Casshern Sins Part 1 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The world has ended and one man can save it – provided the robots of the world can eat him.
What They Say
Casshern, a cybernetic assassin with no memory of his past, awakens in a corrosive wasteland where nothing survives for long. A plague known as the Ruin sweeps across this once-vibrant world, reducing everything in its path to rubble and scattering any chance for salvation. Robots and humans alike - or what little remains of them - seek vengeance against Casshern for the life he took and the role he played in their Ruin. A machine built to kill, Casshern murdered the last hope for this world, but now, lost in a future he does not recognize, he will fight to save the dying.
Contains episodes 1-12.
The bilingual track here offers up a pretty good experience overall with a pair of Dolby TrueHD lossless tracks. The Japanese track gives us a stereo experience which has a fair bit of depth and impact across the forward soundstage with some nice placement of dialogue in a number of scenes. The English 5.1 mix takes it up a few notches though the rear speakers don't get a huge turnout. There's a definite bump in the overall volume level here but it works well for blending the English voice acting with the background and music track. Of the two tracks, the English track definitely makes out better, but the Japanese track is solid throughout and gives us a good representation of the original mix. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2008 and into early 2009, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with nine episodes on the first dual layered disc and three on the second single layered disc and is done using a native HD source, not an upscale. And it shows. Casshern Sins has a very distinct style to it with its visual approach where it's a mixture of soft colors that almost feels like charcoal combined with strong line work to give it definition. Colors are really beautiful here as they blend in a rather unique way and the fluidity of the animation mixed with the darkness of much of it really allows the show to stand out as something you don't see. The transfer does a great job of capturing it as this release really stands out.
This release merits a cardboard slipcover which actually does a really nice job of showcasing some of what the animation in the show actually looks like. The cover is very dark with a bit of light cast on Casshern in his full mode as he looks upward a bit. The right side has some good shadow to it and a charcoal look for the colors both along the sides and the Blu-ray strip along the top which has the blue rusting out from ruin, fitting in with the theme of the show. The back cover, which like the front is replicated on the cover within the standard Blu-ray case, has a lot of white space to it as it features a shadowed image of Casshern in the background along the left. The logo along the top is simple and effective and the summary for the show covers things nicely without giving away too much. A small selection of of shots from the show are along the bottom next to the technical grid which covers things well, breaking down the formats for the audio tracks and that it's a native HD release. No show related inserts are included nor is there any artwork on the reverse side of the cover itself.
The menus for the release are par for the course for FUNimation with a large amount of the main menu given over to clips from the show which come across as pretty stylish here. The menu navigation is along the top, which is what doubles as the pop-up menu, and we get something that's very basic with an off white strip that has the very basics of the navigation. Individual episode selection is nicely done with full names besides the episode numbers and the language setup is solid, but the menus continue to be too small when it comes to the font even when it comes to larger setups. The layout is easy to navigate but the discs don't read the player's language presets and defaults to English with the sign/song subtitles.
The second disc contains the extras for this set with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a twelve minute pre-air event from Japan where they go into the shows production a bit with those involved. It's mostly fluff, but I do like seeing the people behind the show getting a chance to promote it a bit and to try and share their energy and enthusiasm.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Casshern Sins is a twenty-four episode series, of which the first half is here, which takes the classic property from the 70's and reboots it for modern fans. It's not unusual to completely reboot a property like this of that age and Casshern has certainly had a few interpretations over the years. I haven't seen the original but I rather enjoyed the live action movie from a few years ago, from a stylistic perspective at the least. Casshern Sins takes some of its cues from the original and in its character designs, but it looks like it takes what has come before and reworks it in a rather different way. While Casshern had something of a super-hero sense of flair about it, Sins goes for a more atmosphere and introspective piece.
The first half of the series is a curious piece of work that doesn't feel like many other shows out there. Taking place at a future time when the world has been completely doomed, everything has fallen to something called the Ruin. Humanity is decimated though there are some scattered survivors out there. What makes up a lot of what's roaming out there now are robots of varying shapes and sizes. Many are basic humanoid in nature and there's even little child robots running around trying to eke out an existence before they succumb to the Ruin. The ones that are the most dangerous are the large ones that leave destruction behind them as they try to figure out a way to survive.
It's into this world that we meet Casshern, a curious looking young man who isn't human and who isn't a robot but looks like a man in white spandex with a large red C across his chest. Casshern has lost his memory and hasn't a clue about anything. All that he knows is that he can transform slightly with a mask that appears over his head and he has incredible hand to hand skills. These skills are very useful because the robots of the world have a problem with him. They've been told that if they eat him, he'll grant them immortality and that instance will also cause the Ruin to stop and the planet to recover. Casshern is rather confused by this, but there's a moment later into this set where he comes across someone very similar to him who informs him that there's something in his body that helps him heal very easily and has essentially made him immortal. And he intends to defeat Casshern so he can figure out what this mysterious thing is and use it to gain immortality himself.
The show gets a bit of actual progress with these kinds of events towards the end of this set, but the majority of what's here is s curious kind of series. Casshern's lack of memory makes things difficult and we only get a few snippets of it where we come to understand how he was the cause behind the Ruin by killing a young woman named Luna. There's a lot of mystery left there, but what we do get is intriguing. The difficult aspect is in watching Casshern wander across this landscape. He encounters numerous robots along the way, many of which are trying to kill him, but also those that are trying to survive. There are questions about what it means to be alive, what the Ruin really is and the truth about Casshern's role in it, but so much of it is simply moody material with Casshern wandering around, being attacked or trying to understand what the peaceful robots are doing.
As quiet and moody as much of the show is, what makes it work for the most part is the striking visual design to all of it. There's an almost charcoal feeling to the artwork and the vast majority of the series deals with the broken down world. There's an earthy tone to it, but it's taken to an interesting direction with the hues of blue to it as well as the rust that gives it such a rich feeling. The visual design of the show has an almost unique look to it, one I don't think I've seen another show carry so consistently for this length of time. What makes it even more striking is when it does shift to the past where the world was alive and beautiful as that becomes even more powerful visually. Those scenes with Luna and her residence stand out in a way that they wouldn't in a more traditionally animated end of the world series.
After the first half of the series, I'm really not sure what to make of it. I absolutely adore the look of it and when the action does play out, they have a really great sense of choreography about it and you can feel the impact a lot in it. But with Casshern not having his memories and nobody really to connect with since the robots aren't all that personable, there's a distinct lack of humanity to it that stops it from becoming compelling. I'm a big fan of stories that take place after the end of the world, and they get half of this perfectly with the way it looks, but the other half of it falls short. Very short. There's a lot that I want to know with this show and that's a big positive in its favor, but the second half of the series really needs to step up with the story in order to salvage it.
Japanese 2.0 Dolby TrueHD Language, English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Language, English Subtitles, Pre-Air Event, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 288
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 1080p
Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
Series: Cassherin Sins