Trigun Review #5 – Hard Puncher

Ahoy and welcome to Anime Parlay! I’m the Captain and this is the fifth installment of the Trigun review saga. Trigun was one of the first anime shows that got me into the overall fandom of Japanese animation. While it had a huge impact on me as a young teenager, I can safely say that many of the messages have aged well and carried on with me into my 30’s. Episode 5 of Trigun REALLY gets to the point and stands out as we see our first character defining moments for Vash (and not necessarily “The Stampede”). Hard Puncher also quite literally gut-checked me with regards to the current discussion on gun violence in the United States. I may have some opinions today so get ready for that!

SPOILERS AHEAD! You guessed it! This REVIEW has spoilers so if you haven’t had a chance to see this 20-year-old show (we can buy it a drink next year), I’m so sorry. You’re missing out but that’s my opinion. Speaking of my opinions (for the third time), these are MY opinions. It’s totally fine if we don’t see eye to eye but I’d like to understand where you’re coming from with your unique lens. It matters! That’s why you know we have the “LeVar Burton Promise”. You don’t have to take my word for it. Experience it for yourself and come up with your own opinions.

This week’s Trigun review comes with a preface and a warning!

Getting bold here on the blog! Let’s start with this: Art imitates life. That’s as simple as I can make this segue. If you have not had a chance to watch Childish Gambino’s “This is America”, I implore you to watch it. This is one of the most informed, artistic, chilling, and graphic representations of the United States but one that comes from a REAL place. I wanted to post about the video (to the Nth degree) this week but couldn’t really come up with a way to tie it into anime somehow. Even with today’s post, I won’t be addressing the themes of racial injustice, mass incarceration, or the RAMPANT racism that plagues my country. As soon as I do, you’ll be the first to know and I am so open to ideas so please reach out if you can help brainstorm some ideas.

That being said, I am CONVINCED Trigun takes place in America. Possibly a post-apocalyptic America where the lawless rule. I mean, that’s arguably pre-apocalyptic America now. Regardless, it wouldn’t be fair for me not to share Childish Gambino’s video with you having watched it before this week’s episode of Trigun multiple times. It really put this Episode, and arguably the rest of the show, in a new context. I am forever grateful for Childish Gambino releasing this video and sharing his message. It’s not a new message but at least it’s being heard.

This IS America

So let’s take the Gambino angle and jump into the plot of the Episode. We find our red-clad hero enjoying a little lunch in a small cafe when a group of armed gunmen storm through the closed front door and begin to crowd the inhabitants. STOP! This whole scene was in slow-motion. My heart SANK! This show, inherently, is supposed to be lighthearted even with the gun play. After seeing the looks in the by-standers’ face’s, it became too close to home. As soon as that happened, I knew I had to share my context of “This is America” with this episode. Long story short, Vash fakes dead and crits a charisma check that leaves all these do-baders without clothes or weapons. Vash didn’t fire a single bullet and managed to save the day. There’s a wholesome lesson in there. All seems calm until the grateful bystanders pull guns on Vash. Everyone has a fucking gun!

It would seem pretty out-of-place to pull a weapon on someone who just saved their lives but it appears the townsfolk have a good reason. If they can manage to wrangle Vash the Stampede, his bounty will have revitalize the town and help its poor citizens seek medical attention among other universal basic needs. This leads to a 4-hour manhunt to catch Vash which results in more destruction in the already struggling city. It also makes Meryl’s insurance paper-work senses tingle which cases her and Milly to investigate. After learning the Mayor ordered the citizens to catch Vash, by any means necessary, Meryl tears him a new one. After a moral earful, the Mayor calls off his citizens from causing anymore damage. Unfortunately, the Mayor also hired two escaped convicts consisting of a giant bio-mechanical human and a much smaller brainy type who fits in the larger guys’ chest pocket. Crime never looked so adorable. This is the Nebraska Family and they’ve racked up over 150 murders. Way to go, Mayor! Then, before the action can go nuts, a little girl reaches the Insurance Girls and the Mayor and says they captured Vash the Stampede.

Cut to Vash. As you can imagine, he’s a little parched from his marathon game of hide and seek. He seeks refuge in a small, dark saloon and has him self a cold, frosty beer. After finishing his well-deserved drink, a group of civilians reveal themselves brandishing weapons. Vash advises them that they don’t need to do this but each citizen has a morally just reason for wanting to capture Vash and turn him in. Vash can empathize but makes it known that he will not go quietly by pulling his weapon. Before there is any confrontation, Vash hears something outside and yells for everyone to hit the deck. BAM! The little saloon, with some nearby architecture, is leveled in an instant. Once the debris and dust settles, the Nebraska Family stand across the way from Vash. Cue that showdown cliche. You know I love it!

Rather than fight the duo, Vash casually goes about removing the victims. The very townsfolk who had just held Vash at gunpoint. One-by-one, Vash doesn’t instigate. He prioritized getting the victims to safety. I really admire that. It’s only once he is done helping that Vash FINALLY dons “The Stampede” persona. We finally see Vash playing into the mythos that has been built around him for the last few episodes. We also see Meryl finally moving to accept that the big goofball in the red jacket may just be the legendary gunman.

The fight seems like it will be strait-forward until, at the last second, the bigger of the Nebraska family decided to re-aim and first his wrecking-ball like fist at the wounded civilians instead of Vash. In one of the most beautifully animated and intense scenes, Vash manages to change the trajectory of his opponents projectile with 5 well calculated shots. He then uses the 6th, at random even, to deliver the final shot to disable, not kill, but disable the Nebraska Family’s tank-of-a-son. Messages of LOVE AND PEACE are yelled and the episode ends. Not a bad way to watch some well directed action!


Vash Practices Gun Safety (for the most part)

Vash impressed me this episode. I feel like I was always drawn to his silliness and non-sequitur one-liners. Younger The Captain was really into his earnestness and wanted to emulate that. This watch, I got so much more out of it. I don’t even know how they managed to animate the emotion so well in this episode. Specifically when the townsfolk manage to corner Vash in that dark saloon. Each civilian had their weapon trained on Vash. Even after Vash drew his weapon after warning them to step down, he didn’t once aim it at a single person. The reason this stands out to me is Vash’s control over his own weapon which should be a primary concern to anyone holding a weapon with a trigger.

With my specific military training regarding firearms, we learned that there are four main rules to follow with regards to safety. Those rules are as follows:

  1. Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
  2. Do not point your weapon at anything you don’t intent to shoot.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are absolutely ready to fire.
  4. Keep the safety on until you are ready to fire.

Vash was the only person to not have his weapon trained on someone else. He clearly has the talent and know how to get himself out of that situation and he chooses to NOT use his power. That’s huge! He did, however, place his finger on the trigger I noticed. These rules are designed with that in mind. Even if our own negligence manages to evade one of these rules, the other 3 being adhered to keep us in check and safe. Vash knows and clearly exercised safety, with concern, and choose to play it cool.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

I’ve been talked down to a lot. Especially after leaving social media a few years back and forsaking individuals who didn’t have my best interests in mind, I have learned how to bite my tongue and just keep myself still. Still, I would be lying if I didn’t say it destroys me inside to be personally attacked without a just reason. If I screw up, say something out of line, or just do something dumb; I expect to be chastised so I don’t make the same mistake in the future. Enough said! When someone takes a shot at my character to be petty or spiteful, I don’t take kindly to it. How Vash could keep his cool while the Nebraska Family was talking shit to him is beyond me.

The Nebraska Family called him a hypocrite for choosing to not use his gun to fight when everyone “knows” the Humanoid Typhoon kills indiscriminately. They relentlessly attack his character while he is actively pulling wounded, would-be captors from the rubble of a leveled building. Just incredible resolve and I wish to learn that. Vash really shows his true colors here more than anywhere previously in the series. I can’t wait to see what defines him even further!

Episode 6 has a lot to live up to following in 5’s shoes but I can’t wait to jump into it. Vash is continuing to grow on me but I am also eager to see Milly and Meryl grow as characters as well. It would be nice if their entire point for existing thus far wasn’t to investigate insurance claims from Humanoid Typhoons. I am still in awe at how much I got out of this episodes but damn, so many guns and so much violence. I  have so much more reflection to do on my culture as an American moving forward. I just hope I can use this platform to open up some meaningful discussion. I’m more of a diplomat than a warrior so let’s talk! Thank you, sincerely, for reading today. Seriously, if you can help me brainstorm some ideas for a future post, I would love to talk. Adios!

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