Although I have (shamefully) never read the manga, I’ve been a fan of the original Trigun TV show for a very long time. When it aired on Toonami back in 2003, I probably hadn’t seen more than five or six anime, but it made a strong impression on me.
Vash the Stampede has always stood out as a character. He cries easily, panics often, and will lick a villain’s boots to avoid conflict. But at the same time, he’s incredibly competent and will go to great lengths to protect everyone he can, innocent and devious alike.
I’ve always thought of Vash as a kind of role model–which meant I was excited to attend the Anime NYC panel on Studio Orange’s upcoming reboot, Trigun Stampede and very, very pleasantly surprised when they told us that we’d be seeing the world premiere of the first episode–and not only because I’d get the opportunity to give my early impressions.
I must admit, I’ve had my reservations about the upcoming show ever since it was announced. I didn’t know how I felt about a CGI Trigun–although Land of the Lustrous proved to me that Orange is well equipped to make a CGI show that looks beautiful, not cheap. And for the most part, my concerns about the visuals were put to rest by this premiere.
The characters in Stampede are expressive and charming, and the action is exciting. A lot of love has been put into Vash’s reactions in particular–which reassures me that Orange understands that they’re a cornerstone of the show. For the majority of the episode, I was able to forget that I was looking at CGI and become immersed in the story.
That isn’t to say that it was perfect, however. A handful of scenes (primarily ones showing Vash and Knives as children) felt stiff, and their hair and clothes felt anchored to their bodies in an unnatural way. But minor caveats aside, I was able to believe that I could enjoy this show without being taken out of the experience by cheap, stiff animation.
The characters were also very enjoyable. In particular, Vash’s characterization was spot-on. They perfectly hit that charming mix of crybaby and competent. If I had to come up with a complaint, it would be that in this first episode, he’s a bit less of a goof than I would expect.
Meryl is a bit different than her counterpart in the original show, and her and the new character Roberto are reporters in search of a scoop rather than insurance agents. Instead of being the senior employee, Meryl is a rookie reporter fresh out of school, and her way of doing things strictly by the book is contrasted with Robert’s laid-back nature.
Milly, Meryl’s junior coworker from the original anime, is nowhere to be found and, to old fans, her absence will be acutely felt. I don’t yet know if they’ve decided to replace her entirely with Robert, or if she’ll be introduced later on.
While I did enjoy myself during the screening, for the majority of the episode, I got the sensation that things were moving a bit too quickly.
We open with Vash and Knives’ backstory, but are only shown the most climactic moment without any build up. At the same time, it doesn’t feel like a teaser for a story they intend to reveal later, more like a moment that says “if you’ve seen/read Trigun before, you know what happened.” But maybe a new fan would feel differently.
Characters also seem to make decisions very quickly, and scenes are often over just about as quickly as they’re set. Not much time is spent on building an atmosphere.
On the other hand, there’s one scene where we’re meant to understand that there’s a looming, imminent danger about to cause death and destruction while Vash struggles to do what he needs to do to keep everyone safe. But the scene drags on for some time, and while the camera does occasionally cut back to the danger, it never feels like it’s getting closer. In the end, I didn’t get the sensation that Vash saved everyone in the nick of time, but rather that the scene simply took as long as it needed to for Vash to get things in order.
The original Trigun TV show is well-remembered for its soundtrack. Tsuneo Imahori’s quirky and memorable guitar pieces are instantly recognizable and wonderfully unique. Unfortunately, while I wouldn’t say it detracted from the experience in a major way, I didn’t feel the same way about the music I heard in the new show. It was pleasant enough, but (at least at first listen) felt fairly standard.
It’s not something that will make or break the show for me, and there’s plenty of show left for me to change my mind but the music of the original was so iconic, I thought I should mention it.
Despite some complaints, my initial reactions to Trigun Stampede are quite positive. This premiere convinced me that whether or not it ends up as iconic as the original, it has enough promise to convince me that it’s worthy of bearing the Trigun name.
The animation is quite good, and the spirit is there. If the rest of the show spends a little more time on building an atmosphere and maintains this level of animation for the rest of the show, it will be more than worth watching. For my part, I know I’ll be chomping at the bit to see more when the show launches in January 2023.
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