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Reviewer: Aaron Murphy 11/18/2009

With a bounty of sixty billion double dollars on his head, one could assume that Vash the Stampede lives up to his name as a bringer of destruction wherever he goes. I mean, they don’t call him The Humanoid Typhoon for nothing. But underneath all the rumors and rubble that follow in his wake is just a man on a mission of love and peace, hoping to build a better future for the inhabitants of this desert world. While always filled with the best of intentions, those who would destroy that which he loves are everywhere, and unfortunately, in an effort to stop them, he arguably causes more harm than good. Although no one ever seems to die as a result of his exploits, the devastation left in his wake has caught the attention of the Bernardelli Insurance Society who has to keep paying for all the damage he causes. As such they have sent two insurance agents, Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, to find Vash and keep him under surveillance as a way to try and stop his city destroying rampages and to accurately gauge any damages he may cause. But finding him is only half the battle, for once they do they just might be sucked into the same sort of highflying lifestyle he has, where each day if filled with an equal does of adventure and danger. And with evil forces lurking in the shadows looking to lay waste to humanity as we know it, keeping up with Vash may be much more than they ever bargained for.
Trigun is one of three anime titles that came to the US in the early 2000’s that coupled a very western feel with a solid mix of action and comedy that engrossed viewers of such bellwethers as Dragonaball Z and Pokemon to delve further into the fandom. The other two titles include the ever popular Cowboy Bebop and the slightly less well-known Outlaw Star, both of which are wonderful titles in their own right. For many Trigun is one of the first anime series they ever saw, me included. And even though I’ve seen it more times than I care to count, it has that special quality of never getting dull, even as the animation becomes dated and you’ve heard the same old jokes countless times before. For that’s what Trigun, at least the first half of the series, is all about. Vash travels around saving people, trying to be a playboy, eating donuts, getting drunk and just all around loving life. He lives for love and peace, his favorite tagline, and while he’s not averse to taking out the bad guys or saving a damsel in distress, he lives by a code where all life is precious and that’s why he refuses to take a life himself. This is surely helped by the fact that he is an unparalleled gunslinger with his six-shot revolver, a talent he has honed over his many years of roaming from city to city. As the first half of the series progresses, we follow his journey as each one to two episode story arc takes us to a new location, with the familiar underpinnings of a pleasant trip being foiled by unscrupulous scoundrels out to cause no good. Always with an air of lighthearted frivolity, Trigun is as easy and fun a watch as one can find.
As you enter the latter half of the series, however, things turn decidedly darker. No longer is he dealing with common thugs but with trained killers who’re looking to destroy all the people of this world. As Vash continues through the series he has to come to terms with the fact that, in order to save innocent lives, he may have to do reprehensible things. That is his internal conflict, and whether he’s running away from his fears in a misguided attempt to live a peaceful existence or confronting his demons against those who would destroy all that he loves, you see a man go through the full spectrum of emotional chaos as his struggles ensue. It’s during this time that there’s a dramatic shift in the tone of the series away from comedy towards a much more solemn mood. For those who love the zany antics of Vash this may not be the most preferable of directions, but I found it quite appropriate to almost completely separate the two as to not make light of the events taking place in the second half of the series.
It’s during this time that the side characters start to play an instrumental part in the development and direction Vash takes as everything starts falling down around him.  This mainly falls to Meryl, who assumes the role of the overly serious slight love interest as her and Vash interact in almost every episode. She keeps him grounded, in a sense, making sure he realizes that the actions he takes, or doesn’t take as the case may be, have consequences. Having much the same impact but using a completely different tact, Nicolas D. Wolfwood comes blasting onto the scene with his guns blazing. He’s a man of the church, sort of, and carries an enormous cross around with him that’s filled with all sorts of weaponry. His personality, which is much more attune with that of a mercenary than anything else, stands in stark contrast to that of Vash’s unwillingness to kill and often injure his enemies. It’s that naive approach to the world that causes endless friction between Vash and Wolfwood, but as time goes on he may just find that Meryl and Wolfwood were not so wrong in their assessment that not everyone in the world is someone you can let live. Which begs the question; would you kill the spider to save the butterfly?      
The entire setting of Trigun is a mystery unto itself at the start, but as the episodes progress ones able to slowly piece together just what this world is and why there’s so much technology that almost no one understands. As a result, I’m not able to say too much about the larger story that comes about after many of these revelations, which is a big part of what makes Trigun so great, but suffice to say it’s as intriguing as it is memorable. What might not be so memorable are the somewhat dated animation style and character designs, which lend themselves well to the Wild West era it’s portraying, but the unrefined look may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is old enough that it was still made using individually hand painted cels, so the work they did is still quite impressive and the animation itself is quite good. The best part is that both the English and Japanese language tracks are excellent, so you should be able to go with either without a problem. I love it when that happens.
I have to say, Trigun is one of the most enjoyable anime series I have seen. It’s a fun mix of goofy comedy and adventure at the start, coupled with a serious tinge that comes out towards the back half as the real story starts to take root and the larger revelations come out of the woodwork. This is an incredibly heartwarming and accessible anime series for anyone in the fandom, and if you’ve yet to check out this wonderful gem I don’t know what you’re waiting for but you’re only doing yourself a disservice.

All of the Trigun DVDs are now out of print. You can pick up some of the individual volumes and box sets that are still floating around though.
If you didn’t get your fill with just the series, there’s a long-awaited Trigun movie coming out in 2010. It’s going to take place at some point during the event of the series.

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Review Title:
650 Minutes
General Rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi
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