When someone earns nicknames like “The Stampede” and “The Human Typhoon,” chances are it’s for good reason. However, in Vash’s case, it’s not necessarily his fault. Sure, there is often nothing but rubble left in his wake, but the destruction is usually caused by everyone except him. Nevertheless, poor Vash can’t escape his reputation, which has led to a 60 billion dollar bounty being put on his head. Obviously, this makes him a person of significant interest to just about everybody.
Trigun’s clever premise provides a solid foundation, which is only helped all the more by its intriguing setting. Imagine a typical Western film set in a dusty desert, and then toss in a handful of subtle science fiction elements, not to mention some seriously huge guns. Characters ride around on giant chicken-like creatures instead of horses, and they brandish massive machine guns in place of six shooters. Very cool.
As if this unusual take on the Old West wasn’t fascinating enough, the show pulls viewers in further with its terrific production values. The bulk of the credit goes to animation studio Madhouse, who never fails to impress, and delivers an absolute knockout here. Trigun’s animation quality rivals some feature films — it’s that good. The series originally ran on Japanese television in the late 1990s, and consequently it lacks the type of slick computer graphics that have found their way into anime productions since. In my opinion, that’s actually to Trigun’s benefit, as the hand-drawn animation allows for a degree of personality and energy that would be lost with unnecessarily polished visuals. Trigun also features some truly inspired voice acting in both Japanese and English, though I prefer the original language and think it fits best.
Clocking in at 26 episodes, Trigun for the most part stays engaging during the entirety of its run, although from time to time there are some slow segments that feel like filler. Happily, they never last long, and Trigun always manages to shift things back into high gear. The episodes provide an effective mix of comedy and action with occasional dramatic moments which add much-appreciated exposition and character development. The best moments, hands down, are the action scenes, which are well choreographed and keep the viewer at the edge of their seat. What makes Trigun’s battles so entertaining is that Vash goes to almost pacifistically complex lengths to make his escape without injuring anyone else. With fluid animation and awesome weapon designs, Trigun’s gunfights are still some of the best anime fans can find.
Even if the focus of the series may be on Vash, there are a number of supporting characters that also share the spotlight. One of my favorites is Millie, a tall, imposing woman who carries a massive firearm but has an innocent personality and a sweet, childlike voice. She and her partner, Meryl, are representatives from the Bernardelli Insurance Agency, tasked with locating Vash so they can keep him out of trouble because paying claims on the damages is massively costly to the company. Despite their best efforts (not to mention their polite offerings of donuts to people they meet), the poor ladies just can’t seem to catch a break, which makes you feel sorry for them all the more.
Other than violence during the action scenes, there really isn’t too much to object to in terms of content. Vash’s interest in the opposite sex can be slightly suggestive at times, but it never ventures into lewd territory, and by today’s standards it seems rather tame. The series will have a wide appeal for tween, teen, and adult audience, and it deserves a spot in any serious anime collection, if but for its action segments alone.