Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Trigun: Badlands Rumble

While I am a fan of anime, there are some that I still haven’t seen, one of them being Trigun, or at least anything beyond the first episode. To clarify, I’ve been interested in Trigun, but I haven’t found the opportunity to watch or read it further (just look at the blog archive if you don’t believe me). My lack of Trigun knowledge however did not deter me from being interested in Toonami’s final film in their Month of Movies known as Trigun: Badlands Rumble. I had recorded it on my DVR when it first aired, but I only recently got the opportunity to actually watch it and I felt better about it knowing that the events of Badlands Rumble have no bearing on the plot of the series. Since I’ve seen it, I found that I really liked it.

Vash the Stampede, Trigun's main character.

The film opens with a thief named Gasback (John Swasey) performing a high-risk high-reward bank heist in the city of Macca. His men decide, during the heist, to stage an uprising against him, though they are stopped by someone complaining about how his donuts are ruined. The man turns out to be the notorious outlaw Vash the Stampede (Johnny Yong Bosch), aka the “Humanoid Typhoon”. Gasback is confused by Vash’s choice to save him, though Vash replies that it’s better to be alive. Gasback ultimately escapes by cover of explosions, one of which damages the city’s power plant. 20 years later, Gasback seeks revenge on his former henchmen, who have been living luxuriously ever since that earlier robbery attempt, wishing to steal a rotating statue worth $$5 billion (five billion double-dollars) from the center of Macca. In response, the mayor, who is one of the former henchmen, has hired nothing but bounty hunters as protection for the day that Gasback is supposed to strike. Vash is on his way to the city, traveling on the same sand steamer as a number of bounty hunters, and ends up developing a crush on a woman named Amelia (Colleen Clinkenbeard), who rejects every advance he makes. Once Vash reaches the city, he learns more about what’s going on while running into some old friends. However, he is unaware of just what’s in store for him as the moment of Gasback’s attack on Macca draws near.

Gasback after the time skip.

The plot of Trigun: Badlands Rumble was actually pretty easy to follow despite my lack of knowledge of the Trigun universe. In a similar vein to Bleach: Memories of Nobody, it uses its length of about 90 minutes to its advantage by setting up and fleshing out the characters and relationships in such a way that even a newcomer would be able to understand what’s going on. I was able to figure out the personalities of characters like Vash the Stampede and Nicholas D. Wolfwood (Brad Hawkins) so that their actions were understandable and in-character to me, plus Vash’s history with the insurance agents sent to Macca City, Milly Thompson (Trina Nishimura) and Meryl Stryfe (Luci Christian), is alluded to in a way that their actions and reactions are understandable as well. Thanks to care put into the writing, I was able to get into the groove very quickly and react appropriately when certain things happened. For example, I found Vash’s fun personality a little infectious and laughed when he did things such as laughing with bar patrons who didn’t believe he was the real deal. I also found Amelia’s backstory to be very sad and a bit of a tear-jerker and the plot twist related to her at the end of the movie is explained in such a way that it makes complete sense in hindsight.

New character Amelia in Macca City.

As far as animation goes, Badlands Rumble features some of the best I’ve seen in an anime movie. While this was no doubt helped by having a larger budget than the anime and the film being made about a decade after the series had ended, this does not make it any less impressive at all. There is a great color palette, filled with bright colors and impressive lighting and shadow work. The action is well-framed and fast-paced, as well as totally badass, especially when Wolfwood takes out his weapon (his use of a giant cross-shaped firearm despite being a priest gets explained). The times when Gasback uses the mechanisms in his arm after the 20-year timeskip are also cool because they animated all of the little parts moving in great detail, something that always impresses me in animation. One very specific scene I liked is when Wolfwood, while Amelia is chewing out Vash for something she sees as a mistake, pulls out a cigarette in the background and starts lighting it. The scene is fully animated, complete with fire from the lighter and smoke from the lit cigarette, and I still find it impressive that the animators could keep full action going on multiple planes at once. It may seem odd to praise that specific moment, but I believe that sometimes it’s the little things that sell a scene. There are also some moments that show off incredible hair, cloth and sand physics, which is more possible with traditional animation, but it’s good to know that they still put a lot of time into making sure it looked just right.

Wolfwood (left) with Vash (right).

Also praiseworthy is the incredible voice work. All of the voice actors are very talented and express a great range of emotions, in this way bringing depth to their respective characters. Johnny Yong Bosch, for instance, really brings out Vash’s fun and peace-loving personality, though when the situation calls for it, he can be deadly serious and focused on defeating someone (though naturally in a non-lethal way). Brad Hawkins’ Wolfwood is also very reserved and generally more serious than Vash and is willing to align himself with whoever pays for his services, though he is willing to break alliances when his contract is up and is able to work with others for the greater good. He is very mysterious, but just enough that I can really dig his character. It certainly helps that most of the voice actors already had experience voicing the characters in the dub of the anime.

Good voice acting makes Vash's first meeting with Amelia much funnier.

Trigun: Badlands Rumble is an anime movie worth watching. The plot is set up well and moves along at a good pace, the characters and their interactions are all very fascinating, with top notch animation and voice acting to boot. It’s also a fairly quick watch, clocking in at about 90 minutes, and is very easy to understand for both veteran fans and the uninitiated like myself. If you’re looking for an animated feature with plenty of laughs and great action, then look no further than this one.

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