Casshern Sins – Episode 20

Let’s get back to Casshern Sins. We’re coming off a pair of Lyuze-focused episodes at the moment, where she ultimately confirmed both her feelings for Casshern and her own will to live. It’s been interesting to get such a deep dive into Lyuze’s feelings this late into the narrative, but it makes sense – having spent the first half of the series blessed with the certainty of hating Casshern, she’s only now forced to reckon with the ambiguity of an open, even possibly hopeful future. The power of certainty, of giving yourself up to a cause or a god or just a personal goal, is a real and almost physical thing in Casshern Sins. Those that can raise their eyes to the horizon and see something worth seeking endure – those that lose hope fall to Ruin. Lyuze had to trade the certainty of vengeance for an uncertain hope, but she can see a real future now. I hope she makes it through.

Episode 20

Opening with an extremely Casshern Sins shot, a closeup of a lined face whose tufts of hair essentially meld with the environment, making a landscape of his features

Is this our good friend Dune again?

Memories of Luna, but this time the flowers are bright red. Red generally signifies violence or blood, but it’s not a color that’s actually been used all that often in this series. Perhaps it’s most closely aligned here with the violence of sex and childbirth, as seen in Lyuze’s recent episodes and Leda’s before that

“Why do you think the flowers bloom?”

“It’s to make everyone happy.” The flowers have been consistently aligned with the old, lost age – we’ve run across a series of unlikely and well-tended flower gardens, and they always elicit a sense of awe, and generally a comment on how strange it is they still exist. Given that, it’s easy to see the existing flowers as reflecting the fragments of happiness that can still be attained in the ruined world

Luna actually brings the flowers back to light

The contrast of white Luna and sky against red flowers is incredibly stark – in spite of the soothing music, the tension of colors creates a sense of violence. It’s also Casshern’s own color scheme

“May you have eternal healing too.” Aw jeez, did she actually curse him with that? Eternal life without eternal purpose is an unhappy thing – in Casshern Sins, purpose is life itself

Having played through both of them, I can now see why all my friends who love Casshern Sins also love the Nier franchise. A very similar tone and world

Yet another desert, this time with feeble sticks rising out of the ground. Casshern Sins has managed to mine an incredible amount of distinctive visual real estate out of “blasted wasteland” – its variety of crumbling cities, stark single edifices, and compositionally distinct landscapes means the audience is never bored by new locations, and also that this actually does feel like a full world. That’s pretty important, given the characters’ own “wandering in the decay, walking across things and commenting on them” priorities mean this could easily feel more like a stage play than a real journey

Yep, we’re back with Dune, who’s somehow still wandering alone. Kinda funny how Dune’s basically tripped over all the main cast members at this point. As I said, the actual narrative thrust of this show doesn’t lend itself towards making this world feel real – though that also kinda works, since we’re meant to feel like all the characters are walking through an unending dream

Dune sits down in the desert and finds himself in a field of flowers. Blue flowers this time, a much more familiar color – associated with water, offering both renewal and decay

Seeing Luna, his new face crumbles away to reveal his beautiful old one. Hope prompts life – though this may also just be a dream at the end of his life

The show is making great use of Luna’s distinct profile against the sky

And we return to the ruined world. Though the path leading up to Luna’s tower is still beautiful in its own way

“For Whom Do the Flowers Bloom?”

“Is Luna stopping the ruin?” “Let’s believe.” So proud of you Casshern, you’ve come so far little buddy

“I wonder if she suffers. Luna sheds her own blood to heal everyone.” There we go. That gives blood a very specific key context that it hasn’t had before. Blood and red as reflective of Luna’s sacrificing, a healing agent that requires personal suffering to attain

This episode’s doing some loud visual cuts of types you don’t generally see in Casshern Sins. A prominent wipe transition, transposing Luna and Casshern’s faces against each other. I wonder if this was another one-off director

They actually see Luna, and then Dune. I guess his vision wasn’t a fantasy after all

Some nice animation for Ringo going to greet Dune. Basically all lively pieces of character acting go to her

Dune seems to have actually returned to his senses

“May the grace of Luna be with you.” Casshern’s new goals have finally resulted in a life being preserved

This time we get an odd match fade. I suppose these active cuts do make this episode seem more propulsive than most

Nah, I actually think they just feel abrupt, and kinda make the episode feel a little disjointed. Not sure why they’re so heavy in this episode in particular

Violence in the house of Luna. This environment feels like utter fantasy – rising plumes of solid color against a barely shaded background. It’s evocative, and its jagged form emphasizes the violence of the other robots

“The fights never stop here. Even if they’re hurt, they can just be healed.” So people are already abusing Luna’s gift

“You were never healed, were you?” “Why do the flowers bloom? There may be no meaning in it after all.” Dune seems to believe Luna is meant to be admired from afar – a source of hope, but not an active, healing presence in the world

“The one from last night…” This episode’s pacing is really, really weird for Casshern Sins. We’re jumping through time and scene skips in a way that really doesn’t match the show’s overall tempo. This jump from watching a robot fighting to Casshern seeing his body pulled out feels like something from an episodic murder mystery, not the usually somber, slow, self-reflective Casshern Sins

There’s a massive robot graveyard

The undertakers look suitably inhuman

“He’s as good as dead. I can’t heal him anymore.” Luna shot from beneath and in blue, emphasizing her potentially dark turn in both compositional and color-theme terms

Jeez, gorgeous shot of Luna and Casshern together

The flowers are dying. Luna instructs Dune to bury them and sow new seeds

Dune hesitates. The flowers may be dying, but they are still alive, still struggling

This version of Luna does not want to see the Ruin at all

Great animation for this episode’s big fight sequence

Dune weathers their blows to save one of the flowers

Once again, a strange transition out of the battle and into checking on Dune. A full palette shift and jump in time with no real rhyme to it

Luna arrives at last

“I hate that which smells of death.” WHAT is this Luna’s DEAL

“I can’t heal him anymore.” This Luna is not a kind god

“The Sun gives nothing.” And Dune was fine with that. He was content simply to marvel at her

Dune thinks everything is meaningless. Casshern protests that those who live live for someone

Dune’s way of grappling with the pain of this world was to embrace nihilism. He simply lives and simply dies, there is no greater meaning. But Casshern has found actual hope

Braiking Boss runs into a gravekeeper

“It makes me feel better knowing there are so many who have been destroyed.” Everyone seeking their own kind of solace

Braiking Boss made graves for his soldiers. It seems that he had more respect for the dying and dead than Luna, who simply wants dead things out of her sight

“Braiking Boss wanted to carve the vast number of deaths into his heart”

“It’s a lie that you’re giving healing.” Casshern finally says it

Luna is now cast in blue, while Casshern is cast in red, which has apparently become the color of sacrifice

“It’s ugly to die?” Casshern is enraged by Luna’s implication. After a long journey spent trying to find an end to death, watching others die all along the way, he has come to understand the grace and dignity of death. Death is the only thing these robots can count on, and their ability to choose their death is crucial. Death should be respected, and that we are all fated to die eventually should not drive us to despair. And that Luna would even disrespect the faith these robots place in her, after Casshern spent this entire series learning to possess faith himself, is unforgivable

And Done

Well, it turns out at least this Luna is a false idol – not only does she not heal those suffering from Ruin, but she actively despises the dying for their weakness. In contrast, it was Braiking Boss of all people who possessed an actual respect for the dead, and an understanding of his responsibility towards those who served under him. We could be moving towards actually justifying Casshern’s actions that began the series, but there are a variety of directions they could take this. This was a somewhat messy episode execution-wise, but things are certainly coming together in a satisfying way. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.