On a recent episode of Rookie Pirate Radio discussing Trigun Stampede, I indicated my feelings that the series was on the edge of earning early anime of the year talk. Episode six, “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland” pushes thats line ever closer. Departing from its holding patterns in both visuals and story structure, this episode starts to put together the disparate pieces of the past several episodes to escalate the real conflict of Noman’s Land and how much damage Millions Knives has inflicted.
Much like last episode, we’re treated to a flashback juxtaposed against action sequences. However, the look at Woltwood’s childhood and its abrupt ending is presented in a massive departure from the animation we’ve seen so far in Trigun Stampede. Things are taken back into a more traditional animation form for the scenes featuring Wolfwood’s past. Framing his finding a friend at an orphanage this way creates a picture-book vibe, reinforced by removing the dialogue in favor of silent film style text cards.
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This stark contrast hits even harder when the illusion breaks and we see that Wolfwood’s gruesome action from last episode was a much more personal act than he let on with his talk about ”mercy.” The picturesque memories give way to a horrific montage symbolising the experimentation that Wolfwood and others endure. The entire sequence is beautiful and unsettling all at once and does a great job communicating Wolfwood’s forced metamorphosis.
That only covers half of the episode – the rest sees Vash once again running from another after his head, this time the hunter is Wolfwood’s close friend from the orphanage. Compared to his treatment of Rollo last episode, his hesitation is clearly meant to be hypocritical. However, this set up is also a weakness. A lot about the situation is extremely similar to the previous Stampede episode, even if that one’s purpose was to tell more about Vash compared to “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland.” Setting the action on a moving sandcrawler and adding elements like authorities to get involved and civilians to avoid involving keeps that familiarity from setting in too hard but spending more time thinking about it, the more it feels like a episode between these two would have been a bit more natural feeling.
Additionally, our intrepid reporter sidekicks remain a weak link. Meryl and Roberto depart willingly this episode, with Roberto thinking the informationthey found about Vash has officially taken things beyond their scope. That’s not a bad direction to take the conflict between the seasoned Roberto and the greenhorn Meryl, but it takes them far away from events only to imply they’re going to be pulled back in by forces both beyond their control and not directly connected to the Vash vs. Knives conflict. We’ll have to see if that vibe is right next episode, but it is weird to keep seeing reporters dragged along for a story that should be compelling enough for them to be invested in on principle. Maybe this next turn of events is the push Meryl needs to win over Roberto, but like the similar set ups with Vash and Wolfwood, it feels like we’ve done this.
Even with these lingering weaknesses, the episode as a whole is plenty strong enough to overcome them. Beginning to pay off Wolfwood’s mysteries so soon and moving the narrative further are far more important. We also don’t resolve things before credits, which hasn’t happend since the cliffhanger taking us into episode 3. “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland” is another bold episode that is keeping me hooked on Trigun Stampede. Bring on what’s next, Orange.
Featured Image Courtesy of Crunchyroll / ©2023 Yasuhiro Nightow, SHONENGAHOSHA / TRIGUN STAMPEDE Project
‘Trigun Stampede’: “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland” - 8/10