Any self respecting fan of anime knows of Trigun. Head out to a convention and chances are likely there will be at least one Vash the Stampede cosplayer among the crowd. For many, Trigun is the series that invited them into anime. Boasting an eclectic cast of characters and a mashup of sci-fi and western genres, Trigun proved immediately distinctive from every other series.
The series was developed by Yasuhiro Nightow and offered something for everyone. Action, romance, humor, and redemption made it one of the most comprehensive series and helped solidify it as a fan favorite and classic. The anime concluded its run in 1998 as did the manga ten years later despite having been conceived first. Since its conclusion, there has been demand for a new project that would see the return of Vash and the crew. Rumors of a film surfaced in 2005 before finally seeing completion in 2010.
Dubbed Badlands Rumble, the film opens several years in the past, introducing the main antagonist Gasback and establishing his conflict with Vash. Unlike the villains that graced the series prior, Gasback isn’t a blood thirsty villain but rather a cunning career criminal whose goal is to pull off the most elaborate heists possible. During the early portion of the film he finds himself betrayed by his men and ultimately has his plans foiled by Vash.
Picking up years later, Gasback has returned with a better arsenal and an eye for revenge. He cuts a path of chaos across the planet Gunsmoke, stealing from his former flunkies and essentially ruining them. His final plan affects more than just his targets but an entire town, attracting the attention of Vash. When the two forces meet, a wild card is thrown into the mix in the form of Nicholas D. Wolfwood. As bullets slice the air, hundreds of innocent lives are pulled into the crossfire.
Aside from Gasback, the film introduces Amelia, another character on a path for revenge. Throughout the movies, she relentlessly pursues Gasback for wronging her mother in the past, making her the perfect foil to Vash’s preachings of “love and peace.” While the resolution of her arc is predictable, the brief chemistry the pair display on screen is undeniable. Amelia plays the straight woman to Vash’s zany shenanigans, sidestepping his lame pickup lines and childish advances.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Gasback. The character is so one dimensional he could be considered flat. It’s impossible to empathize with a character whose obsession for breaking the law is surpassed only by his need to get revenge on those who stand in his way. A twist at the end tries to address this but the only thing it accomplishes is making him look like a bigger jerk.
The other problem with the film is that’s its unnecessary. Its entertaining for what it is, but all it amounts to is an extended episode. It doesn’t expand on the story or add anything new to the mythos that wasn’t already there. Aside from the spruced up animation provided by Madhouse, there is no reason for the film to exist beyond seeing the characters in one more adventure.
However for diehard fans, that is enough reason to pick it up Badlands Rumble. It has everything the original series had to offer, albeit in smaller doses, and does an exceptional job of catering to the audience. The film knows exactly what its audience wants and wastes little time in pandering to them. All the key cast members are back, though Milly and Meryl are relegated to background appearances that serve little purpose than to fit them in for the sake of bringing them back. The much debated question of who would win in a fight between Vash and Wolfwood is also addressed, even though the circumstances leading to the much anticipated confrontation feel contrived and closer to a plot conceived by a fanfic writer. Why was Wolfwood separated from Vash anyway? And for that matter where does the film fit in to the series timeline?
Even with its obvious weaknesses Trigun Badlands Rumble is everything fans could want out of a Trigun film. Comedy, action, and drama all come together for one final homage to what made the series so popular. For hardcore fans who have Vash costumes sitting in their closet and figures cluttering their shelves, there can be no greater experience than sitting through Badlands Rumble. For everyone else however, a simple rental should suffice.