A Steampunk, Sci-Fi…Western?

*I want to take a moment here to mention that the anime I talk about here on this blog I do not, repeat NOT recommend for children. For the discerning adult it can be enjoyable, but for anyone else viewing should be moderated and guided.*

Vash the Stampede from "Trigun"

Vash the Stampede from “Trigun”

As I promised in my last post, I’m going to talk about the anime “Trigun.” Some people like it a lot, some people don’t like it at all. I am one of the people who like it. It’s currently one of my favorite anime, and Vash the Stampede just might be my favorite anime character of all time.

For all of you who have never heard of it or don’t know the story: Vash the Stampede destroyed the whole city of July–without killing anyone–not to mention that destruction seems to follow wherever he goes. Now he’s got a $$60 billion (the currency is double dollar, FYI–not sure what the value is, but whatever) price on his head, and bounty hunters are after him. The problem is, nobody seems to know what Vash looks like, which causes confusion not only for the bounty hunters, but also for the two Bernardelli Insurance company agents Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, who have been sent to keep an eye on him. But when Meryl and Milly finally meet up with him, they wonder if they have the right person. Is Vash really the destructive criminal everyone says he is?

*Here, There Be Spoilers*

Okay, so it turns out Vash is a peace-loving goofball who just happens to be one of the best gunslingers on the planet Gunsmoke. He would probably be happiest living somewhere quiet and peaceful, like a farm or something. He also happens to be really good with kids, and for the most part I like his life philosophy. It’s really Christian, in a lot of ways. Basically, he doesn’t want to kill anyone, ever. He doesn’t like to fight, but if he has to, he will, to protect those who can’t defend themselves. However, he doesn’t shoot to kill, only to disable. Heck, when Vash gets entered into a tournament that involves gun duels, he knocks bullets off course with rocks (yes, he’s that good ^_^) so that none of them actually kill each other. Courage is also another of his attributes: one time he faced more than one enemy while only pretending to have a gun, and later he fought the leader of gang while he himself was already wounded.

But these aren’t even the best things about Vash. One of his beliefs absolutely amazes me, because I wouldn’t have expected to find it in the media (though anime constantly surprises me by presenting a few shining lights within its often murky world). What he believes is that it is never too late for anyone to repent, even the most hardened of criminals–as he and his foster-mother Rem say, “the ticket to the future is blank.” That’s probably one of the reasons that he doesn’t want to kill anyone. It’s also the reason that after he has wounded his enemies, in certain cases, he stops and binds their wounds. Think of that: caring enough about another person that even if they’ve been fighting against you and trying to kill you, you care for them. Now, that’s doesn’t mean I don’t think Vash is a little over-hopeful, and maybe a tiny bit naive, but this belief in the possibility of redemption for all (if they choose it) and his great compassion not only for others but even his enemies are qualities I wish we all possessed. Now, none of this means that Vash never gets angry or never wants to kill someone. In the episode titled “Diablo,” he almost kills a man. Then he remembers Rem, and decides not to the kill the man because he felt if he did, he would truly lose her, though he has already lost her physically in death. Even though his decision wasn’t prompted by the best reason–that killing is wrong in this case–he was prompted by a remembrance of someone good, someone he respected. That in itself is a good thing and a step in the right direction.

So, I guess the reason I like this anime so much is because of Vash, because he represents such an important part of what I as a Christian believe. There are, however, a couple of downsides or potentially problematic things in the show.

One is the running gag presenting Vash as a pervert and a peeping tom. That is, he occasionally tries to peep (and in one case grope), but if someone else makes a move he’s there to protect a girl (for a more detailed explanation, click here). Perhaps I’m just fooling myself, but this part of his personality seems very fake, along with the obviously fake, humongous smile he sometimes puts on. Considering that I read somewhere that in the manga he was not a pervert at all, his anime pervertedness must’ve been done for a laugh, which is really annoying.

The other is the character of Nicholas D. Wolfwood. I have unfortunately seen some spoilers that I won’t reveal for you, readers, so he might not be as problematic as I think. However, I need to finish the series first to make that decision. Anyway, he also is not quite what he seems, although what he is one does not find out right away (at least, not after the first 20 episodes of the anime). He claims to be a ‘priest’ selling his services to support an orphanage he is part of. However, no priest worth his salt, no priest truly following his vocation, would try to sell confession or be the somewhat-of-a-ladies man Wolfwood seems to be. He also carries around a big cross covered in canvas. Turns out it not only holds a bunch of small pistols, but is a big gun in itself. This might seem potentially sacrilegious.

Yet Wolfwood has his good points too: like Vash, he defends people, although he’s willing to kill to do so. A part of Vash and Wolfwood’s relationship is the tension between Vash’s belief in not killing and Wolfwood’s belief that sometimes it’s necessary. I would say that Vash might be somewhat naive, but I think he’s mostly right, too. For a Christian at least, killing is against the 5th commandment. But what does that mean for soliders and police officers, who have to defend the innocent and sometimes end up killing people? From what I can tell the difference has to do with intention: the intent (at least for professions like that of a police officer) is not to kill the person but to defend others from harm. Sometimes using the means of protection available (ex. shooting a gun) can (but does not necessarily) result in a death. The important thing, then, is that 0ne does not harm anyone with the intention of killing; death should be an unfortunate by-product rather than the main goal. I’m not going to go any further into this because I don’t even know how one might justify (or not) contingencies–I’m just talking on a rather basic level, and showing how Vash’s view is actually pretty reasonable when seen from a Christian perspective. So, I basically have a qualified disagreement with Vash and a qualified agreement with Wolfwood: I think that if you end up killing someone while protecting others, it doesn’t make you an awful person and it doesn’t mean that you murdered them, but causing the death of another person is a serious, awful thing, and your intention ought not to be that person’s death, but rather the continued life of the other people.

As you can see, the show deals with some rather important (and difficult, controversial) themes. But it’s also just totally awesome from a genre perspective. I know it seems weird at first, but come on: a steampunk western set on a different planet? You’ve gotta be intrigued if you’re a sci-fi fan. And both Vash and Wolfwood are AMAZING with guns–in a modified version of today’s parlance, they totally kick butt. And Vash wears a cool big red jacket.

Anime being what it is, due to the slight perviness of Vash and the sometimes not-so-modestly clad women (and the issues the show brings up) I wouldn’t recommend this show for younger viewers, but probably for the discerning 16-year-old and up, it could be enjoyable.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Also, if I were you (perhaps after you finish the series, though here I’m not taking my own advice), I’d either read the manga or read some spoilers to get better background and explanations for the characters. The manga and the anime do have different endings, as the anime was finished before the manga. I eventually want to pick up the manga, when I can find it–I like seeing the originals.

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