First Look: Trigun Stampede

Manga Adaptation by Orange
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Vash the Stampede, aka the “Humanoid Typhoon”, wanders the planet Noman’s Land righting wrongs and causing problems for the establishment as he searches for his nefarious brother, Millions Knives.

Iro’s verdict: Cautiously Optimistic

I just wrote a big ol’ honkin’ post about adaptations where I complained that certain shows didn’t hew close enough to the original, but Trigun Stampede is such a blatant re-imagining that I’m more interested in seeing what they do with it than worrying about whether it’s true to source in the minutiae. I’m certainly more upset that Milly Thompson isn’t in this show than about, say, Meryl’s change in occupation or the shift in visual style. Studio Orange continues to be an oasis in the desert of all-CG anime with expressive character animation and exciting camera work that would be unreasonably work intensive in 2D. Granted, I haven’t seen Trigun in something like 15 years and I’ve never read the manga, so how much weight do my thoughts carry, really? Suffice to say that this is the only show so far this season where I’m genuinely excited to tune into episode two.

Zigg’s verdict: Love & Peace

Trigun has always had a weird existence, the manga jumping between publications, the anime simultaneously only mildly successful in its home nation, while being a breakout hit and early anime touchstone for many western fans. It’s kind of appropriate then that this new adaptation is another unexpected sidestep, what with its fairly drastic story overhaul and Studio Orange CGI looks. For the most part I think this is a good thing – the new adaptation’s early focus on Vash & Knives’s sci-fi origins might remove some of the mystery, but presents a novel and intriguing hook to begin the story. I think a version of Trigun that’s more focused on the relationship between the two brothers is a smart move too, given how I think Knives is a little overshadowed by the supporting cast in the 1998 show. What’s also encouraging is that the writers clearly remember that Vash is meant to be a giant doofus and resist any opportunity to really cast him as cool or badass. His daffy demeanour and guileless optimism are so core to the Trigun experience and I’m glad to see them preserved here.

I wouldn’t call my reservations entirely banished though. Orange are really the only CGI anime studio worth a damn, and they clearly bring their absolute best here, showing considerable visual muscle in the space scenes especially. Despite that, there’s still a feeling that the computer-generated version of Gunsmoke No Man’s Land is just a little too clean, a little too slick. The original anime is hardly a looker, but its scratchy, grimy late-90s production suits the material down to a t, and some of that is definitely lost here. The other major issue is the absence of Milly Thompson, whose charming naivete and top-notch double act with Meryl brought so much to the narrative. I can’t really fathom why she isn’t present but something is definitely lost without her. Nevertheless, I remain interested in the vast majority of what this new adaptation brings to the table and I’m going to keep watching to see whether they can make something out of it.

Gee’s verdict: Not Enough Gun

Trigun exists in a very special place in my heart. It’s the iconic 90s anime that got big in the West. Yasuhiro Nightow’s magnum opus remains one of the coolest manga I’ve ever read, its sensibilities and aesthetics remain a huge influence on my own creative endeavors. So I can’t help but go into Trigun Stampede with some skepticism. It’s not just the CG or the new designs, but the fundamental ways in which Studio Orange have decided to capture the world of Planet Gunsmoke (or as the manga and this anime have declared, Nomans/No Man’s Land). It’s slick and undeniably well made, as all Studio Orange productions are. But it isn’t Trigun, at least not Trigun as I know it.

Trigun is dusty, it’s gritty, but most importantly, it’s kinetic as hell. Nightow’s intense linework and dynamic posing lend Trigun a truly unique energy, both in its shot composition and character design. Everyone is a bit of a cool weirdo in Trigun. Vash has his dynamic red coat, Wolfwood has his absurd cross gun, and everyone else is some kind of bondage cyborg freakshow. There’s a je ne sais quois to Trigun’s appeal.

And where does that leave Stampede? It’s obviously going for its own thing, and I can respect that. Better to forge its own path than create a pale imitation of the original. The reality is no studio in the world would be able to fully adapt the Trigun manga without tons of resources and time. Trigun simply isn’t a big enough name in anime to justify that. I think this production might be even more disastrous if Studio Orange attempted to remake Trigun Maximum shot for shot. CG animation simply cannot replicate the qualities of pen on paper. So we’re left with a new take. Stampede feels too clean, almost clinical at times in its presentation. Nothing is quite as memorable or personable as the original manga or anime. It’s been packaged in a way to better sell to a modern audience who expects their product to be immaculate with all the rough edges filed off.

I think on some level, what really bothers me about Stampede’s first episode is its decision to fast track much of the story’s sense of mystery and discovery. The original Trigun doles out its worldbuilding at a surprisingly relaxed pace. It takes time to discover the nature of Vash and his brother. The circumstances of the world they exist in. It’s a story that introduces Vash as a clown, and then steadily wipes away the makeup to reveal the deeply broken man underneath. By the end of the original story, it hurts to see Vash smile because of what you know. Stampede has decided to establish much of that as early as possible and I can’t help but wonder if that’ll work out. For better or worse, Stampede definitely feels like a Trigun work written after the original story was complete, and is informed by those original narrative choices.

And that’s cool in its own way. Trigun is a relic of the 90s, and most things from that long ago don’t stick around this long. I’m glad Nightow still gets to play with his toys nearly 30 years later. I respect it immensely as a creator, but as a fan, I can’t help but feel this way. I’m hoping my early trepidations get proven wrong in the long run.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.