Casshern Sins – Episode 21

And so we return to Casshern Sins. After nineteen episodes of seeking, last episode saw Casshern and his companions finally making contact with the new Luna – but regardless of whatever Dune saw in her, it seems this Luna offers no salvation at all. Though she claims to heal those dying to Ruin, the people who come to her ultimately find themselves in a great mass grave. On top of this, Luna herself seems disgusted at the thought of decay, and would rather pave over the dying than witness their final days.

In contrast, Casshern has come to both value life and also see great dignity in death, having been forced to work with and come to care for many robots and humans across the course of this series. Casshern may not have any kind of healing touch, but he has the forward-looking perspective and hope you need in a prophet, if not in a savior. Even his design, a white canvas touched with red markings, now seems to echo his vitality, aligning him with the cyclical inevitability of blood. I don’t know what Casshern can do to save these people, but it’s great to see him determined to try. Let’s see what the future holds.

Episode 21

Opening with a white flower above a field of pink flowers. Casshern’s colors, and also Casshern’s current symbol – hope in spite of acknowledging Ruin

“Acknowledging Ruin” also seems like it goes hand in hand with accepting death. Other people have had hope in the past, but that’s been a hope that they could somehow avoid ruin entirely, be it through Dio’s army or Luna’s salvation or whatever else. Casshern seems to accept their ruined world, but still possess hope in spite of that

Luna shies away from the flower, seeing it marred with decay. She cannot accept beauty that acknowledges the ruin

“These flowers smell of death”

Great composition of Luna in her field of flowers right next to the scorched earth, with Casshern walking away. Casshern accepts the world as it is, Luna lives within her enclosed fantasy world

“A drop of my blood returns one to life and grants it eternally.” Again, blood as renewal, even in physical, narrative terms

“Death is something that must not exist.” Yep. This Luna cannot accept the nature of the world

“Everyone could be happy forever if only they could escape from death.” Luna’s phrasing makes the quest of all these robots seem childish

“If that’s so, then why do I suffer so?” Yep. Suffering is not a symptom of death

This little flower patch is a very effective image. It really hammers in how small Luna’s influence and perspective are – she’s created an Eden, but it’s just one tiny patch of flowers in the desert

After the opening eye, the very first image of the OP is the contrast of Casshern’s colors – the purity of white and the renewal of red

“The Paradise of Lost Hope.” An appropriate title. Luna replaces the need for hope with her drip-feed salvation in her tiny sandbox

And we’re back with Leda and Dio, who can feel his body decaying

“In the darkness, I search for Casshern.” That’s our single-minded emo boy

Casshern and Lyuze make a grave for Dune and place one blue flower atop it. I like the desaturated colors of this solemn moment

“I don’t want salvation from Luna.” This show has come to a pretty reasonable philosophy

The only thing other than the flower which still possesses color is Ringo’s cheeks, reflecting her blood and humanity

They run into a strange boy with a red stone as they leave Luna’s home

And… a carnival? Are we suddenly getting another episodic adventure?

As if the Nier parallels weren’t strong enough already

These character designs are great. Really making use of Casshern Sins’ mutable ideas of how robots are constructed

“Come here after she’s healed you.” Robots who’ve been healed seem to lose their sense of purpose. That fact is underlined in on-the-nose activities at this carnival – one robot climbs a tower just to fall off it again and again, while others gather stones in a mound and then knock it over

So is it the finite nature of life that gives it meaning in this world?

Lyuze tosses stones into the lake, shattering the reflection of the false salvation

“That town belongs only to those who will live for eternity.” So it seems this Luna does provide salvation from Ruin, if only that

A great intimate conversation on Lyuze’s fears and desires, intertwining death and romance. Casshern Sin’s hyper-closeups can be alienating, but scenes like this reveal that’s an intentional effect – these shots are just as close to the characters, yet they create a strong sense of intimacy. The focus on full expressions and hand gestures makes their feelings clear

She’s afraid of salvation changing her

Aw heck, it’s Ohji

“What Luna gives is death.” Aaaalright

Long ago, eternal life flew freely. But Braiking Boss felt this was wrong

“She said that life could only be truly lived with the existence of death.” There we go

“But Luna is definitely stopping the Ruin now.” I’m glad Lyuze is there to articulate my questions. The show’s conflating its physical and metaphorical levels here, and I kinda need to know what this current Luna is actually doing – whether it’s death in a metaphorical sense, or she actually just discards these robots, or whatever. What is that carnival, if not the fruits of her labor?

And now they clarify that yes, Luna has changed her behavior. Good. Ambiguity’s not really useful when it reaches the point where even your thematic intent is unclear, unless you’re going for a purposefully vague conclusion, which is not really this show’s M.O. This show keeps things vague in a narrative sense, but is generally pretty clear in its moral intent

“Those who accept her healing survive, but they may simply be living, and nothing else.”

Ohji’s fear of his friends dying is stronger than his distaste for Luna’s style of healing. Which seems… perfectly reasonable? Thematic intent aside, it does seem pretty odd that they search this whole series for Luna’s salvation, and then on the brink of salvation decide it just kinda feels weird. The show has certainly seeded Casshern’s respect for the dying, but I don’t think it’s seeded the idea that death is actually good, an important and necessary thing. And it’s quite a jump from one to the other

A nice shot of Ohji looking menacing through the crack in his hat

“If you deny the concept of survival, then why do you fight?” I suppose this is all supposed to be as ambiguous for us as it is for the cast. They’re just figuring these feelings out right now

“Your immortality allows you to spout such platitudes.” Yep

“You understand neither the pain nor fear of death.” Ohji’s voice actor is killing this delivery. Getting more and more furious and unsteady as he goes along, his voice cracking on every word

And now he’s just letting himself be beaten. Ideological and physical defeat

“Why does he abandon his perfect life?” While Casshern can’t understand their fear, they also can’t understand his sorrow

And Done

Well jeez, that sure was an ambiguous episode. An episode like that can’t really be critiqued in a vacuum – this was essentially the first half of an emotional narrative, with the characters all grappling with feelings they can’t yet contextualize or overcome. Casshern’s party all sense there’s something inherently wrong with eternal life, but it’s mostly just framed in tonal terms – something “feels off” about the people Luna has saved. The argument at the end was excellent, though, as it fully embraced the conflicted, contrasting feelings of all the leads. C’mon Casshern, find a reason to live!

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