Truly one of the classics around the anime world. Though, due to its age, its visual appeal leaves much to be desired, Trigun should hardly be judged at face-value. The experience is genuinely human -- while pretty much any consistent anime viewer knows there will be pacifists in any given series, Trigun balances this perfectly. With pure-hearted, idealistic, visionary heroes versus macabre, sinister, yet intelligent villains, many differing outlooks on life are explored. It is this fact that causes Trigun to exist on a tier of its own, and has earned its place in many circles as a work of pure genius.
A solid, innovative plot evolves throughout the progression of the series, stacked with many layers that add to rewatch value; one will notice things on a second or third watch that he or she did not initially realize. Not only this, the casual pace at which Trigun flows fits it like a glove; clearly, learning a trick of two from The Three Bears, it's not too fast, not too slow, but just right. Perhaps the only significant flaw, in my humble opinion, lies in the execution of the last episode: Trigun compacts three episodes worth of content into one finale, and ends up failing at doing so efficiently. There is no real conclusion, and with far too many open and loose ends, it leaves an awkward sense of finishing Trigun without truly ever doing so.
That said, Trigun works around Vash the Stampede, a wanted criminal with a 60 billion double-dollar bounty on his head. Right off the bat you get the feeling there's something more to him than meets the eye, as he would much rather inhale a box of donuts than massacre a town. Like many leads in anime, Vash appears to be obnoxiously pacifistic, continually reciting his motto of, "Love and peace!" As you might have already guessed, unlike other series that choose to implement this cliché, Trigun presents a solid reasoning behind Vash's philosophy. While the first half of the series focuses on developing his personality, the latter certainly presents a number of interesting challenges and decisions for the pure-hearted idealist to confront, many which do no merit joyous outcomes. Unlike anime that try to flaunt pseudo-intellectual crap as quality, Trigun masquerades its intellectual aspects beneath a partially comedic skin, and the drastic, believable shift in mood from the first to the second half is not something to scoff at.
Now, while I more than aptly flatter Trigun, the low-budget animation does probably stand out as its weakest point. Overall quality, smoothness, and detail are quaint at best, and though age does play a role in this, it does not excuse it. An abundance of droll, uneventful backgrounds (albeit on a desert planet, this is a slight given), with the aid of a good many countable stills, make the animation the least enjoyable aspect of show.
Now Trigun's soundtrack is a whole 'nother issue: one does not truly enjoy it until the series is completed. I remember while watching Trigun for the first time commenting to friends about how much I disliked all aspects of its sound, and being promptly rebuked with, "Just wait, it grows on you." Their words proved true, and sure enough, I now quite enjoy the music. While certainly not one of the best OSTs out there, a number of tracks seem custom tailored to fit the series, such as Legato's theme.
Where most might immediately turn to Vash as the deepest character of the series, I actually turn to co-villain, Legato. A devious, cunning sycophant, one quickly characterizes him as nothing but a bloodthirsty sadist. However, while to an extent this might be true, Legato remains completely logical, concise, confident; certainly nothing close to the stereotype commonly given to such evil. The perfect enemy in all respects, the choice Vash is forced to make regarding him toward the end of the series will, most probably, stick with me until my deathbed: those who have seen Trigun know what I am referring to. This fathom-deep intimacy with the human mind, found through each of the main characters, makes Trigun, in my book, a must watch for every anime fan. Vash, Meryl, Milly, Wolfwood, Legato, Knives -- all are designed with this spectacular precision.
Despite being one of the first series I set my eyes upon, Trigun was one of a handful of anime that set my bar of quality quite high. While I certainly wouldn't claim it to be the best anime ever made, it has rightfully earned its place toward the top. A superb mingling of comedy, action, drama, and intellect, it has a number of qualities that give it a broad range of appeal. Whether you're new to the world of anime or a battle-worn veteran, Trigun should definitely be on the top of your list of series to see if you haven't watched it already.
STORY: PART 1: 1/10, PART 2: 6/10, PART 3: 8/10, AVERAGE: 5/10
Most tend to judge a show from it early episodes and usually they are right because it is very rare to have a show which changes its initial mood too much. This anime is one of those rare cases that it does. One should not judge it partially but as a whole. The best way to properly analyze Trigun is to separate it into three parts. I wouldn’t call them arcs because it’s still the same story.
- The first part is episodes 1 to 11. These are mostly aimless comedy, where the lead character is goofing around and saves random people in random areas. It is very light and makes you think that the entire show is nothing but silly storyless adventure.
- The second part is episodes 12 to 16, where the story is now entering an on-going and more serious phase. You are given some insight to the hero’s past and he faces far more fearful and inhuman opponents. Now you think the show will be hereon an average to good action/comedy/drama.
- The third part is the rest of the show (17 to 26), where the comedy portion almost disappears, violence, death and tragedy are increased tenfold. This part reveals the hero’s tragic past and how he tries to make up for all the damage he and his brother caused to the world. The catch is, unlike in the beginning of the show where nothing seems hard to accomplish when he is fighting seriously, over here he hardly manages to achieve half of what he intends to do.
The mood of the show changes almost 180 degrees from beginning to end, turning from a silly comedy to some serious tragedy. That is perceived as a bold and well received element that makes the whole deal far more memorable and interesting. If it was tragic or comedy all the way, the effect on you would be halved.
That is still not enough for me to give a 10 to the story. As much as I liked the mood swings, I found many scenes where the storyboard was messy and chaotic. The plot seems to move any way the animators felt like it and the action scenes lack realism almost entirely, which in effect ruins a big part of its attempt to be serious. The major showdowns are also a major problem as they all seem to end fast and almost effortless or way too simplistic. The conclusion is like that as well so it may feel lukewarm in comparison to what was building up along the way so far. So if I am to give a score to the story, I will do so in parts and in overall to better help you see what I mean
The meat of the show is the characters and their very weird mood swings. Just like the story, everybody begins as a shallow comical stereotype but along the way they are fleshed out and by the end of the show you feel they have become a lot more than they started as. This is not limited to the main characters only but to most secondary allies and adversaries as well. As the story moves on to darker regions, you see more sides to them and you do understand their motives. Many of them also get killed by the end of the show, something that could fool you to be impossible the way the story began. At first you see the hero being a pacifist who miraculously never kills or let anyone be killed, giving you the impression this will stand as such up to the end. Yet you see how numerous times he fails and how that affects his mentality.
I am still not going to give a 10 here either. Many characters still behave too weird and unreasonable. Especially the villains, they are throwing their lives away. And many minor support characters appear to be wasted potencial since they appear only for a few episodes.
ART / ANIMATION: 7/10
The setting is a planet that resembles the Wild West and it’s filled with various sci-fi elements. I can’t say I was too amazed with it since it didn’t seem to go past the obvious and offer some sort of symbolism, an element I adore. Also, for a space western, there doesn’t seem to be any real connection between the old and the new; it’s just random anachronisms without uniformity.
Animated by the king of anime series, Studio Madhouse. Not one of their greatest works but you can easily see the dynamism and quality of the material they were given. Animation and artwork feel dated and almost average in budget, which lowers the enjoyment along the way. You clearly see jerky motions, proportion deformity and bad scene follow up, such as characters standing in completely different poses all of a sudden or appearing and disappearing out of nowhere, or just standing completely frozen for too long.
There is some very interesting choreography in most battles which will impress those who seek brainless entertainment. The main warriors are after all cool looking with those long coats and glasses of theirs, plus they have some really weird futuristic weaponry. I personally found it to be way too unrealistic to work on me. They dodge a million bullets and fire with six shooters dozens of times without reloading. Plus, those two girls are at one episode completely useless fighters and on the next they are elite sharpshooters. And what’s with the doomsday device they hide inside them? All that ruin the credibility of the action and even the drama but I do appreciate the vividness and inserted humour they have.
Voice acting is fine for such a show and the main music themes are very strong rock pieces. Yet most of the duration lacks background music and the rest of it feels pretty uninteresting. That takes away from the enjoyment again.
So, is it an important anime historically-wise? Somewhat yes for its unorthodox turn around as well as the lively shoot outs. But it also came out at the same time as Cowboy Bebop, another space western that beats it on all accounts. Not only that, but there was also Outlaw Star the same year, a third space western, to take away even more of its special feeling. Furthermore, some years ago there was also Rurouni Kenshin, which was also about a somewhat similar protagonist with the same goals. Add to that how the first half of the show is aimless adventures with very little reason or interest to rewatch. Thus, it shares the same scores with the story sections in this regard.
Is it an enjoyable show? Yes but not all the way. The first half was very boring and I wasn’t thrilled with its comedy as some others were. It is the second half that becomes interesting and that is why enjoyment gets the base score.
Unlike most of the fandom, I wasn’t fooled to give it 9s and 10s just because it becomes better as it goes on. As a whole it improves but it still has several mishaps that prevent it from being a real masterpiece. Most like it for its lively battles and darker side later on but after other shows like Black Lagoon or Hellsing came along, surpassed most of its appeal.
I understand that a rating this low for Trigun is a bit out of the ordinary so I am not expecting pleasant reactions.
The story for Trigun is that of a man who is always on the run because of the bounty on his head and ultimately seeking a way to resolve his past. I had really high hopes for this anime. I have had it recommended to me by a lot of people and it's reputation precedes itself. I figured it was worth trying. I was left dissappointed. The entire series was always a reiteration of its key point that it is not for any one human to decide who lives or dies. Yet, to a degree I didn't think this show added anything new to the argument and often kept bringing up the same points again and again. I feel like it didn't make me think more deeply about the concept of killing and didn't bring up anything I hadn't already thought of. Should you kill someone who is trying to kill you? Should you kill the person who is about to kill your friends? Should you kill the person who is going to destroy the world? Yet the answer, a MAJORITY, of the time is always just "save everyone." I feel like that is a wonderful idea in theory but isn't practicle when most humans aren't like Vash and don't have amazing abilities to make sure everyone comes out alright. There is only one episode that I liked and it was the only one that broke this little chain of repetition. I would have been able to put up with a lot of this if the ending solved anything. I kept thinking what would happen after the last episode and it doesn't seem like the actions in the final episode would have made a difference at all.
The animation was choppy and relied on a lot of still shots. The backgrounds were alright but nothing to stare at. At the beginning I could put up with the animation a bit more but it just seemed to get lazier and lazier. I sometimes judge the animation on if I can notice a loop (such as if a characters hair is moving or snow is falling.) This was one anime where most of their loops were incredibly obvious and I have to think that they weren't even trying to hide it. I know that this anime isn't new but I have seen far more impressive animation come out around the same time.
I actually enjoyed the sound more than anything else in this show. The music was interesting and distinctive. I also liked the main voice actors a lot. This catagory would have been ranked higher if so many of the small time villains didn't have such laughable voices. I couldn't even take their fights seriously.
I feel like I could have been more leniant with this review if I had liked the characters better. I liked Vash when he had a smile on in spite of his problems. I was relieved to find a character who didn't mope for episode upon episode. However, when he finally started his mope fest he lost a lot of the parts of his personality that I liked. I got tired of how depressed and glowering he started to get. I am not saying he didn't have the right to be upset. The poor guy had been through a lot. I just got tired of watching his attitude. The insurance girls were neither here nor there for me. I thought they were fairly boring and stereotypical. I cannot even describe my dissappointment in Legato. I love a crazy psychopathic character. The more sadistic the better. However, Legato was entirely unoriginal. When he first appeared I was intrigued but I soon realized he was just going to hang around for episode after episode to send his minions after Vash. He is what every other unoriginal sadist is; just a calculating killer who is going to order other people around. I was tired of him quickly. His part in episode 24 (for those fans who know what I am talking about) was the most interesting part he played. I was actually moved by this episode more than any other but it wasn't enough to make up for every other episode he appeared in. Wolfwood was actually intriguing and was my favorite character by far. If more of the characters had been as interesting as him I would have better remarks to make about this catagory.
Ultimatley, I was underwhelmed. I was expecting fourth of July fireworks and got a fizzling sparkler. It was somewhat entertaining but isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Everyone who likes it is welcome to his/her opinion. I just think that reviewers should also hear from someone who wasn't crazy about it.
7. Vash The Stampede has a 60 billion double dollars reward on his head for catching him. He’s a dangerous gunslinger that already destroyed towns in the past - or so the common people believe. In reality he is a kind person who gets into trouble everywhere he goes, just because everyone knows him as a dangerous criminal. Somehow he always manages to escape. He handles his gun with inhuman speed.
Plot and pace
5. The series started boring me after the first six episodes. I kept watching until episode 20, but then I quit. Nothing important ever happens and nearly each episode stands on its own.
5. Rarely. Most of the time each chapter ended in a happy ending. I guess this is just not my type of Anime, however I can understand the high rating this show received on Animeplanet.
5. Very predictable. I won’t spoil it for you guys, but since you’re not idiots and you already know that each episode has a happy ending…
4. I wouldn’t watch this again. Trigun was okay for once, but absolutely not an Anime which could keep me entertained for 26 chapters.
6. Vash the Stampede is pretty cool, but it’s ridiculously unrealistic how he manages to survive the bullet rains. There was a pretty impressive ‘priest’ in this show as well, but the girls from the insurance agency who followed Vash everywhere were just plain annoying.
7. Not much has to be said about this. I’ve watched Trigun in English and the conversations were clear and simple.
5. The art style looks dated, but that’s because this show is a very old Anime. I still can’t give It a high score for for that reason, though.
6. The planet where Vash lives, reminds me of western movies. There are cowboys and crooks, gangs, and lots of guns. Vash travels from town to town, but they all still look pretty much the same.
Music and sounds
9. At least something I can give a decent rating. The intro song, with the guitar riffs, fits this series perfectly. Other than that the background sounds are what you could expect of it.
Trigun, or The Failings, Naivety and Ignorance of Pacifism.
Story - 10/10
Ok, now from my score it's obvious I think this series is great, heck maybe the greatest ever when it comes to long format anime, but as much as I love it I also am always bugged by it. Throughout the series Vash lives by the code that no one should be allowed to take the lives of others, the pacifist motto, and despite the atrocities that continue to occur, the writers still end the story with that concept being front and center. The idea that the world is completely gray, never clean cut and black and white, is amazingly childish (a point they try to dismiss by having Knives state it) but they do themselves a disservice by again and again showing that there is evil and, despite ones feelings that all killing is wrong, there are times when killing one evil person needs to be done in order to save the lives of many innocent people. The writers, and people of their ilk, live under a simplistic idea of moral equivalency. There was a quote that sums them up well, to paraphrase, people like them can't tell the difference between a man who pushes a woman out of the way of an oncoming bus and one who pushes her into the bus's path, to them both are men who push women.
Tirade aside, a simplistic overview is that Trigun is the story of a man trying to live a simple life while everything around him turns to dust. The over arching plot is one we may know from the Bible, the story of Cain and Abel, except this time around Cain doesn't want to kill his brother, but instead kill the man he is by causing him to take the lives of the humans around him. Well his actions don't go to plan, and he ends up battered and floating in a hydro recovery chamber. The end result is a destroyed city, though with no casualties, and the brother, Vash the Stampede, living every day with a literal bounty on his head, a bounty of Sixty Billion Double Dollars.
Now Vash travels the desert planet, trying to mind his own business, while having to deal with the bounty hunters trying to take him down, as well the destruction they cause which he always gets blamed on him. For the first eleven episodes this story pretty much plays out the same way. Vash comes into town, someone finds out, a motley crew of baddies come for the bounty, and fails. Add some comedy, a side story with Meryl and Milly (two ladies from an insurance agency tasked with finding Vash and seeing if the claims of his destruction are true) and an appearance by Kuroneko, a little black cat, and you have a basic rundown of things. Not saying you don't learn a lot about Vash in that time, it's just very procedural, with each episode being a decent stand alone.
After those first eleven episodes things start to pick up. Now Vash is being hunted down by a group calling themselves the Gung-Ho Guns. While their leader Legato messes with Vash's mind, his minions go about trying to mess with his heart and body, targeting innocents and hoping Vash will collapse when he can't save them all. Eventually this group reveals their true goal and who it is that really put them up to the task. After Legato forces Vash's hand into killing, he goes after the man who put this whole plan into motion, his brother, Knives.
The last half of the series also shows us Vash's past and how he got to where he currently is. We meet Rem, the woman who raised him and helped shape his life's mission, and we see what changed Knive's into a boy hell bent on ending the human race. While I would have enjoyed seeing a bit more of Vash's past, as they really sped through some parts, they did all they could to answer the questions asked within the series.
While Vash's ideals are a constant annoyance, more because it's not Vash that ever suffers the consequences of his actions but instead everyone else, it still shapes the show and is rather important. They found a way to finish the series, yet still have it open for future episodes, which is a nice change for an anime. Granted I would have enjoyed seeing the series spread out with a little more backstory for our main four as well as more in the Gung-ho guns story line.
Animation - 9/10
So while most anime should be be rated against the time of it's creation and that which came before, I think the animation of Trigun can be rated against the genre as a whole. Even against today's highly detailed and overly produced series, Trigun stands out in it's creativity and it's execution.
They do a great job of creating a baron planet, inhabited for only around one hundred years, and what it would look like as people attempt to create new societies. Modeled after the early inhabitants of the American west, everything is built with that in mind, a little wood and a little mud, with the precious metal from the SEED ships being saved for the reactors or vehicles. The colors also mimic the time, with most wearing basic dark colors, except those with money who can afford the fancy dyes and the constant cleanings. I also believe the slightly lower resolution backgrounds help promote the feeling of decay in most of the cities. They do a good job showing that these decisions were deliberate by having an episode that focused on the single piece of land that was affected by one of the SEED ships. The island in the desert is filled with lush trees and different plants, a stark contrast in color pallet and depth than what was used for the rest of the series.
The characters themselves were pretty unique for the time. While they may have had some facial similarities to other series, the character design was all Trigun. While they did keep the main heroes pretty simple, they went all out with the villains. From odd golem type creatures to literal larger than life baddies, they really went all out with their creations and put a ton of detail into them when needed, but brilliantly held back when it was right (as with Midvalley).With over 50 original concepts in the series when it comes to villains, its no surprise that the townsfolk are all pretty generic, but that is a common occurrence in anime as you need to priorities your time.
Sound - 10/10
The soundtrack to Trigun isn't only great in the music itself, but great in it's diversity of music too. They managed to create an OST that combines Jazz, African, Blue Grass, Techno, Metal and typical JRPG music, but in a way that they all fit perfectly and really feel like they belong. You can feel some influences from past musicians in the work of Dr. Donuts. Some standouts are Knive's theme song, which sounds like it could easily be a Widespread Panic song. Not an Angel, a song that you would think was written by Dave Mason or Eric Clapton during the mid eighties. Finally the best of the the bunch has to be what I always saw as Wolfwood's Theme, Scattered Rain, which could be snuck into a Robin Trower playlist without anyone knowing it wasn't him. And throughout there whole soundtrack there are bits and pieces of many Rush songs, including a few that borrow riffs and tunes from XXY.
The English voice cast is great. Johnny Yong Bosch has become one of the best voice over artist alive, and this was only his second full series, after Sailor moon and a few film dubs. He captures the spirit of Vash perfectly and was a great equal to Japan's Masaya Onosaka. The other major characters, Milly, Meryl and Nicolas, were all voiced by seasoned VO artist and it shows. Each were a perfect compliment to the over the top Vash, and despite all having tons of work before and after, will most likely be remembered by their work on Trigun.
Characters - 8/10
So for the brunt of the series there are only three real reoccurring characters, Vash, Milly and Meryl, and while you could watch it and think "we've seen these characters before" you have to remember we see them again and again because they were so successful here first.
Vash is your dimwit who seems to always come out on top. He plays the fool but is in fact very intelligent and perfect at nearly everything he does. They try to build up his backstory, but never really pin down all the important parts, which i guess is expected when he has around One Hundred and Fifteen years on the planet Gunsmoke (if you name a planet that you have to expect there will be problematic people.) Vash lives by the aforementioned motto of "No one deserves to die" but his altruistic nature leads him to dilemma after dilemma, as he wants to keep people safe but doesn't want to harm anyone to do so. Overall Vash is a very frustrating character, he's likable but just a bit annoying when it comes to his childish attitude on life.
The other two major players are Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, two insurance agents tasked with finding Vash the Stampede and trying to stop him from destroying more cities. They play like a comedy duo, with Meryl the straight man and Milly the fool. They're both here to basically be our eyes, we mostly follow them on their journey, which Vash happens to come in and out of. Their backstories are light, we know of Milly's family and Meryl's attachment to her work, but overall they are somewhat plain figures.
About halfway through the series things start to get interesting. With the introduction of Nicholas D. Wolfwood, The Gungho Guns and the main antagonist of the series, Vash's brother Knives, the story starts to pick up and we get characters with depth to them.
Wolfwood is a traveling preacher that Vash, Meryl and Milly meet while heading through the desert. Where as Vash is the bumbling dork, Wolfwood is the cool kid, smoking a cigarette and full of mystery. He works out as nice compliment, and partner, to Vash. As time goes by we learn much more about him than anyone else, his childhood, how he got to where he is in life and what he stands for. It also doesn't hurt that he's gifted with probably the best monologue in Anime. Wolfwood is much more complicated than Vash and has a less than rosy outlook on life, despite being a priest. Where as Vash believes no one should ever be killed, Wolfwood, from his own experiences, knows that sometimes you have to kill or else evil will be victorious. They did a great job putting his character all over the map, while still having him make complete sense when doing what he does.
While the first half of the series is filled with single episode stories and one off villains, the second half is more or less one continuous story. The bad guys are numerous, but they are all part of the same gang, put together by Vash's brother Knives. They are to bring Vash back to his brother, while causing him the most pain, by either killing innocents or by trying to get Vash to finally kill someone. Most of the Guns are pretty bland, used in an episode or two, but three stand above the rest. Legato Bluesummers acts almost as the leader of the guns, he has the power to control people's actions and spends many an episode screwing with Vash's mind by causing him to see visions. Legato's right hand man in Midvalley the Hornfreak, a jazz saxophonist who uses his instrument as a weapon, shooting piercing notes that wound his opponents. Much like our group of heroes, the villain with the best story is a man of the cloth, Chapel the Evergreen. His story is connected directly to Wolfwood and his upbringing, and would be a perfect spinoff series to keep Trigun alive while not ruining the original.
Now for the character who basically created Vash the Stampede, his brother, Knives Millions. Knive's is Vash's equal in almost all ways, except mindset. They are the same age, of the same origin and thanks to Knive's work, they have the same ability to create an immensely powerful energy blast from their arm (something that is never adequately explained and which is a bit of a goof as supposedly Knives created the guns with an object that can activate their powers, yet the gun was repaired by a local gunsmith with him going "Hmmm why is this here.”) Vash and Knives cease being similar when Knives feels slighted by Rem Saverem, their guardian aboard the SEED ship. He starts to feel humans are just wasteful and use everything around them with no regard for others, so he decides they should all die, leaving Vash and himself to create a future for whatever planet they land on. When his plan fails, Knives tries to go about extinguishing the human race, but is thwarted by Vash. Now he's spends almost the entirety of the series recuperating in a aqua chamber, using his psychic abilities to put forth his plan of luring Vash back to him so he can finally kill his brother.
Overall - 10/10
Despite the failure of it's intended message, Trigun sits up there in the top Five Anime series of all time (FLCL, Cowboy Bebop, Eden of the East and Beck filling out the five for me) Those slightly annoying pitfalls are easily glossed over by the great story, amazing music, brilliant animation and overall fun tone of the show. Even though rewatching takes up thirteen hours of your life, it's worth it to pick up more and more little things you might miss the first time around.