Woof. I have to imagine that, somewhere, fans of the original manga series or the 1998 original anime adaptation have to be having themselves a good laugh this far into the season of the remake (if they’re watching at all.) While the show has shown little resistance in terms of demonstrating the pain and near-constant suffering of this world, the ability to continue to bring it up a notch is considerable. The further we press into Trigun Stampede, the more we come to learn how much of a front that first, even second, episode was, having introduced newcomers to a heightened world of married tropes and genres. It was action and adventure, western science-fiction with an e-boy character fronting it all. And this is where original fans will laugh at us for having believed even for a second that the story of Vash the Stampede isn’t first and foremost a tragedy.
“Our Home,” the eighth episode of season one, drives that point home as we spend it in the past following Vash’s initial fall to earth. After having survived the emergency crash landing and realizing that the closest thing to a parent he’s ever known was sacrificed at the hands of his brother, Knives, Vash runs away into the deserts of No Man’s Land before he’s spotted by Luida, another survivor who senses there’s more to this boy than he lets on.
This is something we had figured out by the end of episode seven, “Wolfwood,” when we learn that Vash isn’t human, but a Plant and able to communicate with others. In “Our Home” we see the start of that strength, as he initially believed he wasn’t able to produce anything, unlike his brother. Later though he hears the plant of Ship 3 and recognizes it’s in trouble.
The design here and in “Wolfwood” allows for an intricacy in animation that goes beyond the detailed flourishes of action sequences and the gait and movement of the characters in the past. The linework on Vash’s face which resembles the plant powering the respective ships is suitably eerie, announcing that Vash is alien to those around him, without being too on the nose. It’s a light imprint on his face, the final work in both episodes showcasing the capacity of the animation teams to inspire wonder through both big and small gestures.
Despite the brevity of the episode, there’s a lot of story packed in, so much so that there’s enough backstory left to be explored this week. Vash learns young it seems that it will take convincing for others to trust him, and this is before he has accrued a reputation for leaving waste and ruin in his wake. After five years with this crew, having been accepted as a member despite initial hesitations, he’s suspected again, however briefly, by another member Brad. Overhearing him and Luida talking, Vash runs away, leaving only a note thanking them for their kindness and explaining that he’s going to face his past head-on.
That past, of course, being his twin brother, Knives. Knives, at the start of the episode, leveled Vash with the knowledge that he was only able to cause the devastation he brought crashing to earth due to codes he obtained from Vash. Their story, based both on their shared DNA, past, and opposing morality intrinsically tether them together. Vash sees himself as atoning for the sins of his brother, those of which he shoulders himself. For viewers, we only see it as him willingly walking back into a monster’s den.
This promise and lead-up mean that, while entertaining and especially revealing of Vash’s past, it amounts to only a bit more than set up for what ultimately will likely be the payoff this week. The script needed an extra scene at the end to help tie up this portion of the story so that the ending wasn’t so abrupt. It’s also obvious that there’s still something being held back from the brother’s time on Ship Five and continuing to teasing this out in what Studio Orange is calling the “final act” means that they’re going to need to deliver top-tier quality here on out to make the wait worthwhile.
Still, each week Trigun Stampede manages to shock with the brutalist scenarios they find themselves in. At this rate, those unfamiliar with the source material can’t help wondering if we should be hoping for a happy ending. Perhaps our best bet is to wish for one that’s in part hopeful, as we learn more about this iconic figure. The more this series goes by the more it’s tough to ward away my most clear comparison, Doctor Who, especially the Eleventh Doctor. He too was perceived as a madman out of time, who instead was a lonesome alien trying to find a sense of home.
Featured Image Courtesy of Crunchyroll
Trigun Stampede - 'Our Home' - 7/10