[Review] TRIGUN STAMPEDE is Good, Actually

I barely remember watching the original Trigun series, which was already considered a classic by the time I got around to watching it. It was back in college when I was still new to anime and willing to watch anything I could get my hands on. Trigun was goofy and seemingly lighthearted in a way that reminded me of Cowboy Bebop, another space western that started fluffy but turned heavy by the end. And while Trigun’s details are fuzzy, I still recall that feeling of shock once the jokes turned serious.

When I first heard about TRIGUN STAMPEDE, I wasn’t sure what to expect. A remake, perhaps, but in what style? Would it be a complete copy modernizing the classic, or provide its own twists? Now that we’re at the end, it’s clear we have the latter, a prequel to set us up for the characters we remember from the original. That was probably already apparent from the very first episode, which cemented a unique vision of Vash’s world and its characters as slick, nostalgic, and thoroughly aware of his origin.

The first strike? The visuals.

I say “strike” as if it’s a bad thing, and it probably is for a lot of people in love with the original art style. I actually love the CG. It certainly wasn’t what I expected for STAMPEDE, but I can see why they went this direction. Most of my favorite examples of CG feature a space setting where the alienness of the planets and creatures somehow go hand in hand with the smoother animation. Orange as the studio behind the helm also flexes their muscles after similarly well-crafted works like BEASTARS, Land of the Lustrous, and Godzilla Singular Point. And even though I have fond memories of the original character designs of Vash, Meryl, and Wolfwood, they look damn good in this reimagining. I have half a mind to procure myself similar yellow-mirrored sunglasses to match Vash’s round shades.

The second strike comes in the form of the characters, notably Meryl Stryfe. Longtime fans will remember her as wickedly intelligent, no-nonsense, and a force to be reckoned with. She was always accompanied by her sidekick, Milly Thompson. Here, we have a fresh-faced junior Meryl optimistic about her impact on the world. She’s rash and clumsy, repeatedly ignoring the sage advice of her mentor, Roberto. While I definitely noticed the change in her personality, I wasn’t too bothered since I was already determined to appreciate these works separately rather than hoping for a carbon copy. When it became clear that this was a prequel, I appreciated the differences even more. Very few people can attest to being the same person now compared to who they were decades earlier. I know I’m more cynical and less inclined to act without a plan. Why shouldn’t a younger Meryl be any different?

The third strike hits in the voice and overall tone of the show. My memories are hazy, but I distinctly recall the original romping around like a comedic western, exuding Vash’s silliness through its pores. While we do get hints of that at the start in STAMPEDE, the angst quickly sets in with the repeated confrontations of his past. Despite knowing his age, I was still somehow shocked at the reminder with the revelation of his relationships following people from their childhood to deaths as adults. He and Millions Knives remain the same while everything around them continues to change.

The atmosphere continues to darken the further into the story we get and more of their origin and the crash reveals themselves. We learn about the SEEDS project, the plants and independents, their relationship with their human caretaker, Rem, the split path in their ideologies, and the crash.

By the end of the first season, we’re swimming through a sci-fi storm of dimension theory and a gigantic humanoid life form threatening humanity. The cinematic gun fights at the start are child’s play in comparison to the otherworldly battles that occur at the end. The climax was ridiculously over-the-top, but I say that with the utmost affection and hope for the promised sequel.

I don’t know if the next season will align with the 1998 original or continue to chart its own course, but I will be there for the ride either way. This has been a hell of a journey and I’ll trade out rose-tinted glasses any day for Vash’s gold.

Rating: 2 dango

*Rating system:

  • 0 dango – average and forgettable.
  • 1 dango – very good in its category.
  • 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
  • 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.

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