Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Best of the Best:: Casshern SINS

Every couple of years, I'll find a show that leaves me breathless.

Last year, it was Ghost Hound--the combination of a trio of mentally troubled friends and a sprinkling of psychological horror made it a show I HAD to watch every week. Even though the ending stuttered and stumbled, I still found a lot to like about it.

This time around, I've become completely enamored with Casshern SINS. The premise is simple: in a world populated by robots and (a lingering population of) humans, Casshern has killed a goddess and doomed his world to ruin.

Casshern takes to wandering his planet, trying to recover fragments of his broken memory. He knows that he has killed Luna, but he cannot remember why. As he travels, he encounters the struggling survivors who are left. Upon witnessing these robots and humans desperately clinging to any shred of hope they can find, Casshern begins to realize that even if he cannot remember his reasons, he is the cause of everyone's suffering.

As the survivors grow more and more desperate, a rumor for gaining eternal life spreads to every corner of the world. The method? Kill Casshern and eat him.

Casshern is completely consumed by guilt--every line he utters drips with it. He himself has become immortal, while everything around him decays and rusts. Friends are hard to come by, too, as everyone he encounters either blames him for the ruin or seeks to devour his flesh.

With a main character as emotionally tortured as Casshern and a world that has become a brittle shell of its former self, it would be easy for the show to become monotonous. Instead, Casshern SINS uses every other element to turn what might have been drab into something hauntingly beautiful.

The scenery--even the abandoned cities and the dying deserts--is gorgeous. Pale blue waves lap up against lone rocks on a coast that goes on forever, flowering plains have constant showers of petals, crystal hillsides shatter beneath footsteps, and crumbling towers lean against empty skies.

The love that went into designing this world shows in a way that is reminiscent of 5 cm per Second, but where that was a feature-film, Casshern SINS has 24 installments.

Fight scenes are never dull, either. The battles play out like ballet, as Casshern floats, spins, and adds an unprecedented beauty to acts of violence that should otherwise be disturbing. Every fight plays out in a unique fashion: animation sequences never repeat, the same move is never used twice, and there has yet to be a battle that did not surprise me with a new camera angle. Most fights end with a "wow" escaping from my lips.

Posting still shots cannot do any justice. You have to see everything in motion and then you will understand. I'm planning on doing a follow-up article once the series has ended. If you haven't been watching Casshern SINS, you are missing out on one of the few pieces of anime that truly elevates the genre from a mere story-telling medium to full-fledged art.

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