Trigun is one of those strange anime and manga properties which was more popular in the West than in Japan. It's easy to see why, the mix of sci-fi and wild west styles is something that appeals very much to American and European viewers who can see similar concepts in the likes of Firefly, Westworld and even BraveStarr, so it's unsurprising that western interest and sales had a say in resurrecting the anime over ten years after the series ended. However, this time it's not a new series, it's a film!
Trigun: Badlands Rumble brings us back to the planet Gunsmoke, where the
legendary Vash the Stampede is feared as the world's most dangerous outlaw.
However, the real Vash is not what his reputation suggests, he may be an
incredible gunman but he's also a slightly goofy and cheerful man who advocates
'love and peace' and refuses to kill. Instead of the being the demon most
people think he is, Vash instead tries to avert conflict, often landing himself
in more trouble in the process. Such is the case when he is caught up in a
bank raid by the notorious outlaw Gasback, a man who sees his robberies as an
art and plans each one meticulously in order to create the maximum spectacle and
perfect crime. Gasback's followers are fed up of him spending most of
their loot from each crime on planning the next one and double cross him, with
Gasback only surviving their attack due to Vash's intervention. Twenty
years later Gasback's ex-followers have used their stolen money to set
themselves up in positions of power and influence, and Bernadelli Insurance
investigators Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson take a break from monitoring Vash
to do a risk assessment on a giant bronze statue erected by one of them - the
ringleader Cain, who is now the mayor of Macca City. However, their
arrival comes at a time when Cain is leaving in fear, Gasback has returned and
taken revenge against one of his betrayers, and fearing that he's next Cain has
flooded the town with bounty hunters. In amongst these bounty hunters is a
mysterious young woman called Amelia, who seems determined to hunt down Gasback
for reasons beyond his sizeable bounty, and Vash, who quickly latches on to the
attractive Amelia after saving her from attack by other bounty hunters.
Amelia isn't interested in Vash, her only thoughts are on Gasback and she is
determined to bring him down, but why? Vash is determined to stop her
risking her life but Gasback seems certain to attack the city and the obvious
thing for him to try and steal is the statue, which puts Meryl and Milly in a
tough position as the amount Cain has insured it for would put Bernadelli out of
business should they have to pay out. Their hopes to keep it safe may be a
little remote though. On the one hand there's a veritable army of bounty
hunters with itchy trigger fingers in the city, and on the other there's
probably the world's greatest thief on his way. In the middle of them is
Vash - the man with the world's highest bounty - and if anyone realises who he
is all hell will break loose!
It may be years since the original Trigun anime series was released here, but when you watch this film it's like the franchise has never been away. Nominally set between episode 9 and 11 of the original series, Trigun Badlands Rumble effortlessly recaptures both its look and feel, taking advantage of the advances in digital animation and the increased budget allowed by a feature length project to make the setting richer and more detailed than ever. It's impressive that it has made the transition from cel animation to digital so well, the dusty,
run-down look of the world is still there but there's more going on, there's more characters on screen and more depth and sprawl to the towns. However, visuals count for nothing if the story isn't up to scratch, and again this is an area in which Trigun: Badlands Rumble does the business. The story has a few concurrent narratives, the most obvious being Gasback's quest for revenge against his former colleagues, and others including Meryl and Milly's attempts to protect the statue, Amelia's quest to find and kill Gasback and Vash's quest to validate his decision to save Gasback's life. For Vash saving Gasback would be meaningless if he then goes on to kill his attackers, so he wants to stop the cycle of revenge and violence and sees stopping Amelia as central to this. Both Amelia and Gasback are decent characters, both have plenty of depth to them that is revealed over the course of the film and they slot in to the colourful cast perfectly. There's a few surprises in the story you don't see coming, and one plot twist you can see coming a mile off but is still pretty good nonetheless.
One of the strengths of the original series is that it
balanced comedy and drama expertly, and this film inherits this perfectly.
The plot moves at a good pace with some effective dramatic moments between Vash
and Amelia, but where it really wins out is in the action and comedy stakes.
Action-wise the film is like the very best old-school Westerns, with plenty of
over-the-top gunslinging, a grand heist and colourful characters, and it even
throws in a scene in a saloon which devolves into a hugely entertaining bar room
brawl packed with slapstick comedy. There are car chases, shootouts,
brawls and pratfalls, there's a real energy to the whole film which makes it
just fantastic fun to watch and the chemistry between the central cast is as
good as ever. The writing is every bit as good as it was in the series,
and although it eschews some of the darker directions the series storyline moved
to in favour of an all-out action-adventure romp it remains just as engaging.
The setting is very well realised, and the sci-fi elements aren't just for show,
they're integral to the story.
As a fan of Trigun this film was everything I wanted it to be, coming across like a side story from the original series. The main characters are all back, the space western setting is all present and correct, it gives what devoted fans of the series want - the same thing they've grown to love done very well once more. The danger with this is that it appeals more to existing fans, new fans won't know who Vash is, why he has such a big bounty on his head, why he is being followed by Meryl and Milly or what his connection is to Wolfwood. There are
a few lines in the film that fill in some of the blanks, and Kazé have included a character guide in a booklet that comes with the DVD and Blu-Ray, but the film holds more appeal to those familiar with Trigun already. This doesn't mean that newcomers can't enjoy it though, at the end of the day it's a Western in space with tonnes of action and humour, an engaging cast and an easy to follow story with a few surprises, so there's something there for everyone. My only real issue from an objective point of view is that it doesn't really do anything the series didn't, it doesn't take the story in any fresh directions and there are some elements of the plot that you've seen plenty of times before - both in anime and other media. You can generally see the way the story is going, although it does put a couple of surprises in the mix, but it doesn't really matter too much as it's just great fun to watch.
It's this enjoyment factor that makes Trigun: Badlands Rumble every bit as good as I hoped it would be, in terms of pacing and spectacle it reminds me of the classic film Castle of Cagliostro and like that film this one has plenty of re-watch value. It may not really step away from the confines of the early parts of the series as far as content goes and it avoids some of the darker aspects of the series storyline that added an extra edge to some episodes, but it does inject all of the entertainment and action and just sheer fun you could hope for. Trigun: Badlands Rumble takes the essence of the series and refines it, using digital animation to give the world depth and polish the visuals without losing its identity. The film is not some cheap cash-in, it's an entertaining side-story which - whilst not adding to the overarching story of the franchise - doesn't compromise on its imagination or characterisation. It doesn't do anything that couldn't have been done by the series, but with the series long finished it's just great to see all the characters back and good as ever. For fans of Trigun this film is essential, for everyone else it's well worth watching (as is the series!), I just hope that we don't have to wait 10 years for another one!
An excellent array of extras, with the usual trailers being joined by around two hours worth of interviews and promos featuring the Japanese staff and cast of the film. There's a three minute segment listed as a 'making of' which shows the voice cast recording some of their dialogue, but it's the interviews and the discussions that are the most interesting. A lengthy interview reel featuring Q&As with most of the main cast and crew, including the creator of the original Trigun manga Yasuhiro Nightow and principle voice actor Masaya Onosaka (Vash), makes up the bulk of it, the interviews are all interesting it's a shame they are all in one reel rather than selectable individually. The same is true of the 'premieres', audience Q&A sessions with the cast and crew conducted after screenings of the film in Japan, again, they are quite interesting but it's a 40-odd minute reel rather than a list of selectable ones. The DVD comes with a nice slipcase, and there's a booklet with character profiles and further interview. A good set overall.