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Trigun? More Like Bi-Sun! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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May 18th, 2008


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10:53 pm - Trigun? More Like Bi-Sun!
Trigun is another one of those very popular animes that even non-anime fans may have heard of. Like Cowboy Bebop, it's a space Western.

Trigun is the story of Vash the Stampede, also known as the Humanoid Typhoon, who has a $$60,000,000,000 (sixty billion double dollar) bounty on his head due to the amount of chaos and destruction he leaves in his wake, most of which isn't really his fault. The curious thing is, however, no one dies. That's factually true, although rumors can get out of hand. He's still essentially the most badass man on the planet. His favorite food is donuts.

The thing about Vash is he's supposed to be the most badass man on the planet, but he's actually a big spazzy dorkwad (so no one really believes that he's Vash—there's a running gag where townspeople believe bigger, badder, meaner characters are Vash instead). I have issues with badass characters who are big spazzy dorkwads (e.g. Misato) because in anime, they're portrayed so fucking dichotomously. A character will have a badass moment and then in the very next second revert to being ridiculous. And Misato eventually proved herself to be more badass than dorky, but Vash did not. He does have a bunch of awesome moments and his gunmanship is impeccable, but his character still seemed heavily lopsided in favor of the spazzy Vash. So I don't think I ever fully warmed up to him, although I liked him well enough.

How do you add supporting characters to a show about a man who travels from town to town causing mayhem? Why, you make them insurance agents, of course! It's probably one of the most amusing and clever ideas I've seen. Meryl Strife and Milly Thompson are sent to find Vash and try to keep him out of trouble because the company is really tired of paying out insurance settlements because of the destruction he causes! Ha. Meryl and Milly were my favorite characters. Notably, they're not anime babes in the slightest: the most feminine part of Meryl's design is that she wears earrings, and Milly could easily be mistaken for a dude. Milly is also hella tall, and her high-pitched voice seems incongruent with her appearance but is perfect for her character. She's very naive and provides a lot of the comic relief, whereas Meryl is more of the straight man, so to speak. ALSO: they're both packing heat. Meryl's got dozens of two-shot derringer pistols, and Milly's concealing a ginormous minigun that shoots X-shaped projectiles than can pin people against a wall and stun them. The two of them become very attached to Vash, and it's neat to watch them grow over the course of the series.

The other major supporting character is Nicholas D. Wolfwood, a badass priest who serves as a foil to Vash. He's also an excellent gunman, and he's strong enough to lug around a giant cross wherever he goes. He's sort of like a more spry Shepherd Book. Except not.

The series starts out very light-hearted and episodic, and it's not till close to halfway through the series (with the menacingly titled "Diablo") that it starts to get really serious. And when it does get serious, it gets superduperangsty. It does retain its light-hearted core, even though a lot of it is that anime-style humor with exaggerated animation and voice acting that I am not a fan of.

Like all anime heroes, Vash has a MYSTERIOUS PAST that includes A WOMAN and THE MAJOR VILLAIN OF THE SERIES. Like I said, it's like Cowboy Bebop! Except I liked Spike way more than Vash. As you learn more about Vash's past, you see that there's more to him than his dorky exterior (you can also tell this from his episode previews, where he waxes philosophical). Vash has one defining characteristic, however, that emerges as the central theme of the series: he does not kill. Ironic for a man so good with a gun, no? But he values life above all else, and he always seeks to preserve all living things. Even the bad guys. The show takes a look at how this philosophy works in practice: it's not flawless. There can be situations where, in an effort to preserve one life, you end up causing the loss of other life. Morality is complex!

Honestly, I started to find Vash's extreme pacifism tiresome and irritating. Now, I don't like killing people as much as the next guy, but he experiences Supreme Angst (with lots of crying) over, like, everyone and everything. Even when a villain is killed. He was a bad guy! He was trying to kill people! People are alive because he is dead! The situations seemed pretty clear-cut, but Vash was always trying to make sure no one died, period. It's an interesting concept to explore, really, because it's not really touched on in most shows and movies where there's a lot of collateral damage and death that goes uncommented on. And I understood his philosophy, but it became really repetitive to revisit it episode after episode with little variation. Not that it didn't lead to some great scenes now and then.

I found some of the sci-fi concepts intriguing at first, but in the end, they seemed to be mostly unexplained. There didn't seem to be any reason for some of the more gigantic characters or the special powers exhibited by the gang of villains that come after Vash (I will note that the villains were pretty damn cool, unexplained though they were). And most of the fundamental world-building aspects didn't really make a lot of sense. But, oh well, that stuff isn't really the point of the series; it's just the backdrop for a big meditation on the morality of killing.

Overall, I thought Trigun was good but not great. I never really got into it as much as I wanted to; I know it's beloved by many. My thoughts and feelings are almost completely in line with this review, which is much better than this post. As I said earlier, I was reminded of Cowboy Bebop, which I also liked but did not love, but I liked Cowboy Bebop more. Obviously, however, Trigun has a wide appeal, so if you're a big space Western fan, this could still be right up your alley.
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[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:May 19th, 2008 07:02 am (UTC)
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The other major supporting character is Nicholas D. Wolfwood, a badass priest who serves as a foil to Vash. He's also an excellent gunman, and he's strong enough to lug around a giant cross wherever he goes. He's sort of like a more spry Shepherd Book. Except not.
I'm not sure it ever occured to me until my last rewatch how great it is that the outlaw is the goody-two-shoes and the priest is the cold-blooded anti-hero who does what the other heroes can't.

I have issues with badass characters who are big spazzy dorkwads (e.g. Misato) because in anime, they're portrayed so fucking dichotomously. A character will have a badass moment and then in the very next second revert to being ridiculous.
Actually, that sort of thing isn't really contrary to my personal experience. The guy I learned martial arts from had five black belts and once let the entire class take turns punching him in the gut as hard as they could while he didn't even blink. He was also a very ordinary-looking guy with a goofy sense of humor and a big grin. You can be a badass and not feel the need to constantly act like it. (And in Vash's case, he's trying keep a low profile. Obfuscating Stupidity is his stock in trade.)

I found some of the sci-fi concepts intriguing at first, but in the end, they seemed to be mostly unexplained.
Trigun is one of those series that drops you into the setting without telling you anything about it first. It's actually fairly common in anime. It's one of those things I like about the medium. Usually you can extrapolate the basics and learn the details as the series goes along. Some stuff in Trigun gets explained, like why Vash can do what he does, what the plants are, how humanity wound up here in the first place, etc., but some they don't really go into. I'm not sure if that's because the series got ahead of the manga (there was a one year delay as it changed publishers, so everything after "Fifth Moon" the anime made up themselves) or just because it ultimately wasn't important how this or that works. Is the Nebraska Family mutated? Gneetically engineered? Given Bovine Growth Hormone? Does it matter?

It's an interesting concept to explore, really, because it's not really touched on in most shows and movies where there's a lot of collateral damage and death that goes uncommented on.
Of late, I've been finding the DC Comics attitude of "you can't kill, even to save a life, or you're a bad guy" very tiresome and childish (not to mention that these ficitonal heroes are insulting real heroes, like police officers and soliders, who have to take lives to save lives). It's not reasonable at all, and the superheroes only get away with it because they have unrealistic abilities and the writer on their side. And then there's the times when they'll actually choose to let innocent people get killed rather than use lethal force on the murderer, which is just downright twisted, in my opinion. So I enjoyed seeing Vash get put in that situation that almost any character with a no-killing code gets placed into, but not being given a convenient out by the writer. The third, perfect option does not appear. He actually had to make the tough choice and live with the consequences. (One can compare and contrast parallels between Vash and the protagonist of Rurouni Kenshin, who swore to not kill after having killed a lot of people during a war and seeing the suffering of his enemy's loved ones. Placed in a very similar situation, he doesn't take much time at all to choose the life of a friend over that of a murderer, but winds up not having to go through with it.)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:May 19th, 2008 07:53 am (UTC)
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I'm not sure it ever occured to me until my last rewatch how great it is that the outlaw is the goody-two-shoes and the priest is the cold-blooded anti-hero who does what the other heroes can't.
Ha!

You can be a badass and not feel the need to constantly act like it.
Yeah, I see what you're saying. My issue was the extreme nature of it, the whole "kawaii" of it all, I think they call it.

Trigun is one of those series that drops you into the setting without telling you anything about it first. It's actually fairly common in anime. It's one of those things I like about the medium. Usually you can extrapolate the basics and learn the details as the series goes along.
Yeah, I know it's a common thing, and I also like it about the medium. I feel like Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop were better about it, though. Things just didn't seem to add up for me on Trigun, at least not in as satisfying a manner.

why Vash can do what he does, what the plants are
Well, not so much. They never really explained what the plants were, exactly. They just seemed to be this undefined energy source.

Of late, I've been finding the DC Comics attitude of "you can't kill, even to save a life, or you're a bad guy" very tiresome and childish
Vash is just like Batman!
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:May 19th, 2008 08:28 am (UTC)
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My issue was the extreme nature of it, the whole "kawaii" of it all, I think they call it.
"Kawaii" is Japanese for "cute" essentially. You'll probably be hearing it fairly often.

Vash's antics are the big source of humor for the series. He pushes it pretty far, but I suspect the carefree, happy-go-lucky guy is who he wishes he could be. And it is a pretty good cover. (I have a lot of fun with the early episodes watching him hide his badassery behind that facade. Blocking the gun's hammer with gum is great, but what really gets me is that in the first episode he catches bullets and throws them back hard enough to cut rope right in front of everybody and nobody catches on because he's being a complete goofball while doing it.)

Things just didn't seem to add up for me on Trigun, at least not in as satisfying a manner.
Hmmm... thinking about it, there are a lot of little details that never get fully explained, but it never really bugged me. I wonder how much of that is from outpacing the manga and having to make up the ending themselves. I really should go download Trigun Maximum and read the *other* ending... been meaning to for years.

They never really explained what the plants were, exactly. They just seemed to be this undefined energy source.
I thought that the implications that the plants contained extradimensional life forms, and Vash and Knives were born of them, was strong enough that it didn't have to be said. (Of course, a lot of that is from the back end of the series, so the manga might say something completely different, but I feel the hints were there from all the way back in "Lost July".)

Vash is just like Batman!
Naw, Batman would totally let his female sidekicks get murdered and then let the killer off scott-free. And I wish I was joking, but he totally does that after "War Games".
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:May 19th, 2008 08:37 am (UTC)
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so everything after "Fifth Moon" the anime made up themselves
But that's...all the important stuff!

what really gets me is that in the first episode he catches bullets and throws them back hard enough to cut rope right in front of everybody and nobody catches on because he's being a complete goofball while doing it.
I think my favorite is in the second episode where, rather than shoot his gun, he opens the barrel and tosses the bullets backwards into someone's face. He does have his moments. When he's not crying.

There's also the part where he appears to dodge dozens of bullets by sheer luck and then quips to the shooter, "You have very bad aim."

I feel the hints were there from all the way back in "Lost July"
It certainly explains how Vash was able to save the day.
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:May 19th, 2008 09:06 am (UTC)
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But that's...all the important stuff!
It does seem like they at least had some info from the author to work with, since I've heard that there are at least some things that go the same in both versions. And then somethings are wildly different. Apparently in the manga, Grey the Ninelives was not a robot but instead nine dwarves in a suit of armor.

I think my favorite is in the second episode where, rather than shoot his gun, he opens the barrel and tosses the bullets backwards into someone's face.
Fourth episode. And yeah, that was cool, and I think it was our first real hint that he's a pacifist gunslinger. He goes to all the trouble of throwing a keg to flip the table and throw his gun to him... and then he can't shoot it.

There's also the part where he appears to dodge dozens of bullets by sheer luck and then quips to the shooter, "You have very bad aim."

Heh. "Is he predicting my shots through gun movement and timing?" "No, you're just a bad shot." Love it.

And of course there's him doing the badass bullet dodge and then covering by pretending to freak out.
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From:loopychew
Date:May 20th, 2008 01:00 am (UTC)
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in the first episode he catches bullets and throws them back hard enough to cut rope right in front of everybody and nobody catches on because he's being a complete goofball while doing it

Hate to burst your bubble there, but actually what happens--and I find it equally badass--is that he launches the projectile knife hidden in his boots (cf. Peace Maker, where he uses it to slash a tire) to slash the ropes. As he's rolling on the ground to dodge the gunfire.

Like I said, just as badass.

Also, obligatory plugging of my Trigun AMV.
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:May 20th, 2008 07:06 am (UTC)
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but actually what happens--and I find it equally badass--is that he launches the projectile knife hidden in his boots (cf. Peace Maker, where he uses it to slash a tire) to slash the ropes.
I remember his boot knife, but not any indication that it was a projectile. Anyway, there's two of whatever he threw, because he got Meryl and Milly's ropes.

I always figured he just threw rocks, but then a fan guide/RPG sourcebook I bought once said it was bullets he'd caught. That probably should be taken with a grain of salt, however.

Also, obligatory plugging of my Trigun AMV.
Not big on Original Prankster (thought that whole album was hit and miss, really) but it's a good vid.
[User Picture]
From:loopychew
Date:May 20th, 2008 10:32 pm (UTC)
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Anyway, there's two of whatever he threw, because he got Meryl and Milly's ropes.

Now I really want to go and review that clip in slow motion, because I'm pretty sure that somehow one projectile manage to snap the both of them. Maybe you're right about the bullets.
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:May 21st, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC)
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Now I really want to go and review that clip in slow motion, because I'm pretty sure that somehow one projectile manage to snap the both of them.
About the only thing I am sure about is that there's two projectiles, since you can see them take parallel flight paths to cut the ropes.

It's at 3:40 in this clip.
[User Picture]
From:loopychew
Date:May 22nd, 2008 02:49 am (UTC)
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I concede! Damn, it's been too long since I've actually watched the show. :-P
[User Picture]
From:loopychew
Date:May 20th, 2008 01:09 am (UTC)
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My GOD! Looking at Wikipedia. I just realized that Trigun is TEN YEARS OLD as of the start of April (first episode airdate).

Has it really been that long since the beginning of the Anime on DVD revolution? I feel like I should be rocking back and forth on some porch somewhere, shouting "MIAAAAKAAAAA!" in a grizzled old voice at random girls, hoping to hear an equally elderly response of "TAMAHOMEEEEEE!"
[User Picture]
From:sistakaren
Date:May 20th, 2008 01:56 am (UTC)
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I was a fan of Trigun and I found the last episode to be really moving. But the manga of Trigun is kinda badass. And the world they live in is MUCH more coherently explained. So, like Death Note, I recommend you read the manga: http://www.onemanga.com and then click on Trigun in the drop down menu. It ends after three volumes, but then it continues as Trigun Maximum.

Just for a comparison: there are more than 100 chapters of the Trigun manga, but only 26 anime episodes. It takes awhile for it to get good, so be patient. It's still not the *greatest*, but it's a whole lot better than the anime. And I liked the anime a great deal.
[User Picture]
From:punzerel
Date:May 23rd, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC)
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Haha - I remember watching a few episodes of that years ago. I enjoyed Vash/found it entertaining, but don't remember any plot at all.

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