Sunday, December 7, 2003

Graphic Arts as Literature

Love, peace, doughnuts
abound in anime
gunslinger’s world

Aside from huge fighting machines and ordinary people gifted with supernatural powers, the Wild West/sci-fi combo is getting to be a popular theme in Japanese animation. But it hasn't achieved the kind of popularity to the point where every animator and his brother are rolling out story lines by the ton, which means those anime currently in the genre are quality stuff.

Trigun is full of action from the beginning.

Among those is "Trigun." It's one of those series that you urge your friends, one by one, to watch, and willingly sit through all 26 episodes over and over again -- and it never gets dull.

The story opens with bounty hunters on the trail of a human terror known as Vash the Stampede, nicknamed the Humanoid Typhoon because he's reportedly leveled entire towns. But for all that destruction, not one person has ever been killed.

Still, he has a $$60 billion bounty on his head. (No, the double-dollar sign isn't a typo. The "Trigun" world uses ordinary words, with slight changes to them. For instance, distances are measured in yarz and iles, while the currency is the double-dollar.)

Because of all the damage Vash has caused, the Bernadelli Insurance Co. is suffering heavy losses. It sends two female agents, Meryl Strife and Milly Thompson, to catch up to Vash and make sure he stays out of trouble.

So off they go, bearing a box of fresh doughnuts to placate the fearsome terror when they finally meet him. They follow his latest trail of destruction and pick up confused rumors of a 12-foot-tall man in red sporting a mohawk and wielding a huge gun.

The catch? Not only is that description completely off target, Vash is, as becomes obvious in the first 10 minutes, an utter dork whose motto is "Love and Peace!" -- listen to that in the original Japanese for the full comedic effect -- and it's hard to believe he holds such a frightening reputation.

BUT THERE'S MORE to Vash than that. Most apparent is his amazing marksmanship. And we find that Vash is hunting someone from his past to settle a score.

His motto becomes a sad irony as his partly deserved reputation precedes him, and he can't go anywhere without being dogged by bounty hunters. Vash really does want something more than "love and peace," but the bounty attached to him -- and the resulting collateral damage -- earn him nothing but mistrust, fear and prejudice.

The action and comedy in "Trigun" get rolling from almost the very beginning and hardly ever slows down. Vash portrays a stereotypical anime girl -- except he's a guy, and it fits perfectly. No other male anime character has successfully pulled off the balancing act of being dead serious one moment and off-the-wall stupid the next, and actually looked good doing so.

The personalities in "Trigun" are more realistic than many other series, making the characters less grating on the nerves as the story progresses.

The only real gripe is the series' disappointing ending. Vash and others he meets on his journey suffer so much, yet Vash remains incurably optimistic that "love and peace" will always win the day.

While insufferable optimism might be nice, the series would have been much more stirring if Vash had toughened up just a bit at the end.

"Trigun," released domestically by Pioneer, is available on eight DVDs. A comic version also is available, with Vol. 1 of the manga released in October by Dark Horse.


Hello Santa


Artists are invited to submit comic strips that reflect life in Hawaii for publication in "Strip Show." Send work to Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813; or email

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