Trigun is a Space Western manga series by Yasuhiro Nightow that was started in 1996 and was adapted into an anime series in 1998.
And having just finished the anime, let me tell you: it’s awesome.
How awesome, you ask? It’s got the renowned English voice actor (and former Power Ranger) Johnny Yong Bosch doing the dub for the main character. It’s got the rockin’ opening theme “H.T.” by Tsuneo Imahori. It’s got Old West gunfights, badass cyborgs, heroes carrying crosses through an endless desert, and a grinning madman in a red duster who’s not only the fastest gun around but a determined pacifist to boot.
The Story: The Humanoid Typhoon’s A-Coming This Way
In the far future, humanity has spread out to a distant planet called Gunsmoke, where they’ve colonized, although the difficult terrain has forced them to make do with an Old West way of life. But the harshness of the desert world is not the only thing that makes life so brutal: there’s also the infamous gunman known as “Vash the Stampede,” whose earned a sixty billion double-dollar bounty for all his destructive antics.
Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson of the Bernardelli Insurance Society have been assigned to track down the infamous Vash in order to keep up with all the damages raised by “The Humanoid Typhoon.” However, their expectations are shot down when they discover Vash is not only a scatterbrained idiot, but a peace-lover as well.
That is, until the inevitable group of gun-toting thugs shows up to force his hand and prove just how good a shot he really is.
Throughout the series, we follow Vash, Meryl, and Milly on their travels across Gunsmoke, learning more along the way about how the planet was settled and getting flashbacks into Vash’s own tormented history. But at the heart of each episode and the entire series is the eternal question of whether the act of taking another’s life can be justified by self-defense and protecting the innocent, or whether it’s wrong under any circumstances.
The Cast: People Trying To Find Their Future
The protagonist is Vash the Stampede, a man forever caught between two worlds. On the one hand, he’s a ditz who eats big, talks a mile a minute, and is an instant friend to children everywhere; on the other hand, he has a reputation for causing destruction that earns him fear and enemies everywhere he goes, which more often than not causes him to test his commitment to love and peace. His counterpart is Nicholas D. Wolfwood, a cool-headed Christian minister who cares for the innocent just as much as Vash, but isn’t afraid to kill if necessary and call Vash out for his refusal to kill when innocent lives–or his own life–are on the line. The interaction between the two of them is a treat to watch, almost like watching moments between Jet and Spike in Cowboy Bebop or between Edward Elric and Roy Mustang in Fullmetal Alchemist.
Then there’s the supporting cast. Meryl Stryfe is a hotheaded woman with a surprising amount of courage under fire for a civilian and insurance agent. She also plays something of a love interest for Vash, although it’s never clearly acknowledged by either of the characters. Her partner Milly Thompson is just as scatterbrained as Vash, if not more so. An unflappable optimist, she proves to be the heart of the partnership between herself, Meryl, Vash, and Wolfwood. Together, the two insurance girls make for an interesting blend of comedy, but when pressed, they can pull off some feats of heroism on their own quite well.
The true test of the series, however, is the quality of the antagonists. For the most part, I wasn’t too impressed, seeing a lot of typical thugs and bullies who were only good for getting their jaws dropped and asses kicked by Vash. Of course, then there’s the true villain, Knives, an inhuman mass murderer and Vash’s twin brother. He doesn’t really show up until the end of the anime series, but he has a strong presence throughout the show, made most clear through his otherworldly lieutenant, Legato Bluesummers.
The Setting: “This World Is Made Of Love And Peace!”
I know earlier that I called this show a Space Western, but I suppose that might not be the best label for it, since the only time we see space travel is during a flashback episode. So it’s really more of a Planetary Romance with an Old West theme and style, a way to revisit that rough terrain and history of the US by means of another planet.
That being said, the scenery of this anime is lovingly detailed. You’ll feel hot and thirsty as the heroes cross through the desert, and you’ll soon get used to the rapid-fire exchange of bullets as if you were watching a John Wayne Western. But contrasting with those same Western standards are the random costumes of the filler storyline villains and the occasional elements of “lost technology,” which add a fresh layer of depth and a sense that this world is still rebuilding ever since mankind first touched down.
Final Verdict: It’s Surprisingly Heavy (Because It’s Full Of Mercy)
This show is interesting because, despite so much comedy and slapstick, there’s a very heavy philosophical theme running throughout it. And for all the times you’ll think Vash or Wolfwood are such badasses with their guns and their cool attitudes in a crisis, you’ll also feel for Vash when he’s against a moral dilemma and sometimes you might think Wolfwood really is making a lot more sense about just pulling the trigger and accepting bloodshed for a greater good. It’s a great story that makes you care about these characters and their struggles, that makes you laugh, cry, cringe, and think–sometimes all at the same time.
Bibliography: Trigun (anime). Directed by Satoshi Nishimura. Based on the manga by Yasuhiro Nightow. Funimation Entertainment. Adult Swim. April 4, 1998 – September 30, 1998.