The majority of this week’s episode of Trigun Stampede, “Humanity,” offers all that’s made the series such a singular creation. Vash and Wolfwood’s escapades deliver on their comedic, at-odds dynamic, further illuminating the two and their motivations. We’re given further backstory into Vash’s troubled past which has led him to be the well-intentioned, if naive, pacifist he is, his body a diary of physical reminders of where and when he’s suffered at the hands of whatever peace he’s trying to protect. The visuals, as always, are immaculate but the landscape of their latest base, JuLai, allows even greater detail and vibrancy compared to the often stark endlessness of Nomans Land’s deserts. And that final standoff between Vash and Knives? Like the floor beneath our protagonist, our stomachs drop with the last note of the sequence.
But man does the stuff with Roberto and Meryl continues to be irksome and with this week’s farewell to the fatally wounded Roberto, the series won’t get the chance to right this element. Ten episodes into the 12-episode season and two of the four main characters remain unchanged and uninteresting. Roberto dies a cynic and a drunk, having protected Meryl yet again, but he’s been doing that the entire series, dragging her from gunfire and other dangers. Meryl remains steadfast in her want and will to protect those who need it and face dangers head-on when unveiled truth is a possibility. Again, that’s been her characterization since episode one.
Roberto’s death and her receiving his pistol as she ascends the tower to confront Knives results in a meaningless narrative beat, and, worse still, renders Roberto’s entire existence inconsequential. His death isn’t the guiding hand Meryl needed – she would’ve chosen this path regardless. With no changes or any real impact on the storyline, the scenes the two of them share leave us willing the plot to quicken so we may return to the other, more interesting characters, of whom we’ve witnessed change and growth or peeled back a history of regrets that makes for a much more flawed hero.
Perhaps the last two episodes will deliver redemption to Meryl’s characterization and make her a driving force of interest in the series, but at this point, it’s tough not to only care about whatever conflict further unravels between Knives and Vash.
Because that final, brief, conversation between the two, as they argue over the state of humanity, their place in it, and Vash’s need to believe he’s protecting out of love rather than atonement, is complex and powerful. As we mentioned last week, with Vash’s incessant need for pacifism and our greater understanding of Plants and the way in which humanity is using and abusing their abilities, there’s reason to understand where Knives is coming from, even if we don’t excuse the carnage he’s wrought due to it.
However, there’s an argument to be made that it’s only made their relationship all the more intriguing, especially as Knives isn’t seeking to kill Vash, but to unmake him and rebuild him in his image, a perfect Independent. While Knives is villainous to the core as he’s sought death and destruction against humanity as a whole, we are able to understand why he wouldn’t be able to understand Vash and believe that he’d see his brother as something broken and in need of repair.
Two episodes remain and with the ending, this week that gave way in a rush of breathlessness as our hero ran out of time – the hourglass styling in the opening credits feeling increasingly clever – there’s increased anticipation for what follows. Studio Orange has created a beautiful and dense world with layers of understanding and questions of morality that align themselves with the ponderings of the studio’s other ventures through Beastars and Land of Lustrous. There’s no denying the eagerness in finding out how all of this does or doesn’t resolve itself, but the true thrill comes in awaiting being able to soak in the actualized melancholy and soft horrors of the story, visualized through animation that’s as delicate in its particulars as it is bombastic in its epic staging.
Featured Image Courtesy of Crunchyroll/Studio Orange
Trigun Stampede - 7.5/10