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Casshern Sins: Part 2(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 2 and the Casshern Sins: Part 2 Blu-ray release, see Casshern Sins: Part 2 Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on August 16, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tōru Furuya, Nami Miyahara, Yűko Minaguchi, Ch˘, Akiko Yajima, Kenji Utsumi
» See full cast & crew
Casshern Sins: Part 2 Blu-ray Review
What's life without death?
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, August 16, 2010
Settling in for my viewing of the final 12 episodes of the complete Casshern Sins anime series wasn't something I was particularly looking forward to after the initial 12 episode run. In the years since falling in love with anime, I've come across multiple productions that spend a good deal of time warming up to the eventual delivery of a satisfying conclusion. However, those examples typically incorporate enough minor revelations to keep us interested along the way. In the case of Casshern Sins, the first half of the series offers almost zero character development (among the roles that continue throughout the series), and the plotline tends to become bogged down with a combination of Casshern's self-deprecation and minor storylines with little impact on the big picture. Needless to say, I hoped for a turn-around in the second half of the season, but felt compelled to maintain low expectations in order to avoid continued disappointment. Whether or not that was warranted will be further dissected in the following paragraphs, though I'll preface the rest of my review by saying the final leg of the journey is well worth the meandering moments along the way.
Despite the constant emergence of predatory robots hell-bent on his demise, Casshern's search for redemption has led him across the path of various inspirational wanderers who've slowly taught him the value of living. These encounters collectively molded Casshern's rebirth into a selfless hero, and opened the door for cautious relationships with a robotic companion named Friender, a vengeful young woman named Lyuze, and a father/daughter duo in need of protection. Over time, these characters team up with the invincible warrior in an effort to find the reincarnation of Luna, who reportedly offers the key to salvation among humans and robots alike. Unfortunately, they aren't the only one's searching for the immortality granted by Luna, as they come face to face with the robot warlord Braiking Boss and two advanced warriors that bear a striking resemblance to Casshern. These would-be rivals each face their own personal demons (believing Luna offers the remedy), but fail to realize the harsh realities of immortality. In the end, one must question whether death is a gift or a curse, and embrace the consequence of that decision.
It's amazing how much influence one episode can have on the entertainment value of a series. At first glance, the decision to cut the first part of the series off at the conclusion of episode 12 was the logical choice on the part of FUNimation, but had they decided to add just one more episode to the first box set, they probably would have earned more than a rental recommendation from this reviewer. In case you're wondering why episode 13 is so special, I'd point to the deepening relationship between Casshern and his pals, and the timely introduction of the character Braiking Boss. Prior to his arrival the only interesting possibility for a bad-guy element is a character named Dio, who feels a strong sense of rivalry with Casshern. Braiking Boss offers tremendous character depth in a role that wavers precariously between good and evil, and the revelations offered during episode 13 (by Braiking Boss) finally add much needed weight to the overall storyline. I wouldn't go so far as to say the entire series is salvaged by a single episode, but it serves as a turning point in the overall proficiency of the linear storyline, developing momentum that continues without fail through every episode that follows.
Adding to the strengths in "Part 2" of Casshern Sins, we're presented with some truly thought-provoking opinions on the meaning of life, and the role death plays in how we live. I'd hate to give away important revelations in the plot, but I'm always drawn to productions that establish a certain mentality early on, only to twist those assumptions in the latter stages of the story. To a certain extent it's similar to the wavering good-guy/bad-guy role played by Braiking Boss, allowing each viewer to draw their own conclusions on the meaning of right and wrong or life and death.
As mentioned in my review of the earlier box set, Casshern Sins is the new crowning jewel of Madhouse animation studio. I'm certain there will be some viewers who disagree with my enthusiastic response, but if you step back and marvel at the attention to detail found in most frames of the image, you'll be hard-pressed to find a single flaw in the design. From the incorporation of vivid flowering meadows to dreary expanses of drab, lifeless wasteland, the backdrops within each episode are constantly evolving to create a fresh experience that draws life out of every environment. When action heavy sequences take over, character movement demonstrates a fluidity of motion that belies the budgetary constraints of a television production. Limbs are never shown out of proportion (unless utilizing motion blur), kicks and punches are delivered in long extended takes (rather than quick cuts), and the superhuman elements of the fight sequences are consistent from scene to scene (without the constant need for upgraded abilities during more difficult encounters). Bottom line, if you're a fan of animation on any level, Casshern Sins will not disappoint.
Casshern Sins: Part 2 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.
Casshern Sins: Part 2 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 2 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Mini-Concert (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 3:33 min): This is a live rendition of the title song by Color Bottle titled "Azure Flowers".
Original Commercials (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 33 sec): as the title implies, we're shown two commercial advertisements for Casshern Sins.
Rounding out the extras, we have textless opening and closing songs alongside a collection of trailers for other productions from FUNimation.
Casshern Sins: Part 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Provided you're able to weather the meandering nature of the first 12 episodes in the series, Casshern Sins is a production that's well worth your time. That's not to say every anime enthusiast will enjoy the depressing nature of the post-apocalyptic storyline, but there's enough food for thought buried within the underlying tragedy to deliver lasting value. Looking back on my harsh assessment of the first half of the series, I'm unwilling to alter my recommendation substantially, but given the importance of the first 12 episodes in understanding the events to follow, consider this a purchase recommendation on the series as a whole. All I ask is that you keep your expectations in check until you hit episode 13, knowing the best is yet to come.
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