Funimation // 1998 // 650 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // November 28th, 2010
The legend of the galaxy's greatest gunslinger!
Man, how the anime marketplace has changed in the last few years. In 2003, Pioneer (then Geneon) released Trigun: The Complete Boxed Set, a massive eight-disc behemoth with a street value of three hundred dollars, a massive slice of nerdy anime happiness possessed only by those with extravagant disposable income. For the rest of us (this Judge included), it was an item to be coveted, never obtainable -- then suddenly out of print, never to be seen again.
Anime used to be an expensive niche item, an import item for diehard collectors only. Distributors literally milked fans of money, releasing entire series in three episodes snippets, each commanding massive MSRPs. It might cost a fan hundreds of dollars to complete a single series.
Nowadays? People get anime on the internet, often for free. There are entire television networks devoted to the stuff. Bookstores and comic book shops are jam-packed with anime and manga. Entire distribution companies have been put out of business. Anime is mainstream big business, and boy, have the prices come down.
And so here we are, seven years later, Funimation steps up with Trigun: The Complete Series, a slim four-disc set with a street value of fifty bucks. Man, how times have changed.
You hear his name whispered in the streets, like an ill wind. He is the most feared gunslinger in the entire world; he is a devil, a monster, and a destroyer of entire cities. He is the Humanoid Typhoon, spoken of only in rumors, because nobody survives an encounter with him.
He is Vash the Stampede, the most dangerous outlaw in the entire world. Despite the swirl of deadly rumors surrounding his person, there has never been a recorded instance of him actually taking a life, but the sheer wanton destruction that follows him is more than enough to send people screaming in fear. And so the largest bounty ever has been issued on his head: the staggering price of $$60,000,000,000.
Those who hunt him to try to cash in on the huge reward usually walk away injured, beaten, and utterly humiliated, with their heads spinning. Most of the time, though, those who encounter Vash don't even realize it. After all, who would suspect that a gigantic, outlandish, ridiculous, comical, donut-scarfing buffoon could be the most dangerous man in the world?
Trigun: The Complete Series contains all twenty-six episodes of the hit Madhouse anime, spread across four discs.
Every anime fan must own Trigun. If you don't already own it on DVD, you must buy it now. For this price, there simply is no excuse not to add Trigun to your collection. Heck, even if you're not an anime fan, this may very well be the series to convert you.
Adapted from the popular manga by Yasuhiro Nightow, Trigun is that rare adaptation that actually improves upon the source material, fusing funky jazz, slide guitar rock, slapstick comedy, and moral philosophical ruminations into a weird and wonderful space Western adventure on a desert planet, with some Victorian steampunk thrown in for good measure. Like a slow-boiling pot, the plot of Trigun follows a slow, chameleonic evolution, from a carefree and light comedic slapstick that slowly descends into a grim apocalyptic climax.
Vash is such a marvelously complex character; a contradiction of personalities and personas. When we first meet him, he's a goofball, a slapstick buffoon that quickly gives way to a stoic and altruistic hero, never resorting to violence unless necessary, and never killing an opponent. His motivations are secretive; his behavior seemingly contradictory. Then we meet a new Vash, a literal human typhoon of fury and destructive power, befitting his name and his massive bounty. The buildup is marvelous and kind of terrifying. Then we meet yet another Vash, almost cowardly in his desperate avoidance of conflict, hiding from his destiny. And so it goes. As anime protagonists go, few manage to strike such a perfect balance between charm and corniness, between badass and buffoon.
Vash is doggedly pursued by two steadfast insurance agents, anxious to downplay any future damages the Human Typhoon may cause and provide some slight romantic tensions. The most interesting addition to the cast is Nicholas D. Wolfwood, an iconic and stylish gunman with a gigantic cross on his back, literally. His marksmanship abilities are superb, almost as good as Vash. The two alternate between the good-natured ribbing of rivals and some profound metaphysical and moral debates on the inherent worth of humanity. It is through Wolfwood that audiences get their first clues about Vash and his mysterious past; who the Humanoid Typhoon is, what his motivations are, how he is so feared and destructive yet so goofy and gallant. Small insights, brief flashbacks, outlines of a blank puzzle piece. Then the show hits critical mass, and Trigun goes into the stratosphere. It is a credit to the strength of the characters and the narrative that plot twists this outlandish manage to remain surprisingly credible. Well, "credible" in the most loose of sense, being a science-fiction Western on an alien planet and all.
Every show grows and progresses during its run, but the distance between the first and last episode of Trigun is like a vast chasm. Shows kill themselves to develop this kind of plot depth in a single genre, let alone in all the genres Trigun exists in -- action, adventure, romance, science fiction, wWesterns -- you name it, every element remains in perfect balance. Honestly, I can't say enough good things about this show. It's just so fun, so fresh and enjoyable, with great comedy, likeable characters, a deep mythology, fantastic art design, outlandish adventures, and spectacular shootouts. If you had to pick one series to go through from start to finish, just for the sheer pleasure of entertainment, you'd be hard-pressed to improve on Trigun.
Visually, Trigun: The Complete Series is a bit weak. Reds are vibrant, print damage is minimal, and black levels are average, but the transfer just plain shows its age. Produced in 1998 and predating high-definition transfers, Trigun is getting a bit long in the tooth, with excessive softness, edge enhancement, and shimmering. It looks downright antiquated compared to modern anime releases. With seven episodes per disc, there are a lot of noticeable compression artifacts and muddled details. The good news is that it doesn't look any worse than the Pioneer/Geneon transfers from back in the day. The bad news is, it sure doesn't look any better -- and those weren't great transfers to begin with.
Audio is a bit better; we get 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes for both the original Japanese language track and the English dub, which sound remarkably similar. Dialogue is clear, ambient noise is detailed, and all channels get a reasonable amount of exercise. The music, a funky mix of blues riffs and electrified jazz suits the production perfectly. Bass response is on the weak side. Again, here Trigun shows its age; compared to modern productions, the mix sounds thin and one-dimensional. The English dub, truth be told is pretty good, capturing the frenetic and goofball qualities of Vash perfectly.
Extras are predictably nonexistent; we get textless songs and trailers; the bare minimum for anime.
The Pioneer/Geneon treatment of Trigun was solid for its day, but far from perfect; blurred and color-saturated episodes gave way to muted sharp ones, with jagged edges noticeable throughout. Unfortunately, it does not appear Funimation improved upon this release so much as simply repackaged it in a budget box.
I'm not complaining about the price, but I'd be remiss in my judging duties were I not to mention how nice it would be to see this series cleaned up and ushered into the high definition era. My kingdom for a digitally restored Blu-Ray edition! If this is the best we ever get from Trigun, I'll take it, but a man can dream.
Are you kidding me? This is one of the best anime series in the last two decades, hands down, and you can own it for practically nothing. This is a seminal anime series and demands to be in your collection.
Have you bought it yet?
So amazingly not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2010 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Textless Open/Close