Trigun Stampede takes a step back as it refocuses on Vash’s past. But while many of his stories have him saddled up with Knives throughout the remainder of his youth, Stampede diverts Vash from Knives’ direction by having him picked up by some of the survivors of the crash to live out his childhood with them.
I’M THE GENERATOR, FIRING WHENEVER YOU QUIT
It was a pleasant surprise to see this episode given how it altered the text more in a “What If?” kind of scenario rather than reinventing how Vash handles adversity. The mythos behind the Plant race of supernatural beings being revealed explains a lot about how Vash would perceive both his experiences with humans and his interactions with other Plant beings.
It also peels back some of the layers behind the organization that Rem was a part of, Project SEEDS. Luida and Brad wind up being our eyes and ears into what’s left of their organization as they try to use Vash’s Plant abilities to their advantage to resolve any of the issues that are going on with the plants that run their ships. In the process, however, it also ties into how experimentation has become the root of many of the world’s issues by this point.
With Wolfwood and Livio’s past revolving around the experimentation, the two would wind up enduring, it’s easy to connect the dots with how Vash was treated under captivity. Before being considered a member of the crew, Vash is imprisoned for days on end until their ship’s imprisoned Plant is unable to sustain the ship’s power. After it’s revealed that Vash can hear and assuage the Plants who are shackled and forced to power their ships, he’s kept on retainer to help other distressed Plant prisoners be comfortable enough with being used as generators.
Even though Vash is empathetic of Ship Three’s crew members, their quick decision to second-guess their commitments to Vash once they find out he was roped into destroying his home ship with Knives lends itself to how fickle they are towards their attachment to him. Yes, they feel immense guilt for driving him to leave when he overhears them outright calling him untrustworthy. At the same time, their relationship towards Vash becomes less of a found family unit and more exploitative the moment the shift is on whether he should truly be disposed of if he has no use.
A DIVERGING PATH
With this in mind, it’s easy to see how Vash would wind up having a complex around being seen as a nuisance who should just leave. It’s something that likely explains why he is so quick to abandon the people he fails when he internalizes that it’s his fault that they despise him and that if he weren’t present, no one would ever face misfortune.
In a sense, it makes me understand the previous episodes a lot more. Rather than telling the story of Vash breaking his co-dependence on Knives as he becomes more of a wise-cracking altruist, Stampede shows us that Vash cutting the cord entirely with Knives has only led Vash to wander into more and more situations where he’s treated like a liability for not working how people expect him to work.
I can be mad about Vash being different, but that’s not a knock on Stampede if it makes greater sense why Vash acts this way in this adaptation. If Vash’s surroundings built a complex around his inability to help others out, his desperate acts of trying to find validation wind up being detrimental to his altruism as he finds that the more he interacts with others, the more they suffer. I can sympathize with why Vash becomes more broken up by a constant string of failures in Stampede if he was set up by everyone around him to be seen as a letdown if he’s not a 100% pure miracle worker.
The rearing that Ship Three offers him is entirely exploitative, but the kindness that Luida and occasionally Brad give to him would naturally mess Vash up once they doubt his abilities and distrust him. He goes from being a prisoner to being a lapdog, and the moment he breaks is the moment he’s rendered a failed experiment.
As someone who is broken both by his brother’s abject cruelty and the overreliance that fickle humans have on his abilities, this Vash isn’t the type of character that could just bounce back from all of this with a cocky fake grin and a go-getter attitude. It’s a more cynical alternative retelling of Trigun, but I can admire that there was plenty of thought poured into making Vash the Stampede a tragic character.
Nice to see Vash’s letter being a far cry from Zeta Gundam‘s “Captain Quattro, he is a CHAR” Engrish from decades past. (Though alternatively, I wonder if the JP to EN translation was done via DeepL.) Well done either way.
Story-wise, good to see a deeper dive into Vash’s past as well as the mysterious Plants (with the reveal that Vash and Knives are Plants themselves). That said, the origins of the Plants are still a mystery (at least for this adaptation), whether they’re genetically modified organisms (former humans?) or inter-dimensional beings (as posited by Trigun-related wikis).
BTW, should manga-related spoilers still be spoiler-tagged? It’s been 16 years since the last chapter of Trigun Maximum was released (2007), and I feel that’s enough time for people to be less hysterical about spoilers. (As opposed to more recent shows/adaptations.) Not to mention that some comparisons to the manga will be inevitable in these discussions, spoiler or no.
To quote commenter Feng Lengshun over on ANN (context: discussions on the validity of the “Three-Episode Rule”):
“I personally don’t see a point in committing either way. Watch anything that looks interesting, for as long as you enjoy it, and if you don’t enjoy it or you got busy, then drop it anywhere anytime – if it’s actually good, then people will talk about it, and then you can watch it again.
Everyone’s just looking for the next entertainment, no need to make a big deal out of it as if you need to finish every show or watch only good shows.
Side note, this is also why I think people should stop being so hysterical about spoilers. You can enjoy anything, even if you’ve been spoiled on it. If anything, it makes you more of an informed viewer, and you can appreciate a story better for its craft in its entirety, than just its slight of hand at that moment. I can understand not wanting to know everything about a show, but there’s nothing wrong with looking up some spoiler to see if it’ll be a story for you or not.“
I’m liking this adaptation. Yes, the CGI is wonky at times. But the voice-acting and grimmer storytelling are good. Nice detailed reply Incognito and thanks RC for covering this every week!
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