[Synopsis]: Vash the Stampede (Onosaka, Masaya) is a legendary gunslinger with a $60,000,000,000 bounty on his head who has attained the additional title of the ‘humanoid typhoon’ due to the way he leaves a path of destruction in his wake wherever he travels. Because of this rampant devastation, the Bernardelli Insurance Society tasks Meryl Stryfe (Tsuru, Hiromi) and Milly Thompson (Yukino, Satsuki) to find Vash in order to evaluate insurance claims and attempt to minimize the damage. The story follows these characters across a desert wasteland as it quickly becomes apparent that Vash is more than a simple outlaw.
Vash the Stampede, while an absolute ace in every category when concerning marksmanship, is also quite a carefree and kindhearted character. From the get-go it is revealed that the destruction that is attributed to him is actually the fault of the countless bounty hunters chasing after the reward for his head. With this in mind, he is perfectly capable of dealing out major damage with his signature revolver however perhaps his biggest character trait is that he always avoids killing his enemies – opting to disarm or at worst cripple them instead. This mindset, while at first a character quirk, becomes very central to the shows primary story after a turn in what could be described as the conflict of naivety. Vash occupies an odd dichotomy of personalities where he can be both silly and comical but gravely serious the next second. Vash’s past and the reasons for his preservation of life are explored fairly extensively and as the story progresses.
Joining Vash on his journeys in the anime are the two insurance girls Meryl and Milly. While Meryl at first doesn’t believe Vash to be the legitimate ‘Vash the Stampede’ she eventually is convinced wheres Milly is much more certain after their first meeting. The two girls serve primarily as comedic characters throughout the show and their exaggerated reactions (mostly Meryl) are the source of a good deal of the shows comedy along with Vash’s antics. They are fairly flat characters and while they have emotions and serious scenes they feel fairly stunted on the development front. As the show grows more serious in the later episodes and the silliness of things is slightly phased out, they continue to tag along but seem to lack purpose.
Lastly, Vash and company encounter a priest by the name of Nicholas D. Wolfwood (Hayami, Show) on their travels who at first fades in and out of the story intermittently but later becomes a more primary character. I would say that Wolfwood’s appearance is a marked improvement to the show as he is more complex and action-oriented than Meryl or Milly. He shares some qualities with Vash, comedic and otherwise, but is overall of the more serious characters in the cast.
As Trigun hails from the late 90’s period of anime it’s art and animation leave a decent amount to be desired in comparison to more modern shows. This aside, the character designs, primarily of Vash and his enemies, are very exaggerated however they don’t feel out of place in the world. The animation itself varies from episode to episode and naturally the more important action scenes are shown a little more love than others but overall Trigun is par for the course. The setting for almost all of the story is a desert wasteland and so there isn’t too much exciting to work with in that regard.
One of my major issues with the show actually concerns its art and animation as I have a problem with how it presents both guns and bullets in the show. Because dancing around bullets is both a good source of comedy and also a clear way to show somebody’s speed of movement in an action scene – a good deal of bullets end up missing… a lot of them. This is highly apparent in that Vash goes more or less unscathed for a good portion of the early episodes – both a sign of his skill but hardly an episode goes by in Trigun where Vash doesn’t dart around screaming comically as a whole troop of enemies looses fire at him. So the problem arises in the over-prevalence of guns and the countless number of scenes where bullets seemingly accomplish nothing. When the show relies greatly on the threat of a gun in someones face (which happens multiple times episodically) it somewhat damages the tension and gravity of things when we are conditioned to think that the guns and bullets ultimately don’t mean much.
The show starts out feeling fairly episodic in nature – Vash travels to a city, he is pursued by bounty hunters or encounters a problem already in the city, action and comedy ensue and he moves on. This formula is used for the first 10 or so episodes and so Trigun can feel a bit slow to get into at first. The show picks up pace more than you would initially think it would and it also gets reasonably dark in comparison to its early far more comedic episodes.
At the end of the day, Trigun is less concerned with with actual progression of a plot and more with the moral dilemmas associated with Vash’s lifestyle. Why does Vash cherish life so – and to what lengths will he go to uphold his near-pacifist ideals? The show attempts to drum up a discussion of morals by presenting us with a heroic figure who will stop at nothing to protect and help those in need but who will not take the life of his enemy. This very quickly becomes problematic for Vash and only becomes more so as the show continues – eventually becoming the main focus of the show within the ‘primary plot’. Trigun claims to harbor a moral message but in my opinion its a bit lost and unfounded amongst the action and comedy of the show – it pays close attention to Vash’s own morality but fails to bring up points for one cause or another with any real conviction; it is a little flaky in this regard.
The music of the show fits the setting well enough but isn’t anything I would go listen to again after the show ended. As the setting of the show features primarily sand and frontier towns the music is evocative of a wild west environment but there is some sci-fi influence as well.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
I think that ones enjoyment of the show will rely heavily on whether or not one thinks that the show explored Vash’s moral dilemma adequately or not. The show has decent comedy in the beginning and reasonably interesting plot developments later in the show however because the show’s main focus becomes a moral one I think it should be held to that standard first and foremost. I would say without that moral intrigue, the show’s comedy and action would rarely outstrip anything else in those respective genres and so additionally so, Trigun relies importantly on its messages.
I will preface that my rating of this show is bias in that I am no great lover of the Sci-Fi western setting and that a more avid fan of that genre would be quick to give it a 6 or even as high as an 8 if they could overlook some of my more nit-picky qualms listed. The show falls short for me because as I have stated above, because it does not do anything exceptionally well and because its animation (by nature of its time period) is not actively beneficial to it, it appears overly reliant on what I would consider an ill-conceived or half-baked moral question.
I think that anyone that jumps at the premise of a Sci-Fi western should certainly investigate this show as its setting and characters support the genre well. I would also recommend this show to anyone wanting to explore the more ‘classic’ anime as Trigun is very much one of the more storied shows in medium and is the point of many a conversation. To action fans looking for good gun-slinging fight scenes I would recommend this however admit that other shows probably hold greater potential in this aspect. Lastly, to those interested in the shows comedy – it has decent gag comedy at the beginning but because the show eventually discards many of these gags in favor of a more serious tone I would recommend a different show unless your willing to stick around after the tonal shift.