For many fans, Trigun was a very memorable series due to its lovable protagonist, Vash the Stampede, and its futuristic space western setting. Unlike another popular space western series, Cowboy Bebop, Trigun definitely had seemingly entrenched itself in the actual feel of an old-time spaghetti western rather than focus on the future. As Vash traveled in search of his long-forgotten past on the planet Gunsmoke, while being joined with cast regulars Meryl Stryfe, Milly Thompson and fan-favorite Nicholas D. Wolfwood, he was also being pursued by bounty hunters for the “60,000,000,000$$” price on his head as well as a more nefarious group. During his travels, Vash usually came off as a clumsy, foolish young man to many people but more often than not, he would display his exceptional skill as a gunman - particularly as he often employed non-lethal means of disarming his adversaries.
Trigun’s initial manga run began in 1996 and ended in 1997 before its sequel, Trigun Maxium, started up in 1998. At the same time the Trigun Maximum was being published, the anime series made its debut and ran for a total of twenty-six episodes. Whereas Trigun Maximum took ten years to conclude its story, the anime was able to start and end within one year. Due to the finite ending for the anime, creator Yasuhiro Nightow stated at his 2009 Anime Expo panel that there would be no possibility for a sequel, but that a reboot was possible.
Enter Trigun: Badlands Rumble, a full-length feature animated film that reunites fans with their favorite spiky-haired hero in a red trenchcoat. Set firmly within the anime timeline after Wolfwood is introduced, Badlands Rumble tells the tale of a criminal named Gasback and how Vash managed to cross his path.
Within the opening of the movie, Gasback and his three flunkies are in the middle of robbing a high-security bank. Once it seems as if the group would escape, the leader of Gasback’s gang, Caine, proceeded to double-cross his boss while his cohorts aided Caine’s efforts. After a brief scuffle, Caine lines up his kill-shot before his own gun is shot out of his hand, causing both Caine and Gasback to find the shooter. Naturally, the shooter is revealed to be Vash, who is lamenting the loss of his last doughnut in order to distract both Caine and Gasback from killing one another as well as the other henchmen. As the local police arrive and surround the bank, Gasback asks Vash why he would bother to save bank robbers along with the bank employees to which Vash answers (in his own unusual way) that it would be best if everyone lived. The police themselves try to capture the thieves, but are unable to as Gasback unloads several explosives and manages to escape while leaving the bank itself in rubble and damaging the city’s power plant (which looks like a giant light bulb).
Jumping ahead twenty years, Gasback’s former crew has been living in luxury from all of the money that they had stolen from their previous robberies. One in particular, Caine Kepler, managed to use his own portion of his monies to repair the power plant that had been damaged from Gasback’s last robbery. In doing so, he became the mayor of the town and decided to construct a gaudy statue of himself in the center of Macca City. By insuring it for five billion double-dollars, insurance agents Stryfe and Thompson are sent to protect the town. In the meantime, Vash (still looking exactly as he did twenty years prior) crosses paths with a young bounty hunter named Amelia aboard a sand cruiser. Despite him acting as his usual inept self, Vash manages to keep tabs on Amelia into town as she and other bounty hunters try to protect Macca City from a potential attack from Gasback, who has spent his years planning on taking revenge on his former flunkies. Eventually, Vash reunites with his friend Nicholas Wolfwood, who had inadvertently ended up as a bodyguard for Gasback himself and eventually the truth concerning Gasback and Amelia is revealed.
Clocking in at roughly two hours, the pacing of Badlands Rumble is very tedious at best and boring at its worst. For newcomers, the introductions of various Trigun regulars can be frustrating, especially since the movie operates on the assumption that viewers have a passing knowledge of them. The constant exposition of Amelia’s motives throughout the film, barely even serves as an information dump due to the same self-explanatory snippets didn’t really do anything to make me care about the character. Vash’s usual antics seemed to be played up even more, making him seem even more moronic than usual. Meryl and Milly simply seemed forgotten at times, despite having major roles in the series, while Wolfwood stole the scenes he was in as usual. Even the main villain, Gasback, was mostly all talk and no substance compared to other Trigun villains.
Despite overall problems with the plot itself, Badlands Rumble is visually spectacular with pops of bright colors set against the typical dull colors of a traditional western. Dolby 5.1 TrueHD audio is used for both the Japanese and English audio. Regarding the voice casts, all of the original Japanese actors have returned to reprise their roles while the English cast has mostly been replaced save for the only hold-over from the original series - Johnny Yong Bosch, who was the voice of Vash. Extras include interviews with the Japanese staff, including Yasuhiro Nightow, footage from Anime Expo 2009, trailers, promotional materials and a few FUNImation trailers. The Blu-Ray version of the movie contains both the movie and extras on one disc while the DVD release is split across two DVDs.
Trigun: Badlands Rumble is definitely a movie for the fans but can actually be enjoyed by casual fans, assuming that they can overlook many flaws. The long stretches of nothing in between the brief stretches of action is hard to overlook despite the easy to understand plot, fantastic visuals and great sound. For Trigun fans, Badlands Rumble is easy to recommend while for the casual fan, the movie is a mediocre at best.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher
Images copyrighted:Studio Madhouse , FUNimation Entertainment