Tag Archives: Madhouse

Anime-Breakdown: Natsu e no Tobira (1981) Movie Review

Natsu e no Tobira/The Door Into Summer in English is an animated film from 1981 based on the manga of the same name by Keiko Takemiya. A pioneer of shonen-ni/yaoi manga in the early 1970s whose short story, Sunroom ni te, contains the earliest known male-male kiss in a shojo manga. She’s an accomplished mangaka whose contribution to her field is far more interesting, and engaging than this Madhouse and Toei produced animated hour-long film. It’s a relic of the past that is better left collecting dust.  

Natsu e no Tobira attempts to be a coming of age story tackling the idea of raw love in youth. Unfortunately there isn’t enough material for it to delve into its own chosen subject. Right off the bat the film opens with intrigued starting ​at a future point with two friends in a twenty paces pistol duel with main character Marion in his attempt to stop them. This opening is stylishly presented with field of red roses contrasting against a dark sky along with black and white human characters figure in the pouring rain. This opening scene is a good hook in making the viewer wonder what led up to this moment. Everything after this opening is an immediate failure.  

For starter,​ the biggest issue for this coming of age film is there’s virtually no characterization. Without establishing how the central characters were before experiencing their life changing events it doesn’t feel like they learned anything from their conflicts. A character in the film reveals he has feeling for his male best friend which isn’t hinted at any point in the film. It’s a spontaneous revelation that only brings to mind crucial questions. What made him fall in love with his friend, and how long has he felt this way aren’t answered. Presenting itself more in the way of an over the top soap opera exaggerating every major scene. Similar dramatic scenes are presented in ridiculous way, but are not enjoyable because they’re meant to be taken seriously.

Another issue is Marion is a boring main character. He, like the rest of the film, is simply going through the motions of events without setting up a proper groundwork. Marion point of view on love is of that of a fairy tale, but he’s too shallow to be sucked into the emotions he’s going through. There are only few lines of dialogue that attempt to characterize Marion, and give a bit of backstory, but they’re delivered in a  throwaway manner not allowing time for those plot points to sink in before another event happens that progresses the story. The dialogue in general revolves around love which gets repetitive when characters have no other things to talk about.

There’s a scene where our characters see the dead body of a friend that committed suicide. One of them acts appropriately being sadden at the lost of a friend only then to utter out loud he wants to be hold by the woman (who’s in her 40s) he loves. In the background of the same scene two other characters talk about dueling to get a girl hand in marriage. A friend of these characters killed himself, learn about it recently going to the site, and they are so self-absorbed in their own problems to pay to their dead friend any proper respect. Other characters don’t fare any better. Marion is one-dimensional while everyone else are more in the cookie cutter variety. Nearly all the characters have a conflict revolving around love, aren’t developed to make any said change meaningful, and are treated as plot devices.

Madhouse and Toei Animation who are responsible for putting this anime movie together were faithful to the manga which is a negative. The manga is a single volume, less than 80 pages manga telling the same exact story which would take an average reader less amount of time to read in its entirety than watching this film. There’s not enough material to extent into an hour-long film. Unfortunately the added scenes don’t improve an already short story with rush pacing and shallow writing. It’s bloated with scenes dragging out in order to be extended to an hour length. Instead of expanding on the basic story it inflates itself with material that doesn’t do much in the long run to improve the source material. One of these decision is giving supporting characters more screen time, but that doesn’t amount too much since supporting characters are simply tools to advance to the next scene.

All the characters look feminine, especially the males. Emphasizing beauty of character over anything else. Containing sparkling eyes, smooth skins, and gorgeous similar looking hair cut. None of the character designs standout being exactly what you would expect from a Shojo that doesn’t attempt to standout. The background is generally blurry in line with a wispy like style. With the exception of the flower field where the duel is held backgrounds are dull to look at with minimal detail paid to them.  

The music is composed by Kentaroh Handeda whose score is a mixture of violins, saxophone, piano, and low-key singing of lalala lyrics. If you allowed a giant pile of cheese to produce music for this anime you would get the same result. Not a single memorable track helps the anime in any positive way. There’s a terrible sex scene in the film which is made worse by jazz like music combine with animation that attempt to make it look poetic. The result is one of the worst sex scenes you could see that’s animated. In general the music is forgettable and has the power to put anyone to sleep when listening to it.

Voice acting from the entire cast is weak. Granted the material wasn’t good in the first place, but the voice work doesn’t fare out better with the vocal performances. The gender roles are basically reverse in their performances; the females are reserve, and the males are more emotional. Like with everything else in the film the voice acting leaves allot to be desired. In general being trite, unconvincing in relaying across any proper emotion in their line delivery to make them believable.

Natsu e no Tobira has a lot of problems, but the one thing the anime movie does better over the manga is the pacing so everything in the film flows more naturally. While there isn’t enough substance to justify its own length at least it unfolds in a more proper manner than the manga. However, even with that small praise it clearly went to waste. Madhouse and Toei studio both failed to add anything to something that was already rushed, and shallow from the source material managing to make it worse in animated form.


Anime-Breakdown: Death Parade (2015) Series Review

Spoiler Warning: My review will spoil the entire series of Death Parade in order to explore its story, and go into detail as to why its writing fails even at obtaining the bare minimum for a working story. Ending up as a collection of ideas that failed to work in a cohesive manner because not enough thought was given to either the story nor its characters. Obviously with that being said if you still want to continue reading (regardless if you’ve seen the series or not) you have been warned on these spoilers.

“We are all just dummies Nona, and that includes me” Oculus from Episode 12 of Death Parade

No better quote from the anime Death Parade better sums up the series than this sentence. Everything Death Parade presents to the viewer serves to further question why the story is bothered to be told in the first place. A good simile would be reading, or watching a courtroom drama with the story being told establishing nothing about the court system or how it runs. Such fine details would be needed in order to discuss a number of ideas especially if attempting to tell a “change the system” story. When Death Parade has these issues the lack of characterization, and unbalanced narrative structure become far more noticeable due to it.

A simple abstract idea like a realm whose inhabitants determine if a deceased person gets resurrected or send to the void (a bottomless pit basically) would have worked just fine as is. The afterlife itself, and the question if such a thing exists would lead to a never-ending discussion, but when attempting to give functionality similar to the real world to an abstract idea it attempting to cover far more than it is capable off in the short amount of time it has.

Broken: Story with no thought put into it

Death Parade first episode is the best in the series. If only for the sole reason none of the major issues are made apparent from the onslaught. However, it does suffer from an Spanish soap opera style of storytelling in its first episode. Making every twist unintentionally hysterical. It’s also the only other episode (the other being episode 7) whose tone, and execution is carried over from the anime’s intro. Though, you’ll have a hard time trying to consider an anime dumb fun when the first episode has a man indirectly killing a fetus inside his fiancée womb. With this being how the anime starts you know you are in for a fun ride when a dead fetus is in the first episode.

In episode 2, it is explained the whole purpose of the death games is to exhibit human reaction by creating tensions by making the participants think they’re in a worse position than death. Before getting to the games let’s focus on why this judgment system is broken. Immediately after the anime explains the purpose of the games it doesn’t addressed what precautions Quindecim has in place to those people who know they are dead. In the first episode, Decim says that the game will have the player stake their lives on a game without both knowing that they are dead. If both participant know their dead, or simply refuse to play the game what other methods do the arbiters have to providing judgment to souls? Luckily the anime avoids bringing such a scenario to the center opting to ignore the essential details. It’s not like this omission is plot breaking, but the lone fact that I have to accept arbiters never come across this issue, or mention an event where it has happen causes further suspension of disbelief that every person who arrives at Quindecim is oblivious to the fact they die when they arrive. So, Death Parade is telling me there’s possibly millions of people who went through these judgments, every single one was willing to participate, and didn’t know they were dead virtually every single time.

Another thing about the world is those being judge come in pair. Except for the special case of Onna (a main character/plot device) who arrives alone in Quindecim in episode 5. This episode explains why Onna is a special case; she appeared alone in Quindecim, and could remember that she died. Raising some interesting questions like why did Onna appear alone in Quindecim? What happen to the other person who was meant to arrive with Onna? What could have caused the problem in the first place? All of which, and more Death Parade is happy to ignore providing an explanation for.

When an explanation is provided it hurts the series more by bringing to mind other things that need to be address. In episode 7, all that is shown about training is Decim and Ginti (just one of many unimportant supporting characters) is pressing a button to complete their training to be Arbiters. Nothing is mentioned if the two have read books on human psychology, or if they studied video recordings of previous judgments. If Quindecim has the technology to include elevators, and a machine that can track the deaths of people on Earth how come none of it was shown in the training process. For that matter, if the Arbiters jobs is to judge people how come they are forbidden to have emotions. It complicates matter when they aren’t allow to understand emotions the one element most crucial to their judgments. If the judgments are meant to be held from an objective point of view than how come the games themselves are rigged to favor one of the participant at a given moment. Fabricating the scenario along with the original emotions of those participating in these games of judgments.

Now the games themselves are not designed to do what they are meant to do. For starter, in episode 3 a pair of teenager play bowling. In Death Bowling, you can feel the other person’s heart when you grab the bowling ball. That is all there is to Death Bowling. When the bowling ball hit the pins nothing happens. There’s no consequences in getting points, or getting a gutter ball in bowling. Now compare Death Bowling to the first episode where a couple plays Death Dart to amplify the huge contrast. In episode 1, every point that was made hurt the other person in a specific body part depending on where their dart landed on a board. There are consequences playing against your opponent in Darts unlike in Bowling. It would be like hovering your hand over a hot stove versus placing your hand on the hot stove; clearly one scenario will cause more harm than the other. Death Dart will cause a greater emotional reaction because its participants are being harmed while Bowling due to no consequences to players the participants are simply relaxed enjoying a good time.

As a collective whole all the games require hands eye coordination over the usage of mind. In order to compensate for this issue the Arbiters can also mess around with the contestants while they’re playing the games. Creating an unfair advantage for both sides at any given moment defeating the purpose of the games. If the point of the games is to draw out the dark side of a person then if the game favors a player whose good at that game of course only one person will be frustrated. Demonstrated in episode 5 elegantly. You have a single mother who never played a video game going up against a loser who locked himself in his room all day playing video games. From the onset the loser has the advantage. Add onto that Arbiters ability to interfere at any given moment you’ll get a single mother smashing her opponent head on an arcade cabinet.

In episode 2, rule three is established, and it says Arbiters cannot feel any emotions. Now this rule isn’t always in use, but there is an exception to it only for every episode in the series. The opening intro for example shows the Arbiters showing a wide range of emotions when they’re dancing happily. In other episodes our main Arbiter of interest, Decim, is shocked in the second episode when he failed to take the action of lying into account in the first judgment of the anime series. When giving some thought you have Arbiters who are created not to feel emotions trying to judge souls that have emotions? So if the Arbiters can’t feel emotions it misguides the judgment. Usually how it’s done in the world of the living is the more you know about a subject the better you understand it (hopefully). Not the less is more approach in a scenario that requires you to decide the fate of people’s souls!

Death Parade biggest pitfall is the terrible world building. The more it reveals about Quindecim the more questions that are left unanswered. Including those needed to simply understand character motivations. Its establish that the arbiters are immortal, and provides no reason as to why they continue to judge souls. Nor does the anime care to explain what kind of payments would want to make immortal beings want to keep on judging souls for all eternity. Among other things that the writing fails to address is the creation of this “Middle World” when it is casually revealed in episode 12 that the Arbiters/Dummies, and the world itself are made up of souls that got send to the void. So exactly how did this “Middle World” come into existence if there was no humans at the beginning of time? Did these the Arbiters/Dummies judge Dinosaurs souls, but that would also bring to question about its creation? How exactly did it come into existence if it needs souls that get send to the void to be formed in the first place? The answer is simply a paradox. Also, awful world building, and horrible writing would have also been another acceptable answer to the question.

Bad: Weak main cast and interesting supporting characters that leave after one episode

Due to the narrative format attempting to be both episodic, and tell a continuing story it in turn hurts the characters. More so than just being poorly developed, but being unable to be seen as anything other than tools. Onna, whose one of our main character, is mostly use to guide the viewer into the world to explain certain aspects of it. She can’t remember her name, but spoiler her name is Plot Device. Okay not really, but it might as well be since if she wasn’t in the series than Death Parade would be a series of just episodic judgments. As explained in the previous paragraphs the writing simply refuses to have a functioning story. However, despite being a tool to progress the story she is also the best written character in the entire series.

For starter, Onna is the only character whose goals are clear. She’s trying to remember who she is, and what happened to her. All the other characters in the series don’t have goals, and if they do because of terrible world building those motives become muddle in the process. Another reason why Onna character works is because she is expressive throughout the series. How she views life is narrowed, but brings a personal attachment to judgments. She explains in some episodes to Decim how she came to her conclusions on certain people, and why Decim methods were wrong (which they are) or what he overlooked. Providing a showcase of her thought process. However, she is a plot device which means once her story comes to an end the anime has no time to improve after she’s gone. Also, Decim interaction with Onna reveals whatever characteristic was written in him to Onna. If you read the subtitles or listen to the English dub then you’ll know the entire finale solely dedicated to Onna judgment is entirely pointless, and contradictory to Decim character. At least Onna has a completed arc which is more of a miracle than anything else. Minus the resolution in the finale where she was given a large amount of time to reflect on her action unlike the other participants in the series.

Sadly our main character is Decim who is the worse of the bunch since he’s intentionally written to be terrible at everything he does. Now let’s forget about every issue I brought up to this point. This character is also the main reason why the series fails to accomplish anything meaningful. Decim is given the position of emotionless character gaining emotion by the end of the story. Problem is with no background on Decim acceptance on rule three which states Arbiters cannot feel emotions, for they are mere dummies, how he benefited from gaining emotion goes unseen. One of the final shot in the finale is Decim smiling, and that’s it. No episode dedicated to showing how this change improve or monologue from Decim to express how this new change in him changes his approach to judgments. As a character his journey is meaningless because the cause of his conflict isn’t explored nor is the aftermath of his change shown.

It’s established in the anime that Decim likes people who live fulfilling lives. A characteristic that instead of being used to developed an emotionless character serves the opposite in making him look bad at performing his job. For starter in episode 4, one of the people Decim has to judge is a single mother who had her life taken away from her. A single mother who made mistakes, but has given her all to improve herself as well as provide for her family. Next to her is a loser who simply wasted his time playing video games, being a shut in, being rude to his parents, and committing suicide. If the writing was competent there wouldn’t be an episode 4 written the way it is. Decim likes people who lived fulfilling lives so when a person who commits suicide is sent for him to be judged the outcome should have been obvious. However, according Decim the single mother who had her life taken from her would get sent to the void, and not the loser who committed suicide. Instead of making a good character with this established trait it is instead implemented for shock factor. It throws viewer off, while at the same time breaking whatever semblance of character consistency in Decim.

The participants of the games have aspects of their life reveal to the viewer through flashbacks. Usually displaying specific aspects of their life before hitting the bucket. Sadly one episode isn’t enough to get viewer to care for these characters, but they do provide an idea of how these participants were in the world of the living. A miss opportunity to these participants is a failure to touch on delicate subjects, and having characters present the grey area in life. Most of the participants either died naturally or because of an accident which were out of their control. Placing participants in good or evil category without much grey being presented. One example of a difficult judgement could have a doctor who performs dozen of Euthanasia on patients consent. Where would such a person go if Decim was judging this doctor since not only does it go against Decim personal claim of his likes for people who live fulling life, but it’s a case where taking life wasn’t without cause. A grey zone in some of the participants would have provided different perspective of people’s lives showing the world is filled with both complex and simple individuals not just one category.

The closest the anime gets into the grey area is in episode 8 and 9 when two killers are being judged. One character is a young adult searching for certain people to kill while another is a detective gone mad. Now what’s the problem with this before the episode begins? It’s not justifiable murder since Decim likes people who live fulfilling lives, so therefore the young adult will clearly be sent to the void. Given this series track record it’ll fall into good or evil category. Regardless of what category the person falls in they’ll immediately be sent to the void. Now, the detective gone psycho is revealed by the end of episode 8 to also be a killer. So, yes, you’re going to sit through two pointless episodes, and a pointless judgement when it is obvious at this point. Okay, if we took out these issues these two episodes don’t delve much into subject of justifiable killing (assuming it tried to go for that), or even questions if there is such a thing. The psycho detective shows no regret for killing, and the other despite having second thoughts commits to killing because of a personal trigger in his life. If this character learned his lesson than that would have been a dynamic moment. Except, this is Death Parade where it is more than happy to remain static.

I would bother going into details about the other arbiters, but due to terrible world building the importance of the other arbiters is up in the air. Nona for instance is given the position of boss, and then told in exposition that she’s been boss for 82 years. She’s slow, it took her 82 years to finally determine there’s something wrong with the way that judgments are done. Seriously, there was no other person qualified for the job. Not only that, but apparently according to the bad writing she change the system somehow. Without establishing certain rules how exactly her ideas for changing the ways judgments are done are as just puzzlingly as the fact these people talk about things they should already know. Then there’s Oculus who’s second in line to become God. This guy is so important that all we see him do is play pool, and talk to Nona. Clearly a person burden with so much responsibility. If all the trait you need to become God in this series is being easy, cheerful, and having an unexplained flower beard to become God this world high has some high standard for their judgement business. Nothing, but the worse, I meant “absolute best” can be expected for these individuals.

Good: Madhouse Spares No Expense

Madhouse studio is behind the production of Death Parade, and it’s done well to no one surprise. Death Parade sports a semi-realistic direction. Movement are hardly exaggerated with the cast consisting virtually of adult characters. In episode 11, Madhouse expertise in movements shows during an ice-skating sequence where 3D wasn’t used on a character while she was skating around the ice rink. It’s an impressive feat that three-dimensional movements was done by a drawn, two-dimensional character in the foreground. Backgrounds are given plenty of detail with a muted color palatte where colors aren’t usually bright. Favorably shoving plenty of purples, and blues on-screen. Aesthetically the only time it becomes flashy are during the games or when presenting the platform where the game will be played with speed lines, extreme close-ups, and exciting music to name a few techniques. Other than that, it simply looks nice without any visually interesting thing happening without a game being played. There is a pointless fight scene between two arbiters, but it only serves to fuel the fact that Decim is terrible at his job because he fails a test!

The opening animation is nice to look at, but completely misrepresentative of the series. A baby dies in the first episode, and the intro is happy-go-lucky for twelve episodes. This kills the mood from episode one, and onward when that is one of the first events it wants to show the viewers. Making the intro that much worse for misrepresenting itself. The fact Death Parade wants me to be happy after seeing a fetus die in the first episode is as twisted as creepy stalker idea of love.

Presentation wise the only issue I have, besides the opening, is the execution of episode 10 card game. Madhouse animated a series called “Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor” whose first arc is a card game of rock, paper, and scissors. The presentation in that first arc is glorious making card games awesome, over the top, exciting, and very intense. Here in a relaxing atmosphere seeing a card game is a snooze inducing experience. I could have done without this boring card game, but that’s a personal issue versus the appropriate direction, and animation choices it went for. Doesn’t excuse the rest of the series issues though.

If you had to choose between the Japanese or English dub voice cast go with the Japanese voice cast. The performances of the core characters are more in line with the series mixed up tone in Japanese. This English dub by Funimation goes for a more straightforward approach where some voice actors downplay certain aspects of their characters. For example, Yoshimasa Hosoya who is Ginti Japanese voice actor gives his character snarkiness which is lost with Robert McCollum who portrays the same character in the English dub. In both languages the voice actors portraying the Arbiters are “emotionless” versus the voice actors who portray human characters. However, the English dub does contain a fantastic performance from Monica Rial in episode 5. Monica Rial does not deliver her usual high pitch, gleeful performance in her only episode in Death Parade. It’s a performance where Monica Rial shows off serious talent to the point she could make you care about a badly written character. She’s absolutely perfect in the role selling every line, while subtly changing into a more emotional state as she goes through a wide range of emotions. For me, it made the English all the more worth checking out, and also why I like it a bit more.

In both languages both Tomoaki Maeno and Alex Organ play the emotionless character Decim. Neither performance is impressive since the material limited. The only time both voice actors get to break out of their emotionless state is by the finale of the series. Tomoaki Maeno revealing Decim more emotional state is more powerful, while Alex Organ feels more natural. I would comment on the other cast members, but I mentioned in the previous paragraph how each voice role determines what they do. In terms of content the usual changes in the English script are expected from explaining certain Japanese culture to non-Japanese, and changing dialogue to sound natural in English. Aside from that there’s no major changes so nothing became lost in translation.

The soundtrack is composed by Yuuki Hayashi who did a good job. Plain and simple. His music for Death Parade creates a cool atmosphere like it would at any bar. Hayashi’s melancholy tracks are poignant with the nature of games distinct in their uses jazz. Composer Yuuki Hayashi has a better idea of creating emotions through his music than the writing does with characters. For example, “Death Parade”, accentuates its mournful atmosphere through with a bass. As the piece progresses, a sense of doom creeps in and the music grows more ponderous. A momentary halt lets the tension build up, which is released through a tragic air played by saxophones. The weight of emotions continues to build, amplified by the fitting use of backing vocals and chants to pave the way for some heart-rending violin and saxophone solos near the end. That’s some excellent music composition. Death Parade opening theme is “Flyers” by the band Bradio. It’s a jazzy, and cheerful track. It maintains it fiery energy through the very with a catchy chorus. Lead vocalist Takaaki Shingyoji high-spirited singing makes up for the unimaginative lyrics. It’s ending theme “Last Theater” is by artist NoisyCell is a soft rock ballad. It didn’t leave an impression on me because despite it lyrics being about conflicting morals it feels phoned in. The instrumental drown out the vocalist in this ending theme.

Personal Enjoyment: Almost transcended to a different plain of existence where I stopped caring

Death Parade from the get go failed to grab my attention. If it wasn’t for the lone fact that it was an original creation done by Madhouse studio I would have never given Death Parade the light of day let alone a second of a thought. For starter, death is a complex subject and something that couldn’t be done properly by Death Parade narrative style in twelve episodes. It wanted to tell a continuous story, but in that format attempted to combine it with episodic stories that did more to essentially hurt the story and question its existence in the first place. Another reason I failed to get into it was Decim who is a tool. From the first episode I felt he was incompetent at his job. His backstory certainly didn’t help improving my thoughts on him as a character even more so when the story intention was to get across a “change the system” story with an emotionless lead. You know the writer did something wrong when the main character is given a profession, and several elements that serves to be a hindrance to doing his job properly.

Furthermore, while watching the series I kept wondering what the point of it all? If it’s trying to be a series that wanted to discuss the value of a life it fails because there’s no consistency in the judgments done by our leading character. No explanation as to why Decim thinks it’s okay for a man to hurt a woman, but not the other way around which gets women send to the Void. If was trying to tell a story about changing the system it doesn’t work either because the world building is terrible. Adding real world functionality to several abstract ideas wasn’t implemented properly. Especially when wasting time on stand alone stories instead of establishing its setting to its advantage like it wanted. If it was trying to be a fun series it immediately failed because it’s a series where death is always in discussion, and in the first episode there’s a dead fetus. Lastly, just because an idea sounds interesting on paper doesn’t mean it is automatically suited for a series. Death Parade is a clear example of good ideas, but no proper thought put into them to create anything meaningful.

Story: O/3

Characters: 1/3

Technical: 3/3

Personal Enjoyment: 0/1

Final Thoughts:

Death Parade is a series that’s best left in limbo. Not enough thought was given to the anime for a functional beginning, middle, or end when the more it revealed about its own world the more questions it refuses to answer or overlook. It had such high ambitions only to crumble spectacularly for its own inability to carry itself. From a technical standpoint there’s nothing wrong with Death Parade as Madhouse illustrates great care for it. That alone does it not excuse it for wasting my time for what was essentially failed ideas. If I do choose between reincarnation, or the void, I would choose the latter because at least then I know nothing associated Death Parade would ever bother me again.

Anime-Breakdown: Trigun (1998) Series Review

I don’t know how to bring up a discussion on violence which is the main theme of “Trigun”. An anime series that goes into depth on the topic of violence and telling a compelling story with a great leading character. Despite the serious theme Trigun is also enjoyable dashing out humor through the course of 24 episodes. It’s as much of an enjoyable show as it is dramatically powerfully. If you’re a fan of Westerns, Madhouse Studio, or like a great leading character Trigun is the show for you.

Basic Information:

Episodes: 26

Available English Dub: Yes

Animation Studio: Madhouse

Good: Vash The Stampede

Trigun is only as it good as it protagonist and you couldn’t have asked for a better leading character than Vash the Stampede. He is deliberately introduced as this badass gunmen in the series intro that shows him dodging dozen of bullets from gunmen and wind constantly blowing his way in the lonesome desert getting across an uncanny, seemingly violent figure. Once the first episode starts you only get to know about Vash from secondary accounts that make him out to be this dangerous man. However, when actually seeing Vash for the first time you’ll find it difficult to imagine such a goofball would be worth so much money.

That’s one of the main reasons Trigun works. Vash has many characteristics allowing the series to go in different directions once establishing Vash and none is more evident than in his sense of humor. It doesn’t matter how dire the current situation or standoff might be. Vash can come out of it with his goofball side intact. Always seeking to find the best solution in a very limited amount of time when placed on the spot. Vash is a misunderstood hero you probably wouldn’t give a second thought towards. When advancing further in the series details slowly revealing Vash background are given. Suddenly there is new meaning behind Vash good nature in the desolate and violent world he lives in becoming more sophisticated. Analyzing the depth of Vash can be an engaging experience all on its own right.

Define by his ideology and the constant challenge to stick to it in difficult situations, there is never a moment Vash is not challenged. Because of his pacifist nature, it leads him into trouble in the west from dangerous gunmen. By no means is Vash an incompetent shooter as proven in several episodes he has obtain pitch perfect accuracy. Understandably that would ordinarily make for a boring lead, but because of Vash ethics to not kill anyone it makes every approach to conflict unique. With his beliefs preventing him from simply killing those after him results in creative solutions. Whenever simply shooting a gun off your gunman just doesn’t work, it branches out how the setup will play out. Since Vash ideology prevents him from killing in confrontations will have you wondering what the breaking point will be. Living in a world and people that influence him to think like common folks over achieving peace. What Vash does isn’t simply for survival, but spreading an ideal that he must represent by any means.

Good: A Riveting World

Trigun takes place on a desert like planet named “Gunsmoke” that is cover by sand, decaying cities and towns, and steampunk technology. The world of Trigun is common to overlook in a film, but in the form of a TV series you get a better opportunity to understand and see it developed. It’s not an ideal world to live in. As made evident with the extensive world building that is put into crafting this world. We benefit from seeing Vash travel to different destinations and experience a bit of chaos in that city or town. Each visit gives you insight on how differently people lives are affected by the world they live in. In episode 5, an entire city is attempting to capture or kill Vash in order to save the city from bankruptcy. Immediately you understand that the city is in desperate need of money in order to survive. Hinting that even in a world that’s barren like “Gunsmoke” money still present power over instinctively helping the common man. Within the same episode you get to hear voices lashing directly at Vash to give up his life while Vash on other hand opposes their opposition with reasoning. Needless to say, good nature people doesn’t equal positive decision making. Neither does it mean that a doomsday aftermath will eliminate the rules we currently live by.

Trigun takes place on a desert like planet named “Gunsmoke” that is cover by sand, decaying cities and towns, and steampunk technology. The world of Trigun is common to overlook in a film, but in the form of a TV series you get a better opportunity to understand and see it developed. It’s not an ideal world to live in. As made evident with the extensive world building that is put into crafting this world. We benefit from seeing Vash travel to different destinations and experience a bit of chaos in that city or town. Each visit gives you insight on how differently peoples’ lives are affected by the world they live in. In episode 5, an entire city is attempting to capture or kill Vash in order to save the city from bankruptcy. Immediately you understand that the city is in desperate need of money in order to survive. Hinting that even in a world that’s barren like “Gunsmoke” money still present power over instinctively helping the common man. Within the same episode you get to hear voices lashing directly at Vash to give up his life while Vash on the other hand opposes their opposition with reasoning. Needless to say, good nature people doesn’t equal positive decision making. Neither does it mean that a doomsday aftermath will eliminate the rules we currently live by.

Good: Exploration On Violence

The element of violence I keep mentioning is what the series tackles thoroughly. Our protagonist is a pacifist, and those he encounters generally are not in the same mindset. Simply holding all life sacred isn’t as simple as withholding one self from pulling a gun trigger. It’s a perspective that is elaborated upon, even if the answer you received might not be entirely acceptable. Characters in the world will question them with the hero or villain quick to refute their criticism with their own reasons. The philosophy is obvious, but understanding why anyone would stick to their beliefs is difficult to fully grasp or get behind. Sometime it can be as simple as a person who inspired a character or in another case a life that influences choices.

As a blunt contrast to Vash we’re given the traveling priest and smooth operator Nicholas D. Wolfwood. Despite being a follower of the holy lord, Wolfwood is far more pragmatic in his treatment of human life, and the arguments between him and Vash, as well as Wolfwood’s eventual confrontations with redemption, make him a particularly interesting character. He a highlight of the examination of Christians principles. Sure many religions value love of life, forgiveness, and redemption, but clearly Nicholas D. is geared toward the Christian side given Wolfwood background. Am I reading too much into the character? Maybe, although Yasuhiro Nightow (the creator of Trigun) is a known Christian. Much like Vash, we wonder what Wolfwood breaking point would be when it comes to his religion. Can a man who follows the word of the lord really be able to abide by them? The answer to that it provides might come across as clear cut, but much like Vash, there is various shades to each answer given.

Another contrast to Vash are Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, who are agents of the Bernardelli Insurance Society sent to evaluate claims regarding Vash the Stampede. In the series they serve the purpose of comedic reliefs as well as being the bridge to natural characterization. The insurance girls are a good pair on the entertainment and story. For me, the relationship between Meryl and Milly evolves from the two simply doing their job to doing what they feel is right. As I see it, this is an evolution to being realistic and adds a subtle take on a working person in the world of “Gunsmoke”. Finding the meaning behind what you do beyond a simple paycheck. What drives a person to keep their job, no matter how dangerous and why. It’s never truly brought to the forefront in the series, which makes it a small nice touch in the background. Passing no judgement on whatever your motivation as it demonstrates sometime the reason can go beyond your judgement as demonstrated with Meryl and Milly following Vash despite the harm they are put into.

Good: All Shades of Villainy

The series advances with a villain of the week formula. In nearly every episode has Vash and sometime his company defending themselves from a new super power villain or ordinary thugs. In the very first episode Vash goes up against a large cyborg named Descartes. He possesses a giant cybernetic arm with an attached boomerang. Despite appearances Descartes doesn’t last more than a single episode as Vash easily gets rid of him.

Villains personalities are varied offering some that are sympathetic with reasonable motivation while others are solely evil. It’s refreshing to see a series that doesn’t attempt to make every villain come across as a tragic story. Because of this we’re able to see the lowest depths thugs in this desolate planet can sink too. The most memorable confrontations are those that expose a different side of Vash psyche. These intellectual battles require Vash to be a quick thinker to find a peaceful resolution, even though simply shooting the villain is an easy way to survive. Sometime Vash doesn’t even need to use his gun to win making preventing standoffs from becoming stale.

One noteworthy villain is Legato Bluesummers. Legato best fits the part of a villain with long blue hair covering one eye and wearing an open trench coat showing off his imposing figure. Smiling when torturing others with his sadistic personality. Ultimately going as far as choosing his purpose in life is to help his master wipe out all of humanity and making Vash as long as possible. When it comes to villains not many within the series can surpass Legato in dedication to his single cruel purpose.

Good: A Distinctive Vision

The animation is spectacular while the art and the background art isn’t wildly creative with the barren, dusty world nearly eliminating scenery variety. On the plus side character designs are classic-yet-memorable, and the quality of the production is always high to carry the story. Vash’s spiked blond hair, signature sunglasses, and long, red trench coat, give him a distinctive look as the hero of a Western. Nicholas D. Wolfwood looks suitably cool with his massive, cross-shaped gun makes him among coolest priests in animation. There are impressive over-the-top fights displaying various degrees of bullets piercing and the dynamic gun choreography is always fun to see with superpowers gunmen requiring characters to change tactics. In particular the final standoff, which easily ranks among one of the best choreographed finale to have ever graced animation.

Trigun soundtrack is noteworthy from aggressive electric guitar to a few very mellow Western-themed tunes and a pretty song that factors into the story. Supporting a scene instead of telling the audience how they should feel in a particular scene. Like Legato’s chaotic industrial-sounding theme that fittingly goes along with Legato even more chaotic nature in mentally torturing Vash.

The Japanese and English voice acting is another of Trigun’s strong points. Vash goofball side and antics mesh well with the dramatic parts of his persona. Never is one aspect of Vash personality ever become overshadowed by the other. Wolfwood is also smooth, fun, and generally likable sharing many similarities to Vash. Hiromi Tsuru does a great, lively Meryl, although there’s not much depth to the role. She’s balanced by Milly an equally likable and generally believable when she gets serious. The English dub has none other than Johnny Yong Bosch in the lead role who does an excellent job. Playing up Vash comedic chops during the comedy scenes while always sounding human whenever discussing the value of life. All the actors in the English dub sound natural balancing the vastly different tone that it starts out with to what it eventually becomes. Much of the same praise that can be given to the Japanese cast can also apply to the English voice cast. Either way you can’t go wrong with reading subtitles or watching the English dub.

Final Thoughts:
Trigun has high brow writing and thoroughly explore themes on violence without shy away from dishing out a sense humor along the way. Coming across as a prime example of how to do gritty story and delivering a meaningful message without having to be serious all the time.

Protagonist: 2/2

Story: 2/2

Themes: 2/2

Villains: 2/2

Production: 2/2

Possible Complaints (no points value):
Vash numerous pacifism speeches
Sand, Sand, and more Sand
Depending on your taste the soundtrack isn’t as memorable without the series

Rating: 10/10 – Trigun is the best kind of anime that takes the establish western genre and reinvents it with a unique world which has yet to be match in the industry. A must see for any fan of great anime, for those looking for intellectual departure, or anyone who likes western.