In the wake of the cancellation of Cowboy Bebop--a move that Cartoon Network lampooned in many of its own commercials, and was motivated by the fact that there was not material to warrant retaining the Bebop series--a similar anime series was picked up to fill the void. That series was Trigun.
Cowboy Bebop is one of the most beloved anime series among anime fans, embodying trendy style, mixed genres, witty dialogue, lots of physical humor, and deft use of sexual tension. Many anime strive to utilize all of these items, but few pull them off like Bebop. (No, honestly, this isn't a eulogy for Bebop...) One series that comes damned close in aproximating that conjunction or traits is Trigun, a relatively recent addition to Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming--a program that aims toward garnering hip adult viewers with such irreverent and trendy animated programs as Futurama, Family Guy, and The Brak Show.
While many of the shows on Adult Swim--certainly the afore-mentioned ones--have at their base a satirical theme, Trigun is the traditional episodic anime. Some casual fans rebuff this sort of animated series, especially when the series is broadcast on television at a late hour, as it is difficult to follow along a story-line.
The anime purist in me says "Screw them!" Still, Trigun does allow such viewers enjoyment, as almost all episodes are successful as stand-alone features. For those who have a high degree of loyalty to the series, the storyline is moved along adroitly by the procession of the episodes (far more than Bebop tends to rely on that).
The characters and setting seem (at first glance) fairly straight-forward. The setting is a steam-punk post-apocalyptic western world, Planet Gunsmoke. We have Vash the Stampede (hey, I don't make these names up), our hero, who at first seems to be a complete lout with a passion for donuts, posing as a legendary outlaw. We have Meryl Stryfe, who is a no-nonsense insurance agent (and cute little pixie of a gal), trying to investigate the insurance liability that is Vash. She disbelieves that this dork can be the vicious gunman that she has heard so much about. Her traveling insurance colleague, Millie Thompson, is a profoundly naive tall brunette bombshell with small town charm, complete with freckles. This space cadet of a girl totes a huge "stun gun." Later in the season, we meet Wolfwood, a priest who has an unusual demeanor, as he is an incurable flirt, and is not shy around guns.
As the series unfolds, we learn more about Vash's character, finding that he is a kind "lover of peace," who loves being around children, and ultimately that he is a tragic figure who has had so much taken from him, and is haunted by the memory of such loss. This man seems cursed by fate, as heartache and destruction follow him wherever he goes. The journey Vash embarks on is one of an existential character. Will Vash remain true to his dogmatic upbringing which preaches that all life is sacrosanct, or will Vash discover that he is the sole author of his actions, and he must make his own choices.
For Meryl, we see a hardened "ice queen" character ultimately melt, as she learns that her preconceptions about Vash are quite wrong...and she ultimately realizes that she loves him.
Many of the other characters are somewhat static--the tertiary characters tend to grow in their stand-alone episodes, but, as they don't show up in subsequent episodes, there isn't much room for growth outside of that.
The villians are another point of interest, as they are flamboyant and vibrant--often stealing most of the scenes that they appear in. An exception to this is the character who is Vash's arch rival, his twin brother (?), Knives--who seems a little flat.
The interplay between characters is quite refreshing, and the way that they are presented is very good. Vash ultimately confronts his fears and insecurities, and at least this viewer was stunned to find out what sort of thing that Vash was, once all the pieces were put together. He is cast as a Christ figure, who selflessly aims to save mankind without killing another human, touching individual lives throughout the Planet. He must pay a dear physical price for this quest.
I haven't seen the full Cartoon Network presentation, but I would be stunned if lots of language was not cut (no F-bombs, but a number of d@mn's and sh!#'s. Near the end of the series, Trigun is much more "heavy" than most Cartoon Network fare, and is very poignant. I still, for the life of me, don't know why it is titled TRIgun....I have an idea, I think...but the theory is quite a spoiler. :)
For more of a detailed look at this series, check out my reviews of the individual DVD's.
Certainly one of my favorite series!
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Type of Program: Cartoon or Animated
Program Quality: Thought-provoking, original material
Best Suited For: Other