- The series is a remake of a much older series of the 70’s. The original was pretty standard stuff in terms of story. Machines rebel and conquer humanity and the son of the inventor of the machines turns into a powerful cyborg and fights in order to save humanity from extinction. Got the basics? Well, you can now forget them in the remake. This feels more like an entirely different story with a few names and character designs working simply as cameos and tributes to the original. In this one, it’s not good humans versus bad robots and Luna is not the hero’s girlfriend.
- Anyway, if you care for a quick look on the original, there is a set of 4 OVAs, simply titled Casshan that will fill all questions about the source material. It is somewhat of a more dramatic Power Rangers with humans and robots having hints of shades of gray in terms of personality.
ART SECTION: 8/10 [The Horobi is everywhere…]
General Artwork 2/2: Studio Madhouse delivers beauty once again… In the form of dread. Hell, it is so stylized that it feels more like modern art than anime backgrounds. An endless wasteland with water and flowerbeds being contrasts. Initially, it felt like Fist of the North Star but eventually it is very artistic and conveys feelings of fear and unrest much easier.
Character Figures 2/2: Well, they look as if they jumped out of a 70’s series (weird hairdo, huge eyes, simple body lining). This is positive in two ways since it does make them to easily stand out from the norm of recent series and even makes them appealing to retro-lovers. They have a cute-looking design that makes a huge contrast with the bleakness in the story. It is an effect that increases the emotional impact on you by many-fold. It is a neat trick; even the ridiculous Elfen Lied cast felt dramatic because of the kawai way the girls were drawn.
Backgrounds/ Animation/ Visual Effects 4/6: As for the rest of the sub-sections, they are more or less good. The lack of real detail and the repetitive wastelands may tire at times, but the contrast of water and flowers, along with flare and overexposed film effects really break the monotony and bring you back up into watching. The motion in frames is generally good, although it does have its share of huge static pictures.
SOUND SECTION: 8/10 [And now I will explain everything…]
Voice Acting 2/3: Very good in all; there are no too ridiculous pinches in the series. Most of the characters do sound immature and silly like spoiled kids every now and then, but this is done purely in order to point their unawareness during their quest for salvation in a dying world. Plus, it made their youthful way of talking to provide an antithesis with the grim atmosphere and thus increase the emotional impact on the viewer’s ears. What does ruin this fondness are the loooong monologues. Everyone talks for several minutes and anything else he/she does seems to have no effect on the story. So, it is a series of monologues and immature-sounding characters listening quietly and then questioning the talker. It does become tiresome at times, as some things are better to be shown instead of just being told.
Music Themes 3/4: Ok, nice to hear. The opening and ending songs are elegiac to the point of a hate/love relationship but in no case you will not notice them. They convey the feeling they aim to convey, so they are successful. No out of place pop songs. Still, they are not songs I will ever hum when I feel bored…
Sound Effects 3/3: Ok, the sound of rusty metal crumbling in the wind will scar you for good. All the sounds in the series aim to make you feel dread and unrest. And boy, they succeed with flying colors. Water drops on pools, walking on rubble, fabrics flapping on the scorching wind… You name it. They sure made me turn the lights on.
STORY SECTION: 6/10 [The meaning of life, defined by the sight of surrounding death]
Premise / Complexity 4/4: Ah, in the piles of trash we are given every year, and with crapish series like Sky Girls gaining more room every day, this one truly is a jewel in the midst of a trash yard. Metaphorically, the hero in the story is the only creature not rotting away like everyone else, so in a way it really makes a parallel.
In the story, the world is overrun by robots but is dying from a decease that slowly rusts robots. The protagonist, Casshan, wakes up with amnesia and is told that everything is his fault, as he killed the source of all life, Luna. Now, everyone wants to kill him, as there is a rumor, which states that the one who devours him will be cured from the decease, and gain eternal life. So, Casshan begins a journey of self-acknowledgement, in order to escape his pursuers and find the missing parts in his memory. Wherever he is going, he encounters death and decay, people who have gotten insane because of the inevitable death or have accepted their doom and await their end.
As you can imagine, the story revolves around death. Death in all its forms and its effects on living creatures, who know that they will soon die. For you see, robots in the series are treated as living. They used to be ageless and not afraid of death and now are facing extinction and have turned into all sorts of madmen and philosophical blabbers. As for humans, well, they are practically extinct; with a few individuals remaining that have a seemingly futile purpose to fulfill; yet it is the only thing that keeps them willing to remain alive.
So, the general idea behind the series is fantastic, as almost no other anime ever bothered dealing with a taboo theme like death in such multi-layered ways. The norm is usually some spunky teenager with high ideals aiming to save the world, become the best in the field and bring peace and happiness to all. Well, forget all that idealistic clichés; this one is truly gloomy and depressing. Yet in the end of the day it tries to shine upon the beauty of life by pointing out its ephemeral duration. You don’t appreciate life if you are not afraid or aware of death.
So sure, the thrill of dealing with the upcoming death and even oblivion makes the story of this anime really something. Every episode features a situation where someone deals with death in his own way and thus giving a meaning to his otherwise fade of existence.
Pacing / Plausibility 1/4: Ok, enough with the good part; let’s deal with the bad parts. The series is almost entirely episodic; most episodes feature characters you will never see again. That does give a feeling of pointlessness on the part of the hero’s struggle, as everything he does doesn’t really pay off. Ok, maybe the purpose of the series really is about doing things that don’t pay off in the long term. Still, only 6 out of the 24 episodes feature an on-going story, and even those offer it with a spoon. Meaning, if you don’t fancy really slow plot and seemingly events that have nothing to add to the story then you will most likely get bored with it pretty soon, as I did.
Some may say that the slow plot aims at absorbing you into the world and giving you the time to identify yourself with the tragedy of the characters. Still, 24 episodes were waaaaaaaaay to many for such a thing. And anyway, I never felt that the main lead could be defeated in battle. It is revealed pretty fast that he is immortal and thus, incapable of loosing. Something that all others are not and thus can be defeated if the lead keeps trying to beat them. That made all battles anti-climactic and unnecessary.
Then, there is the thing with repetitiveness on the part of the plot. Almost every episode features the same form of development. Some pretty lady or weak people are attacked by crazed robots, who pretty much kill for fun. Casshan will jump out of thin air, defeat the robots and listen to the worries of the ones he saved. After a long monologue full of existentialism issues, a spar will follow where no matter who wins, the fight ends with more monologues and Casshan going away. Next episode; repeat process…
Well, that kind of makes this anime to feel as repetitive as Pokemon. Although it does give you more insight on the parts of the characters and the tragic fate of the world, it still remains repetitive. If you like twists in the formula, you will not find any. If you expect a character to return in another episode, he pretty much won’t. Thus, in terms of plot, the series is very repetitive and simple with the meaning behind monologues to be the thing that really matters.
So, in other words, forget the action. All the battles offer nothing to the story. They either end with a character sparing with Casshan and leaving “because it’s not the time” or Casshan beating robot mooks in a Fist of the North Star fashion. Also, forget about the plot. It is almost the same in every episode. Just listen to the monologues. It’s the only thing that really matters. If you like this sort of thing, then you will like the series a lot more than I did. I for once expect fast pace and plot twists at every corner. Too much blah, blah, is not my cup of tea.
Maybe a different director would have done a different and better job, but Yamauchi Sigeyasu always has this style of simple/episodic series with moody characters. I can’t say I like any of his works (Crying Freeman, Boys Over Flowers, Doctor Slump, Dream Eater Merry).
Conclusion 1/2: Thus, it finally comes to an end in episode 24. Was it fulfilling? I am not sure. Nothing was left unresolved and yet nothing was clear of what was the fate of all the characters who remained alive. Because, duh, many did die so you don’t need to know anything more about them. Although the ending explains what followed the events of the series (in a long monologue as usual) it still didn’t mention what did the characters do. It is bittersweet and fulfilling on an emotional level, yet on a plot-wise level it feels open to interpretation and does leave room for a sequel. So, it is a mixed bag.
CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10 [Luna, I will kill you.]
Personality 1/2: You don’t live if you believe you are immortal. I mean, you don’t really care in series like Dragonball Z or One Piece about the fate of its characters. Because they can never be killed or even if they do, they can simply be resurrected; thus having an unlimited time of trying and empowering they will eventually beat the bad guy and save the day. In this series, everyone who dies, pretty much remains dead. Plus, they will all die very soon if a solution is not found, so they do not have limitless time to do so. This is the basic reason all the characters in the series have very extreme goals that seem ridiculous to people who are not aware of their upcoming doom. Thus, all the characters act in very crazy and extreme ways and for once, it is excused.
You do feel compassion and understanding about them because you know they can die at any moment and their actions are their personal ways of feeling alive and leaving their mark in the world as means of not be forgotten; of not being as if they never existed. It is truly marvelous to see how someone can deal with such issues under the pressure of doom and decay. Something you would never feel about a character like Ash Ketcham and his quest to catch Pokemon / win Badges, as he is ageless and his existence is pretty much a false circle of doing things that he forgets by the next episode and beating Rocket team, which returns on the next episode like nothing happened.
Still, there is a part were most don’t notice in stories. In this series the characters behave more like plot elements rather than living, breathing people. They are more of anthropomorphic personifications (sic) of certain emotions and ideas rather than complicating personalities. They are all fixed on a certain goal, which kind of makes them 2-dimensional. Oh, sure, they usually change opinions when they talk or fight Casshan. Still, it’s more like they are questioning their beliefs before performing a U turn to their initial goals. Or, hell, just keep doing what they were planning on doing anyway. Anyway, it feels too polarized by the end of the day. It’s either left or right. No middle choices. This is kind of excused by the episodic nature of the series. In fact, the general feeling of the series is pretty polarized by default; so it is an accepted fact. Life or death, struggle or acceptance, truth or oblivion… Still, it is an element I dislike in characters.
Presence & Backdrop 3/4: Although the characters show a multitude of emotions that makes them far more than just caricatures with a signature special attack or personality quirk, they are still pretty easy to understand (in a bad way). Especially the mook robot warriors; they were copies of one another. Idiots, smashing things for fun and fighting opponents that are obviously incapable of defeating. Still, this is not a series that tries to confuse you with scheming, multi-faced, multi-layered characters. It offers simple to understand and bind with characters. Even the backdrop stories of everyone are rather simple. They are a mystery at first (which lures you to be curious and pay attention) but through some dialogue it is revealed in a quite simple to understand way; so you immediately know what is what with them.
Development & Catharsis 3/4: Well, the series generally does a good job rounding up the cast. By the end of it, everything there was to be said about them is more or less said and done. No real unfinished business for the main cast. Yet, many secondary characters are present only for one episode, so there is no real catharsis for them. More like stating their reason for being and them letting them keep doing it, while fading in the background. As for the ones who die, they seem to acquire catharsis because they accept thing as they are… just because they are dying. It feels like death is panacea for all your worries in the series; something that contradicts most of the goals in the cast who pretty much struggles in order to survive. Plus, even those who do make it to the end, you are left to imagine through a dialogue what has happened to them.
VALUE SECTION: 6/10 [Value your life by killing others.]
Historical Value 1/3: Nothing much.
Memorability 4/4: It does stand out from the lot. It does make you think. It does leave you with lasting impressions and images and does manage to make you notice/remember its cast.
Rewatchability 1/3: But the chances or rewatching the whole thing are low for me. The theme and plot repeat themselves a lot more than they should, thus nothing much is left to be understood better by a second viewing. Plus, most people stay away from depressing anime so one time will be lasting and enough for the majority.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 5/10 [Hate the book, enjoy the text]
- I did enjoy the aesthetic part of the series. I also loved the messages about the greatness of life by accepting death. Yet, the repetitive plot and the anti-climactic battles really made me feel bored half the time. This is not an action series and should never be watched by action lovers. Still, watching the same things repeating again and again did feel like the scriptwriters just rehashed the storyboard in every episode and simply changed the dialogues. As for the peak of interest, it was more like “and now I will explain everything with another monologue” than some huge confrontation of wits and brawns.
- This is a series of monologues. Everything is told and not shown. You can get what it tries to pass to you without even looking at the screen. Just listening to the monologues and the eerie sounds is enough. So, it misses the balance of mystery/action/revelations I love seeing in anime.
VERDICT: 6.5 / 10
If you don’t fall asleep by listening to the monologues, you will like it. If you expect a twist or a brawling or an epic conclusion, you won’t.
Casshern (the live action movie, one of the few sci-fi movies that outshine their anime version)
Melody of Oblivion
Bounen no Xamdou