Sunday, 7 April 2013

Trigun: Badlands Rumble (Film Review)

Horrible name, great film. 
Trigun has always been one of those animes which felt like gateways into the medium. You know the kind, the ones which are just about normal enough for newcommers of the medium to easily adjust to but still have a lot of the bits which define them. All the zaniness, running battles, humour and exaggerated faces. It was also a fairly self contained story with a clear beginning and ending, so there was concern about the film. Thankfully the people behind it made three very clear decisions which worked for the best:

1. Changes little to nothing.

2. Avoids anything with Legato, Knives or their posse.

3. Made it for the fans and people who've seen the series.

Set between Wolfwood showing up and Legato's first appearance, Badlands Rumble covers an unseen chapter in the heroes' lives.
In a town run by an increasingly paranoid mayor, an outlaw from Vash the Stampede's past has resurfaced. Drawn back together as they ever are, Vash, Meryl, Milly and Wolfwood end up in a town under siege by the notorious bandit Gasback. Hellbent upon revenge against its mayor, the town is now rife with bounty hunters looking to bring him down. With an unknown link to Vash's past, Bernardelli Insurance set to lose everything, and one of the heroes in his employ; the stage is set for a rumble.

For the majority of the film the plot is just an excuse to have all the characters in one place. For the mostpart what you get is the same sort of humour you'd expect to see from the series. Vash making a fool of himself, Meryl panicked about Bernardelli being on the verge of collapse, Wolfwood... acting like Vash, that sort of thing. You don't even really see the bullets start firing until some way on into the film, but the creators are making use of that. Just as the original series did, Badlands Rumble takes its time to get to any serious bits. Starting off overly comical and humorous before eventually evolving into something more dramatic. Most surprisingly this change happens relatively naturally and you never find yourself questioning why it's happening or thinking about the shift in tone. While it might seem an unusual choice on the part of the creators it allows the film to offer up the two things it's best remembered for: Slapstick comedy and utterly insane gunfights. Pleasing each part of the fandom who favours one specific half of the series, yet maintaining a single story.

The comedy itself is, again, what you'd expect. It's frequently made at the expense of the main characters, built upon making their lives difficult and to show how superhuman Vash is. Both in disguising his true nature and in the literal sense, frequently at the same time. While not overbearing or overt as you'd find in a few more modern titles it keeps a constant pace of events, building up towards one major scene and then fading away. While jokes do keep occurring while the action takes place they don't override it.

As for the action, it's mostly reserved for two major events. The actual attack by Gasback upon the town and the later on showdown between the characters. While there are lesser skirmishes these are usually either in hand to hand or are settled in a few brief seconds. Duels or full scale battles are reserved almost entirely for the end game. This isn't to say it's a bad thing though as the film's creator's clearly went all out in making the raid look as insanely destructive as possible. The fight featuring everything from a car chase worthy of the Blues Brothers to someone wielding a lighting cannon/minigun combo as a weapon while single handedly storming a gunline. That stuff's also not the centerpiece of the action, it's just the events surrounding the fights as Gasback goes after his true target.

The animation quality is fairly solid if unremarkable in some cases. For the most part it seems to be in line with the style and quality of the series but it's clearly been bumped up a notch. With more complex and faster moving sequences than you'd expect to see in the older episodes. Everything's also on a much bigger scale with far more set-pieces and flashy techinques. It reaches the point where Gasback's actual attack is closer to being a literal warzone than a simple raid.

If there is something to be disappointed at it's the vocal cast. While in the english version Johnny Yong Bosch reprises his role as Vash, no other actor from the original series does. While each person involved is clearly doing their best impressions of the older characters one or two do end up sounding slightly off. Usually when they're either required to yell or strain their voice for the more exaggerated sequences. It's the same with the Japanese voice cast but it's slightly harder to tell due to the language barrier.

That's really unfortunately all I can really talk about. The real problem is if you try and go into things like the music all that can be really  said is "Look at the series, think of that, bigger budget." That really goes for everything here and it's the film's biggest draw and weakness. It has really been made for the fans of the anime and anyone else will likely be lost watching it.
Is it good? Undoubtedly, but unless you know how everything went for at least the first nine or ten episodes you're going to be lost. Badlands Rumble really is fan-service of the best kind. If you're a Trigun fan then definitely buy it, but if you're not then pass on this until you've watched the series.


Trigun: Badlands Rumble and all related characters and media are owned by Madhouse and FUNimation Entertainment.

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