Friday, August 21, 2015

Trigun: Badlands Rumble (2010)

Nearly ten years after the television series Trigun exploded on both Japanese and American shores, we finally get a film featuring everyone’s favorite walking disaster: Vash the Stampede. The good news is that the creative team behind the film is the same that worked on the television series. Word is that director Nishimura Satoshi wanted to have a good story before tackling the film. Is the wait worth it for Trigun fans, and can newbies enjoy the film without the knowledge of the series?

On a small dusty planet in a far-flung solar system, the world is pretty much all a frontier. And the most dangerous man on that world is Vash the Stampede (Johnny Yong Bosch). The whole planet is afraid of him and the destruction that he leaves in his wake. But life must go on even for notorious bank robber Gasback (John Swasey). His goal is to perfect the art of robbing banks and practice makes perfect. He is about to make the biggest and most impressive score yet. But things go really wrong. First off, Gasback’s gang turns on him. But they are prevented by the arrival of Vash (who seems more like a complete doofus rather than a hardened killer and destroyer of towns). Vash’s meddling allows Gasback to be captured, but the gang escapes with the loot.

20 years later Vash is traveling to a new town (and attempting to keep a low profile) when he hears that Gasback has escaped and is looking for revenge on all those involved in that disastrous bank robbery. This results in a huge gathering of bounty hunters to converge on one town to capture Gashback. One of these hunters is the deadly Amelia (Colleen Clnkenbeard) who has a history with the robber. Vash makes it his mission to protect the lovely woman, even if she thinks he’s a complete loser. But things get more complicated as the preacher/hitman Wolfwood (Brad Hawkins) shows up. Then insurance gals Milly (Trina Nishimura) and Meryl (Luci Christian) arrive on the scene with guns ready to blaze. It’s going to come down to a nasty case of revenge, the ultimate heist, and an explosive finale that could only be called a Badlands Rumble,

Good Points:
  • Visual design and style bring us right back to the world of Trigun.
  • Johnny Yong Bosch is back as Vash, and it is like he never left
  • A solid story that gives the character Vash plenty to chew on

Bad Points:
  • New viewers may not catch all the character relationships established in the television series
  • The story is not a continuation of the series, but more like a side story that happened during the same time
  • The mix of humor, action, science fiction and western may not work for some viewers

It was a lot of fun to come back to the world of Trigun and hang out with these characters again. Getting Bosch back was great and he nails everything about Vash’s character with his performance. The antagonist is a good one and I like the element that Amelia added to the story (and to challenge Vash’s strong beliefs). But all that aside, because of events that have to happen in the end of the television series, I knew none of the mains were in any real danger, and that this story couldn’t really have a major impact on their lives. It’s a bit of a shame, but understandable. Still, this movie is a lot of fun for fans of Trigun (especially folks who put it on their anime Top 10 list), but I think folks new to the series should start with the television series first

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 5
Sound: 5
Acting: 4
Script: 4
Music: 4
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

In Depth Review

Vash tries working his "magic" on Amelia.
I’m going to be honest and say this movie came out of nowhere, at least for me. I’ve been out of the main anime loop for quite a while, and I had no idea that a Trigun film was even in the works. Why would it be? The series was released in 1998, and was one of the first anime series I collected in full on DVD. I have fond memories of the show. It was one of the first series is reviewed in it’s entirety for the old Anime on DVD website. It was a series that took me by surprise with its unique tone and unique protagonist. I loved the bizarre combination of heavy metal and Morricone style music score by Imahori Tsuneo. And I was one of the few that rated it higher than Cowboy Bebop.

With all that said, it is easy to say that Trigun: Badlands Rumble was made for a fan like me. It brought me back to the familiar dusty world, with some of my favorite characters and gave them a fun adventure to play around with. There was even a touch of pathos as Vash has to come to grips with one of his decisions. It isn’t a game changer, but it wasn’t supposed to be. It is more like the encore you were hoping for.

Vash and Wolfwood are back in action!
When it comes to animation, Studio Madhouse is back, and now they’ve got a film-sized budget. So all the visual creativity of Trigun’s production design returns. Familiar elements, like the giant light bulb shaped generators are on hand. But you get all new steam punk vehicles, lots of that unique character design, and some well-executed action scenes. Some of the details are a bit richer than the series, and some of the action just looks more fluid. It certainly is a leg up on the older series, but you expect that.

Keeping up with the visuals is the sound design and execution. Trigun balances sci-fi and the old west, so you get this mix of creative sound design, with familiar sound effects. They creators maintain that, and with a full-fledged film style mix, this movie just sounds great.

On top of that is the return of Imahori Tsuneo with his distinctive music. Much like Cowboy Bebop or Neon Genesis Evangelion the music for Trigun is unique and immediately recognizable. Imahori combined industrial electronics, rocking electric guitars, banjos, piano into a musical score that helped build this world. Badlands Rumble is more of the same, and it was great to hear the opening credits music kick in (with a rougher edge) when Vash faces Gasback in the finale of the film.

Millie and Meryl keeping the world safe, one
insurance policy at a time.
Trigun had one of the best English dubs for its time. Johnny Yong Bosch embodied so much of Vash’s attitude and personality that I couldn’t imagine a new Trigun adventure without his involvement. For fans of the English dub (and the folks who first saw the series on Toonami) it will be great to hear Bosch back in the saddle. He brings all the energy, the silliness, and the warmth that you need in Vash (as well as a hint of the damaged man deep down). It’s a fine performance, only limited by a script that doesn’t dig too deep.

The rest of the cast is up solid. While all the other roles were recast, care was taking to match vocal styles as much as possible. I loved Lia Sargant as Millie in the original series, but Trina Nishimura does a very good job. Plus, Clinkenbeard and Christian are always dependable in their voice acting. Everyone delivers on all counts.

Amelia's search brings up more than she bargained
For the script, the creators decided to have this story take place somewhere in the middle of the series plotline. I’m guessing it is after the group meets Wolfwood, but before they run into Legato and his crew. So some of the major and important events of the series haven’t happened yet. This allows fans to see all their favorite characters in action before the darker events that change everyone’s look on life. It also means that is plays on established relationships from the series. So anyone new to Trigun may not know why Milly and Meryl are following Vash. Or if Wolfwood is friend or just acting like one.

I see why the creators took this course, because they wanted this to be a fun movie. Trigun starts off as a fun series, but in the second half it gets darker and darker, really examining some thoughtful themes, and putting some characters through the ringer. Part of me wanted to see what the characters (who survived) were up to now. Because of the limitations of the setting of the story, the writers were stuck on writing something that couldn’t affect the end of the series, and couldn’t really impact the characters significantly. Oddly enough Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door had the same issue. But for the more episodic Bebop it was less of an issue.

Badlands? Check! Rumble? Check... oh wait that
was Vash's stomach.
Here I admit, I was a bit disappointed that the movie didn’t dig a little deeper. But in all honesty, that isn’t what this movie is trying to do. It is the fun reunion with old friends. You forget that some of them are going to be killed or emotionally crushed by the end of the series. Instead, you just have a good time.

In the final analysis, that isn’t a bad thing at all. Trigun: Badlands Rumble does play a bit like a turbo-powered episode from the first half of the series. But it also feels like a celebration for the show, giving all your favorite characters a chance to shine. It gives the viewer a chance to see a new part of the world, see some different technology and meet some new characters. But most of all, it was a chance to see and hear Vash in action once again. Trigun’s strength has always been in the character of Vash, and he is the lynchpin for the movie too. It was a blast to have him back, and this makes a fine addition to any Trigun fan’s collection.

If it came down to a duel between bad ass cowgirls,
Amelia would blow Faye Valentine away.


  1. I haven’t seen either the series or the movie, but in general a midquel is a curious beast with the attractions and risks you describe. Any series of books, shows, or films is likely to have a high tide in which all our favorite characters are at their peaks, and fans might see the appeal in surfing in that tide again. On the other hand, they have the same problem that prequels do; you know how it must end which diminishes any suspense. Disney seems especially fond of the idea: Bambi 2, Tarzan 2, Lion King 1 ½, etc. I haven’t seen any of them but reviews are not kind. I’m glad to see Trigun managed to pull it off.

    1. Yeah, my only real disappointment was that I would have liked to see what happened to the characters that survived the series. There was a montage epilogue of sorts in the final episode, but I think there were some really great story opportunities there.

      However, some fan favorite characters end up dying in the series. To appeal to all the fans, this midquel was really the only way to go. Luckily the production values were great, and the story was pretty solid.

  2. I saw part of the first episode of Trigun off YT, and thought it was okay, but I could tell it would be a long series, and I probably would not stick with it. It had sort of a Firefly vibe, which I enjoyed for the most part. I don't exactly agree with the idea of the film, which just seems odd to me. If something happened to the world and it caused some kind of post apocalypse cataclysm, why would everything go back to the old west days with people talking like they were in a B western. Makes no sense to me really. But I guess you just have to buy it as part of the fantasy and like a lot of SF, go with it.

    I might have to try the YT video again at some point. Good review though.

    1. I really don't like saying this, because I was always annoyed when people told me this but... "Trigun" actually takes a few episodes to really get rolling. The first few episodes are really episodic and spend their time showing the world and how goofy Vash is. But once you start getting into episode five or six (its been a while, so I don't remember which one it is exactly) Vash's past comes up, and that is when the real meat of the story kicks in. From that point on, the series kicks into high gear and really gets good.

      That said, if the world doesn't quick click with you, then yeah this one might not work for you. I've also run into folks who really dislike how wacky Vash is in the first few episodes. They tone that down quite a bit as the series progresses. And once you understand why he acts that way, those episodes are actually more interesting to watch.

      But I digress. I'm glad you gave it a shot. :)