I’ve come to see that the elevator pitch of CASSHERN being “like HAMLET with robots” maybe had less to do with any direct parallels to the House of Denmark’s family business and more to do with brooding, ostensibly-adventurous princes wandering through utterly-gloomy plotlines.
See, one conclusion I took away from taking a class on revenge tragedies in college was that most classical entries in the genre aren’t quite structured according to the standards we define our “good storytelling” by. We usually judge a story’s merits by its point. Either some theme is reinforced by the plot, or the character’s personalities evolve according to some sort of arc, and so on.
Revenge tragedies, though? They usually just boil down to saying, “Well, shit happens and then you die." Yes, even HAMLET. All the substantial observations of human nature that it makes along the way are almost incidental.
I’m bringing that up because I’m searching for some comparison points to understand CASSHERN SINS with. Without getting too pretentious, I do think it’s more of an art piece, and what comes with that is some difficulty to evaluate it on the same scale I judge most of the entertainment I watch here. It’s not something you can just file off into the “ROCKS!” or “SUCKS!” cabinets.
I do think there are a number of enduring problems with the series. It’s twice as long as it should be. There are tangents - - like the rock singer robot episode - - which don’t seem to be of any consequence to anything that came later. Casshern’s only a carbon fiber or two away being just like the dull, listless amnesiac child assassins I so often criticize. Then there’s the quite nearly-comprehensive effort to remove any and all sense of suspense - - and, as I’ve said numerous times before, that may be actually be a plus.
Review enough of these things, and you can’t start wondering if there should be some belt system for appreciating anime. Like, if you've seen 50 robot stories and you're deeply familiar with all their conventions, then you'll get something out of a tragic, life-dampening spin on the concept. Yeah, I feel like I've earned that rank and, because of that, I don't know if I can recommend this show to most people because it's targeting such a specific niche.
Of course, I'm still sorting out of my thoughts on this thing - - because it's an art piece, for sure. Maybe I'll have to dedicate a Vice Pit episode to the subject. The discussion definitely isn't done for me, even though I'm out of space here.