Nothing Like God: Redeeming Nicholas D. Wolfwood

We’re nothing like God. Not only do we have limited powers, we sometimes are driven to become the Devil himself.

– Chapel the Evergreen, Trigun, Episode 23: Paradise

Nicholas D. Wolfwood has long been a fan favorite, and why not?  He’s possibly the coolest character in Trigun, a series long popular in the U.S.; he’s a gun-toting priest; and the cross he carries is both “full of mercy” and full of weapons.  But more than that, I think people connect with his humanity – he is frail, violent, and has a foul mouth.  Through it all, though, he tries to do what is right.

Nicholas Wolfwood Trigun

Note: The rest of the post is full of spoilers.

The quote above is one of my favorites from the series – it’s said by Chapel the Evergreen to Wolfwood, as he is raising the child.  Setting the first half of the second sentence aside, I want to focus on his idea that we are separate from God because “we sometimes are driven to become the Devil himself.”  Humanity is capable of awful, dreadful things – we don’t have to turn any further than the first page of a newspaper to see that this statement is true.  Even “normal” people can become twisted – I’m often reminded of how Adolf Hitler gathered widespread support from an impoverished, angry German population to rise to power, while using hate rhetoric and mad methods.

But I think Wolfwood isn’t just referring to crimes as vile as genocide.  He frequently shows his frustration at an inability to live up to Vash’s non-killing lifestyle, demonstrating the guilt he has for taking others’ lives, even while doing it for good purposes.  It’s in these smaller moments, the ones in which “good” and “bad” aren’t so clear, in which we see the Devil.  The Bible portrays Lucifer as cunning and subtle –  small sin can build and build, snowballing until it becomes out of control.

As Trigun barrels toward it’s conclusion, Wolfwood is weighed down more and more by his various sins, until he ultimately makes a decision of non-violence and sacrifice.  As Wolfwood bows down at a chapel in his final earthly actions, he is at peace.  I don’t think this peace comes from merely one decision (in the end, the mentor he spared was killed anyway).  Instead, I believe he feels peace because he’s undergone a transformation.  He’s accepted that his way wasn’t the right way.  He decided to emulate Vash, and in doing so, acted like Christ.  With Wolfwood’s religious background, he no doubt understood the similarities between Vash and Christ, and in submitting to Vash’s sacrificial ways, he also submitted to Christ.  His mouth doesn’t purposely ask for forgiveness (though he bandies around the topic), but his actions demonstrate grace and the acceptance of a better way.

Wolfwood Cross
At the foot of the cross

The Apostle Paul, addressing a congregation in Rome, wrote, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This verse is often quoted to show the miserable condition we’re born in.  But it’s incomplete without accompanying verse 24:

and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Wolfwood experienced the grace of God just before his death.  The sacrifice of Christ maybe became real to him for the first time, as he placed himself in the position that Vash, the Christ-figure, had done so many times before.  And in doing so, he let all of himself go and let all of God complete him, filling a sinful heart with grace.  Wolfwood isn’t dead at all – for the first time, he is alive.

13 thoughts on “Nothing Like God: Redeeming Nicholas D. Wolfwood

  1. Quick note (and now I’m just being anal as a huge Trigun fan and lover of the anime and manga): Wolfwood isn’t a priest. He goes around doing his confessionals to help support the orphanage. It’s really just a front. Wolfwood is a member of The Eye of Michael, a plant worshiping group with direct ties to Knives. They are his personal assassins. Three spots in the Gung Ho Guns are always reserved for members of The Eye of Michael, which includes Wolfwood. The group thrives on drugs that accelerate their growth and abilities (ie: Wolfwood is not as old as he looks; the drugs he was given aged him). When they are greatly injured, they take a drug that heal their wounds, making them nearly immortal (the drug has its limits). In the manga, he attacks the leader of The Eye of Michael and supplants him in the Gung Ho Guns. He attempts to kill Knives, but fails, and is assigned by Knives to watch over Vash.

    Every member of The Eye of Michael carts around one of those massive crosses that contain their weapons. They are called Punishers.

    Wolfwood’s ending in the anime has always stirred my heart, but his ending in the manga is very different. Desperate to atone and protect his only family, Wolfwood returns to the orphanage where he was raised to protect the children from retaliation based on his own actions. He takes on three members of The Eye of Michael, including his master. It’s a brutal battle, which causes Wolfwood to ingest multiple vials of regenerative drugs, wreaking havoc on his body. Vash, busy elsewhere, arrives too late to help, and all he can do is sit next to Wolfwood while the man takes his last few breaths. It’s a fantastic image; one of my favorites in the entire series.

    And now that I’ve posted all sorts of spoilers, lol….

    I’ve always loved the lines between good and evil in Trigun. Vash tries SO HARD to be good, and to atone for his sins, that it’s physically and mentally taxing. He carries around literal scars as a testament to his sacrifices and a sign of punishment. He feels so guilty for the deaths he has caused, even though they were not his fault (as his body was manipulated by Knives). I love Wolfwood’s struggle to be “good” like Vash, and his inability to make the sacrifices that Vash does every day. Wolfwood is only human, but Vash is nearly a god. The frustration he holds towards Vash, his complete befuddlement that the man refuses to take a life, is fascinating to watch. I remember a scene where Vash spares a life of his enemy, but then Wolfwood takes the life instead, and Vash is so visibly disappointed that it drives Wolfwood crazy and he lashes out at him (or something to that effect; it’s been a while 🙂 ).

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    1. Note – I skipped your spoilers – I really do intend to read the manga one day! 😛

      Yeah…I didn’t know how to discuss the idea of priesthood in regards to Wolfwood. Strictly sticking to the anime version of the character, I think the idea of him being a priest isn’t so cut and dry. He’s obviously part of Knives’ group (though I don’t think the Eye of Michael group is mentioned at all in the anime – I guess this is around the time the anime and manga diverge), but the connection between him and the orphanage can be interpreted as one of a priest and those he is taking care of, even if we assume he’s a self-proclaimed priest.

      Not canon…but hey, it’s what I have to work with. 😛

      And yes, that scene you mention! You’ve got it. I’m gonna talk about it a little on Sunday’s post.

      Thanks for all the insight – you know much more about Wolfwood than I do. Luckily, a few of the posts this week are pieces or links to pieces by others than myself. And if I’d known what a fan you were, I would’ve asked you to write something! 🙂

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      1. The anime and manga are actually pretty close, but where the anime ends, the manga continues. The manga is split into a couple major sections, divided by showdowns with Knives. Really, I think just the ending of the anime is where it diverges, but it still maintains some elements of the manga.
        The Eye of Michael isn’t mentioned by name in the anime, but his mentor, Chapel, is the leader of the group in the manga. So it uses elements, at least.

        Haha, I would have loved to contribute! But I’m not sure I could say much more than I said above. I really, really love Trigun. 🙂 And Wolfwood is not only one of my favorite Trigun characters, but one of my favorite anime/manga characters. I’m happy to read the posts you’ll be putting up throughout the week. 🙂

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  2. Wolfwood was a man who had fallen into a kind of despair of God’s involvement.. Whose return to and restoration of faith ( priest or no) is initiated by his contact with what we might call the holy fool, Vash the Stampede. I don’t think I really can say much that hasn’t already been said by you (TWWK) elsewhere…. I find Wolfwoods death a very moving culmunation of his constant contact with Vash’s “foolishness”….

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    1. I really like that analysis – the foolish things of the world shame the wise, and Wolfwood is certainly wise in the ways of the world. And Vash, also as a Christ figure, changes every single person he comes in contact with, the same as Jesus did.

      Thanks for joining in the conversation! 🙂

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  3. Trigun is one of the few anime I showed my best friend, a young christian woman who’s going through a rough time. She’s agreed to watch it.

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    1. Awesome! I hope that it will help! You might also consider watching Haibane Renmei, which emphasizes heavy themes like sin, forgiveness, guilt, and grace.

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  4. Just found this post, despite it being a couple years old. I just wanted the author to know (if you still check this that is) that you summe it up rather well. As a Christian and avid fanboy of Wolfwood, I’ve always found him as my favorite fictional character. I could use Trigun to talk about faith with people who didn’t believe, an talk about anime with Christians who thought cartoons were for kids. It really links my two worlds. You hit the nail on the head with these relations. I hope you’ve gotten a chance to read the manga since this posting. Not sure which Wolfwood I prefer. I make it a point to watch this series as annually as possible. Truly an amazing work, and Wolfwood still lives on for me.

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    1. Thanks for the the comment, Ryan! I’m glad that you approve – it certainly makes me feel a measure of relief when fans of the series I write about tell me I did well. 🙂

      I haven’t read the manga, though I know I should! There’s so much more to the story (and of course a different direction), and I’ve heard nothing but things about the manga.

      It’s also awesome to hear that you’ve used Wolfwood as a way start spiritual conversations. Very nice!

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  5. I haven’t read the manga either, but this article was well written. Gave me a better insight on Wolfwood and the way he feels/why he does what he does. I honestly don’t remember specific details on the anime since it’s been…I don’t know how many years since I sat down and watched it, but I’m going to have to again 🙂 Thanks for the great post.

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  6. Reblogged this on Gaming And God and commented:
    I was actually going to write a post about Wolfwood, but my friend Charles here at beneaththetangles.com wrote a great article already, so why reinvent the wheel? Enjoy!

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