Trigun is probably the most popular show that I knew nothing about. I knew about Vash, his looks, his weapons, but beyond that, I knew nothing. Normally, with a show that is twenty years old, some spoilers would have sunk into the zeitgeist and made it back to me (see Cowboy Bebop), but here I was truly surprised with how little I knew going in.
It is also worth noting that I watched Trigun almost as a challenge to myself. On one hand, I had been rooted heavily in the modern, and I wanted to look a little further back into history. I could have done something tired like rewatch ¬Ghost in the Shell, and I will someday, but something I had not seen seemed more critically interesting. On the other, after Island, after venting my displeasure with science fiction shows, there was a fair critique: try watching good ones.
Knowing nothing about Trigun, other than what I’ve said so far, I figured it was a good piece to give me a chance to reconsider my position. I was wrong.
Trigun is a good show, let me get that out from the jump, and it avoids a lot of the foibles of bad science fiction. For one, it is science fiction compared to the audience, not compared to the characters. The world the characters exist in is futuristic, and they understand the rules, even if we don’t. While this maybe, and is at times in Trigun, frustrating for the watcher, everything feels grounded. We just don’t know the ground. An apt analogy may be visiting a foreign country. I may not understand all the customs and quirks, but the locals do, and that is reassuring and comforting.
So, unlike Island or Kiznaiver or Dimension W, Trigun holds together as a sci-fi show narratively. The characters are real and likeable (or hate-able when appropriate).
Without reservation, getting 80% of the way through, I will say that Trigun was vying for a top spot, and then things got a little off. Skirting spoilers (I’ll rattle them off at the end) as best I can, Trigun has a pacing problem. It is good enough to keep you from noticing until the end, but it is definitely there. Things go along in a fairly SoL fashion before ramping up with very few episodes left to plumb the depth of the implications set up. I want to spend more time with end-half Vash. By the time he appears, fully formed, we have already seen first-half Vash go through a lot of the same plot threads two or three times. Vash goes into a town; stuff gets a little sideways; Vash resolves the issue. It takes a while for these to mean anything. These twenty-six episodes feel like they could fit in thirteen.
I can’t blame the show too much, though, because I feel like it is a product of its time.
The art is nice, and at times, breath-taking, but mostly it is, though I have no frame of reference, what I would think of as 90s cheap. Nothing against it; it was the style of the era across the board, but looking at it now, it looks old always, and cheap often.
It is also weird that there is a recap episode. I don’t feel like I see that much anymore in a two-cour show. Maybe I am an idiot, though (I know there are “recap” movies, but they are separate products. I think Monogatari has had some, in its run, though). That is always an option. Again, though, I can’t hold it against the show. This is before Netflix, Crunchyroll, and DVRs. You could set a VCR to record, I suppose, but it stands that recaps make sense to fill in stuff for viewers who missed a few episodes. Now that I mention that, maybe the pacing makes a touch of sense now, too. Repeat the same beats a few times so people can definitely see it and understand the story.
The pacing may also be chalked up to filler to keep pace with a manga. I don’t know. I know DBZ fell prey to that as it went. They had to spend some time doing non-manga stuff to let the manga catch up. That may make the most sense given how out-of-left field some of the later plot points come.
If there was a 2019 redux of Trigun I feel like it would nicely fit into one-cour and tell a tight story about a man grappling with his present and former demons and trying to move past them.
That all being said, though, I believe anything of this vintage deserves to be taken, in part, as a product of its time. So, taken as an anime divorced from time, Trigun is okay. Taken as a relic of an older age, it is very good and worth a watch.
Should my sister watch this anime? For the first time, yes.
Towards the middle, we get a look at Vash’s scarred body, and that tells the audience that, while we see his as invincible, he is constantly taking damage, but Wolfwood’s death still feels cheap after watching the two of them dodging bullets by not moving for twenty episodes.
Knives is seemingly a non-existent final boss. After Legato exits the story, we are expected to care about this grudge (we know Vash does, but more time could be dedicated to Knives over Elgato as the big bad).
Milly and Wolfwood’s romance, in so much as it is one, is so subtly done it is almost masterfully done but too subtle so it seems weird when they consummate before his death and that she is destroyed after it.
A lot of the Gung-Ho Guns fights seem anti-climactic. They just end. In fact, the earlier ones seem more threatening than the later ones.
All of theses are issues of pacing, as mentioned above. Similar to the plot holes in Star Wars before it became Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope, it seems like they stumbled into plot points. Like they were writing it and having to go back and make connections later.