A Return to Form: Trigun: Badlands Rumble

Mike Ferreira (Editor) — September 18th, 2011
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It’s been eleven years since Trigun made its debut in the west. Since then, thousands have been enchanted by the action-packed and humorous adventures of Vash The Stampede: a needle haired goof with a crack shot and a $$60 billion bounty on his head. Even today, viewers go ga-ga over the sci-fi western atmosphere, fast paced duels, and charming cast that give Trigun its distinctive flavor. Cries for more of the series echoed through conventions, clubs, and social networks. In 2010, these pleas were answered, as Trigun: Badlands Rumble made its world debut at Sakura-Con. The revelation was met with excitement followed by apprehension. After ten years, can Badlands Rumble recapture the magic that made the original so endearing?

Vash’s yarn begins twenty years before he crosses paths with Wolfwood and the insurance ladies. In an unknown bank in an unknown town, on some unknown day, the legendary robber Gasback is making his greatest heist ever. Well, it would have been his greatest if not for a betrayal by Caine, Gasback’s most trusted lackey. Caine doesn’t think of the bigger picture like his boss. Instead, he wants the good life, filled with swimming pools, movie stars, and those talking picture boxes that people talk about.

In a spell of confusion caused by The Humanoid Typhoon (Vash), who just happened to be there, Caine makes a hasty retreat with the goods, but not before taking Gasback’s eye and his men. While neither sees the bars of stoney lonesome, Gasback fades away from the public eye, and a $$300 million bounty is placed on his head. The man becomes a fable, a legend that prowls through the dreams of bounty hunters worldwide. In the present day, the rumors of Gasback start to bubble up again, saying he’s planning the biggest, most extravagant heist in history, in Macca City. The reward brings all manner of bounty hunters to the city, from rough-riding thugs to cool veterans. On the ferry into town, Vash encounters Amelia — an icy redhead with a deadly kick. As Gasback’s big heist grows near, secrets surface and grudges new and old come to light. The Humanoid Typhoon certainly has his hands full, as he tries to win Amelia's favor and save the people of Macca City from Gasback’s rage.

It’d be a lie to say that Badlands Rumble is groundbreaking, innovative, or unique. On the contrary, it’s a supplementary 90-minute episode of Trigun. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The film embodies the very elements that made Trigun remarkable in the first place, including a sharp script and genuinely funny slapstick humor. Instead of blazing new paths, Madhouse simply opted to go bigger. The film uses its medium to the fullest, to deliver an exhilarating experience through its over-the-top action segments, and a plot that builds to an extreme level as it reaches the climax.

Macca City is brought to life by the colorful folks that inhabit it through the film. Gasback steals the show as a larger-than-life antagonist, whose take-no-prisoners attitude and manly bravado manage to both charm and impress viewers. His desire to go bigger, badder, and better than any other robber, and his willingness to destroy buildings, cities, even people to get what he wants gives him a pedigree of badassery that is simply fun to watch. By comparison, Amelia doesn’t come close to capturing the sheer charisma of the rest of the cast. Her icy, guarded demeanor and single-minded desire to take out Gasback make it painfully clear that she’s there to be Vash’s foil, an equivalent to the under-used Wolfwood.

The film is brought together by a soundtrack that combines whimsical and hard-edged elements with a sound that is distinctly country. Twanging guitars set the mood for serious scenes, while delicate melodies and Latin beats provide the soundtrack for the film’s more light-hearted moments. When all hell breaks loose and bullets begin flying, shredding rock riffs set the tone.

Trigun: Badlands Rumble is a film that doesn’t try to blaze new ground, and doesn’t let pesky things like originality get in the way. Instead, it embraces the fundamentals — the groundwork that made the original Trigun so endearing over a decade ago. The over-the-top action and quirky sense of humor appeal to old and new audiences alike, while franchise fans will be absolutely tickled to see their heroes duke it out for one last hurrah. The film’s fast pace and strong writing ensure that it will be a hit in gatherings, and a draw for even the most jaded of fans. As both a film and the revival of a classic, Trigun: Badlands Rumble belongs in every anime fan’s collection.

Thanks to FUNimation for providing a copy for review.