Wednesday, August 27, 2014


"My name is Vash the Stampede. I have been a hunter of peace who chases the mayfly known as love for many, many moons now. There is no rest for me in my search for peace. I meditate diligently every morning. The subjects are life and love. I quit after 3 seconds." ~ Vash the Stampede

I promised I would do an entry on the very show that gave my blog a title, so here it is. I'm not certain when I'll be able to regularly make regular entries again so now would be the best time to explain my choices. As most are well aware this is an anime that was released in 1998, based on a Japanese manga (comic) and was a bit of a hit here. I was only about 15 at the time, probably too young to watch it, but considering where my life was at the time, it was fairly tame compared to other things I would dive into. Still, it ended up being a very positive influence in my life, its moral center struck out at me even when I was losing everything else and my grip on absolutes.

Trigun is a space western in the old style. It was released the same time as two other popular anime, being Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star which are affectionately known to anime fans as the Space Western Trilogy. They aren't related otherwise, though of the three Trigun is the most western while still retaining a science fiction core at the same time. It also the most serious and deals with the toughest themes.

It takes place in the desert on a distant planet in the far future when the human race is dying out through a series of deathly decisions. Nearing the end of their existence, two forces arrive to claim hold over the destiny of the survivors. The first, is a megalomaniac who calls himself Knives, a being nobody is convinced exists, yet he is able to control the fates of many from the shadows with only his silver tongue to help him. He manages to convince many bent individuals that what the human race really needs is to be cleansed from the purity of the universe. The second, is the man mentioned in the quote above, a wandering pacifist known as Vash the Stampede.

Trigun starts out as more of a comedy with an action bent, to the surprise of anyone who first watches. Vash bumbles through every situation, and seemingly by accident, manages to get through scrapes without anyone dying (sometimes they still get hurt) often doing little but inspiring pure hope in the townsfolk that their fate is much more than dying in the wasteland. Eventually we find this comedic approach is needed to break the tension of the world they live in, as even Vash is very well aware of what lies out in the wilds waiting to strike. As the story goes along, we start to understand more about who this man is, and it isn't anything natural, it's actually supernatural.

"Luck and persistence won't work forever." ~ Nicholas D. Wolfwood

As you might have guessed by now, Trigun is not your typical Japanese anime. It  thrives on hope, understanding purpose, and fighting for life above all else. Vash is much like Dostoyevsky's titular Idiot in how his clueless gentleness influences those around him in ways he doesn't even foresee, but  he is also equally like The Man With No Name, entering towns to purge the evil back into the dark and giving the townspeople, and sometimes less savory types, a brand new start.

However, as the story gets along it soon becomes clear that the evil forces controlled by Knives threatens the lives of everyone remaining on the dust-filled planet, Trigun moves into the meat of the story. That being the battle against the souls who sold themselves to the devil, The Gung-Ho Guns, who wish nothing more than for humanity to be wiped out and turned into nothingness.

The very first appearance of this threat arrives in the episode entitled Diablo (telling title) when a man named Monev the Gale arrives to the town Vash is in and declares he is now a target for demons. The series shifts from this point to being about the ultimate fate of the last remnant of humanity and their final judgement between good (Vash and his allies) and evil (Knives and his Guns), and where the series goes from this point is quite remarkable.

The origins of both Knives and Vash are revealed to be something quite beyond science or understanding, one bending to pride and greed and the other to love and hope as they grow. From that point the pair clash over reasoning and eventually separate when Knives goes too far. Vash, now alone in the world, and still a believer in hope and love, drifts aimlessly through the wasteland of the planet searching for meaning in both. On his way he faces much evil, despair, death, and destruction, sometimes caused by those who want him dead above all, leaving him lost in what he must do. It is only through wandering priest Nicholas D. Wolfwood that he may understand that hope and love are not fluffy ideals but a true and harsh way of life. It is only through conquering sin that Vash understands why his brother is wrong in his mindless carnage and why humanity deserves to survive.

"When I look at you, I’m reminded of everything I hate about myself. You know, it hurts." ~ Nicholas D. Wolfwood

But there is a reason for everything in Trigun. Wolfwood must let the past go and remember why humanity needs saving when even he falls into despair. Through his weapon, the heavy cross known as "Punisher", and its weight he walks the desert as well, and it is through Vash he realizes what it is he has been missing as well.

*Start of Spoilers*

We eventually learn that Wolfwood is not a traveling priest in the Christian sense. He is an outlaw and member of a man named Chapel's cult-like church, which worships Knives and wants Vash dead. But Wolfwood rejects Chapel's ways and attempts to be a priest for the One True God instead, but has troubles as he keeps being pulled back into his old life because of the current war only few of the survivors even seem to be aware of. By series' end, he finally makes the choice through Vash of what it is to be a Man Of God and is able to move beyond his violent path.

*End of Spoilers*

Through his journey, Vash is also followed by two insurance girls named Meryl Stryfe and Millie Thompson who are assigned to keep him from destroying towns by their company. They learn that he is not always the one that causes the destruction but still have problems keeping the property damage from skyrocketing. Yet, inadvertently, they succeed in their job in another way, in keeping him from falling apart through the war he cannot help but fight. Though they are not gunfighters on the level of Vash or Wolfwood, they stand tall regardless with skills of their own, and help balance the harshness of the wandering priest with naivete of the 60 billion double dollar man.

"Why don't you go ahead? I would welcome this to be my time. After all, there's no reason for such an egocentric, incomplete life like mine to be allowed to continue anyway. Give me the gift of nothingness. Give me death." ~ Legato Bluesummers

And Vash will need the support. Along the way he fights humans that he has sworn never to kill who throw their lives away like it's nothing, and Vash can't save them all. What this leads to is the ultimate test of Vash's way of life as well as Wolfwood's, not to mention Knives', and the final confrontation that will decide the fate of the remaining humans and the desert planet.

Unfortunately, this is where I will have to leave you. I want very badly to discuss the final confrontation that occurs at story's end, but I cannot without ruining it. All I can say is to pay attention to what it is that makes the final difference between good and evil and what it is that breaks the eternal struggle between the two at the crucial moment. Coming from a Japanese anime, the ending might really surprise you. Not even just from an anime, an ending like this probably wouldn't even make an American film these days, which is a real shame. It's not the sort of story that comes around too often anymore.

All in all, Trigun is my favorite anime, my favorite show, and one of my favorite stories. A story of sin, redemption, loss, gain, and the fate of this broken human race of ours far into the future. I can't recommend it enough. If you want to watch something new and outside of the box and haven't seen Trigun. you are truly missing out. There is nothing like it out there, and there never will be another. It is one of the best shows Japan has ever released, and probably ever will.

"To realize a mistake. To not lie. To love one another. To not kill. Those are very simple things, but the times won't allow for them. There is no green on this planet, even though we want it, though we want it so badly. A place where we can live peaceful days, with no wars nor stealing, a sacred place where people can live as people. Yes, there. That place is called . . ."

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