"Trigun" Complete Series: Love and Peeeeeeeeeeeace!
Trigun mixes westerns with sci-fi, and adds a twist: the main character doesn’t kill people. Despite his reputation as a ruthless drifter with a huge bounty (so huge, it’s double dollars!) on his head, the pointy-haired Vash the Stampede has never actually murdered anyone. This won’t surprise the audience, though; even from the get-go, his goofy behavior and voice make it difficult to imagine this guy offing someone. Yet, there is still a legend about him. However, as he wanders from town to town with two insurance agents (Meryl and Milly) on his tail, we see that he isn’t blowing smoke when he showcases his pacifist ideals, even when dealing with the deadliest of enemies. Along his journey, Vash is joined by a preacher-with-a-cross (which doubles as a gun), Nicholas Wolfwood, who wants to raise money for orphanage children so they can have a better upbringing than he did. Despite his friendliness with Vash, he often gets into debates with him about the morality of killing, an aspect which really comes into play later.
As is typical with these kind of shows, we learn more about Vash and his backstory as the show progresses; the guy may kid around a lot and maintain a positive demeanor, but he hides a tragic past, and it ties into his mission during his quest quest tracking down Knives, the “villain” of the show who is actually more deserving of the dangerous label than Vash is. What I found neat, though, is how other characters, such as Meryl, began to adopt Vash’s “love and peace” stance later in the show, even in dire situations. The show presents various themes of sacrifice, honor, redemption, fulfilling promises, all that good stuff.
Character relationships change, too. Meryl is at first annoyed by Vash, especially his penchant for trailing disaster and damage after him wherever he goes. But over the course of the series, she warms up to him. In fact, when she and Milly are temporarily re-assigned, we see just how attached she’s grown to Vash, because if it had occurred earlier in the series, there would’ve been a sigh of relief in the air instead of sadness. And when it comes to Vash and Wolfwood, there’s some growth there, too, especially in an instance where Wolfwood goes against Vash’s philosophy. It’s possible to see both viewpoints in that scene, of which I won’t go into too much detail so as not to spoil.
None of this is particularly groundbreaking material, but the combination of comedy and drama is executed quite well. The series admittedly starts out more on the light, episodic side (complete with “villain of the week”) before taking a sharp turn into the serious in the second half. There’s still comic relief after that point, but the focus is more on how far Vash’s pacifism is put to the test. In that sense, I guess you could call the series unfocused, but to me, the transition at least felt natural.
The show has a mixed presentation. The animation is pretty par for the course for late ’90s anime; its strongest moments are in the action sequences (although even there, they sometimes resort to stills), while most everything else is simpler. And the backgrounds, while nicely rendered, do get monotonous with the desert towns and mountains and such. Get ready to see a lot of the color brown. But the character designs are generally pleasing (and I can’t say I’ve ever seen an anime gal as, um, tall and bulky as Milly before, so that adds some originality) and the opening instrumental theme song is rocking.
The dub by Animaze does the job; Johnny Yong Bosch (Bleach, Code Geass plays Vash and to be honest, at first I didn’t even recognize him. He gave some inflections to Vash that I didn’t hear in some of his other roles; this is appropriate, since his character is more light-hearted. Dorothy Melendrez and Lia Sargent play Meryl and Milly, respectively, and play off each other well. I especially enjoyed how the large Milly actually has a higher pitched voice than Meryl; it defies expectations. Jeff Nimoy plays Wolfwood, and I can’t say I had any issues there either.
The only special features on the 4-disc DVD set are a couple of clean openings/endings and some FUNi trailers. It has also come to my attention that this set doesn’t use the episode-specific intros; only one intro is used for all 26 episodes. So this will likely be a big deciding factor in those who already purchased the Trigun Limited Collector’s Edition DVDs.
Trigun is a competently-done action series that kept me interested, but it’s nothing that will knock your socks off. It’s kind of hard for me to get ecstatic about many anime anymore, so forgive me if I don’t gush about it. Perhaps my feelings of Trigun would be different had I caught it on Adult Swim during the block’s heyday. On the other hand, it’s not bad at all, and what it sets out to do, it does well. Whether it warrants a purchase ultimately depends on your backlog, how tolerant you are of tropes in anime, and your tolerance of slightly older shows.