Love and Peace! Trigun: Badlands Rumble

Five years since its announcement, and twelve years after finishing its Japanese television run, Trigun fires its way into theaters with the release of the film Badlands Rumble. Vash the Stampede once again stumbles and fumbles his way into a lost, extended, standalone episode from the first half of the television series. This equates to an enjoyable, if predictable, adventure that allows the $$60 billion man to shine one last time for his fans.

The movie introduces us to Gasback (whose name is almost as stupid as Full Frontal, but that’s another post for another day), a notorious bank robber about to make off with another heist. Before he can get away, Gasback’s three goons attempt a coup detat but ultimately fail due to the interference of a familiar man in red. Affably diffusing the situation, this man in red is finally recognized as Vash the Stampede, who is promptly blamed for Gasback’s heist and elusion from both the law and certain death.

Twenty years later, bounty hunters gather up in Macca City, Gasback’s next rumored target. Mr. Kepler, the man responsible for helping rebuild the city’s plant, is especially worried about the statue made in his visage, so he insures it for a cool $$5 billion. This prompts the Bernardelli Insurance Society to send its two agents, Milly Thompson and Meryl Strife, to investigate.

As more bounty hunters flock to Macca City, we are introduced to a female bounty hunter named Amelia, who seems especially interested in Gasback beyond the $$300 million reward. She finds herself in a situation during the trek to Macca City before Vash intervenes. He then starts to follow Amelia around, leading to some humorous and amusing segments.

While this is going on, Gasback is seen traveling around with a new gang. On the way there, he helps out a thirsty man with a ridiculously big cross. This self-proclaimed priest gets hired as Gasback’s bodyguard, but makes a point that he will not be involved with any robberies that go down.

You can see where this is heading, and it more or less plays out as expected: lots of gunfights sprinkled with comedic and introspective moments. Both director Satoshi Nishimura (who also directed the TV series) and writer Yauko Kobayashi keep the film going at a good, brisk pace. There’s never a dull or lingering moment; it’s a movie that hits the right buttons at the right time. As for the music, Tsuneo Imahori returns to compose the film’s soundtrack. Though serviceable, it’s forgettable other than a couple of tracks, which includes a great remix of the show‘s opening theme “H.T.”. After memorable tracks from the show such as “Sound Life,” “Big Bluff,” and “Colorless Sky,” I was disappointed in that regard, but it’s certainly not enough to detract from the film overall.

Madhouse has given great care to its projects in the last few years animation wise, and Badlands Rumble is no different. Vash and company, with a couple of minor design elements tweaked and streamlined, have never looked better. What’s especially nice is the addition of a slight film grain to the video, harkening back to the olden days of the TV series, the western motif and cel animation. That’s even with the inclusion of CG, integrated and used just right so that it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.

Practically all of the cast and crew from the TV series return to their roles, and they haven’t missed a beat. Even though twelve years have gone by since their work on the show, all of the cast members perform as though they recorded just yesterday. The additions of Tsutomu Isobe and Maaya Sakamoto as Gasback and Amelia are welcome, and the two play well off of the seasoned veterans during both serious and humorous moments. As for the new characters themselves, they fit the Trigun universe, though their respective back stories are easily predictable.

The Trigun film is reminiscent of Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: it’s an enjoyable, well-executed fan service film that also does a decent job of entertaining new fans, giving them a decent entry point into the franchise. For the familiar fans hoping for a continuation of the series or a reboot that’s more faithful to the manga, they are bound to be disappointed. But that wouldn‘t have been the right way to approach the film, given the finality of the show’s ending and the lack of coherent sense that plagues the manga (seriously, I cannot tell what‘s happening or who is saying what three quarters of the time). Yes, Badlands Rumble certainly won’t break the status quo or push any boundaries, but it’s a film that serves its audience very well. It doesn’t need to aspire or do more than that.

Now where’s my damn Outlaw Star movie?

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