First of all, before I start reviewing this anime, keep in mind that I haven't seen this anime since 2003, so I can't remember every name of every character or some episodes, but I remember enough to have a well-rounded opinion of it.
I saw the English-dubbed version of Trigun on Adult Swim seven years ago, and I hated it. I still hate it now, but my reasoning for it has changed after sitting down and thinking about the anime much deeper than before in recent years. Concerning the “classic 90's anime,” Trigun easily fits within the top 3 in the “most overrated department,” along with Neon Genesis Evangelion and Tenchi Muyo.
The story for Trigun is that a mysterious gunman named Vash the Stampede roams a largely desolate planet called Gunsmoke and causes destruction everywhere he goes, even though he doesn't intend to do so. Vash has a gigantic bounty on his head and lots of bounty hunters, including a psychotic genocidal freak named Knives and his minions named the “Gun-ho Guns” are out to get him.
TONAL AND STYLISTIC INCONSISTENCY
I'll be frank and say the tonal and stylistic inconsistencies are essentially the “death sentence” for Trigun, because it taints just about every aspect of this anime and makes it so unenjoyable (these faults are also the primary reasons why I hate Neon Genesis Evangelion, but that's another review). It's like the writers of Trigun couldn't decide between making a cartoonish and light-hearted shoot em' up anime or being a serious action anime with plenty of drama and elaboration of clashing philosophies, so they settled upon the worst option and chose both. I HATE it when people do this because I watch serious anime to GET AWAY from the comedic stuff. Mixing serious and comedic tones in anime is like mixing acids with bases, the results are almost always disastrous.
The plotting in this anime is also victim of the tonal inconsistencies because the anime starts off on the light-hearted, cartoonish side but steadily progresses into something largely serious. This doesn't sit well with me because I want the tone of a series or movie to be largely consistent and if there is variation, the variation has to be moderate.
Contrary to the gobs of gushing reviews, most of the characters aren't works of art. People everywhere have lauded how “complex” Vash the Stampede's character is. Yes, in a technical sense, his character is complex, but you have to remember that every quality has its good and bad sides. Vash's character is very inconsistent, because he'll act like a loud circus clown then out of nowhere, he'll turn into a whiny pacifist who eats doughnuts and constantly bleats “No one has the right to kill another,” and in some rare instances, he'll turn into a tough-as-nails gunman who doesn't kill the bad guy at the last minute because he just remembered it was “wrong.” Vash's character is comparable to a dish of cottage cheese, powdered milk, boiled tofu, chicken salad, sweet potatoes, cheap Mexican beer, and chopped liver; they're both complex, but they're certainly not good. Now, some “contrasting” personalities can add depth to a character's main personality, but those other personalities should be there only to complement the main one and be moderate in tone, NOT to share equal space or overpower the main one because it makes the character look very awkward in an unpleasant way. An example of Vash's inconsistent personality is in one episode where Vash is on a space station and one of the Gun-ho Guns is aboard as well, gunning down helpless people. However, there's plenty of scenes with Vash “navigating” through the space station by using his arm-mounted machine gun to shoot giant holes through the space station floors and while he falls, he screams and makes a big dumb face. Now mixing that loud and dull visual comedy with helpless people being executed like that doesn't sit well with me because it makes the comedic and somber tones feel cheap and undermined. Another is when a senile midget controlling a giant guy with projectile fists is destroying everything, Vash puts on his “serious” tone and stops the old guy and his living weapon, but after that's done, he starts acting like a clown and starts yelling “The world is made of love and peace” with a bunch of kids. Hand me a barf bag. In previous years, I loathed Vash's pacifist philosophy just because he refused to kill people, but that's largely changed now. The protagonist doesn't have to kill every bad guy in order to gain my personal approval now, but the fact that Vash is constantly harping about his beliefs pushes me to the other side and makes me want to jump into the Trigun universe and subject all the bad guys to the same treatment Isaac Clarke dishes out to the Necromorphs in Dead Space just to horribly spite Vash. After some mental re-evaluation on certain plot points in Trigun, I was screaming to myself in one of Vash's “killing people is wrong” speeches “ALRIGHT, WE GET IT!! SHUT UP!!” It doesn't help that in the English dub, Vash is voiced by Johnny Yong Bosche, who has one of the most unpleasant and whiny voices I've ever heard in any medium. Some characters like Wolfwood and Knives are actually pretty interesting because they largely maintain a consistent tone (and thankfully, they're more on the serious side), but the consistent characters are unfortunately, less in abundance compared to the inconsistent ones. Meryll Stryfe and Millie Thompson weren't terribly impressive characters because they seemed like all too conventional cutouts of the “George and Lenny” dynamic in the John Steinbeck classic Of Mice and Men, other than the occasional moments of Meryll screaming her head off in a comedic style (these moments aren't funny to begin with).
There's some potentially good themes in Trigun about the clashing philosophies between Vash and Knives since the former doesn't believe anyone should be killed, while the latter believes in something closer to eugenics as to where all the “weak and stupid” should be killed so the superior creatures can live in a “better world.” I also like how in one flashback episode where Vash and Knives are kids, Vash sees a spider web with a moth being stuck on it and a spider getting ready to eat it, but Knives kills the spider. Vash protests and says he should have saved the moth instead, but Knives's justification is pretty interesting because it was pretty legitimate, which was “If I save the moth, the spider will starve.” Sadly, these themes are undermined by the well-established tonal inconsistencies.
The animation and artwork is actually pretty good, and it shows another quality product from Madhouse Studio (only speaking about production). The animation is pretty smooth and the artwork is nicely detailed, though I'd say this is one of Madhouse's lower-quality products (along with that overrated saccharine pukefest Chobits and the ever-so-worthless Devil May Cry). However, more inconsistencies lay in here as well. Vash makes really goofy exaggerated faces throughout the series (along with many other characters), such as when Vash defeats the main bad guy in the first episode, he makes a cat face when he says something like “Some toys are fun, but you can get hurt.” Also, for an anime with villains that do pretty terrible things, some of the villains' appearances undermine the grim moments since they look like something ripped out of Power Rangers (yuck).
The soundtrack is okay, I guess, nothing special. I honestly don't remember much of it other than some Western-sounding acoustic guitar riffs and some riffing more on the electric and funky side. I wasn't impressed the last time I heard Trigun's music, but the music wasn't anything offensive, so I guess that's a plus.
While Trigun isn't nearly as bad as say, Elfen Lied or Fullmetal Alchemist, it's still a really wretched title. Trigun is a classic case of “what could have been.” Had this anime maintained a serious tone and focused on the clashing philosophies of Vash and Knives and didn't waste time with gobs of redundant comedic filler, this could have been the “great” anime that legions of people are hailing it as. If you like comedy mixed with serious tones, then you may like this. However, if you're like me and HATE mixing the two, skip Trigun since you won't get anything out if it that you can get from numerous other titles that are much superior. If you want some decent light-hearted/comedic anime, go get yourself some Devil Hunter Yokho and Excel Saga (at least they both maintain consistency). I suggest you go watch Perfect Blue, Battle Angel, Neo-Tokyo, Shigurui: Death Frenzy, Jin-Roh, and Ghost in the Shell for some quality “mature” anime.
What did you think of this review?