To start off with our theme of the Old West as portrayed in anime, we’ll be looking at what I consider to be the series that sets the tone for ever other series we will cover this month. “Trigun” has achieved a legendary status in both Japan and the US, ranking up there with shows like “Cowboy Bebop” and the “Gundam” series. What makes this show so popular? What could possibly be so interesting about an anime that takes place in the desert? We’ll be checkin’ out the intricate storyline, the complex characters, the classic animation style, the old school meets new school music, and we’ll see if a wet behind the ears V/A can do justice to the Man in Red. So pull yourself up a stump around the campfire, take a swig of Whiskey and give the beans a good stirrin’, because we’re gonna dive into the world of “Trigun”.
Warnings and Notable Objectionable Content: “Trigun” is rated as TV-14, and I would have to agree with that rating. There is quite a bit of bloody violence in this one, along with some PG rated swearing and a few off-color jokes here and there. It’s nothing too bad for anyone at or over the age of 14, but I wouldn’t go any lower than that.
Series Availability: Once upon a time, way back in 2001, “Trigun” was available from Geneon in both individual volumes and several box set collections. In 2003, Geneon, released “Trigun” again as individual DVDs known as “Trigun Remix”, which is a remastered version of the original material with improved video and a remastered audio track. Fast forward a couple of years. Funimaton Entertainment, in a mass-license acquisition after Geneon folded like a house of cards, acquired and re-released the series in a thin-pack “Complete Collection” edition which is pretty much the same thing as “Trigun Remix”. The series is readily available at your major big-box stores like Best Buy, Walmart and Target, and you can be sure to find a copy at your local anime online retail provider. The series is also available for streaming on Funimation’s YouTube Channel in both subbed and dubbed formats.
Story Premise – “Trigun” is a 26 episode series based off a manga called “Trigun Maximum” by Yasuhiro Nightow. This series takes place in the future, where mankind is forced to live on a barren planet with little to no resources where even the simple act of finding water is risky and dangerous. Our story opens in a ragged city where the bar-flies are talking about a ruthless legendary gunman known only as “The Humanoid Typhoon Vash the Stampede”. Alleged to have caused the complete decimation of several cities single-handedly, Vash is a wanted man who is hunted by in and everyone for the large 60,000,000,000$$ reward on his head–dead or alive. [And no, that’s not a typo–the currency used in “Trigun” is known as “Double-Dollars” and it is written as such] As it turns out however, Vash is a laid-back, doughnut-hungry, skirt-chasing goofball with amazing gun slinging skills who just so happens to have a very acute case of bad luck for those around him, leaving a wake of destruction everywhere he goes. To that end, he has two “disaster representatives” of the Bernardelli Insurance Society tail him to keep collateral damage to a minimum. Of course, throughout the series, as Vash encounters more and more bounty hunters and enemies out to capture the reward on his head, many dispatched by his own brother, Millions Knives, he tends to leave large amounts of damage in his wake, but he abides by a single solitary rule; to never take a life, regardless of the viciousness of their crimes or the threat to his own body. “Trigun” has the kind of story that makes you WANT to come back episode after episode. It’s mix of comedic timing, action shoot-outs and fights, and intricate storytelling makes this series, much like “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, one that you can watch again and again and always find something new that you missed or some strange clue that went unnoticed. To that end, the story does have the habit of throwing a lot of information at the viewer at one time, which could result in a bit of confusion. The ending is very well done for a series of this nature–its conclusive enough to where you feel satisfied at the end, but it’s JUST open-ended enough to where you can use your imagination as to the future of some of the characters. [24/25]
Favorite Scene – My favorite scene, and probably by extension my favorite episode, has to be “Paradise”. Not only does this episode delivers on several fronts with regards to shock-factor, but the touching, heart-wrenching moment when…[SPOILER ALERT: HIGHLIGHT TO READ — Wolfwood, after having been fatally shot, goes into the church, falls to one knee from exhaustion, and gives what turns out to be his first and last confession with the cross-shaped gun on his shoulder. Hearing him declare, in typical Wolfwood defiance to the end, “I’m not ready yet! There’s still so much to be done! I want to stay with them! I don’t want to die! I’m a man!” shows that, even at the doorway to death, Wolfwood remains true to who he is while remaining true to his faith and accepting the consequences of the sins he committed in his life. It is, by far, one of the most touching moments in all of anime, and the scene immediately afterwards, which shows everyone reacting to the news, including Milly’s sobbing, ] makes this episode a highlight for me and it shows just how much work the ADR team put into making sure that this scene gets the justice it deserves.
Characters – Our main character, Vash the Stampede, is known as the Humanoid Typhoon. Nothing much is known about him except that he’s a tall blonde with a red coat, a love of doughnuts, and is a womanizer to the highest degree. He is also known as being a destructive force with no equal, leveling towns with no concern for the lives of others. When we finally meet Vash, however, we learn that, while yes, he is a tall blonde with a red coat who loves doughnuts and skirt-chasing, he is not exactly the angry destructive force he is made out to be. Vash is a goofball who is more apt to finding peaceful solutions to sticky situations, only resorting to using live ammo when need be. [In fact, in episode 1, puts me in the mind of the old school Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd “Loony Tunes” cartoons; with Vash using gags and pratfalls to allude the bounty hunters after him rather than draw his gun…] That being said, when the need arises, or when emotionally compromised, Vash can become all serious, exercising an inhuman amount of speed, control, balance, and aim to resolve the situation…all while striving to maintain the ideal of not taking a single human life, regardless of the situation or the person. Vash is the epitome of an hero of the everyday man; while, yes, he has been known to cause astronomical collateral damage, on the whole, he’s only done so to prevent the loss of any human life all the while being so completely lovable and approachable that just about everyone Vash encounters seem to have some sort of admiration of him. Heck, even young kids feel comfortable around this humanoid typhoon to play with him. In order to keep said collateral damage to a minimum, the Bernardelli Insurance Society dispatches Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson to both find and keep an eye on Vash and keep him on a leash. The insurance girls act as the viewer’s POV throughout the series; pretty much experiencing the same flow of emotions and asking the same questions as the viewer as the show goes on while still contributing a great deal to the overall flow of the show without dragging it down. Later in the series, the group encounters a traveling priest by the name of Nicholas D. Wolfwood. He is not your typical preacher man by any stretch of the imagination; he smokes, swears, and is not above using deadly force to rectify a situation if it helps the greater good; almost the opposite of Vash, who believes that there is NO circumstance whatsoever when human life should be taken by another. As for antagonists, or main baddie, Millions Knives, is almost the antithesis of Vash; a prime example for those who are old enough to remember the action show “Knight Rider” back in the late 80’s early 90’s is that of K.I.T.T and K.A.R.R. Both vehicles were designed to be virtually indestructible, yet while K.I.T.T had the programming to protect and defend human live at all costs to his own being, K.A.R.R was programmed to protect himself; that is, he took no qualms in offing a human or two in order to satisfy his own desires and protect his being. For those who were not as blessed to have seen the awesomeness that is “Knight Rider”, I refer you Episode 17, “Rem Saverem”. In this episode, you see Knives line of thinking [which leads to the sad conclusion of that particular episode and lays the bedrock down for Vash’s overall character] when he and a young Vash encounter a butterfly in a spider web. While Vash attempts to save the butterfly without interfering with the spider, Knives simply kills the spider without a thought saying that eventually the butterfly would’ve found it’s way back in the web, so better to off the spider so he couldn’t do any more damage. That’s what makes Knives and Vash such interesting characters to watch when they’re on screen together; you clearly are rooting for Vash and his non-violent approach, but you understand Knives and his “greater good” approach as well. Long story short, the characters of “Trigun” are simply awesome; they all fit into the story perfectly with no stragglers or unnecessary characters to jam up the works. [25/25]
Animation – If there’s one thing that can be said for “Trigun” it’s that, no matter how old it gets, it always holds its own with animation. Granted, it’s not the most dazzling looking series on the block, but it’s not the worst looking either, and considering that the series takes place in a western desert-like environment, the slightly grainy animation lends itself to the overall theme of the show. Character designs are well done, with each character looking consistently good with one or two slight missteps. [Episode 2, “Truth or Mistake” looks slightly different from the rest of the series. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is noticeable.] If there’s one thing that I like about the character designs is that each character has a distinctive look or feature that makes them stand out; once you see Vash or Wolfwood, you’re not going to mistake them for anyone else. One thing that I also thought was a bit of genius was the fact that the Insurance girls Millie and Meryl are two different heights with the former quite a bit taller than the latter. On a slightly related note, I am SO thankful that they did not make Milly a blonde. I honestly would not have been able to take her seriously if it was, and also, because Vash himself is blonde, it would’ve looked strange to have two somewhat dizzy blondes in one show. Call me crazy. Back on subject, I really admire the great attention to detail given to the weaponry used throughout the series, especially the more unusual guns like Wolfwood’s “Punisher” cross, and Millie’s Concussion gun. It shows that the creators were trying to give these items realistic “functional” look. The remastering of the series looks awesome. All the colors look brighter, the lines look sharper, and there’s an overall freshness about the series, making it look a lot better than other series created around the same time. [11.5/12.5]
Music – “Trigun” won’t win many awards for musical composition, but what you get does the job well. The whole soundtrack contains enough “twang” for a western-based setting, with enough “bleeps” to signify that this is, indeed, future timeframe. The opening song, simply called “H.T.” by Tsuneo Imahori is an interesting choice for an anime of this type. The rock riffs are awesome and matches the action scenes playing over it. The ending theme, “Wind Blows to the Future” [“Kaze wa Mirai ni Fuku”] sets a mysteriously mellow tone sounding both familiar yet alien in nature. The animation playing over it promises to bring a smile to your face, especially if you’re an animal lover. The incidental music, as I mentioned above, is a very nice mix between old-school western and new-school synthesizers. It matches, but sometimes it feels a little TOO out there. [12/12.5]
Performances and Production – “Trigun” was created by Madhouse studios under the direction of Satoshi Nishimura in Japan, and co-directed by Joe Romersa and Lia Sargent in the US. Leading off our cast as Vash the Stampede is Masaya Onosaka in the original Japanese, and Johnny Yong Bosch in the US dub. Bosch’s portrayal of The Humanoid Typhoon is the stuff of legend, and rightly so. NOBODY else would’ve played that role as good as he did in English. Mark for mark, note for note, he matches the original voice actor perfectly. Every emotion comes through just like in the original Japanese and there was never a single moment where his performance was too far over the top [Except for when the character is actually TRYING to be such…] or too moody and mellow. The same can be said for Jeff Nimoy as Nicholas D. Wolfwood. His acting in that role was spot on with the original Japanese actor, Sho Hayami. As mentioned above, I feel his performance in Episode 23 – “Paradise” was award-worthy as well as being rewind worthy…so long as you have a box of Kleenex handy. Dorothy Melendrez as Meryl Stryfe is very well done. There are small moments where her voice goes a little flat, but on the whole, she puts on a great performance as the super-stressed brains of the Milly/Meryl duo. Speaking of Milly, Lia Sargent as the lovable dingbat is grin-worthy. She puts on an excellent performance and she brings a whole lot of heart to the role. It would’ve been easy to play Milly as a COMPLETE air-head [Which, of course, she’s not…], but Lia did an awesome job of making her sound intelligent without changing the character drastically–all the while co-directing the series. Other characters, such as Bo Williams as Millions Knives [In adult form…], Joshua Seth [Credited as Jeremiah Freedman in the credits] as young Knives, Bryce Papenbrook as young Vash and Mona Marshall as Kaite [Yes, she plays yet another smart young boy. Don’t tell me you ain’t used to it by now…] all put on exceptional performances making this a dub that has been praised by even the pickiest of dub detractors. [24.5/25]
Story and Premise: 24/25
Final Grade: 97/100 = 97% – (A)
Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra)
- Other than Vash, the only other character to appear in all 26 episodes is the black female cat known as Kuroneko-sama.
- The name “Trigun” comes from the fact that Vash carries three guns; his standard pistol, the hidden gun in his arm, and an “Angel Gun”.
- This was Johnny Yong Bosch’s first anime voice over role. Prior to this, Johnny was burning up TV’s around the US as the Black Ranger/Black Ninja Ranger/Zeo Ranger IV Green/Green Turbo Ranger in the lucrative “Mighty Morphin Power Ranger” series which, interestingly enough, involved quite a bit of V/O work. Since then, of course, he’s played many popular roles to great acclaim. [I could name them all, but if this review gets any longer, it would need its own book.]
- While it’s never officially confirmed, Vash states his full name is [::takes a deep breath::] Valentinez Alkalinella Xifax Sicidabohertz Gombigobella Blue Stradivari Talentrent Pierre Andre Charton-Haymoss Ivanovicci Baldeus George Doitzel Kaiser the Third.
- Jeff Nimoy, the voice of Wolfwood, is actually related by marriage to Leonard Nimoy. […and if you don’t know who Leonard Nimoy is, shame on you!]
- Did you know that Vash the Stampede’s brother is Tai Kamiya? Did you know that Tentomon knew how to shoot a gun? Who would’ve thunk that Izzy knew how to fix a sand steamer? Amazing is it not? [If you haven’t caught on, the voices of Young Knives, Wolfwood, and Kaite are the same voices of the “Digimon Adventure” characters mentioned above.]
So where does that leave us? Well plain and simple, “Trigun” has earned it’s place in the anime annals as one of the best shows of all time. With a complex yet enchanting storyline, characters that push it forward, animation that stands the test of time, an iconic soundtrack, and an all-star cast of actors, “Trigun” is one show that continues to draw in new viewers and bring back old viewers with its’ eternal message of Love and Peace!
And with that, we have kicked off “Wild West” month on “The Cajun Samurai”! Now that we have the baseline for the other shows of this genre, we can saddle up and check out the two other shows in my collection just like it! First up on the list is a show about a buxom blonde bombshell who’s gun wielding skills rivals that of Vash the Stampede…after all, it takes great talent to reload a pistol with your cleavage. Oh yeah, we’re going to be watching that one. So round-up your cattle partners, ’cause we’re gonna be taking a look at [Eyes up, fellows…]
“Grenadier: The Senshi of Smiles”
Oh, and don’t forget, you only have 3 days to get your submissions in for my “Six Degrees of Anime Separation Challenge”! Remember, not only do you get a free review out of me, but you’ll also get TWO free 48 hour guest passes for anime streeming site CrunchyRoll! So get those submissions in before the end of Friday!