Anime Reviews

Casshern Sins: You looked as if you were dancing

It’s hard to explain how I feel about Casshern Sins. It’s way beyond anything else I’ve seen this year. More than just another good anime series, more than just entertainment, I find it is engaging, evocative and inspiring, perched somewhere in-between the surreal, fable-like quality of Kino’s Journey and the philosophical melancholy of Mushishi. After every episode, I’m excited, my mind is filled with possibilities and ideas, and I really feel like I’ve just seen something wonderful. I can only hope that I’m capable of relaying those feelings to you. For over two years I’ve been writing on this anime blog, all for anime like Casshern Sins.

Thoughts after: Episode 6

Venturing deeper into the dystopian, decaying depression of Casshern’s strange situation, those that surround him are petrified of dying, but without knowing death, can one ever feel truly alive? Just like how a flower so pretty can only be that way in comparison to an ugly weed, one can only grasp the value of his life after realizing that, some day, he will die. After all, without death, life has no meaning, thus, regardless of Luna’s end, and whether or not it was against her will at all, by dying, she has seemingly graced her people with a gift so precious, mortality. Suddenly, the immortal feel a thirst for life and a desperation to live, and this, I think, is the point of Casshern Sins. It can be so sombre and nostalgic, but it’s hard to deny that the end of the world has rarely looked as beautiful. Ironic, really.

Episode 7

Somewhere in-between this endless expanse of desert and open blue sky is a place without rules and purpose, it is where we find the woman of the tall tower. She wants to think that in this place, in this dying world, her aimless life is still worth living. She rings her bell, where the view is wonderful and the Earth is really pretty, and it resounds with her will to live, as if screaming, “Look at me! I am alive!” Like an artist, she has built this expression of her spirit on the horizon, it’s her tower, the proof of her existence for all to see, and it’s wonderful that people may finally understand that feeling, that this dying world is still beautiful.

Episode 8

When life is tough, to hope and dream can be the hardest thing, yet all it takes is a passage of writing, an episode of anime or a two-minute song; such a tiny moment in our lives, so fleeting, yet it can unleash such a potent feeling. Do we all have a reason to live? And a dream to follow? Like a theatrical performer, Casshern elegantly runs, jumps and dives through an army of hopeless fiends, inspired to protect someone precious, the singer Janis. People wait in the music hall to be inspired, for just a few minutes, to escape into imagination and to dream of an exciting future. Her performance is art at its most vital, more than mere entertainment, to be inspired is to find nothing less than a reason to live.

11 replies on “Casshern Sins: You looked as if you were dancing”

I guess we are on the same wave length because Casshern Sins is currently my favorite of the fall season as well. I definitely did not expect that coming into this season. It’s a shame that it seems to be somewhat overlooked compared to some other series.
And I definitely agree with the Kino no Tabi comparison. Especially in the sense that despite how bad everything has gotten in Casshern’s world there is still beauty to be found.

I can’t really explain how i feel about Casshern Sins either. at the same time, i sort of feel the same way that you do: it interests me, and i find it arresting, but at the same time, every time i watch, i can’t help but feel something nagging me about it in the back of my head. Something is still keeping me from falling in love with this show completely.
As i said above, i’m not sure what what it is, but it keeps me from exalting the series to the level of Mushishi, or Kaiba, or Kino’s Journey. It’s somehow not transcendant in the way that those are (or the way that Planetes is, or the way that Dennou Coil is, i could go on and on, of course).
The shots are beautiful: the cutting and direction is beautiful; if getting a little repetative. on a side note, i enjoyed tower-lady’s observation on Casshern’s fighting style as I sort of felt the same, it is a little like dancing. Character design is distinct; but also references the long history of the Casshern name through it’s retro style. The message is tragic; and the somehow beautiful ruining world has piqued my interest. Maybe it’s characterization? Somehow i don’t care, about any of these characters; not even Casshern. Even though Mushishi and Kino No Tabi follow the same structure (main character meets commoner x, interaction happens, main character wanders on) i think through the slow revelation of Ginko and Kino’s pasts and dispositions via these characters, Mushishi and Kino no Tabi transcended just being episodic encounters, and became more a gradual exploration of a theme.
Maybe it’s that Casshern Sins lacks this connection? though somehow that’s something I enjoy about the series: any of the episodes could be the starting episode, really.
If i had to pinpoint it, though, maybe it’s this: Whereas Mushishi was, through various different interactions, asking What is our relationship to nature, the known and unknown, and where Kino No Tabi was asking What are the different ways that people live their lives through explorations of city-states, and for the hell of it – where Tytania asks What type of person is most suited to lead others, i don’t know what Casshern Sins is asking, so i find myself at the end of every episode, still confused as to whether there’s more to all of this than a beautifully art-directed robot pity party.
(that last line sounds harsher than it really should, i don’t dislike the series, i’m just not in love with it.)

@ Celeste: I feel that Casshern Sin’s common theme tends to be “hope within despair”. If you think about it the characters that Casshern have met on his journey for the most part have not given into despair. Instead of blaming Casshern they accept the Ruin and find ways to live on. And even if they do die they still don’t blame Casshern but are content with the life they lived. Think about the girl who wanted to create something new with the bell when everything around her was being destroyed. Or the singer who was determined to sing to bring a little hope to those during the ruin. Or even think of Ringo who finds beauty in simple things like a seashell. So despite the fact that everything is supposedly dying there is still beauty and left in the world.
More importantly how have these characters shaped Casshern? Originally Casshern himself just wanted to die because of the suffering he caused. Now he wants to find out the truth and see if he can find the answers behind the Ruin. He went from thinking nothing can be done to thinking maybe something can be done.

Just to further comment on Kim’s interpretation, I think we can liken Casshern’s journey to a tour through a war-torn country, where people are dealing with disease, poverty and death on a daily basis. Some have already given up the struggle and await their inevitable end, others simply turn to violence, yet many will keep on trying to live no matter what, always striving for a better life and to help those in need. Having written that, I can’t help but draw comparisons to Now and Then, Here and There.
Casshern Sins has a melancholy, romantic beauty that I find hard to resist and that is perhaps the biggest difference between it and the likes of Mushishi; it doesn’t take such an ambivalent point of view and feels a tad more emotionally forceful, especially in terms of the way it’s being drawn; those that are beautiful are good, those that are ugly are bad. Despite Casshern’s own objectivity, which is much akin to Kino and Ginko, there is none the less a very definite feeling of good and evil at the heart of the narrative, especially compared with Kino’s Journey, which offers a remarkably neutral point of view on any person/society.
RE: Celeste’s dancing comment: I read on Kim’s Livejournal that the soundtrack composer is a certain Kaoru Wada, who also worked on none other than Princess Tutu! Episode 8, for obvious reasons, could almost be a musical and combined with Casshern’s elegant movements, it’s almost as if we’re seeing a theatre production / ballet performance.

There are several reasons why I enjoy Casshern SINS as much as I do. First, it is achingly beautiful both visually and aurally. Second, the sense of loss is so palpable. That loss seems to split the characters into two groups, those who live in the now, and those who want so badly that all else is sacrificed for their perceived future. Third, Casshern is a great exploration of free will. He is intended for one thing (to destroy others), but has awakened and now his conscience drives him to understand and even resist his nature.
Casshern hit me out of the blue this season. It’s bleakness both in story and art leaves me wanting more at the end of each episode. I’m not entirely sure why, but I think it’s because I want to see whether free will or predetermination triumph. I also really like the sense of hope that Kim mentioned. Most characters (with hope) seem to find their hope through acceptance.
The comparisons to Kino no Tabi and Mushishi that the others here have made seem seem apt. Casshern’s relationship to his world is (at least to me) different than Kino’s or Ginko’s, though. Ginko interacts with his world in order to change it (for the better and perhaps for pure research). Kino simply observes, although she does end up affecting the world around her on occasion simply because of her existence. Casshern can’t help but affect his world because of his nature and because of his reputation, but his nature doesn’t necessarily change the world for the better. He reacts to his environment. He doesn’t seem to have a choice (yet) to be proactive.

I was going to post here… but had nothing interesting to say at the time, but now I do!
Have you seen episode 9 yet, Paul? GOD DAMN, it nearly had me in tears, I thought that nothing could come along and beat episode 8 with Janice, but this one easily tops it. Plus Wada Kaoru uses Gally’s theme from the GUNNM OVA. This series is beautifully tragic, but with each episode I can’t stop watching… oh and, apparently episode 6 with Dio vs Casshern was animated by Norio Matsumoto, but I’m not 100%, but never the less it was still a good short fight.

I’d like to add something smart, but it seems everything worth writing about has already been written. So I’ll just say I love this series. Every single episode is in a class of its own and I hope Casshern Sins can maintain it’s outstanding level for 24eps without being overly pretentious.
On a side note, has anyone noticed that almost every important “adult” female character so far (with the Woman of the Tall Tower possibly being the only exception) has red/pink hair? I wonder why… Maybe the sharp color is to show that there’s still “life” and hope in those character? Ringo doesn’t count cause she’s a “child”. She does have red eyes though.

After reading all your comments I think I really can’t say more about Casshern Sins. However, about the comparisons to Kino and Mushishi, I am surprised because I think they are so different. First and most importantly, the Feeling is different. Casshern Sins uses a rather dark and desperate background to outline each of its charactors, using fighting, death and collapsing to outline -maybe I can say- humanity, yet Mushishi remains…so peaceful. And so does Kino.
BTW, I liked Ringo at first, but now I sort of get bored of her. Comparing with Sophita, Isabel, and Janice, her character now seems rather weak, and I never favor Lolies.

Just bouncing off of something Johny has briefly mentioned, I’ve noticed that many viewers are pointing to the fact that Casshern, on his journey, often meets with women; for that very reason, I’ve increasingly read the series jokingly referred to as ‘harem’ anime. Will this become a genuine issue with the show over time? Why is it that he seems to be meeting with more women than men?
Also, aside from the ‘canon’ episodes, it seems like Casshern often meets with another loner, who he will inevitably part ways with by the end of the episode, so, in this way, is the series’ episodic nature becoming slightly predictable, and, more to the point, is that a bad thing?
I think a big part of the sentiment being posed by Casshern is an attempt to empower the individual and, as a result, helping him/her to deal with such huge issues, not just of death, but also of apathy and disenchantment. Characters, like Janis and the Woman in the tower, seem to look within themselves for answers, rather than relying on or blaming others, which is something I love about the show. What do you think?
@Lupus Inu: I haven’t seen it yet because every time I watch Casshern Sins, I’m compelled to write something about it! So I leave it until the weekends, when I’ll hopefully have enough time and energy to properly think and write on it. Also, thanks for the Norio note! I’m not surprised that a fantastic animator like Matsumoto is involved with the show, but it’s great to know none the less; just another emphatic stamp of quality for a series that is probably my favourite of the year, even more so than Xam’d! And I never expected to find myself saying that!
@Johny: Definitely. For example, Janis, her whole purpose in episode 8 is seemingly to inspire those feelings of hope and optimism in others.
@Rowena: At this point (8 episodes in), I’d place Casshern Sins within the same genre as Kino no Tabi and Mushishi, as all three seem to follow the same basic narrative device, but I agree with you in the sense that all three have very different things to say about human nature. Even still, I think it’s no surprise that many of the anime fans that are enjoying Casshern Sins at the moment have also previously enjoyed Kino no Tabi and Mushishi.

@bateszi: I think the reason Casshern is meeting mostly women is because they are symbols of beauty. A seemingly fragile female figure in ruined surroundings is more of a contrast than a man could ever be. Plus, women are considered to be more emotional so it feels natural for them to be in the roles they were assigned in Casshern Sins. Imagine how would people react if there was a muscular guy instead of a woman in the tower. Most would probably say “what a fag…” 😉
And I don’t think the series’ episodic nature is a bad thing. The characters are seeking answers and learning something new after meeting Casshern (as does he). Then they part ways exactly because they – as you said – have to figure the answers out on their own merits. Others can only show you the right direction, not the solution. Who knows, maybe they’ll all meet again after finding what they were looking for?

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