REVIEW: 小島 多恵 [Trigun: Badlands Rumble] [2010]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: NR | Runtime: 138 minutes | Release Date: April 24th, 2010 (Japan)
Studio: The Klock Worx Company / ELEVEN Arts
Director(s): Satoshi Nishimura
Writer(s): Yasuko Kobayashi / Satoshi Nishimura & Yasuhiro Nightow (novel) /
Yasuhiro Nightow (manga)

“He must be doing cosplay. He’s dressed like the wanted poster.”

And like most anime/manga I have the pleasure of seeing in film form, I’m still scratching my head over 小島 多恵 [Trigun: Badlands Rumble]. A new iteration on characters created in the mid-90s and brought to television in 1998, it’s over a decade later and studios Eleven Arts and FUNimation say everything has been reworked so audiences can come into the tale without prior knowledge of Tasuhiro Nightow’s world. While I agree the film is a standalone, I can’t help but think it would have made more sense had I a cursory knowledge of the work. To be dropped into a post-apocalyptic steampunk universe with a space western aesthetic completely clueless, a wanted poster for Vash The Stampede (Masaya Onosaka) hanging on the wall attached to a sixty billion double dollar reward while tied-up bank employees count their lucky stars it’s not he, but only Gasback (Tsutomu Isobe) robbing them, the question of whether a good guy exists is unavoidable. To then watch Vash appear, saving hostages and criminals alike, I was nothing short of thoroughly confused with character motivation.

That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the action-packed, humorous tale of vengeance and the greatest theft ever attempted. I feel I could get into the “Trigun” mythology and delve deeper into the characters’ histories to understand where everyone had been before this latest romp in the desert. Because this world is so vast, however, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed, realizing this film is but one story of many concerning Vash and his comrades. As a result, you feel a sort of emptiness surrounding events depicted and a yearning to become educated on the big picture. It doesn’t take long to realize Vash “The Humanoid Typhoon” is quite unlike his reputation, the pacifist goofball a disarming gentleman who’s demeanor makes it impossible for people to believe he is who he is, building a façade to mask the inner strength and what can only be described as supernatural powers mixed with dumb luck. But what about the others? What about Bernardelli Insurance Society adjustors Meryl Stryfe (Hiromi Tsuru) and Milly Thompson (Satsuki Yukino) or the mysterious clergyman Wolfwood (Shô Haymi) and his ‘cross punisher’ gun? Even at the conclusion, their relationships with Vash remain a mystery.

But perhaps I wanted to take too much away from this story; maybe I should have taken it at face value and treated these characters as supporting players in a microcosm rather than the important figures with an obvious history they truly are in the gigantic whole. No, there was no way I could do the work such a disservice. I simply had to go in with an open mind and accept there would be unanswered questions. If anything, the fact the central story bringing Vash, Gasback, and Amelia (Maaya Skamoto) together works despite such gaps in comprehension should be a testament to its success, begging new viewers to take the time to read the manga or watch the show and learn more. The story of an infamous master thief like Gasback, a man who takes so much pride in his job that his team turns against him to partake in easier heists, is intriguing on its own. Adding a supposed criminal in Vash—an enigma who appears more klutz than cunning—to save him and his defecting robbers only makes it more so. Fast-forward twenty years, when Gasback can repay his former second-in-command Caine, now in possession of his own fortune, for betraying him, and the fun begins.

It is in Macca City where the stage is set for Gasback’s return. Caine shakes with fear in his ivory tower, the five billion double dollar gold statue of himself a trophy worth taking; Meryl and Milly arrive to make sure they don’t have to pay out the insurance if it’s stolen; and both Vash and the brash Amelia enter as two of the many bounty hunters invited to protect the investment. But Vash hasn’t come for the three hundred million double dollar reward on Gasback’s head; his motives are more peacekeeper for what he anticipates may happen. He rolled the dice two decades ago, saving a man who wreaked havoc in the time that passed, so it was his duty to arrive at the future showdown involving those affected by that night. Ageless and bumbling, no one believes him to be the feared ‘Typhoon’, (much to Meryl’s relief, herself hoping to cause as little scares and damage to property her company insures), least of all Amelia, the girl caught in his gaze. She does her best to stand alone, but her rage blinds and the discovery of her desire to kill Gasback is revealed. Vash’s decision to let him live a direct factor in her mother’s death.

So, Vash, Amelia, and the hundred more badasses awaiting the chance to protect Caine’s statue, arrest the elusive criminal come to take it, and leave much richer populate a bar resembling the Mos Eisley Cantina—powder-keg ready to explode. In it’s simplest form, Gekijouban Trigun: Badlands Rumble is a western where the good guys look to take out the bad, struggling with their own demons and clouded judgment risking to take unnecessary collateral damage with them. In a broader sense, there are many secrets hiding between the lines, these characters roaming through a beautifully rendered landscape full of smoke and steam each having ulterior motives to achieve as Vash goofs around, Wolfwood somehow finds himself on both sides of the fight, and Amelia proves to have way too much invested in the search for it to be about reward money. Don’t be too frustrated when the credits start to roll and questions remain unanswered, though—some clarity is given with scenes following them—just be glad for some sort of resolution, no matter how tidily wrapped up. There are times when I laughed at how simple answers were, but thankfully, for the most part, the visual style and humor trumped its contrivances.

[1] Vash the Stampede. ©Yasuhiro Nightow/Shonengahosha, FlyingDog. Licensed by Flying Dog, Inc. Under license to FUNimation® Productions, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
[2] Nicholas D. Wolfwood. ©Yasuhiro Nightow/Shonengahosha, FlyingDog. Licensed by Flying Dog, Inc. Under license to FUNimation® Productions, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

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