I really didn’t know what to expect with “Trigun”.
Everybody had been recommending it to me for awhile, but I had tried the first couple of episodes already. They weren’t bad, but the show never really clicked for me. I was left there scratching my head wondering what was supposedly so special about it. I got why somebody might enjoy it in a “It’s not that great but it’s amusing” sort of way, but no more than that.
And then to be told that at its heart it was a Catholic story philosophically, thematically, and morally?
It should have been right up my alley, but I didn’t see the path from point A to point B. Still, so many people were praising it, and it had been recommended to me so many times, that I felt obligated to finish the series out. It’s not as if it was painfully bad or anything, and there must be SOMETHING to all the talk, right?
So I kept watching.
And man am I glad I did.
“Trigun” is an excellent show.
“Trigun” is the story of Vash the Stampede as told by insurance girls Meryl and Millie. Vash is a mysterious yet highly destructive drifter from the western-style planet of Gunsmoke, and Meryl and Millie have been tasked with following him around because every time he shows his face it costs their company enormous amounts of money. Vash has a 60 billion double dollar bounty on his head, but there’s something strange about him:
He’s a really, really great guy. Funny, fun, great with children, defender of the weak and helpless, and abhorrent of all killing of any kind.
So what’s with the bounty? And what’s with Vash?
And there’s your story.
“Trigun” starts off as light as a feather, even goofy, and then gets…dark. Really, really dark. Bloody deaths of beloved characters type dark.
“Trigun” is a show that is great at little, bad at some (the animation is rather weak, though I find much criticism of the dub to be unwarranted), but good at almost everything, and by the time it all ends the whole feels much greater than the sum of its parts. One thing the show is particularly good at is making you empathize with everyone, even the bit characters – nobody is acting like a jerk just to act like a jerk. If you have a giant wall up guarded by gunmen to keep out outsiders, you probably have a good reason for it and don’t just hate orphans. And if you want to kill Vash the Stampede, well, join the club.
“Trigun” is also uncompromisingly brutal when it comes to exploring its themes. Vash has taken the philosophy of “Thou shalt not kill” to the extreme, refusing to do so even in self-defense or defense of others, at least at the point of the series’ start. And we love Vash for it!
But it’s not so black and white. How many lives would Vash have saved if he’d just killed Knives? Hundreds? Thousands? And what if it really does come to protecting innocents, in that moment? Should you STILL not kill? Why not? And what does it mean for you if you do?
“Trigun” asks these questions without flinching, putting the matter before you as starkly as possible. And we never really get straight answers.
“Trigun’s” characters are rather unmemorable as a whole, with a few notable exceptions. Legato is one of the most chillingly horrifying villains I’ve ever seen, Vash himself gets a lot of rich character development, and, of course, preacher man Nicholas D. Wolfwood, the man with the most badass Cross on the planet, is the most awesome character in the whole damn show.
Let’s talk a little more about Wolfwood, who is a fascinating character. It is interesting that Vash, “The humanoid typhoon” who doesn’t really talk about God or religion all that much, is the absolute pacifist of the group, while Wolfwood, the Priest, provides the counterargument. Wolfwood believes in a rougher world than Vash and in some ways comes from a rougher world than Vash, so he finds Vash’s no-kill policy naive, frustrating, and insulting, implying that men like him who kill to protect themselves or others are just as bad as cold-blooded murderers. It’s a legitimate grief, and the show portrays it that way. Like the best fiction neither side is shown as being exactly “right” or “wrong”. Instead, the idea is explored and examined in an intelligent and even-handed way.
There’s so much more to say about Wolfwood, who is truly a fantastic and fantastically written character, but to go deeply into what makes him so great would be to get into some really annoying spoilers, so instead I’ll leave this fantastic article out there for all of you to read when you finish the series.
The final episode – at least the second half, when the useless clip section of the episode is over – features one of the most outstanding gunfights I’ve ever seen on screen, almost completely dialogue free and brilliantly filmed. And the ending?
When I first saw it I’ll just say I was REALLY, REALLY ANGRY, though my brother pointed out some small details about the scene that helped me look at it in a new light. Still, it’s fair to say that it makes you think and stays with you a long time after it’s over.
Worth noting: “Trigun” features one of the most beautifully shot and filmed death scenes I have ever seen, and one of the saddest. I won’t say who it is who dies, but the scene is so well-done I feel that it is worth calling out specifically as being perhaps the best scene of the entire show. I don’t think I’ll need to link it – you’ll all know what I mean.
“Trigun” isn’t a masterpiece on the level of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, “Cowboy Bebop”, or the first half of “Death Note”. It never reaches the insanely high heights of any of those shows. Yet it’s never truly bad, even during its slow start, and it evolves into something that feels unique despite the fact that the sci-fi western is essentially its own sub-genre, with shows as brilliant as “Cowboy Bebop”, “Firefly”, and “Outlaw Star” (so I’ve been told, anyway) all fitting into that niche. Its uncompromising and unflinching nature gives it a fresh perspective on a lot of well-worn themes, and its take on Christianity feels both sympathetic yet somehow alien – like it’s being investigated by an outsider and all of its potential weaknesses are being shaken out and examined. When everything in the show’s DNA all clicks together the result is excellent comedy and compelling, and sometimes devastating, drama. While I don’t think it’s up with the top tier of shows, if somebody were to tell me it was their favorite I could definitely understand that.
Is it superversive?: Yes, fascinatingly so
Overall score: 8 of 10. Well worth your time.
(A note – after googling around while writing this article I’ve found that there is a TON of excellent “Trigun” analysis out there to read – it really is a much deeper series than you might give it credit for at first glance. Many of these essays are fascinating, and it might be worth your time just to google something like “Trigun Christianity” and look at some of them if you’re that type of guy!)