For my first OWLS post (excited to be a part of the tour!) I wanted to take a quick look at someone who might not be a traditional mentor maybe, but whose legacy I think is pretty similar in some ways:
Nicholas D Wolfwood.
I chose Wolfwood because I think his influence on Vash is probably the most significant in the anime, though I haven’t read the manga yet. In the television series it’s pretty clear that Meryl and Milly have an impact on Vash, as do figures from his past like Rem and Knives, but Wolfwood is probably the strongest catalyst for change when it comes to the present.
I’m going to dive right into spoilers here, so apologies if you catch a glimpse of something – but perhaps the most obvious way Wolfwood’s legacy appears in Trigun is a very ‘plot-based’ manner right near the end with his Punisher.
Yet, Wolfwood’s life and death clearly have bigger repercussions for old Needle Noggin’.
Over the course of Trigun we see Vash struggle often with Wolfwood’s approach to justice. They respect each other despite differing methods and common goals tend to ensure they work together well.
But Nicholas spends a fair amount of time basically urging Vash toward violence. Of course, Vash always resists this and it takes a few big events, including Wolfwood’s death, to finally drive Vash to break his own moral code. I think it’s possible to argue that without Wolfwood’s death weighing upon him, Vash might not have been able to actually kill Legato.
Equally, I think Wolfwood tries to absolve Vash of some of the guilt he obviously feels at not being able to save everyone he meets. This must help a lot. For Vash, wandering Gunsmoke for such a long time, human but clearly not human also, who actually remains that could offer such solace or understanding? Not Rem and certainly not Knives. Maybe Sensei? But I don’t think Vash would want to burden Sensei whereas Wolfwood’s job is to take on burdens… so maybe Vash accepts that?
In the end, Wolfwood’s legacy seems to allow Vash some absolution during life but also to be inexorably tied to a (temporary) breaking down of his pacifist views, and so maybe it’s a mixed one?