Casshern Sins continues to grow to become a more interesting show — and in episode three it even introduces salient thematic points — yet continues to leave the audience detached from Casshern himself.
Picking up straight after Casshern’s massacre of the peaceful robots, episode three sees a guilt-strichen Casshern set out aimlessly ahead and encounter the last thing he thought he would find: a human. Akoes was looking for the robot town when he encountered Casshern, but at the latter’s insistance they continue away from the town. Akoes brings a a strong philosophical voice to the show, bringing up the fragility of humans, the contradictions of humans, the nature of sin, and what it means to be alive. This is a marked improvement, as previous episodes only every hinted at and alluded to the thematic core of the show. Akoes questions are more than simple questioning, they manage to be actual explorations of philosophical concepts because of their frame of Akoes’ own humanity and quest for identity and meaning in his life.
Akoes’ struggle about the meaning of life is especially compelling because it is delivered in the most emotional and human of ways. After spending a day or so of travelling with Casshern and seeing that he must not have much time left to live, Akoes almost breaks down:
Where do I end up after I’ve run, and kept running? Where have I run to, and what for – to live? Why am I alive – to run? What in the hell am I then? No one understands that.
This even resonates with Casshern, who is also running from his past sins, searching for the answer to what he is, and asking why he gets to live when so many others have perished. Outside of Akoes, however, the themes introduced in this episode fall apart. Despite the clear sympathy we see from Casshern, we still do not know precisely who Casshern is and how these questions dynamically affect him.
In this specific episode Casshern is consumed with grief and guilt over the course of action he took in the robot town, which is easily inferred from his overall low energy, his initial warnings to Akoes to stay away from him, and his subsequent choice to offer his life to Friender as atonement for his sins. Yet outside of guilt Casshern is an unknown. Are Akoes’ thoughts influencing Casshern because he feels guilty or in spite of it? Casshern, as he stands, is built on greif; his guilt is the only thing driving him and that is incredibly flat. The show has aired how Akoes feels about sin and life and their meanings, but how does Casshern feel about them? Did Casshern even have any thoughts about them before Akoes came along? Did Casshern’s thoughts change as a result of meeting Akoes or did Akoes merely reinforce Casshern’s ideas? Was Akoes and Casshern’s meeting meaningful or memorable to Casshern outside of Akoes being one of the only humans left alive? In the moment Akoes airs his thoughts, we know how they affect Casshern, but beyond those moments none of us know how they affect Casshern and how they make him feel.
I give this show praise for its music, its animation, its artistic style, I even praise its shaky thematic core, but consistently this show ignores Casshern himself and leaves him a blank slate. We are not told what Casshern is thinking and furthermore we cannot divine what he his thinking because he is not characterized enough for us to do so. While Casshern Sins may hit some fantastic notes in its technical ability, I cannot call this a good show while it ignores its emotional core and characters.