Anime Reviews: Trigun: Badlands Rumble
Backed by a tremendously beefy budget, Badlands Rumble is a fun and exciting Trigun adventure, even if it doesn't add anything new to the story.
Title: Trigun: Badlands Rumble
Production: Studio Madhouse / KlockWorx
Film Length: 91 minutes
Air Dates: 4/24/2010
Age Rating: 13+ (mild violence, mild language)
Summary: A notorious robber named Gasback has his eyes on the high-security safe of a big-city bank. As the thieves prepare to fight among themselves, the infamous "Humanoid Typhoon," Vash the Stampede, jumps in and meddles long enough for the henchmen to escape and the police to arrive. Gasback then makes his dramatic exit, leaving Vash behind to take the heat as an accomplice. Now, 20 years later, Gasback plots another daring heist--this time, his target is Macca City's 50-foot-tall bronze statue, said to be worth $$5,000,000,000. The city's mayor has invited hundreds of bounty hunters for the occasion, to serve as protection against the infamous thief. Coincidentally, Vash also happens to be on his way to Macca City, and so are Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, sent to insure (and protect) the town's statue. One thing's for certain: Macca City won't be a peaceful town for much longer.
The Good: Beautiful art and animation; fast-paced action; the characters we love are back, and the new ones are welcome
The Bad: Essentially a 90-minute filler episode; requires familiarity with the series
The Ugly: Vash is terrible at picking up chicks
Initially, I wasn't sure what to make of the idea of a Trigun movie. This isn't exactly a series wherein you can easily stick in a side-story--or at least, that's what I thought. Upon my recent revisiting of the series, I found that it would've been quite easy to do so, and here we have the result. My other big concern was how the film would suffer being released so long after the TV series' run 12 years prior. Well, as I'll soon reveal, that was yet another fear laid to rest quickly as the film began. So, how does Badlands Rumble stand up? Let's find out, shall we?
First of all, holy crap! The art and animation is a tremendous step up from the series, and the character designs don't look malformed and disproportionate anymore! Finally, Milly's shoulders aren't as broad as a barn, and Meryl's head isn't oversized anymore! It's also interesting to take note of the subtle design changes and new (perhaps more competent?) depictions of memorable Trigun inventions, such as the Riding Thomas creatures and the Sand Steamer transport and Wolfwood's iron-cross railgun. Likewise, as mentioned, the animation got a significant bump in flexibility and fluidity, which makes even the most mundane scenes a treat to watch. And you know what that means...
That's right, Badlands Rumble finally infuses some great action into this action franchise! The original series had to rely entirely on the relationships and internal conflicts of its characters to give weight to its action, because its budget was strangely tiny for a Studio Madhouse project. Now, while there is still idealistic conflict and a credible crisis at hand to give the action dramatic weight, the titanic budget of this film blesses us with some great visuals to go along with the drama. Oh hey, speaking of which...
There's an enjoyable conflict in this film! This could have easily just been a lazy cash-cow move by the studio to wring a few bucks from one of its most popular titles, but some actual effort was put into making the story interesting and the action fun! And of course, the characters contribute heavily to the film's fun factor, as well. Vash, Meryl, Milly, and Wolfwood are all back, and they're just like we remembered them, quirks and all; Vash is still the goofy and lovable pacifist, Meryl is still a hothead who keeps watch over the flighty Milly, and Wolfwood is the one-liner touting priestly badass. Fans of the series have nothing to fear in that regard.
However, I must also give Studio Madhouse a lot of credit for the work they put into the new characters: Gasback, Cain, and Amelia. These complete newcomers are a welcome addition to the Trigun universe, and Gasback especially makes for a memorable villain--one that isn't pure evil or too sentimental, but one that is motivated by a personal grudge and the need to keep his pride (and career) intact. Cain is enjoyable as the perfect sniveling-coward character, and Amelia is an absolute joy as another ass-kicking gun-toting femme du badass. Yes, I totally did just make up a term to describe her. And really, that's the best thing I can say about Badlands Rumble: It's a load of fun, and it knows exactly what it is...
...and that's also the greatest fault with the film: It knows that it's just a 90-minute filler episode, and thus doesn't even attempt to add any new elements to the overall story of Trigun. Those who want to know more about Vash and his history or who want more background on Meryl and Milly will be sorely disappointed--not so much in the film itself, but in the potential for character development squandered. And in the end, no matter how fun this ride may be, it still has no effect on the events that transpire in the TV series, so it's pointless. A hell of a good time, for sure, but ultimately pointless.
Another, smaller, problem with this movie is that it really does happily assume the viewer is already familiar with the Trigun universe and its characters. If you don't know who these people are or how this world works, well...tough luck, sucker! In order to understand the characters and their motivations, you have to do a lot of reading into the characters to get even the most basic idea. Otherwise, you'll just be left behind. It's never cool to be left out in the cold just because the writers assumed only fans would be interested in checking out your newest work.
Despite all that, however, becoming a fan of Trigun isn't like having teeth pulled, as the only downside is spending a couple afternoons catching the original series to prep yourself for the movie. And even then, although Badlands Rumble won't give you any new insights to the characters or new information about the setting, you'll probably have too much fun to even care. As long as you're aware of that fact, then nothing will hamper your good time.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10. Even though it does feel a little pointless in the end, Badlands Rumble is still a wonderfully-animated and action-packed romp with some of the most beloved characters in the anime community.