Donut Holes Are Made With Bullets

 Anime, Trigun  Comments Off on Donut Holes Are Made With Bullets
Jan 042011
 

I’ve talked about it before, but let’s go over it again real quick: Trigun was a series that I desperately wanted to like, but its main character all but ruined the series. Despite all of the steampunkish weird west sci-fi shit and gun fights and Wolfwood and all this awesome stuff, Vash’s preachy, obnoxious, out-of-place pacifism grated on me to no end. And to make matters worse, the series sided with his attitude and played things out to where you were supposed to buy into his ideals 100%. Despite everything I liked about the series, it felt more like a chore to sit through all of the Vashism, and I the series as a whole didn’t do it for me.

So I was a little weary when it came to the new Trigun movie. Was it gonna pull the same old routine and try to convert me to the Church of Vash? Was I gonna be grating my teeth every time Vash spouted his trademark “Love and Peace?”

Nope. The Trigun movie fucking rocks.

Vash’s attitude is still there. He still uses his superhuman abilities to avoid death at all costs and he still tries to covert all of those around him to his point of view– he’s still the obnoxious dork that he was in the TV series. The catch is that the movie forces Vash to deal with the consequences of his beliefs.

The TV series did this to a certain extent, with the whole Legato Bluesummers bit, but that climax’s impact was erased with the way Vash dealt with his brother Knives– you can’t have things build up to such a crescendo and force Vash to rethink his position only to have the next major event be solved with the same blind devotion that nearly got him and his friends killed three episodes ago. With the movie, Vash is forced to deal with the consequences of letting Gasback, the main villain of the movie, escape 20 years before the present. Gasback and his gang were robbing a bank and Vash did his usual playing-the-fool-while-disarming-the-situation bit, but in the process of trying to save the lives of everyone involved in the situation Vash allows all of the criminals to escape. He may have gotten his wish– to see no one harmed– but he also allowed a dangerous killer to get away and continue doing what he does.

And Vash is very aware of this. He knows that people died at the hands of Gasback during the 20 years that transpired between their two meetings. and he’s carrying that weight in a way that you never really saw in the TV series. At the same time, he’s still devoted to his ways, but it’s that realization that his ideals aren’t perfect that makes his beliefs far more tolerable and interesting. In the TV series, Vash comes off as some sort of idealized, untouchable, God-like being. He seems so above the ways of humans, blindly following his own path because his immortality allows him to ignore the pitfalls and weaknesses of the humans around him, and because of that he’s not all that sympathetic. In the movie, Vash comes off decidedly more human. He still has his blind devotion, but he’s aware of the suffering that has come about from his decisions. In that, rather than being G0dlike, Vash finally takes on the whole Jesus thing that always seemed to suit him but which he never quite attained in the TV series. He’s shouldering all of the bad shit that he’s done and trying to make amends so that the world can be a better place.

It doesn’t hurt that the movie has Vash seemingly die and come back from the grave to make that comparison complete.

So yeah, the movie distills everything that I thought the TV series was trying to accomplish and finally gets it right. Vash has become that Christ-like figure that he was always meant to be rather than a distant, unsympathetic deity.

But all of that doesn’t really matter much in the end. That’s just a matter of the movie finally getting right what the TV series got wrong. What makes the movie genuinely awesome is the action scenes and world-building.

There are two action scenes in particular that make the movie worth watching. The first is the opening heist sequence. Gasback and his gang break into a bank vault that’s guarded by a series of death traps and devices that plays out like a combination of the entrance to the Holy Grail from the third Indy Jones movie and the hall guarding the super computer in the first Resident Evil movie. The camera follows the gang as they methodically dismantle the thing one trap at a time, blocking bear traps and gunning down devices and all that. It goes a long way to show that Gasback is a villain that can give Vash and his insane gunplay trucks a run for their money.

The second is an awesome bar fight that erupts because of Vash’s ineptitude. It’s awesome less for the fight itself, which is your standard faire western bar fight, and more for the fact that it gives you a good feel for the world’s style. While we’ve seen plenty of views of massive steam-powered land carriers and all sorts of other establishing shots, it’s the bar fight that gives us the best glimpse of what the Trigun world is supposed to look like. The bounty hunters come in all manners of styles. Many of them have steel plating grafted onto their bodies like some form of steampunk cybernetics. Their style of dress ranges from traditional cowboy threads to the sort of punk fetish shit from The Road Warrior. Seeing all of this clash in a traditional bar fight is a fucking beautiful sight.

If there’s anything wrong with the movie, outside of the fact that I’m not sure peeps who haven’t seen the TV series will care for it, it’s the new heroine: Amelia. While her motivations end up being far less lame than is initially hinted at, she has one really stupid character quirk: she breaks out in a rash if a man touches her.

Really? She’s literally allergic to men? I could go further into why I think that’s fucking stupid, but I’ll just leave it with that. It’s fucking stupid.

But yeah, I’m not sure what people will think if they haven’t seen the original TV series. The relationships between Vash and his buddies (Meryl, Millie, and Wolfwood) are already established. When they meet up, they talk like they’re old friends, and there isn’t much explicitly stated about why they know each other or how we’re supposed to react to their character dynamics. I’m sure peeps’ll be able to figure it out on their own, but it might be off-putting since the movie assumes you know what’s up and doesn’t really give you much in the way of refershers. And the movie doesn’t go into any of Vash’s backstory. It isn’t critical to what happens in the movie, but it does go a good ways in explaining why, exactly, he’s so fucking fast and resilient. Despite all of that, I don’t think it should be too much of a barrier. The action and other cool shit should be enough to get everyone’s attention.

Yep. The Trigun movie rocks. Watch it.

Dec 312010
 

Yep. Obligatory “Best of the Year” post. Hell, I churned out ten of these damn things last year so I could catch up on everything I hadn’t written about in the millions of years I spent not blogging, so I may as well churn out one for this year, right?

So yeah, Let’s Listage!

 

 

 

13. Heroman

I think I may be the only person that thinks Heroman is a legitimately good super hero story. It has an old school vibe to it, like the sort of stuff Marvel and DC used to churn out when they were marketing their shit mainly at kids. There’s an earnestness to it all that’s missing from most of today’s metatextual superhero stuff– modern stuff is superhero comics about superhero comics while Heroman is a superhero story. It isn’t quite as brilliant as Tiger and Bunny, but it’s definitely worthy of people’s attention. Y’know, so long as they don’t have some irrational bias against superhero shit.

12. Dance in the Vampire Bund

It was a mess. A ridiculously absurd mess that never really explained much of what was going on. And the whole “naked girl cavorting about while claiming she’s super-duper old” was kinda creepy. But damn, this series was a beautiful mess. I blame my digging of this series on my old World of Darkness fanboy tendencies, since Bund aped so many tropes from that RPG and other vampire shit. I also blame my love of plot hole ridden old school OAVs that forced you to fill in the holes with your own convoluted ideas. It’s trash, but it’s the sort of trash I like.

11. Shinryaku! Ika Musume!

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Working!!

The problem with anime comedies isn’t that they tend to take place in schools or focus around harems or shit like that. What’s wrong with them is that they’re usually pretty shitty. Squid Girl and Working take the usual formulas and remember that comedies are supposed to be funny. They acknowledge current trends without forgetting that the most important things are comedic timing and the way characters play off of each other. Working does it a little better, since it’s more character-driven and less gimmick-driven, but there isn’t much differentiating these two series besides that.

9. Trigun: Badlands Rumble

I didn’t see the Trigun movie until after I made this list, but I did write a post about it here. It accentuates everything that was good about the TV series and cuts down on all the stuff that annoyed me. It’s the ideal anime TV-to-movie transition– the sort of thing all such movies should strive to be like. Not unlike, say, the Cowboy Bebop movie.

 

 

8. Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt

Panty and Stocking is the bastard lovechild of Gainax’s hyperkinetic styling and 90’s western cartoons like Dexter’s Laboratory and Ren & Stimpy. It didn’t always work, or else it’d likely be in one of the top two or three slots, but when it was working it was damn brilliant stuff. And fucking funny. Fatherfucking funny shit. And the Chuck to the Future shorts were some of the best post-Looney Tunes cartoon shorts I’ve ever seen.

 

7. Yet the Town Keeps Going

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru is crazy. My kind of crazy. It starts off like your typical Shaft comedy– some quirky jokes and stylized camera angles. Then it starts to descend into speculative madness. The Soredemo world ain’t the same as any other high school comedy. Those worlds are either completely normal and banal in nature, or the abnormal and supernatural is normal in some way. Soredemo’s world is filled with dark, horrific secrets. No one but the main characters seem to be even remotely aware of this, and even then the main characters only have fleeting encounters with these oddities. Hotori runs into aliens and ghosts, but it’s always in an X-Files like manner. It’s there, but it’s all behind the scenes. And it’s all played for laughs. But Soredemo reaches its highest point in the final episode where Hotori dies, goes to heaven, and sees that it’s more like the afterlife from Beetlejuice than anything else. All of this from what most peeps labeled as yet another monotonous slice of life anime. It isn’t like Milky Holmes, though. It isn’t turning everything into a criticism of its genre. It’s just using the structure to do something completely different.

6. Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail

It’s probably the weakest of the Black Lagoon stories to be animated, but Blood Trail is still a pretty awesome homage to when action movies were good. It takes Roberta’s character to its logical conclusion: a one-woman murdering machine bent on taking down an entire city and coming pretty damn close to doing so. Blood Trail also shows Rock managing to straddle the line between amoral monster and righteous do-gooder by calculating a convoluted scheme that might just take down all of the subhuman obstacles in his path while using the very same tricks they utilize. Those parts might be a little too “talky” for a series like Black Lagoon, but the idea behind it all is pretty damn awesome. Rock is a cool character in that regard. He has a lot of the same sensibilities as your typical generic anime lead character, but he’s fully capable of adapting to and taking advantage of his violent, alien surroundings. We need more fucking Black Lagoon.

5. The Legend of Koizumi

World leaders solve world issues through assassination and mahjong. It’s the most relevant political anime ever made. ‘Nuff said.

 

 

 

4. Tantei Opera Milky Holmes

I stand by my assertion that Milky Holmes is the Evangelion of the moe genre. It takes all of the tropes and beloved aspects of the “cute girls doing cute things” genre and turns them into wholly negative traits. When the Milky Holmes girls do something that’d get absurd amounts of “daws” and “hnnnnnggggggggs” or whatever other unintelligible sounds from anime fans, it always turns against them. The Milky Holmes girls are failures just like how Shinji is a failure, and both highlight the failures of everyone involved and everyone watching. It’s great stuff.

3: The Tatami Galaxy

It’s a genuinely touching coming of age story about friendship and romance and quantum physics and parallel dimensions and youkai. I think that description alone should explain just how awesome it is.

 

 

2: Occult Academy

Take all of the criticism you’ve heard about this series, reverse it, and you get my feelings on Occult Academy. Nothing but filler? Nope. All those episodes were ways of exploring the world and the fucked up speculative shit that takes place. It’s called “world building,” not “filler,” and it’s a different way to tell a complete story.  The way the series dodged the so-called “main plot” was purely intentional, especially since the main villain outright admits to leading the main characters astray, trying to do her best to keep them from unraveling her plot. And then we find out that her plot wasn’t even the reason why the world ends, but it’s a completely different event that causes the alien invasion. The series didn’t waste its time on unnecessary things because the plot elements everyone focused upon were just a big, fat red herring to lead viewers astray. All of the craziness from the last three episodes didn’t turn me off in the least. In fact, I think Occult Academy has the single best climax to ever take place in an anime series. No exaggeration there. I fucking love this series.

1: Cobra the Animation

The franchise as a whole is my all-time favorite anime series. JET PIRANHAS! was my top moment of the year. I’ve been ranting and fanboying about this all year long. If you thought a different anime was gonna be on the top of my list, this must be your first visit to my blog.