Trigun Stampede Review: Three Guns, Three Dimensions

Directed by Kenji Mutou

Produced by Orange

Streaming on Crunchyroll

I feel like the only guy in the world who hasn’t seen Trigun. That’s the thing about anime; while television, cinema, and literature have their respective canons of classics, there’s no list of what anime are essential. That’s not to say people haven’t tried, I’m just saying that they failed.

It’s further complicated by the diversity of what constitutes classic anime. Essential films and shows tend to be dramas: every list of movies you have to watch throws Citizen Kane, The Godfather, and Taxi Driver in there, but if I tried to compile a list of a hundred anime you have to watch, I’d have a dozen different genres, catering to different audiences. So, while I plan on eventually watching the original Trigun in the same way I plan on eventually seeing the Grand Canyon, I have not yet.

I suppose that being the only guy who has never seen Trigun actually makes my opinion on the subject a bit more warranted than it would have been otherwise. Plenty of remakes are designed to appeal to hardcore fans, but if you can’t win over new fans, you fall short of the original.

And I am pleased to say that Orange’s take on Trigun is fantastic.

Trigun is heavily influenced by its predecessors in both science fiction and westerns. Set on a desolate desert planet, Vash the Stampede is a wanted man with a bounty of sixty billion double dollars for his myriad crimes.

The reporters searching for Vash, looking for an interview with such a dangerous and twisted man that would take the front page, are disappointed to find that he’s a goofy, often clumsy, pacifist. Spike Spiegel, this cowboy is not, and he’s trying to survive with a ludicrous bounty without all the messy business of having to murder the people trying to claim it.

We only see glimpses of Vash’s past in the first episode, a look at the foster mother who gave her life to help Vash and his deranged brother Knives, which, as a side note, I am pissed that my parents did not name me “Knives Millions”. That first episode spends more time establishing Vash’s character, both in how he tries to help a poor, struggling desert town, and how he handles conflict in one of the best action sequences I’ve seen in an anime.

Perhaps the biggest difference between Trigun Stampede and its predecessors is producing studio Orange’s signature 3D CG style. Anime fans being as awful as they are, this has garnered its own amount of criticism, but honestly, Orange’s work has never looked better.

Anime has a long and bloody history with 3D animation. The advent of digital production has made anime much more efficient and saved time and money better spent towards big moments of sakuga, rather than painstakingly animating extras in a crowd or each car on the street. That being said, it’s not perfect.

Many, and I’d even say most anime don’t have a good handle of the technology. Those cars and extras stick out horrendously, and the anime that have a good grasp of CG are among the biggest names in the industry.

Orange, though, has made a name for themselves in the best 3D anime around, especially with their work on Beastars. Their attachment to the project honestly excited me more than the announcement of a new Trigun; I’ve heard nothing about the original anime to suggest that a remake is needed, like in the case of Fullmetal Alchemist or Fruits Basket. Remakes should serve a purpose, to use new technology and ways of telling stories. A pioneer in digital animation remaking a classic anime from the 90’s is certainly a good reason.

And while I personally don’t have the experience necessary to gauge how radically different Stampede is from the original, I’ve put my ear to the ground and feel comfortable saying it is.

I’d like to address the main criticisms, and determine how valid they are. Obviously, there’s a knee jerk reaction among many otaku that any and all CG in anime is bad because Initial D didn’t get it right on the first try. That’s more of a general line of illegitimate criticism, though, so it doesn’t bear discussing.

I’ve also seen online that the characters are actually too expressive, and that holds water, to some extent. The characters in Trigun Stampede are incredibly fluid and gesticulate frequently. Whether they do that too much is a matter of personal taste, but my take is that Orange’s style takes some getting used to. Translating the same techniques used in 2D anime to 3D is jarring, and while that’s not a flaw, it is a quirk that requires an episode or two to get your head around.

2D animation is defined by the limited animation techniques used to make it on a shoestring budget. Trigun Stampede isn’t constrained by that, and motion comes much more easily, so if you’re used to the stiff and stuttering movement that most anime employ, yeah, Stampede could look too fluid. However, many of these sequences emulate natural human movement quite well. I could see criticizing change for its own sake; breaking with convention is not inherently a virtue. However, this has every appearance of a deliberate artistic decision, and it accomplishes what it sets out to do.

And nowhere is that clearer than in the action scenes. Sorry, but if you don’t get hyped watching somebody block a cluster bomb by throwing a rock in the air and shooting it to pieces, then we’re watching anime for completely different reasons. The sequence of Vash darting for the only bullet at his disposal as bombs hurtle towards the town is legitimately gripping and confirms that the decision to give Stampede to Orange was the right one.

Trigun Stampede, without having seen the original anime or read the manga, is probably my most anticipated anime of the season. There’s a few others that might steal the crown from under it, depending how they go, but that’s one of the best first episodes in anime.

I give Trigun Stampede Entertaining Fantastic and the added bonus of being the kick in the pants I need to go back and watch the original.

While I’m doing that, make sure to check out the other reviews of the biggest anime this season like NieR:Automata Ver1.1a, Tomo-chan is a Girl, and The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten. If you want to get notifications whenever a new review goes live, follow the Otaku Exhibition on WordPress. If you like your notifications with ranting about Genshin Impact, you can also try Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku. Until next time, thanks for reading.

FineTomo-chan is a Girl!
PleasingNieR:Automata Ver1.1a
FantasticTrigun Stampede

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