For those unfamiliar, Trigun was a manga series created in 1996 by Yasuhiro Nightow. The comics proved popular enough to become adapted into an animated series in 1998 which was also released here in the
, likely due to the popularity of other sci-fi westerns at the time like Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star. It was a partly episodic series packed with great action, comedy and colorful characters. Trigun: US Badlands Rumble is set sometime within the context of the show, feeling something like an extended episode. This is a natural fit however, since many of those who worked on the show returned to develop the movie. The entire cast is the same, Yasuhiro Nightow helped write the screenplay, and Satoshi Nishimura, a director from the show, returned to direct the movie. The result is a beautifully animated, fun and enormously entertaining action adventure set in an unusual setting.
The story begins with Vash the Stampede (Masaya Onosaka), the man with the $$60,000,000,000 bounty on his head getting mixed up in a bank robbery led by a notorious outlaw named Gasback (Tsutomu Isobe). He and his gang have a falling out and Vash intervenes to prevent any bloodshed. Gasback’s traitorous gang escapes and he vows revenge. The plot takes place twenty years later with Gasback hunting down his former allies and Vash, along with the rest of the cast from the show, getting caught up in the mix. Although having watched the show or read the manga may give you a better appreciation for the characters and their relationships to each other, it’s not required to follow and enjoy the story. Every character and their motivations are introduced so plainly and clearly that anyone can watch without feeling lost. In fact, I would argue that Trigun: Badlands Rumble is a great introduction to these characters and the world they inhabit.
|Gasback rides with Wolfwood|
Vash is an interesting character. He’s a man with an impossibly high bounty on his head and he’s also the greatest and deadliest gunman to ever walk the earth. That said, you might expect a brooding badass, the kind that’s usually depicted in so many movies, comics, and shows, but that couldn’t be further from the case here. He’s a lovable goof, albeit a seemingly clumsy one. He flirts with women constantly, likes to make a fool of himself, and has a particular taste for fresh donuts. Vash knows how powerful he is and recognizes his world wide fame, so his best defense is how he presents himself. His strongest trait however, is his dedication to protecting others from harm. He adamantly believes in love and peace as the answer to every problem, and for that reason he will not kill anyone, regardless of who it is. No matter how dire the situation, no matter how irredeemable someone may seem, Vash refuses to take a life. Given the highly dangerous western-style world he lives in, his code isn’t exactly practical. This is actually one of the main themes of the movie, and it’s handled in a way that isn’t black or white. They present Vash’s decision to not kill as something that will always have long standing consequences, both good and bad. It’s refreshing to see the story, though often humorous and over-the-top, treat its audience with respect for their intelligence. The rest of the characters are great, with those from the show (the two insurance agents Meryl Stryfe and Millie Thompson, and the mercenary priest Nicholas D. Wolfwood) feeling consistent and likeable, but the newer characters are good as well. Maaya Sakamoto plays Amelia, a beautiful bounty hunter with an allergic reaction to men and the villain is Gasback, a giant, mechanical-armed robber who takes a certain kind of pride in his work to the point that his revenge against his gang isn’t so much because they betrayed him as it is because they “ruined his robbery.” They flesh out the story and blend in perfectly to the world around them.
Speaking of which, it needs to be said that the animation is beautiful. The city is a vibrant and bustling desert metropolis, packed with people and brimming with life and movement. As characters walk around the town, people are coming and going, getting into drunken brawls, or eating at restaurants. It actually seems like a place where people live and work. The animators get a lot out of the background and even though the setting is basically in a desert, during the day the sun is always shining in the cloudless blue skies, and at night, it’s littered with stars. The character animations are wonderfully exaggerated and fluid, matching the style and look of each character. It’s very similar to the look and feel of the show, but with a much bigger budget. There’s some use of 3D models blended in with the 2D animation, but it’s much more seamless and effective than how it seems in some other recent animated movies, like Batman: Year One.
There’s honestly not much to complain about with Trigun: Badlands Rumble. It’s a perfect accompaniment to the series. The movie runs under two hours and is paced really well; they take their time establishing the city and introducing the characters to each other so that their actions later feel natural and make sense. It captures the fun tone and exuberance of the show, while not excluding anyone unfamiliar with it.