Anime Reviews: Trigun Stampede (2023)

Note: this review is intended to be spoiler-free. While the original Trigun anime is roughly 25 years old, please note spoilers in the comments.

Count me as a fan of the original Trigun anime. It is far from a perfect show, but its tale of the formidable yet sensitive gunfighter Vash the Stampede remains memorable. I haven’t watched it in years, but its characters and story are still familiar to me, its impact lessened only slightly by time. So when news of a 2023 adaptation came out, I found myself skeptical but ultimately unable to stay away. Consider this review subjective but hopefully minimally biased.

Trigun Stampede is immediately recognizable, though a very different production than the 1998 anime. Vash and some other familiar faces are back, supported by characters both new and reimagined. The production itself is the single greatest change, utilizing 3-D computer graphic animation.

Character designs have been updated as well. Costumes are streamlined, with modern elements prominent though not too distracting. I will say the slim pants on Vash and Wolfwood are noticeable, though Vash’s boots look better suited to desert terrain than Wolfwood’s slip-on shoes. (Both characters look ready to lead their own K-pop groups if gunfighting doesn’t work out.)

The animation itself may be the show’s greatest strength. Fight scenes are beautifully choreographed, and every episode has at least one stunning visual. Knives in particular serves as a showcase for the CG animation. The fight scenes are plentiful and well choreographed. (The show is about a gunfighter, after all, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to note that there are guns and fights and sometimes gunfights.)

Music is prominent in the episodes as well, and its quality is every bit as strong as the animation. The combination of the two is mesmerizing at times. Overall, the production is very well done. As for the story, well, it may need to be qualified a bit.

Original Trigun is very much a western, with some science fiction elements sprinkled in. Trigun Stampede has a very different take on the story here, leaning much more heavily into its sci-fi aspects. This isn’t better or worse, but it is a change from what some might expect.

There are twelve episodes here, with the promise of more to come. This length creates a concise production, with little wasted story, though some character development is lacking. The need for resolution here may dictate the available space for background, but not all characters contribute equally. For a show with so much to fit into its runtime, it is impossible to ignore any elements that ultimately prove inessential.

The tone also becomes serious in very little time. (I will note that much of the original Trigun humor was based on Vash’s appetite and sexual harassment, neither of which are missed here.) Little of the original anime’s humor is present, and not much persists beyond the first few episodes. Fights have real gravity, with moments of calm and relative safety few and far between. Light spoiler: there are a few moments of legitimate horror here. Most of the show would be suitable for a young teen audience, but there are times where the show is difficult to watch.

Overall, Trigun Stampede is a beautiful production with some noticeable shortcomings. It is hard to recommend, despite its strengths. Reports indicate that there are more episodes in production, so it will be interesting to see if the show changes direction or continues with its current track. If any of you have watched this, I’d welcome your opinions, particularly if you had a different experience.