(Originally written July 18, 2012)
(NOTE: This because I couldn't sleep so I hope it makes sense.)
Trigun is one of my favorite anime series ever. It had a little something for everyone. It had tons of action, cool sci-fi/western setting, comedy, drama, cool guns and gadgets, cool characters, excellent hero/villain relationships, it had it all. It became extremely popular at the very end of the 90’s and early 2000’s and made Vash the Stampede one of the most popular and well known male anime characters. I remember thinking back then that a Trigun movie would be awesome and have it pick up the end of the series. I even planned out but never wrote a fanfic of what it would be because I was that big a nerd. Somewhere in the mid-2000’s, a Trigun movie was announced but the production seemed mostly silent and assumed to be in development hell till 2009 and its eventual release in 2010 with a US release in 2011. The US premiere was at Otakon 2011 and had a short theatrical run through selected theaters across the country.
While I know many Trigun fans, I don’t many who have actually seen the movie so I will try to keep this as spoiler free as possible. Also be prepared because I am going to be comparing this to the Cowboy Bebop movie a lot. My biggest point being that the Bebop movie came out in 2001 (2003 US) when the series was still very popular, the Trigun movie come out over a decade after the height of the series’ popularity. So was this movie worth waiting for? No… Not really. It doesn't really add much to the character of Vash or the other central Trigun characters. It instead focuses and develops characters that are new for the movie. This is basically a feature length, average Trigun episode. It doesn't really add much to the series. Is that because it’s just been so long since the series was released or because it just doesn't hold up? I’m thinking something in the middle.
The movie starts with a bank robbery being led by the gigantic man known as Gasback (refrain from fart jokes please) and his trio of henchmen with everyone in the bank tied up in the lobby as they loot the safe. Vash happens to be in the crowd of hostages and manages to get free causing some confusion with his usual silly acting self. In the midst of all of this, Gasback’s men turn on him because they just want the money to retire somewhere in peace while they know Gasback will just want to keep robbing banks. He apparently enjoys the thrill of robbing a bank more than the actual money they steal. A shoot out happens but no one gets killed thanks to Vash and the henchmen get away leaving Vash and Gasback to deal with the police. He then blows up the building and gets away as does Vash. The movie then skips ahead 20 years to a city that is known owned by one of Gasback’s former henchmen. He has heard tjat Gasback seeking revenge on those who wronged him 20 years ago and has ordered hundreds of bounty hunters to help defend the city. He has also taken out a massive insurance statement on a big statue in his city and our two favorite insurance girls, Milly and Meryl, are there to make sure this big stupid thing doesn't get destroyed. Mean while, on a sand steamer heading towards the city, Vash saves a female bounty hunter named Amelia from being harassed by the bounty hunting low lives that pack the steamer. Vash, of course, keeps flirting with her till they arrive to the city. Amelia is a major character in this movie by the way. Vash runs into Milly and Meryl for an amusing reunion which leads to drinks with Amelia at the local bar and almost all the bounty hunters in town. This is honestly my favorite scene because it’s very funny and has a very nostalgic feel of the original series. Off in the distance, Gasback with the help of Nicholas D. Wolfwood (shock!), having promised to help Gasback make it to the mayor’s office and is planning to attack the city in the morning. Vash carries a drunken Amelia to her room as they have a nice chat under the star light. The next morning, all hell breaks loose as Gasback and his gang attack the city. I’ll leave it there as we really getting into spoilerville here but if you haven't noticed yet, the plot is nothing more than something you would have seen in an average episode of the TV show.
Now to be fair, the new characters that are made for the movie are well done. Gasback is more than one of the typical big meatheaded freaks from the tv series and manga. He is a brilliant at tactics and has a code of honor. Amelia is also very well done and has a complicated past and her own reasons for coming out to this mess. But like I said before, this adds nothing to the already well established Trigun characters and world. If you have never seen Trigun before, you will learn very little about the characters and be rather confused. This movie can’t really stand on its own, unlike the Cowboy Bebop movie which also added to most of its main characters and the world it was set in. Another thing that bugged me is trying to pin point exactly where this movie takes place in relation to the rest of the series. Wolfwood still being alive (Spoiler: He died in the later part of the series) indicates this is somewhere around the middle of the series, in-between episodes much like the Cowboy Bebop movie. Only thing with the Cowboy Bebop movie was if you read between the lines it was kinda easy to figure out when it took place and how it affected Spike in the last episodes. In the Trigun movie, it just seems to contradict events that happened in the series. The action scenes are well done but not nearly as epic as some of the fights with the Gung-Ho-Guns or the final battle with Knives in the series. According to some research, the movie was meant to be a reboot. Well, Madhouse, this really isn’t the way to do a reboot.
The animation on the other hand, is very nice. It keeps the overall dusty look of the original series but uses the high quality animation you’d expect in anime these days. Seems to be only a little CG animation mixed in with the cell animation and it blends in well. CG in anime has come a long way. The character designs are great and keeping with the tradition of the crazy designs from the series. There is a parade of crazy, cyber and steam punk looking bounty hunters throughout the movie. I have nothing to really complain about visually. The music on the other hand does little to stand out. You get a nice remix of the Trigun theme here and there but most of it is nothing special. The voice acting is also very well done for the most part. The only voice actor reprising their role is Johnny Yong Bosch who has become something of a voice acting mega star since voicing Vash in the early 2000’s and he keeps well in his character, sounds like nothing has changed. Milly and Meryl have different voice actors but they do a very good job with the characters as well. The only voice actor I had a problem with was Brad Hawkins who did the voice of Wolfwood. He was totally wrong for voicing this character. He comes off totally serious the whole time and it just doesn't work at all. He refers to Vash as ‘Needle noggin’ a lot, which he did a few times in the series but here he says it way too much and when it's not really called for. He even calls him this during very serious scenes. I mean, wouldn’t it be faster to say Vash than Needle noggin? Anyway, trust me; he doesn't hold a candle Jeff Nimoy from the english dub of the TV series. Of course, if you’re watching it in Japanese none of this matters.
All in all is this a bad movie? No, not at all but it’s nothing special either. This is kinda a common problem I find with films based on tv series both live action and animated. A lot of them just come off as extended versions of a regular episode and add little to the series. The only examples in anime that I can think of that really stand out as being better than the show or adding to the show is the Cowboy Bebop movie, The End of Evangelion, and Gundam Wing: The Endless Waltz. Trigun: Badlands Rumble falls into the category of just being an extended average episode which is sad because after over a decade of waiting for anything new for the series I’d say it was fair for fans to expect more. If you get a chance to see it, see it. If not, you’re really not missing out on anything.