Casshern Sins

At some point in the future, robot technology advances to the stage where, due to their sophisticated AI, robots become self-aware. Led by a charismatic commander called Braiking Boss, the robots overthrow humans and subject them to tyrannous rule. Despite this, humanity manages to progress medical technology to the point where it effectively confers immortality; in response to which, Braiking Boss launches a genocidal program of extermination against the world’s human population. Pushed to the verge of extinction, humanity summons a being called Luna – an embodiment of the world’s life force – to aid them in their struggle. Afraid of Luna and aware that even some robots have begun to worship her, Braiking Boss orders his three most ruthless assassins – advanced humaniform robots capable of replicating human reproductive processes – to kill Luna. Of the three, the one called Casshern succeeds in this task. But Luna’s death sparks a cataclysm called the Ruin: deprived of its life-force, the earth begins to wither and die. Hundreds of years later, the Ruin has almost reached its culmination. The few humans left alive have been rendered sterile by the poisonous atmosphere, while robots are subjected to continuous corrosion and are unable to find working spare parts. Casshern re-appears, lacking any memory of his identity or his role in bringing about the Ruin. He is also immortal, having somehow acquired the ability to self-repair.  Accompanied by a robot canine called Friender – who appears to be as impervious to the effects of the Ruin as Casshern – and continuously attacked by other robots who believe that eating him will confer immortality, Casshern wanders the wastelands searching for the reasons behind the world’s decay and the means of reversing it. Along the way, he encounters Lyuze, the sister of one of Luna’s robot guardians, who died from the effects of the Ruin after being injured by Casshern; Ringo, a happy child-like robot, and her aged guardian Ohji; and Casshern’s fellow assassins, Dio – who is obsessed with defeating Casshern in battle – and Leda, who yearns for the immortality Casshern apparently possesses.  But as the threads of their competing fears, ambitions, and agendas come together, a new and startling rumour emerges: against all the odds, Luna is still alive – and is set to end the Ruin and restore the world…

Rebooting the 1974 anime series “Casshan” – in which an android with a human consciousness saves humanity from robots in a post-apocalyptic environment – “Casshern Sins” was co-produced by Tatsunoko Productions (who produced the original “Casshan” series) and animation studio Madhouse, airing on Japanese television between October 2008 and March 2009. Animated in a curious mix of styles that juxtapose a grimly realistic post-apocalyptic aesthetic with character designs reminiscent of childhood favourites like “Gigantor” and “Battle of the Planets”, “Casshern Sins” received a mixed reception from critics and audiences alike. On the one hand, it was praised for its soundtrack and atmospherics, while on the other, criticised for its pacing and for what some regarded as poorly depicted combat scenes. Certainly, the question can be asked whether “Casshern Sins” required 24 episodes to tell its tale, with a definite feeling of sameness in the series’ middle third; by the same token, however, the narrative also builds to a powerfully moving conclusion whose twist only adds to the poignancy of the fate that befalls key protagonists. Likewise, the brief postscript introduces a nice edge of almost Arthurian ambiguity at the end, illustrating the truism that the end of every tale is only the beginning of the story that follows. Perhaps flawed in its execution, but nonetheless thematically engaging and striking to look at, “Casshern Sins” is a deep and affecting dive into the issues of ennui, the meaning of death, the source of hope, the nature of happiness, and the point of continuing to persist in the face of seemingly implacable circumstances.     

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2021. All rights reserved.