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Trigun: Badlands Rumble Anime DVD Review

10 min read

Once the die’s been cast, there’s no turning back.

What They Say:
Twenty years ago, an infamous outlaw – Gasback – was staring down the barrel of betrayal. His gang was ready to do the world a favor and take him out – until Vash the Stampede interrupted the stand-off, allowing Gasback to escape and continue his outlaw ways. Cutting the villain loose was a risky gamble – and now, two decades later, fate’s ready to settle up with Vash on the dusty streets of Macca City. Gasback’s crew – including bodyguard-for-hire Wolfwood – is coming to town to cause big trouble. It’ sno coincidence that the outpost’s mayor is Gasback’s traitorous ex-right-hand man. The scorned outlaw isn’t the only one looking for vengeance; Amerlia, a tough desert rose with a painful past, wants to punish Gasback for the damage he’s done. Everyone involved is about to learn a hard truth about consequences – and Vash the Stampede might end up paying for the lesson with his life.

The Review:
This set contains both Japanese and English tracks in 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound. Both sound quit excellent, and there were no dropouts or issues that may have been missed during quality check. Also, depending on your personal preference, deliver comparable performances. Johnny Yong Bosch may have been the only returning member of the original English voice cast, but rest assured that the rest of the dub does a good job of remaining faithful to the original actors, while delivering equal-to-superior performances. There is the occasional line in English that doesn’t quite fit too well in the language that could have been changed in the writing stage, but that was only a handful or more of lines, and nothing too terrible (i.e. “Your legs got a bad habit of kicking”).

Madhouse did an interesting thing here by creating a movie based on an older series. The animation quality is definitely superior, but not quite in an in-your-face kind of way. As a result, they seemed to have retained the overall look of the series, and the type of old-fashioned grain you’d expect is definitely present, without being distracting. I wish I could see how this looks on Blu-ray, because I definitely found myself wondering if some of the grain was due to the DVD transfer, or just a creative choice from the animators. Either way, it works in the context of the series as a whole. There were no pixelations or weird transfer issues. The only thing that was mildly distracting was a shot early on in the film when the camera pans across a ship. The shots were a tad jumpy, and it probably had less to do with the transfer and more to do with the fact that it was a 3D animated object in a 2D setting.

As a set, this film definitely had me impressed. I honestly didn’t expect such an attractive looking cover on this. The set is covered with a cardboard sleeve. The front cover is split in half with a white wall riddled with bullet holes on the bottom and the main cast up top. In the middle, Vash jumps over the wall, gun drawn, shining bullet casings flying. The title of the film takes up the bottom right hand part of the cover. It’s simple and very elegant. Also, the pictures of the cast have a nice impressioned feel as you run your fingers across them. It doesn’t seem like much, but it really does add a whole lot of production value to the set.

The right side of the back of the box has a comedic picture of Vash with his hands held up, and the left half contains everything from the description to the extra features list.

The plastic case has a toned down, expectedly less shiny and awesome version of the cardboard sleeve. The cover is actually reversible, and the alternate front is a more manga-esque color spread for the film, that looks quite nice. The alternate back is identical to the normal back.

Both DVDs are labeled with a red and black color scheme, using the same comedic picture of Vash as the back cover.

This is a wonderful looking set, and the only thing I can think wrong with it is that it doesn’t quite mesh well with the Trigun Complete Series set that FUNimation released this year, But honestly, that’s a small and incredibly anal complaint.

The menu of this DVD set is a mixture of awesome and confusing. As a solid picture, it works wonderfully. It takes the old newspaper style, with lots of different font types and words practically overlapping, and jumbles it all together, with the actual menu options centered. It looks great, but can be a bit confusing for those trying to navigate. There is a bit of trial and error required before you realize what is and isn’t really selectable. The second disc has the same motif, though since there are a lot more selectable options this time around, there is a lot more text, and it is ironically a bit easier to navigate. Also in the background of Disc 1, there is music playing during the menu, while Disc 2 only has a silent background.

FUNimation definitely went all out in this release. I think I can count the number of anime releases with this many extras on one hand. There are a lot of fantastic bits, including interviews with Nightow, the manga creator, event and movie premiere footage, and a cool behind the Japanese recording video. Most of the stuff in the set are under five minutes, but they’re still nice little additions that make purchasing a film (as opposed to a whole series) a bit more rewarding than normal fare. The interviews with the cast and crew is also quite wonderful and extensive and well worth taking a look at. It is also important to note that all these features are Japanese, so there are no interviews or behind the scenes from FUNimation.

However, all these features are fantastic additions nonetheless.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Nostalgia goggles are a dangerous accessory. They have a tendency to take the above average and launch it to a perceived end-all to the medium and genre over time. I’m not one to bash on the original series, but to many, Trigun was their introduction to anime. A series upon which every other series has been based, and a series that has rarely, if ever, been lived up to. Whenever a series makes such a connection with its audience, anything else made after that that does not completely blow the original out of the water can only be considered as something of derivative or inferior quality. Based on all the criticism I have heard upon the series first popping up in theaters, this is something Trigun: Badlands Rumble is undeniably a victim of.

The film’s story starts out twenty years before the timeline in the series, where Vash the Stampede saves the infamous thief Gasback from getting killed by his backstabbing cronies during a bank robbery. While grateful for his help, Gasback makes it perfectly clear that he doesn’t intend to change his ways, and asks if Vash will ever regret letting someone like him live. Flash-forward twenty years, Cain Kepler, one of Gasback’s traitorous henchmen, has become incredibly rich, and has attained the position of mayor in Macca City, a town that’s become the next target in a string of robberies. Where others can make no noticeable pattern out of Gasback’s recent targets, Kepler can. Gasback’s latest robberies have left the two other traitorous goons from twenty years ago completely penniless, and Kepler can only assume that he is the only one keeping Gasback’s revenge plot from being complete.

The city is put on high alert, and responding to this call is a ship full of infamous bounty hunters, all hell-bent on taking Gasback’s $$300 million head. On this ship a mysterious woman named Amelia, whose motives run deeper than the average head-hunter. Also on the ship is, of course, Vash the Stamped himself, who takes an instant liking to Amelia’s stunning beauty. Meanwhile, the Bernardelli Insurance Society is at it again. Fearing Gasback’s robbery of the obnoxious rotating statue in the middle of Macca City, Kepler has it insured for $$5 billion, prompting the insurance company to send Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson to make sure that nothing happens to the statue. In another twist of fate, on his travels to Macca City, Gasback hires a mysterious man of the cloth who carries around a giant cross to be his bodyguard, and of course that man is none other than the fan-favorite Wolfwood himself. All the pieces are set in motion for hilarious and intense interactions that fans have been waiting for for years.

As a general piece of entertainment, I daresay this film fares quite well for itself. There isn’t a single part of the movie that I felt dragged out too long or I felt myself looking down at my watch. This is quite surprising considering the first half-hour of the movie is a string of stand-offs, weapon fumbles, and excuses for Vash to goof around while simultaneously instilling his figure as a badass. It’s quite calculating and definitely attempting to capitalize on what fans found most enjoyable about the series, but it’s still a lot of fun. Even though those scenes contribute little to nothing to the overall plot, I could almost say those were the scenes I had enjoyed most in the movie.

Although I found myself liking the movie as a whole, it does suffer from the same issues that most films do that are based on established series. Even when the movie tries to throw a curveball at you, the sad truth of it is that the film will accomplish nothing to change the characters or the way we perceive them, and we know that. No matter how much the film tries to trick the audience into thinking Vash is really in danger… they really know that—spoiler alert—Vash really isn’t in any danger that will keep him from living out episodes 11-26 of the series. And it doesn’t help much that the main focus of the movie is on Amelia, who we care very little about and will never see again. As a result, characters like Meryl, Milly, and Wolfwood are left with very little to do, despite the fact that they have a decent amount of screen time.

Animation-wise, the film is nice to look at. It’s a clever mix of the old-school 90’s style with a mild update so it doesn’t look completely dated. As expected, the enhanced film budget does a good job in the way of making everything look more fluid and consistent overall. There is the occasional shot in the film that jumps out (i.e. 3D animated vehicles), but on the whole, it maintains its old style, and looks as good as anyone can realistically expect Trigun to look. Adding to the production value is the music. A nice mix of Mexican, rock, and traditional score. While they could have gone all out, it seems they decided to go with a more understated composition that embellishes on the comedic aspects of the show more than the serious. It was a nice surprise, and helped to set the tone in a way I really did not expect. On the whole, the animation and music do a good job at supporting this decently stable—though far from perfect—film.

In Summary:
Weak character development aside, I would say the movie does a great job. Like the series, it does a great job of mixing up the western and sci-fi elements in a fun, goofy, creative, and often-cool way. As much as many would hate to admit it, Badlands Rumble has pretty much anything you could expect from a Trigun movie. In fact, this film can essentially be considered a 3-4 episode arc thrown into the middle of the series. As mentioned before, nostalgia goggles has a way of skewing ones perception, and the sad fact is that many hardcore Trigun fans went into the film expecting the world, and as such it is expected that many would be disappointed. I would say go in with an open mind and the desire to have a fun time. Heck, this movie may be in the minority of anime movies where casual fans of the series, and even some non-fans, may have a better time watching this than the hardcore.

English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, Staff and Cast Interviews, Special Talk Show, Web Promotion Clip, Promotional Videos, Post Recording, Theatrical Commercial, Theatrical Trailer, Original Commercials, A Mildly Awesome Story by Something Yoshimatsu, Movie Premiere at Cinema Sunshine Ikebukuro, Video Footage from Anime Expo 2009, Talk Event at Kawasaki Cinecitta’

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: September 27th, 2011
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 90 Minutes (Plus 137 Minutes of Extra Features)
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL-40EX400 BRAVIA EX400 LCD hdtv 40 inch. Sony SLV-D370P DVD Player. Electrohome ELE-HTB920E 5.1 Channel Surround Sound Home Theater Speaker System

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