Twenty years after his cohorts on a bank heist turn on him, revenge-minded Gasback catches up with his betrayers…and finds his plans undermined by the same goofy, spiky-haired, interfering young peacenik-with-a-price-on-his-head who saved his life during the robbery and let his former colleagues get away. Who is this Vash “the Stampede” and why does he keep sticking his nose in other people’s business?
When these two outlaws’ paths converge with those of an unusual “priest,” a pair of overworked insurance agents, and a beautiful young woman with a vendetta of her own, the result is a futuristic wild west tale filled with long-held grudges, flying bullets, and a few donuts.
Set in a fragile, post-apocalyptic, dust- and desert-bound civilization of saloons and sheriffs, Trigun: Badlands Rumble slips easily into the mid-series continuity of the Trigun anime and makes the latter’s fans feel right at home, while still keeping the set-up and relationships intelligible to new viewers by concentrating on the story at hand and playing like an extended, self-contained episode of the original series.
Donut-craving, trouble-finding, life- and love-affirming Vash is both larger than life and the boy next door (if the boy next door were a crack shot who manages to save peoples’ lives left and right and still come off as an endearingly embarrassing doofus most of the time). He and other canon characters are introduced in ways that tell you what you need to know about them and what their relationships are like without getting too caught up in the details of their complicated histories together. And the new characters, particularly Amelia, are fleshed out just enough to stand beside them without feeling too flimsy in comparison.
The story moves along at a quick pace, merging both sharp and silly humor, loads of action, and a bit of drama. While it may not be perfect–Amelia’s mother’s “secret” heirloom feels more like a convenient gimmick than an actual plot-relevant point–the engaging characters, exciting action, and emotions nevertheless draw you in and unfold pleasantly.
The ample budget really shines in the animation, in which the background action’s continuity is given as much attention as that of the foreground. Street scenes, an early segment aboard a sand steamer (this world’s answer to Amtrak), and other public places are filled with dozens of unique characters going about their own business and who are seen from different angles from one cut to another, giving the setting an anchored, populated substance you don’t often find in anime. The bar fight, that staple of all westerns, is an especially glorious moment of carefully choreographed anarchy and laughs.
The film maintains the series’ comfortably familiar, slightly old-school character designs–manga-ka Nightow was even brought in to design the new gadgetry so it would still all look of-a-piece and ring true–but is animated more smoothly and with a richer palette, a larger aspect-ratio, and subtle digital effects that don’t go overboard. This results in an attractive digital film that more closely resembles high quality cell animation than CG and blends in nicely with its much-loved antecedent.
The music fits right in–a little folksy-wild-west, a little hard rock–without being obtrusive. The series’ original Japanese voice actors return to their roles, but only Vash’s Johnny Yong Bosch reprised his role in the English dub. While it would have been nice to reunite all the originals, everyone performs true to their characters, making the changes as painless and smooth as possible for fans.
The second disc’s numerous extras with the Japanese cast and creators are surprisingly entertaining and chock-full of interesting tidbits and fun interplay. They talk about what it was like to come back to Trigun after twelve years, how much fun they’ve had, and how they’d do it again if asked. And the viewer shares their sentiments.
Minimal violence (repeated face-punches, a foiled potential sexual assault, and many, many bullets zipping around, though none fatally so), side-character smoking, and an evening of communal drunkenness comfortably fit the film’s TV-14 rating. Trigun: Badlands Rumble is funny, smart, and happy and offers an all around good time that makes me nostalgic for both Yasuhiro Nightow’s original manga and its 26-episode anime adaptation (also directed by Nishimura).
Trigun: Badlands Rumble
directed by Satoshi Nishimura
137 minutes, Number of Discs: 2, Single disc/DVD
Company Age Rating: TV-14
Related to: Trigun / Trigun Maximum by Yasuhiro Nightow