What They Say
Vash the Stampede is a wanted man with a habit of turning entire frontier towns into rubble. The price on his head is a fortune, and his path of destruction reaches across the arid wastelands of a desert planet. Unfortunately, most encounters with the spiky-haired gunslinger don’t end well for the bounty hunters who catch up with him; someone almost always gets hurt — and it’s never Vash. Oddly enough, for such an infamous fugitive, there’s no proof that he’s ever taken a life. In fact, he’s a pacifist with a doughnut obsession who’s more doofus than desperado. There’s a whole lot more to him than his reputation lets on — Vash the Stampede definitely ain’t your typical outlaw.
For this viewing, I took in the English 5.1 track. In a nice move, the Japanese track is also available in 5.1. The tracks are clear, with dropout or distortion. In general, it sounds good, though I was a little disappointed in the mix. There is a little left/right directionality peppered in there, but everything is otherwise centered. Considering Trigun’s age, it is not that surprising, but it is still a little disappointing.
Again, there is nothing specifically wrong here, but Trigun is definitely starting to show its age. The transfer is gorgeous; no digital flaws anywhere, but the colors are a bit faded and the whole thing looks as if it could use a little touching up. Again, it is expected, since Trigun is twelve years old at this point, but it definitely shows all of those twelve years.
Now that Funimation seems to have solved the flimsy double-thinpak problem they had for a while, I love their sets. The series is pressed onto four discs, which are contained in two thinpaks. The case has a cool drawing of Vash and Wolfwood crossing guns with the series title along the front. The whole effect looks like an old-time magazine cover and is well done. The back of the box has the standard series summary, screenshots, and technical details, but the whole thing is done up to look like a wanted poster for Vash the Stampede. Again, well done. The thinpak covers feature more artwork of Vash but are this time made to look like movie posters for “The Ballad of Vash the Stampede.” The whole package just has a great design to it.
The menu for this is pretty basic. It has a white background, bordered by a shot looking down the ammo chamber of Vash’s gun. The title is along the top with the selections underneath in black. A translucent black bullet-hole marks the selections. It looks fine and is easy to follow, so it’s fine from that standpoint.
The only extras are clean versions of the opening and ending songs.
Originally airing in 1998, Trigun was brought over by Geneon and Cartoon Network in 2003 to decent success. When Geneon went under, the license lay dormant for a while before Funimation eventually decided to revive it earlier this year, hence this release. It has everything an anime could want to be successful—action, comedy, intrigue—but for me, something is missing.
On a world dominated by harsh desert, life is difficult. Outside the towns and cities, the only law is that only the strong survive. But even those who live in civilization struggle to get by. So the last thing they need is any trouble in their lives. But unfortunately, trouble is what they get in the form of a man: the Humanoid Typhoon, Vash the Stampede.
Vash is reputed to have singlehandedly destroyed the city of July. And though somehow nobody was killed in the devastation, the ruin he leaves in his wake has caused the authorities to place a sixty-billion double-dollar reward for his capture, ensuring that everybody will be after him for the reward.
Two such people on his tail are Meryl Strife and Milly Thompson, though they are not after the reward. Rather, they are from the Bernardelli Insurance Agency, the insurance agency charged with paying for the damage Vash causes, and they are charged with the task of reigning in his more destructive tendencies.
What they find in Vash is a façade of cowardice as he attempts to avoid conflict whenever he can. He does, however, also have a strong sense of justice, and cannot stand idly by when the strong attempt to prey on the week. But when he is forced to fight, he refuses to kill his opponent, choosing instead to try and rehabilitate them, or at the very least capture them. The reality of Vash is definitely at odds with the legend that follows him, but one thing is certain: no matter what he does to avoid trouble, it always seems to follow him, and destruction often comes along with it. But with the help of his two insurance friends and a few others along the way, maybe he can finally find a way to break this destructive cycle.
Trigun is a series that hits every cylinder. It has a bit of comedy, a bit of drama, a good amount of intrigue, and not a small amount of action. When it was new, it was often likened to Rurouni Kenshin in the Old West, as Vash is a similar protagonist to Kenshin Himura and the overall feel of the two series were similar. A more modern comparison might be something like Full Metal Alchemist. Though Vash and Edward are two very different people, the series have similar approaches to them: a generally serious story with far greater fantastical consequences than might be apparent at first, but which does not hesitate to throw in some wacky humor to lighten the mood a bit.
But though Trigun might be comparable to Rurouni Kenshin or Full Metal Alchemist, it does not measure up to those for me. It has an awkward pace, as much of the first fifteen or so episodes do not feel like they are doing much other than putting the pieces in place for the finale, and when we do finally start getting at the back story, it is one that does not interest me too much. The overall idea is fine, but the execution leaves a little bit to be desired.
Trigun’s comedy mostly comes from Vash’s supposed bumbling and his awkward attempts at womanizing. Though it quickly becomes apparent that this is merely a pose as he attempts to avoid conflict, his outward personality is one of an oaf. Meryl’s grudging infatuation with Vash adds to this dichotomy as she is constantly jealous of the attention he pays other women. And Milly is just as bumbling as Vash, though she comes by her clumsy, bubbly nature honestly.
But the comedy often feels forced. Part of this feeling for me might be that I am not a particular fan of either Meryl or Milly as Vash’s comedic foils. Or even as characters for that matter. The series does a decent job of building Meryl up as the unlikely romantic interest, but my general disinterest with her makes me not care so much when she becomes conflicted with her duties, morals, and personal desires. And for the most part, Milly’s airheadedness just gets on my nerves. What it means is that much of the comedy just falls flat for me.
Yet when Trigun settles down and gets down to business, there is some great action in here. Vash’s methods for dealing with his enemies are all ingenious. He is more than a match for just about anybody he goes up against, and he could quickly finish off any encounter due to the fact that he is faster and far more accurate with a gun than anybody else living. But because he refuses to kill anybody, he is forced to come up with new methods of dealing with problems. The results are a lot of fun to watch. In fact, it is often some of my favorite action in anything, animated or otherwise.
And I would be remiss if I did not mention one of my favorite side-characters ever: the wandering priest, Nicholas D. Wolfwood. Wolfwood works for an orphanage and travels the world attempting to make sure that children are not made to suffer. But he does not look much like a priest. Or act like one either. Looking more like a hitman, Wolfwood matches Vash in the womanizer department and is not afraid to try and screw people over. When the action turns up, the giant crucifix he lugs around opens up to prove to be a massive gun case. And should he run out of ammo for his handguns, the cross doubles as a giant machine gun. His character is a wonderful paradox of morals and ideals, and business always picks up when he is around. Saying he is pure awesome does not go far enough to explain him.
Trigun is a series that I feel I should like more than I do. All of the elements are there, but with the exception of Wolfwood, it never really comes together for me. Do not get me wrong, I still enjoyed it and will likely watch it again at some point, but there is something missing, a certain ‘it’ that I cannot quite put my finger on. Part of it is characters that I do not particularly enjoy, and part of it is an uneven plot, but it is also missing a unifying element that could have made me ignore my other issues. People are sure to like it a lot more than I did, so your mileage may vary. But overall, it’s recommended.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: October 26th, 2010
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080i, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System