Casshern Sins – Episode 9

And we’re back to Casshern Sins! Last episode presented one more glimmer of hope, in the form of the singer Janice. More than just giving Casshern something new to care about, Janice offered him something he’d never had before – a reason to fight. Janice’s questions solidified one of Casshern’s core contradictions: he is designed to fight and destroy, but he has no interest in doing such things. Because of this, Casshern’s natural programming only tends to kick in when he’s in such personal danger his circuits won’t allow otherwise. But if Casshern could actually find something worth defending, something to fight for that could last like he does, he might arrive at some sort of peace.

That said, we’re only eight episodes in, so I’m expecting a whole lot more suffering before Casshern finds anything that might fit the bill. So let’s get right to it!

Episode 9

Still nothing new in the pre-OP sequence. On the one hand, it’s clear that we’re in a sequence of very self-contained episodes right now, and likely won’t be getting another infodump like the one three episodes ago for a while. On the other, it also kinda prolongs the suffering of this moment – Casshern’s hands strangling Luna for episodes on end

Flower petals cross a fading grey background. An extremely Casshern Sins image

This show is so deliriously beautiful. The contrast of this person in their throne against the cave opening is a powerful image. Yamauchi certainly knows how to set up a beautiful composition, and use visual variables to their most evocative compositional effect. Something that extends outwards from how the characters themselves are designed to allow for both beautiful, otherworldly closeups and stark long shots using their distinctive profiles

Another character – a flower girl in a bonnet, bringing water to the flowers. The camera emphasizes that even her bucket is rusting away

These flowers are the most vibrant natural thing we’ve seen in the entire series. Given this is Casshern Sins, my initial thought is “some robot fight in this field will nearly destroy all of them, but Casshern will be able to protect a precious few, only to be blamed for the destruction of the rest.” Ah Casshern Sins

Some nice character animation for the flower girl

And our first reintroduction to Casshern is, of course, beautiful destruction. His hand bursting forth through a robot

“Who cares about Luna? We believe in Dio, not some woman… whom no one can even find…”

“Just because you joined an army doesn’t mean you’ll survive.” What does that mean?

The second episode in a row that takes advantage of these generic CG “robot goon” models

“The Flower that Blooms in the Valley of Ruin”

Casshern falls from battle into the valley of flowers. And even this music. It seems hard to avoid thinking this is a Final Fantasy VII reference – one of the most iconic scenes from that game is Cloud falling from the second reactor fight into the flower-filled church

These flowers are also pretty Casshern Sins – the second you pick them up, their petals scatter on the wind, beautiful in flight for just a moment

“I’m not going to die here. I’m going to join the army!” So Dio is offering hope through service in his army, presumably

She offers flowers

Jeez, this pool is gorgeous

“Eat up.” Offering flowers and water as a meal, a classic child activity

The Ruin is already affecting her

She tries to heal other robots. She even gets through to this guy trying to join the army

“The circuits in her head are fried” says the old man

The robot in the chair is actually long dead, and more of a flower shrine than anything

“She’s been doing the same thing for years.” He says she’s fried, but the tragedy of her cyclically and hopelessly trying to repair doomed robots is not much different from any other programming

“But she seems kind of happy.” The main girl raises the key counterpoint, of course – if you can find happiness in your life, it doesn’t necessarily matter what the substance of that happiness is

God, this show is so unusual. The old man and young girl are basically a kind of constant Greek chorus, offering cynical and then hopeful commentary on all of the small real-life parables Casshern comes across

Extreme closeups on the flowers, like the extreme closeups on the faces. Drawing in so close they lose their meaningful form as an “object” with a specific meaning, and are instead reduced to a series of beautiful contrasts in line and color

They’ve managed to make this battle robot pretty adorable

Niko is the new girl’s name

“Niko… the robot that cared for Luna.” Oh dang

And it seems like she thinks the robot in the chair is Luna. The substance of our tasks is separate from the satisfaction we take in them – Niko is happy “protecting Luna,” even though Luna is long gone

But Lyuze won’t accept that. Lyuze still cares about the substance of our tasks, still believes that things matter in this world beyond the feelings we assign to them

Many of the robots apparently have heard a rumor that someone named Luna is still alive, granting life to humans and robots

This episode is far more graceful in its exposition than the last relevant one. Instead of one character monologuing context, we’ve got a natural exchange of information between sources with disparate fragments of knowledge

“They probably wanted to believe that rumor, because the Ruin had spread…” Echoing Niko’s actions. The distance between despair and hope can be crossed by faith, even if that faith is born of fried circuits

This robot is actually really sympathetic. Pragmatically choosing to join Dio’s army over a useless hope, but slowly coming to terms with the fact that he’ll never leave this place

Ah, here it is. The robots who will destroy the flower bed

Oh my god, this shot of Lyuze framed through the flowers is gorgeous. THIS SHOW IS SO BEAUTIFUL

“Fried circuits” may as well be a metaphor for grief. Niko couldn’t accept Luna’s death, and so made a shrine where she could always protect her

Jeez this is tragic. Battle Robot trying to save her on his broken limbs. It’s a classic archetype, but they executed it really well here

The music here is excellent too. This funeral hymn as Casshern promises to take her home

And the perfect ending – Niko dies, but the battle robot, Bolton, promises to guard her until Casshern can bring Luna back

“If the Ruin is destroying the world, then I have a responsibility to stop it. If I can find Luna, I may be able to do that.” AT LAST! Niko’s death has given Casshern a true purpose, something to drive him forward. And his purpose may well be like Niko’s final one – a hopeless quest based in faith alone. But the feasibility of his quest is far less important than the fact that it gives him something to live for

And Done

Jeez, that one was so good! At its best, Casshern Sins offers such wonderful takes on classic sad fables, lifting these stories through the clever congruity of its world and the sheer beauty of its execution. Bolton in particular was a wonderful articulation of that character type – his speech about coming to terms with his own mortality was very solidly written, and his character arc was totally believable. And then all those beautiful shots afforded by the flower garden… man. Casshern Sins is a hell of a show.

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