Coming off the high that is Anime Boston, I’ve gotten a refresher of sorts of why I enjoy anime—also why I dislike it and the culture that comes along with it, but mostly why I like it. Reminders of the anime that started this long-lived affair (it was Panda! Go Panda, by the way), and the anime and manga that have kept these fires stoked. One such anime/manga also started my adoration for complicated villains. I’m honestly surprised that no one has tackled this behemoth of a story yet. So, today let’s take this opportunity to look at my favorite swirling vortex of feels, The Humanoid Typhoon, and his life as told through Trigun.
Yasuhiro Nightow’s masterpiece follows two insurance agents from the Bernardelli Insurance Society, Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, on their newest assignment on the planet of Gunsmoke: to track down and evaluate a criminal so dangerous that his actions have been likened to a natural disaster, thus the name ‘The Humanoid Typhoon’, and to attempt to prevent the destruction of any other of Gunsmoke’s cities. It’s in the city of Felnarl where the two have their best lead, but unfortunately it seems as though every bounty hunter or ne’er-do-well is being burdened with the title of Vash the Stampede (the real name of said Humanoid Typhoon), the $$60,000,000,000 man. After a Mexican stand-off between a bounty hunter called Loose Ruth, a bandit leader, and a goofy moron, Meryl and Milly are still no closer to finding their man. For the next few episodes/chapters, by amazing coincidence they end up following the “goofy moron” through several cities (much to Meryl’s dismay), running into trouble at every turn.
It’s only when they reach Inepril City—after several chapters/episodes—that the two of them are forced to accept that this dumbass in the red coat that has basically been their shadow is in actuality The Humanoid Typhoon, Vash the Stampede.
As you can probably infer from this, the series is not about finding Vash in and of itself, it is instead a study of the human psyche and how it weighs different aspects of humanity against each other. Certainly the series starts out light-hearted and slapstick-y, but soon after the women from Bernardelli discover Vash’s true identity, it takes a nose-dive into serious and heartwrenching.
Vash is the literal embodiment of the two most basic aspects of nature: life and death. His mentor/mother figure, Rem, was essentially a Jesus allusion, but also instilled within him the ideals that all life was worthwhile and peace was something worth working towards. Vash’s brother, Knives, however, was continually unwilling to accept that humans could bring anything but filth to their lives and the lives of others. Vash’s duality doesn’t end here, though. Vash as a person is very pacifistic, despite being blamed for the destruction of several cities; also, at the beginning of the series, he never seems to take anything too seriously. However, as more about him is revealed, the audience discovers the pain that hides within and the burden that has been given to him. This burden is not only traumatic and emotional—he has also been gifted with a destructive gift which can decimate cities in a blink of an eye. Vash battles with the demons inside himself—his acceptance of the flaws of humanity and his inadequacies as a ‘hero’—and his inability to contain his power.
But let’s get real here, the best reason to watch this show is that the characters are fantastic, especially Meryl and Milly. At first it seems like the two are on opposite ends of the “female trope” spectrum—Milly is ditzy, silly, and caring while Meryl is the hardass that don’t need no man—but as the series continues the two continue to grow and learn from their experiences. They remain what they were at the beginning, but much more tempered and refined. Best of all there’s no forced romance and that’s fantastic.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t start Trigun with the manga. In fact, I didn’t even like the manga at first; the differences in execution via art-style change the tone a little bit and it was difficult to get used to. But even if you’re not exactly a fan of the manga art, the story and the characters more than make up for it. If you’re looking for something a little comedy, a little sci-fi, a little drama, and a little action, Trigun is perfect for you.