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DVD Review

DVD cover

Casshern: Sins
Part 1


Starring (voice): Tohru Furuya, Yuko Minaguchi, Cho, Nami Miyahara
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 12
Available 09 May 2011

Ruin is the salvation of man and machine! Casshern: Sins is a millennial update of a beloved 1970s classic of Japanese animation, which saw a lone cyborg hero opposing a robot empire that threatened to overthrow the Earth. This darker reimagining mixes frantic action with heartfelt humanity, as Casshern fights to survive a bleak dystopian future - little realising that he caused the end of the world...!

Casshern: Sins has little in common with either its 1973 progenitor or the overwrought 2004 live-action movie, which despite an excess of empty visual dazzle was content to borrow its thematic trappings from more successful franchises X-Men and Neon Genesis Evangelion without the flair or depth of either. While Sins belongs squarely in the Japanese sci-fi tradition of post-apocalyptic worlds empty of all but ultra-violent Nietzschean supermen and their miserable victims, it succeeds in injecting some poetry and soul into the genre.

The story, despite the presence of robots and cyborgs, is pure fantasy. In a future world laid waste by a blight stemming from the mysterious long-ago murder of the goddess-like robot saviour Luna, her alleged killer, the man-machine Casshern reappears. Unable to recall anything about himself or answer to his accusers, he drifts from encounter to encounter, pursued by hordes of decaying robots driven by the baseless rumour that by consuming him they can escape the 'Ruin' that covers the land. Casshern despatches them all with the casual and colossal violence permitted by his indestructible body and uncontrollable, berserker-like survival instinct, terrifying everyone who attempts to befriend him. Despite this, everyone he meets agrees that Casshern is pretty, and an entourage of sorts - the child-robot Ringo and her aged minder, a vengeful woman determined to make Casshern remember his crimes, and one of the few relics of the original series, robot dog Friender - grows around him as the series progresses. The appearance of a would-be messianic rival and the rumour that Luna may somehow still be alive provide the plot for the series.

The episodes on these discs make up the first half of the series and are for the most part self-contained and episodic, detailing Casshern's encounters with the disparate robots, androids and rare humans he wanders across as he explores the ruined world. Some are just trying to survive, others attempt to protect the weak, some use what time they have left to create art or music. It's in these stand-alone episodes that Sins bears comparisons with recent series such as Kino's Journey and Ergo Proxy, although for the most part it lacks the delicacy of the former or the wit and humour of the latter, aiming instead for an elegiac tone that some may find bathetically amusing. Depending on how invested you are in the series, the scenes of a diva singing to an auditorium of decaying robots while outside Casshern massacres the army determined to crush her message of hope are either sublime or embarrassingly gauche.

It's a series confident enough in itself to carry off these awkward moments more often than not, though, and one thing that's not in question is that Casshern: Sins looks and sounds gorgeous. The character designs by Yoshihiko Umakoshi are arresting and memorable, aided by a muted colour palette that I'm only sorry I didn't get to view on the Blu-ray release of the series - certainly one of the only contemporary TV anime worthy of a HD presentation. The soundtrack of mordant Japanese folk-rock adds to the 1970s feel of the show, and a fine voice cast give their all, led by a superb central performance from the astonishingly youthful-sounding veteran Tohru Furuya, seemingly unaged since the heyday of Mobile Suit Gundam's Amuro Ray. For quality alone Sins is unmatched, and if the material is sometimes overly repetitive and opaque, it has more than enough redeeming features to make it worth pursuing.


Richard Hunt

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