Trigun Stampede Feels More In-Line With Its Philosophy Than The Original Did

A while back, I rewatched one of my favorite older animes, Trigun. I had pretty mixed feelings about the depiction of guns in the series, since I had recently done an active-shooter training at my day-job (which went pretty poorly from my perspective, given that none of my coworkers seemed to take the reality of the situation as seriously as I thought they should have). I’ve also dealt with active-shooter preparations in school, a lifetime of anxiety pushing me to consider active shooter situations every time I go to a concert or convention, and life in the US where guns are more respected in the legal and political spheres than women or people like myself. I can’t go a day without hearing about gun violence or from the various pro-gun and pro-violence factions of US politics. It is difficult to be aware of the world around me and then enjoy a show like Trigun that is all about guns despite featuring a character who actively did his best to avoid killing anyone.

Recently, as part of moving away from my old habit of watching anime with one friend every few weeks (mostly because his actions have driven a wedge between us), I got myself a Crunchyroll account and browsed through the various shows available to me. I’ve never really been one to look for more anime to watch, trusting my friends to curate it and let me know what they thought I’d enjoy, so there’s a lot out there that I’ve never even glanced at. While scrolling to see if anything piqued my interest, I found the new adaption of the story, Trigun Stampede, and added it to my to-watch list. I had already been vaguely aware that a new show was happening, but I had flinched away from learning more about it when I saw that it was all CGI-looking. I wasn’t prepared to write it off for that reason alone, but I was trepidatious about giving it a try as a result.

Still, there was only so much else for me to do this past weekend and, since I paid for an account, I figured I ought to make use of it. So I loaded up episode 1, did my best to set aside my narrative prejudice toward the original anime, and watched five episodes in a single sitting. I only stopped at five because I had to go to bed since I’ve been trying to fix my messed-up sleep schedule and I had already stayed up too late by two episodes. First thing I did the next morning was boot up the final two episodes available to me and watch them through. I was, and am, hooked. I had some issues in the initial couple episodes, but I quickly grew accustomed to the CGI and, by episode three, stopped seeing it as something that felt weird.

Honestly, what felt weirdest about the show was the angle of a lot of the action shots and I’m not really sure that any of them where bad. They could have simply stood out to me because I’m used to cartoons and anime looking a certain way because of the tricks used by non-CGI animation to show perspective, movement, and distance. Live-action movies have restrictions on how things can be shot as a result of set design, camera locations, and a degree of cinematographic conventions, but CGI creations have no such restrictions (well, except for the conventions, since people bring their experiences with them whether they intend to or not). Honestly, most of the reason CGI in anime has looked weird in the past is probably because of the mix of the animation forms. CGI tends to stand out a lot because there’s a smoothness to its movement that makes it feel like it has a liquidity that other forms do not. There’s been an increasing trend of mixing the two more and more successfully over the years (Demon Slayer comes to mind), but I think this is the first high-quality, high-framerate anime I’ve seen done entirely in CGI. While I kind of prefer the look of other methods of animation, I’m not certain it’s because CGI is any worse. I think it might just be familiarity.

Other than that, the thing I noticed the most about this new version of Trigun is that the main character, Vash the Stampede, sure fires his gun a lot less. He uses it plenty, but I think he’s fired his gun at objects more than he’s fired it at people. In fact, I don’t think he has ever once fired it with the intent to hurt someone. He mostly uses it as a club. He does a lot more hand-to-hand combat in this version of the story and even then he mostly runs away or tries to talk people down before he turns to violence (though he is quick to employ hand-to-hand combat when it means he can avoid anyone firing a gun entirely). I kind of like this version better, where we see a person caught up in a world of guns and violence who has been forced to learn a skill in order to survive but does his level best to avoid using it ever.

I’m only seven episodes in [now eight, as this goes live] and, while it is possible they won’t hit the same story beats the original show did (they’ve already altered several pretty significantly), I suspect (and hope!) there is plenty more show yet to come. It is entirely possible that, as the stakes continue to rise and the threats against Vash grow more numerous, he will be forced to use his gun more and more frequently. I do not know. It just currently feels like someone made a decision while creating this show that he should use his gun less, that he should cling more tightly to non-violence when he can, and that he should work to avoid permanently hurting anyone. I’m excited to see how this plays out, and can’t wait to continue watching.

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