into almost every facet of the animation style, revealing a sense of creativity that's often lost in the world of television entertainment. Moving on to contrast and black level depth, this is one of the strongest productions in recent memory, revealing precise shade differentiation that never falters during colorful or drab settings. Punctuating the strengths already mentioned, I never noticed any digital flaws in the creation of the transfer, banding is nonexistent, and the softening effect of DNR is entirely absent. Some may notice an effect that resembles edge haloing around thick black lines, but rest assured this is an intentional effect present in the animation and shouldn't be viewed as a deficiency.
Taken as a whole, Casshern Sins is a sight to behold on Blu-ray, and ranks among the best television anime productions to date. Regardless of how you feel about the series itself, the visuals leave little room for improvement.
Casshern Sins: Part 1 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Continuing with their confirmed dedication to offering lossless tracks for both language options, FUNimation presents the English dub in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and the original Japanese mix in Dolby TrueHD 2.0. As expected, the English option delivers a heightened level of immersion in comparison with the Japanese mix, but clarity on both tracks remains consistently comparable. As with most anime productions, I began the 12-episode run favoring the native language option, but found myself gravitating more and more toward the English dub as time went on. I don't often give enough credit to the voice actors employed by FUNimation to complete the dubbed offerings, so Casshern Sins offers an ideal opportunity for me to toss a little praise in their direction. Most of what set these voice actors apart from ones I've heard on more lackadaisical efforts from other studios is the ability of the actors to nail the personalities of the characters they portray, which often involve tremendous emotional depth (especially in a series of this sort). I'm not advocating for native language purists to abandon their preference in favor of the English option, but it's worth noting the tremendous strides taken in recent years, which have all but negated the old arguments regarding inferior quality. Deepening the difficult nature of the audio selection, the English mix contains far better separation effects, creating a cinematic feel that's occasionally lost on the Japanese stereo mix. A portion of this effect can be attributed to the better balance in the various elements on the English side, while the Japanese dialog has a tendency to feel a bit too prominent at times. Either way, fans of the series will still be excited by either selection, though this is one the growing instances where I'm placing the English dub a little higher on my preference list.
Casshern Sins: Part 1 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Pre-Air Event (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 11:58 min): Recorded prior to the release of the television series, this panel interview session stars the director and main voice actors from the show, who discuss elements of the story, various character motivations, and individual memories or experiences during production.
Rounding out the meager extras, we have textless opening and closing songs, as well as a collection of trailers for other FUNimation products.
Casshern Sins: Part 1 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It seems a bit unfair to negatively assess the merits of the series at such an early stage in the game, so I'll reserve judgment until I've had a chance to view the entire 24 episode run. The series definitely strikes high notes in the animation category, and there's plenty of entertainment value to be gleaned from the action-heavy sequences, but in the end we're still left with a meandering plotline that likely won't hold up to repeat viewings. I certainly hope I'll eat my words in the upcoming review of episodes 13 through 24, but for now the most I can recommend is a rental.
Casshern Sins: Other Seasons
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