Trigun: Badlands Rumble
Japan (2010) Dir. Satoshi Nishimura
This spin-off film from the popular manga and anime series created by Yasuhiro Nightow arrived some twelve years after the TV series ended in 1998 which is quite a gap. Despite its lofty status among anime fandom, I have never seen Trigun so coming into this film without prior knowledge of the story and characters should be a handicap. But director Satoshi Nishimura must have assumed a new audience would have heard of the show in the interim hence this film’s accessibility to us noobs.
Trigun: Badlands Rumble begins with a bank robbery perpetrated by a hulking brute named Gasback and his trio of slimy and insidious henchmen Cain, Dorino and Michio. After easily taking the money, the henchmen then turn on Gasback declaring their independence from him and all the money. A fight ensues but just as Gasback is about to kill Cain, Vash the Stampede, one of the hostages in the bank, interferes resulting in Gasback’s arrest while the others escape.
Twenty years later and word is out that Gasback is looking for revenge against his former henchmen, who have since lived a life of luxury and prosperity with the stolen money in Macca City, where Cain is now mayor. He fears Gasback will steal the $$5 billion (that’s double dollars) giant statue of himself but the bigger problem is the influx of bounty hunters who have heard Vash will be after Gasback and want to claim the $$300 billion reward offered for Vash’s capture.
Vash the Stampede is an interesting character to say the least. He may possess impeccable shooting skills, can handle himself when it comes to a fight, is resourceful and quick witted and has the nickname The Humanoid Typhoon, yet he acts like complete geek most of the time and certainly doesn’t seem like the sort of guy who would be worthy of the astronomical bounty on his head.
His goofy personality is part charade and part who he is, with the most interesting facet being his near pacifism and intent on spreading a message of peace and love on his journey. Somehow this has raised the ire of many people and his refusal to kill people leads to plenty of structural damage to any location he visits, hence his nickname, and his association with insurance evaluation agents Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, forever guaranteed a job as long as Vash is in town.
Meryl and Milly are not the only characters returning from the TV series along with Gasback, as expert gunman Priest Nicholas D. Wolfwood shows up, this time as bodyguard for Gasback, after he saved him in the desert. Wolfwood’s weapon is a giant cross with immense firepower while his skills are second only to Vash’s.
A new face exclusive to this story is Amelia, a lone female bounty hunter Vash encounters on the ship to Macca City. Young, sexy and dangerous, Amelia is hounded by two thugs whom she takes care of until they draw weapons which is when Vash nobly steps in. Unfortunately for him, Amelia breaks out into a rash whenever a man touches her which spoils much of Vash’s amorous plans while explaining Amelia’s insular behaviour towards men.
Amelia has a reason for heading to Macca City which on the surface appears to be the same as every other bounty hunter in town – except Vash isn’t the target. While she doesn’t let on what her true motive is, Vash is happy to have such alluring company and a feisty back up when Gasback finally arrives in town and all hell breaks loose – which it frequently does.
Presumably this is the Modus Operandi for the TV series too, but this film is a non-stop barrage of gunplay and Wild West style punch-ups that make Dodge City seem like a toddler’s scuffle in the sandpit. Starting as it means to go on, the opening bank robbery is a steampunk interpretation of an old-fashioned hold up with the hostages all tied up in the corner as they blow the safe apart. Even tiny Michio is dressed up in traditional cowboy garb. The joke is however that the bank tellers prefer this disruption to one from Vash – oblivious to the fact he is one of the other hostages!
The Steampunk approach allows for many alien and cyborg-esque outlaws with outrageous and technologically advanced weaponry to inhabit a traditional Wild West town without seeming incongruous. The artwork is very detailed in incorporating aspects of both worlds and blending them to great success. Similarly a lot of thought has gone into the character designs to ensure everyone stands out – even those in the background with no names or dialogue, which is a hard thing to do, so kudos to animators Madhouse for such sterling work.
Many battles – with both fists and guns – occur throughout this brisk 90 minute yarn and while the climactic showdown between Vash, Amelia and Gasback is an emotional spectacle, for this writer, the crown jewel is the hilarious saloon fight which Amelia somehow unwittingly instigates. This free-for-all punch is a wild ride to say the least with every bar fight cliché thrown in for good measure and a cute distraction midway when Vash’s peaceful side intervenes. Just a fun scene all round.
Having not seen the Trigun TV show or read the manga I was unsure what to expect but this is was great fun and quite the treat. It made me want to investigate the previous iteration although I need to be aware that the animation style will be less impressive due to the budget constraints and the era of its production.
The fact Badlands Rumble works pretty well as a standalone story means the franchise may win over some new fans via this film. I for one enjoyed what was on offer here – a fun, raucous and visually pleasing way for anime fans to spend 90 minutes.