Anime Review:

Trigun: Badlands Rumble

A Review by Christopher Kinsey

Trigun Badlands Header
The year is 1999. Budding anime fans like myself are hit with a one two punch of awesome titles involving a nod to the old west with a sci-fi kick. One of those titles is the venerated Cowboy Bebop.   The other is Trigun. These titles are what made me really stick with anime as both a great choice in entertainment but as a hobby. They were two series with a mindset of maturity along with a great deal of humor and heart that is a rare find today indeed. Through the waxy mirror of time we look back on the anime we know and loved and it’s tough to look at now of days. Add to that some remakes just don’t capture the feel of the original series we knew and loved. In some cases this is a good thing, remodeled for a new audience and what have you. Tastes change. But sometimes you just want the familiar, what was good then can still be good now.

Trigun: Badlands Rumble is the sort of film that can take you back because the backbone of the setting and story is timeless. Little is out of place eleven years later (This movie was released in 2010, a tough time to motivate me to watch anime) from character design to tone, it’s like the series never left. It looks fantastic, keeping much of the art and character design established both in the long running manga and the self-enclosed series. The story isn’t a sequel to anything, nor an origin, or anything of that nature. It’s a tale of known characters that need no explanation. This was a movie certainly made for fans of the original. And that can work against it for newcomers, being as not much is explained of the backstory of our characters. However the tale itself stands on its own, and this film will make the newcomer want to know more, and they have a lot of good material to choose from in that regard.

Our main characters return just as we have left them. Vash, Wolfwood, Millie and Meryl all have their parts to play in this drama and they don’t feel forced into the story just because they would have been demanded by the fans. That happens a lot in these remakes and extra movies down the line. (If I see Rezzo the Red Priest in another Slayers series I may break down and cry.) The beauty of Trigun is its wondering atmosphere lends itself to creating great characters for each story on its own. Case in point the main antagonist Gasbeck Gallon Getaway (I love the names of the bad guys in this series) and our questing heroine Amelia Ann McFly are never shouldered into the background to make the main characters shine brighter. This is their story, and the Trigun players are the vehicle in which the audience plays this story out.

The trick to a great action oriented show is to make sure the action has both purpose and heart. Trigun: Badlands Rumble delivers that in spades with every action kicking off a new series of events necessary to the story. And it doesn’t hurt that there is a fan pleasing showdown between Wolfwood and Vash in there. It doesn’t linger, it’s not the focus of the film, but it’s another piece of the entire puzzle. Other productions would have capitalized on that one moment and make it take over the movie, banking on nothing more than a fanfiction fever dream would put more ticket sales everywhere. But they didn’t and that’s a rather respectful action. From over the top chase sequences, barroom brawls and shootouts; you will not be at a loss for action.

Casting decisions were a bit of a puzzle to me. In Japan they dragged out the voice actors who did the lead characters no problem. In the US Funimation turned up Johnny Young Bosh to reprise Vash, but lost everyone else. To be fair the ladies who voiced Meryl and Millie did their best to imitate our favorite insurance agents. But Wolfwood was missing something. I’m not sure what Jeff Nimoy was up to then, but he could have plopped into a recording booth for a little bit, right? Ultimately this doesn’t affect the film one bit.   Wolfwood still shines as an aloof man searching for answers in his own way, and Brad Hawkens does a fine job capturing that.

The movie was really great and a treat. However I was a little less impressed with the extras DVD included with the title. Most of these things are stuffed to the gills with information and behind the scenes footage from both countries of production, Japan and the USA. However, the entirety of this disk is filled with everything from the Japanese side of production. Cast and staff interviews are always good, but a 30 second story where Takahiro Yoshimatsu (Animation director of both Trigun and Trigun: Badlands Rumble) talks about signing a woman’s breast at Anime Expo 2009 isn’t that great. There are a few talking events that kind of run a little like panels at a comic convention, only in a theater instead of behind some tables. There are some Japanese TV spots and the web teaser but that stuff is expected. I’d have liked to hear some of the US staff talk about how they approached having some new Trigun product to produce.

But it’s worth the price to see the movie alone. Sometimes nostalgia can be a bitter pill, but in the case of Trigun: Badlands Rumble it’s a treat to be savored like you’re back in those heady days when you thought it was the best thing ever.


The Wrap-up

Pros

  • A solid story featuring the elements that made the original series great.
  • Action that doesn’t drag the movie down into mindless explosions, and plot that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the action.
  • Not a remake, but an improvement on an already great artistic and animation style that has withstood the test of time.

Cons

  • A rather lackluster extras disk.
  • Some missing cast members of the original USA voice acting crew would have solidified the English dub.
  • Some CGI elements seem to be thrown in in a few places where it wasn’t necessary, like an image of a die cast about in the wind.

Verdict A Must See

Watch it here (Dubbed)

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  • Kerberous

    Funi did try to get Jeff Nimoy, but they had a change of heart when he asked them to pay for his plane and hotel. At least, that’s what I remember reading.