Let’s dive into another episode of Casshern Sins! I should be a bit more familiar with the show’s style at this point, given the gap between watching episodes has shifted from around ten months to about six hours. The last episode offered perhaps the first glimpse of lasting hope for the series – in contrast with the doomed church of two and dying human of three, Sophita provided both friendship and hope to Casshern, giving him someone to return to in this wasteland. Given that dash of optimism, I’m expecting this episode to counterbalance with some oppressive, beautiful sorrow. This world won’t decay into forgotten tombstones all by itself, so let’s get right to it!
“Why do you wish to kill me?” “I’m doing the bidding of someone who sees your existence as an obstacle.” We have yet to see anything but the whites of Casshern’s eyes here, which already calls his agency into question. Particularly since current Casshern doesn’t seem to have any clear recollection of this confrontation
Of course, there’s no absolute proof that we’re even looking backwards at all, instead of forward to an inevitable confrontation. This opening framing device works either way – framed as either a creation myth or a prophecy, repeating this moment echoes the inevitability of Ruin. Either way it implies everything else is given context by this moment, and is either echoing in Casshern’s mind or waiting in front of him as his final purpose
The way you present your narrative events obviously has a great deal of tonal impact, and this repeated opening obviously screams “sad inevitability,” the overriding tone of Casshern Sins. This isn’t meant to be shocking, or exciting, or frightening. It’s meant to feel like a truth that cannot be escaped
“Do you have any say in the matter?” “I do not.” And yep, Casshern acting out his programming, just like the other robots
A strange and rusted monolith sits in decay, reaching up towards the pale sky. Casshern weeps for this robot, though we don’t understand why
More of these extreme angles and closeups
Nice shot mirroring Casshern against the monolith as he falls to his knees. And then the kicker – “The Man Who Killed the Sun Called Moon,” meaning this monolith may be our entrance to learning about Casshern’s true identity
Returning to the child from the first episode, with the shell acting as an icon and reminder for the audience. Looks like the show might be tired of being so opaque, and starting to create some tangible dramatic threads
“It’s so pretty.” The shell and these robot children by proxy as an icon of beauty in spite of the decay. Though the shell points to finding beauty in the decay, since it itself is the literal shell of a now-dead creature
These skewed angles frame the sky as swallowing Casshern up, like the sea
Oh dang, it’s Friender. The wasteland is busy today!
“Are you crying? Like a human?” Framing grief or mourning as more human than robot
“With these hands, I’ve ruined the world.” “Do you finally remember?” So perhaps those opening sequences very directly mirror Casshern’s mind, with him recalling more and more of the key moment at the same time we’re introduced to it
“I don’t remember anything, but everyone says it’s my fault”
“How can you commit such an unspeakable act and then forget it!” This stranger demands more meaning in this tragedy than Casshern is able to provide
“My sister served next to Luna as her protector.” Well that’s a pretty easy explanation for “Sun called Moon” – her significance is that of the sun, her name is literally Moon
Luna’s castle was a ruin long before Casshern got there. Throws some doubt into this man’s story, reinforcing the idea that he’s looking for a clear meaning and person to blame that don’t necessarily exist
“The Ruin began with Luna’s death. My sister was the first victim.” Alright, clear confirmation of that from at least one source
“Luna was the source of all life in the world”
Casshern, the polar opposite of a savior. Instead of dying to save this world, he killed to destroy it, but cannot himself die
Casshern again denies this robot certainty, first by forgetting his crime, and then by agreeing he should be killed
The actual violence is hidden off-screen, but Casshern’s regeneration is framed as painful
“Robots aren’t supposed to feel pain! Are you human or robot?”
Casshern again mirroring the giant monolith, this time with arms extended. Hard to escape the image of Casshern as being crucified, though deliberate Christian imagery seems like an unlikely choice
Casshern’s body moves to defend itself eventually
“He’s beautiful.” Like last episode, there’s beauty in these robots performing the functions they were built for, even if that function is violence
Friender saves this robot. Perhaps Friender’s twist on the formula is saving those who come too close to his violent partner
Back to the kids and their van, in a valley that looks like a decrepit coral reef. The backgrounds here all trend towards this precise mix of vaguely organic but potentially artificial edifices. It’s all like the bones of a civilization, dead so long they’ve become the ridges and landmarks of a new terrain
They found a stash of parts that haven’t yet been hit by ruin. “The graverobbers haven’t hit this place yet either” – but they’re basically graverobbers themselves
If this show kills this little girl I swear to god
Them being robots really doesn’t make this violence any more bearable. Hell, because this show focuses on mortality so directly, these assaults and deaths actually feel more tangible than the killing of human characters in other shows often does. A show can make death feel very, very cheap, but Casshern Sins makes sure you know its characters have hopes and dreams, and are desperately clinging to life with all they have
Casshern to the rescue! Of course, we still see a child crushed to death, along with the somewhat unnecessary stomping of Ringo’s shell. Fragile beauty etc etc
Tremendous sense of speed in this cut where Casshern looks over his shoulder. Love the brief shot of his eye against the camera
Some lovely jagged line art to help convey speed as well. Also good use of silhouettes. Just a beautiful fight, as usual
“Once you start fighting, you don’t stop until everything in your sight is destroyed.” But Ringo’s voice did stop him
“I only meant to save the two of you.” These hands can only destroy etc
A dark figure approaches! Next week: Casshern’s double???
Welp, things are moving along pretty smoothly now. I still find it interesting how much Casshern Sins embraces from the storytelling style of its predecessors, along with what elements of that style it directly flips or comments on. “Deconstructions” aren’t really interesting for their own sake, but it’s a handy dramatic tool to use the resonances that have been “taught” to an audience through a given genre to piggyback into your own messages. Casshern as the antithesis of a heroic savior, monster-of-the-week encounters shifted to this kind of mythic, apocalyptic framing – there are a lot of good ideas here. I guess we’ll find out more next time!
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