Even robots fear death.
Well, it would seem that America’s fanaticism for reboots has finally made its way to the Land of the Rising Sun. That’s right, boys and girls: What we have here is a reboot of the classic (and by that I mean really old-school) anime series Casshern. This time around, though, the series takes a rather existential approach and focuses on the whole “acceptance of death” issue that has plagued mankind for centuries. The catch? Well, the characters in Casshern Sins are mostly robots. So, how do you have robots face the concept of morality? For starters, you have to have lots and lots of death.
The series follows protagonist Casshern (voiced by Eric Vale), who is essentially nothing short of the perfect killing machine, literally. He wanders a barren post-apocalyptic wasteland searching for the meaning of his existence as all the robots around him succumb to a mysterious plague that eats away at them until they fall into rusty pieces. The twist? This “ruin” that has befallen the land might just be Casshern’s fault, only he doesn’t remember doing the dirty deed. So, not only is our boy left without his memories, but everyone in the entire world pretty much wants him dead. The big kicker is that whatever it was Casshern did seems to have left him immortal.
Casshern Sins is beautifully animated by the prestigious anime studio Madhouse (who brought us series like Devil May Cry and the movie Redline). Really, if one were to take away the philosophical mumbo jumbo that it so desperately reaches for, it’s essentially an anime that tries to fit in as many fight scenes as it possibly can. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when the fights are more like beautiful dances than brutal brawls. The only real problem is when you have a character that’s immortal, the stakes in any of his battles are pretty low. What’s the worst that can happen? Sure, he might get a little scuffed up, but in the end Casshen always heals. Not only that, but he’s so much stronger than any of the baddies he comes across it’s almost a joke that anyone would even try to go toe-to-toe with him. This is a concept that a lot of fans of anime tend to get into, but it really takes a lot of the suspense out of the action. There’s no reason to become invested in a character that can just smash his way through any problem that’s put in front of him. However, when he does, you can count on him doing it in a quite graceful manner.
At the heart of Casshern Sins is the concept of accepting death as a part of life. Sure, it’s existentialism 101, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to revisit core concepts like this. However, Casshern Sins decides to take it back to basics. The entire series wallows in the idea that death is inevitable, and while it tries to put a sunny spin on the idea that life is only worth living when there’s a healthy respect for death, one can’t help but feel like the robot who isn’t going to rust and die might have been dealt the better card. Essentially it’s one of those “you can’t know what happiness is without having sadness in your life” messages. It’s cute, it’s right, but it’s also childishly simplistic. It certainly doesn’t take a 24 episode run to drive this point home to an audience.
Casshern Sins is a pretty depressing series. The setting is basically a massive desert with mountains dotting the background, and it follows a man with a death wish who can never die. Even worse, every episode takes a look at the fact that no matter what, you’re going to die someday. Despite all this, though, it does have some beautiful animation, and the voice acting makes the whiny drivel a little bit more bearable. It’s not exactly a cup of tea, but in small doses, Casshen Sins could lead to a new appreciation of life and maybe even renewed vigor (especially with the idea of death shoved down your throat). It doesn’t really offer anything new or insightful, but it’s a safe bet for anyone looking for a pseudo-philosophical series to pass the time. If you want something a little more insightful, though, you might want to search elsewhere.