Set well before the finale of the television series, Trigun: Badlands Rumble is a feature length film based on an extended exploit involving everyone’s favorite donut-chomping bounty head, Vash the Stampede. His “peace and love” meddling twenty years prior has returned to haunt him in the form of Gasback, a notorious robber who has set his sites on a particular town where Vash and a host of bounty hunters lie in wait.
Badlands Rumble is a nostalgia train rumbling full speed at the audience. It’s a love letter to fans of the original television series, bringing back all of our main characters. As in the Cowboy Bebop film, the series is able to resuscitate a dead character by setting the action before the death occurred, leading to a movie that is more the “extended episode” type rather than a film that adds anything significant to the series as a whole.
Continuing along that “love letter” theme, the movie takes the tone of the series and cranks it up several notches. The kooky character designs are a feast for the eyes as hundreds of funky-looking bounty hunters fill the saloons of a town awaiting the appearance of the film’s villain. The colors and look of the film remain true to the original, but the animation is updated and in the hands of Madhouse, looks absolutely wonderful. That said, the updates sometimes took away from the charm of the series. For instance, the mixture of bits of futuristic weaponry with overwhelming older tech was a fun juxtaposition in the original show, but in the film, devices seem way too common and hi-tech.
As I mentioned, all the characters are back. It was a delight to see what I realize is the only foursome in anime in which I would consider every member among my favorite characters: Vash, Wolfwood (who got his own week here at Beneath the Tangles), and the insurance investigators, Meryl and Millie. And as with many
other episodes, a beautiful female character plays a major role. Amelia is a tough cookie with a single-minded mission of taking down Gasback. But with a two-hour film, the animators actually flesh out this character, and she’s fairly memorable. More than that, Nightow pulls a surprise on the audience when Amelia ends up being more than a would-be tough girl who is actually a damsel in distress, reflecting some of the criticisms regarding his treatment of female characters in the series. She’s voiced by Maaya Sakamoto, who I swear is always the answer to the question, “Who lent her awesome voice to that character?” for me nowadays. LOVE her.
Themes explored in the film largely match the series, which I’ve recommended to Christian viewers. Badlands Rumble allows room to discuss some of the deeper concerns of the original series, particularly whether Vash’s non-violence policy is really the best way. The questions posed are excellent, and the answer to those questions, presented through the concluding events, is in line with Christian teachings (even if Nightow denies having a religion these days).
Funimation has done an outstanding job with the release. Besides the beautiful packaging, the extras are the best I’ve ever seen on an anime DVD. Among other things, the set includes a ton of video featuring Nightow, the film’s director, and much of the cast. Masaya Onosaka, the voice of Vash, is an absolute riot, and Sho Hayami, the voice of Wolfwood, is fabulously peculiar. I especially enjoyed a conversation the group had in response to a question about who everyone would like to see cast in an American live-action version of Trigun.
One thing I’ve learned from wasting hundreds of hours viewing movies is this – if you go into a film expecting something extraordinary, chances are that you’re going to be disappointed. If after years of waiting you expect to see something earthshattering from Badlands Rumble, you’ll dislike the film. But if you’re like me – a huge fan of the series who just simply wanted to see a bit more of his favorite characters, you’ll enjoy the ride.