Trigun (Toraigan) – The Mysterious Man in Red Arc, Episodes 1-5

Trigun (Toraigan) (1998)

Here we go – the first of six posts where I ramble on and on (and on) about one of my favs: Trigun 😀

The first five episodes introduce Vash with a few lone gunman tropes but also carefully set up audience expectations around comedy and violence, as you learn pretty quickly that Vash will work extremely hard to preserve life.

It’s a fairly episodic stretch of the series while the world of Gunsmoke is established via long shots of desolate cities and dry hills and deserts, of saloons and townsfolk facing off against bandits, all the while offering little hints that the world is not wholly like Earth.

Here, Vash wanders around helping whoever he encounters, usually trailed by two other main characters the ‘insurance girls’ Meryl and Milly, rather than travelling with them.

That’s because this early in Trigun, the girls don’t accept that he is really Vash – the very man they’re seeking – and so this is part of why I thought these episodes would be a good arc.

No-one really knows who Vash is and since his description varies, save for a few easily replicable details, criminals often use this to their advantage. And so a lot of the jokes around mistaken identity occur in this arc, in fact the whole first episode has a great stacking effect of such moments.

I really liked the way that the opening to the series drops in some exposition via the talk of strangers, building Vash up as the ‘humanoid typhoon’ and then comically contrasting the rumours with his gentle exterior.

I remember noting that the tone YA tone is established pretty early too – for instance, while there’s the unwanted sexual advances in the bar or the more overt sexual threat with Descartes the mutant, the slapstick and also the time episodes often take to show us things like henchmen surviving violence almost gives the show a PG-feel.

Of course, that’s not accurate really, but nor is director Satoshi Nishimura taking cues from more bloodbath-style Westerns; there’s a bit of an adventure feel instead.

And surely, Vash’s pacifism helps – I’ve always wondered to what extent any boundaries set by Shōnen Captain may have potentially impacted the show’s violence at a certain level, vs say Nightow’s beliefs?. (Wolfwood springs to mind here, but now that I’ve said that, I do want to mention that I don’t like to go too deep into possible biographical criticism due to its pitfalls).

Something else I noticed was how much these early episodes feature either Western or Samurai tropes. Obviously you have things like bandits and crooked sheriffs and wanted posters and fancy revolvers etc, but one of my fav moments here is the trashcan-lid moment in the shoot out between Vash and ‘Vash’.

Just as often, these conventions are subverted by Vash’s pacifism – especially when he solves situations that seem to demand killing, without actually shedding blood. These moments also provide great foreshadowing for the central moral and thematic conflict.

In this arc I also enjoyed the early hints that Vash is more than he seems – and so is the world itself wrapped in some mystery too.

There are touches of the anachronistic with the headphones early on… at least, on first viewing you might wonder about that, but aside from the Western + Steampunk feel, the setting is obviously more than it seems. This is driven home with the first appearance of the plant too – but, like most good storytelling, not every secret is revealed right away!

At this point the bigger storyline is yet to be revealed but enough hints are set out that I remember being hooked on the world (and Vash himself) upon that first viewing. I had so many unanswered questions that I didn’t need a ‘main’ plotline yet 🙂

Okay, so to wrap up at last, I thought quickly I’d note a few things as dot-points here at the end – otherwise I’ll go on for far, far too long:

  • First Cat-Face from Vash
  • First glamour-face from Vash too
  • First appearance of Nightow’s mysterious black cat
  • This fun line from Meryl: “He saved us but he’s embarrassing to watch”
  • The goofiness of the humour is established nicely via things like off-model faces or the crab walk or Vash having to ‘caterpillar’ his way across the floor
  • In terms of character design you will get a bit of ugly person = bad person
  • I’m pretty sure that it’s in the second episode that I noticed the first appearance of my fav piece from the OST: Stories to Tell

And done!

So, what’s next for these Trigun posts? The second one covers a much shorter group of episodes, just three for the The Sand Steamer Arc, but it’s one which introduces the first shift in tone perhaps.

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