Now that Trigun Stampede is heading into what Studio Orange is calling its final part, the arc of the series is looping back around on its earlier episodes and trying to tie everything together. This episode, “Millions Knives,” implies that we’re going to see the flip side of what Vash received last week in “Our Home.” Unfortunately, while the opening is a strong look at our antagonist, half of the episode is dedicated to slowing down the pace and resetting the stakes for what could be the last time.
The flashback resumes from “Our Home,” only moments before Vash’s reunion with Knives. There’s a great sequence of him once again playing an organ (with the colors of the keys swapped, very clever) and reminiscing on how in the past to do what he’s doing now would have required Vash. There’s some particularly great and subtle animation for Knives’s movements here that really makes you appreciate the skill that Orange has put on display.
Up to this point, what Knives’ deal actually is has remained one of the larger mysteries of Trigun Stampede and unfortunately that remains mostly the case now. It does make more sense to see his reaction to multiple plants being literally burned up in comparison to what we’ve seen Vash do across two episodes. However, this split between Plants and Humans feels somewhat out of left field this late in the season. The implication seems to be that all the Plants we’ve seen in the various villages of Noman’s Land are on the brink of being exhausted and that is now being put firmly on the shoulders of the people using them.
This shift to a slight environmental message (I’m not extrapolating, the episode makes it much more clear later) would go down fine on its own, but we have the added addition of lines from human soldiers that add things like “Plants exist to serve humans” that don’t line up with the humans we’ve seen so far and left me reeling. By adding lines like this, while it does allow Knives’ own Wolverine sequence momentary catharsis, it doesn’t exactly help that my main takeaway from everything we’ve learned in “Millions Knives” is that Knives makes a lot of sense.
Knives is still clearly the antagonist of this story, we’ve seen too much misery and monstrosity from him and those acting in his name to think otherwise. The problem is that, just as Wolfwood is later on when “Millions Knives” resumes the present day storyline, I’m finding myself a bit sick of Vash’s crap. Vash’s pacifism has been challenged throughout the season, but at this point we’re not just having an ideology battle between these two brothers. Thanks to Zazzie the Beast’s reveal to a kidnapped Meryl and Roberto, what Trigun Stampede is asking now is whether or not a humanity that failed to prevent climate change on Earth deserves to have another shot at stewarding a planet. As things stand right now, Knives has a strong point and maybe these humans shouldn’t be in charge.
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Vash’s argument otherwise in this case doesn’t amount to much in this case beyond a stubborn anime protagonist attitude. While the survivors of Ship Three – revealed to have survived all this time and have been in hiding – have the germination of a proper idea to pollinate and power Noman’s Land differently, Vash doesn’t even seem like he’s aware of it, much less engaged with it. Instead, he’s just put his head in the sand and has convinced himself that he’s going to find some sort of third way solution to this whole conflict. In most situations, this would be fine, enduring even. Here though, with the full context of what a Plant actually is, it’s not enduring – it’s Vash refusing to engage with reality.
More than likely, this is on purpose and Vash is in for a very violent reality check. Yet, I can’t help but think of series like Deca-Dence, which have very strong sci-fi concepts that are used to talk about complicated topics like worker exploitation but fail to actually delve further into those topics before the runtime of the series is up. With Studio Orange talking about the finality of the next handful of episodes and no second season announcement in sight, all of a sudden I’m questioning if Trigun Stampede can stick the landing with the wrinkle they added. Even if Vash does somehow manage to “save everyone” directly in this situation, there’s now permanently the question of whether or not they can actually resolve the systemic conflict underneath. All before acknowledging that the Worms are definitely sentient via Zazzie and were here on Noman’s Land the entire time!
This wasn’t a bust episode, there’s still plenty to appreciate here. Knives going full Wolverine that I mentioned before as it’s both satisfying and appropriately scaled down compared to his attack in “Bright Light, Shine through the Darkness.” Vash’s gun, which has been both the point of contention for longtime fans and a very big focus in things like Stampede’s OP, becoming a physical representation of the wedge that he drives between him and Knives is a good touch. For fans, I think making it a random gun that Vash grabs in desperation rather than a very specific model is justified with this context, but your mileage may vary.
It may be that I’m more bummed we didn’t get a proper Knives flashback to mirror Vash’s so I’m zeroing in on what was chosen instead to focus on. That said, Orange decided to take the subtext and make it text. “Millions Knives” might be the moment Trigun Stampede starts to take a hit on its way to the ending, but I’ll choose to be unreasonably hopeful like Vash and hope that there is an endgame plan for the series. Otherwise, Orange has leveraged some very potent and real topics with no interest in actually storytelling with them, which would be vapid and disappointing for a series that has been pretty thoughtful and rich to this point.
Featured image via Crunchyroll
'Trigun Stampede' - "Millions Knives" - 5/10