Perfect Blue (Pāfekuto Burū) 1997

Perfect Blue (Pāfekuto Burū) 1997

Not for kids, obviously.

As a side note, I found it surprising that here in Australia my DVD release (the uncut version) is rated MA rather than R, which would be more in line with the rest of the world.

Which I guess is meant to be a segue into a point about content – Perfect Blue is a psychological thriller featuring early internet culture and horror elements, a fair amount of gore and sexualised violence. There are other films out there that are more full-on but this is still a confronting adaptation*.

It’s also compelling on every level; from the intertwined elements of narrative, character, and sound to the visuals and the script and acting – I feel like it’s hyperbolic of me to say, but it’s probably a masterpiece.

I know that’s a loaded word but I can’t give everything I review here a rating of 3 or 4 stars, can I? 😀

So, preamble aside – I should mention the premise finally:

The film follows Mima Kirigoe, a member of a Japanese idol group, who retires from music to pursue an acting career. As she becomes a victim of stalking, gruesome murders begin to occur, and Mima starts to lose her grip on reality.

And that blurring of reality and fantasy when I first saw the film was so immersive, and I love it now too, even though I know what’s going on when it comes to those subsequent viewings.

I was definitely wrong in my prediction about who was responsible for the murders when I was younger. But if you’re quicker than me, you won’t need any second or third screenings to see all the clues, because they’re nice and clear and so the truth doesn’t seem like it comes from out of no-where. There’s no cheap, empty twist.

Lot

But I hope if you have never seen Perfect Blue that you still experience a bit of surprise at the ending.

And if you were inclined to watch this film more than once, I hope you also get a chance to focus on the mechanics. I won’t go deep into the production and story elements but I want to use just two classic examples, editing and camera/point of view, to discuss how effortlessly Perfect Blue establishes that feeling of unreality and positions the camera as an unreliable narrator.

[From here, I think it’s possible to see and/or infer spoilers, so tread with caution]

Editing first.

Onscreen, we are shown Mima as the following over the course of the story:

  • Idol turned actress/centrefold
  • A character on drama Double Bind
  • Blogger from ‘Mima’s Room’
  • Murderer

However, the intercutting between scenes, locations and roles is often done without viewer cues for time or space.

This is one way that Perfect Blue visually represents that blurring between real and unreal. And when the cutting-rhythm between picks up its pace to show Mima’s state of fear and disorientation, the same effect is cast onto the viewer too.

Here, I’m thinking especially of a long sequence in Mima’s room where she’s waking up over and over when the frequency of cut becomes fast as 2 to 3 seconds compared to maybe an average of 5 or 6 seconds elsewhere. Obviously, it’s not a strobe effect (not yet) but the audience doesn’t get a lot of time to interrogate what they see. Instead, you’re dragged along, just as unsure as Mima is about exactly what’s real.

On to camera!

Camera (and its role in creating point of view) when it comes to storytelling is clearly a very versatile tool.

But I want to focus on when it presents as ‘objective’ and ‘omniscient’ by nature of its ability to see and show things beyond what a main/point of view character perceives.

Again, as with the editing** what I’m always thrilled to notice here is how unreliably the camera operates in the film.

Kon takes advantage of our assumptions. Firstly, if we are shown something on screen that Mimi is not aware of then it is true. This is definitely a feint but it’s aided by the storyline and the idea that the camera is objective – the idea that it shows us, the audience, truth.

We see what Mima cannot see/remember, even if Mima is not involved in events because we need that extra information to think that we’re ‘ahead’ of Mima, that we might know who the killer is and why they kill.

Secondly, we assume that we’re generally riding along in Mima’s point of view during the film. This is another natural assumption. It’s her story, her struggle, and we spend the most amount of time watching her, invested in her life. When the narration moves beyond Mima and her immediate surrounds, it’s almost always to show how other folks are interested in Mima.

These assumptions help the camera to operate in that sly way of the unreliable narrator.

In a movie asking us ‘what is real?’, the scenes it chooses to show us are often clothed in Mima.

When we witness Mima murdering the sleazy photographer and right after see her inability to recall how bloody clothes appeared in her wardrobe, we accept that what we’ve seen is truth. After all, Mima has been having trouble keeping track of reality and we know she deeply resented filming the rape scene at the club. Of course Mima is somehow involved in the murder! And yet… just because the camera showed us something from ‘her point of view’, doesn’t mean we must accept any of that at face value.

I hope I was able to explain what I saw in those elements, as it stands that’s probably giving a bit much away re: spoilers, if you’ve never watched the film. If you have seen Perfect Blue, then you doubtless know what I’m talking about there.

Okay, so moving on from production and story elements now, I want to write about one of the major themes, and also quote Kon’s related remarks.

The exploitation of pop idols is one theme that runs through the movie but perhaps not in a didactic way – at least, not via dialogue. Perfect Blue is still a psychological thriller rather than being a drama or documentary, but the entertainment industry and related obsessions are key to everything that happens.

I suppose you could argue that putting a naive singer through such horrors is in and of itself a heavy-handed comment on the industry but it doesn’t strike me as a lie either. Pop idols (world-wide, not just in Japan) are certainly regularly exploited. (Here’s a much better article on the film and topic).

And Horror can not only function to illuminate the evil that humans are responsible for, but become cautionary too. For me, the story of Perfect Blue has that effect.

Getting back to my opening comment, I want to repeat the idea that this film isn’t for kids. Sexual violence is a significant part of the plot. It’s used as a weapon by the entertainment industry, almost as a way to tarnish Mima’s reputation and inflict self-loathing and doubt (and thus, presumably, later make her much easier for the industry to control).

In fact, the writing of the rape scene into Double Bind isn’t really considered a decision worth involving Mima in, the scriptwriter and director are more worried about her agency’s reaction.

The same violence is also both a threat (and action) from a certain character and shot in such a way that definitely evokes terror. (And so if you know that’s something you don’t want to see then skip Perfect Blue.

Satoshi Kon himself seems to be of two minds about the club scene from Double Bind especially. The special features on my disc include interviews and lectures and in one part, he is looking back on the film from years later, which I found very interesting:

“At the time, it was supposed to be an OVA. We didn’t know it was to be released in theaters. So we thought we had to make it stand out as much as possible. OVAs don’t get a lot of publicity. So I thought we should have a graphic scene, but I went too far.”

and

“But this scene was too graphic. When I saw this blown up on a threater-size screen, I ended up looking down.”

These quotes make me wonder exactly how much pressure the industry and OVA-era forms put on creators, as well as performers? Is Kon suggesting that he might have made a different version of the same story if he directed it during a different time, after becoming so well-known?

Impossible to know, of course.

Now, I can’t miss an opportunity to mention Darren Aronofsky.

You might know his films, two of which are Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan. In the same interview/lectures I mention above, Kon mentions that Aronofsky wanted to remake Perfect Blue and you can see here a famous homage(?) from Requiem for a Dream and if you are familiar with the premise and tone of Perfect Blue then you’ll be right at home with Black Swan.

I’m not as well-read on this issue as others out there but Kon didn’t seem to be too impressed himself.

And finally now, I should mention that nostalgia plays a roll in how much I enjoy Perfect Blue. Both for a time when the internet was young and for something I first saw long ago. (In terms of the technology aging, I think it’d be fun to update things with today’s technology if this film were ever remade).

To my eye, pretty much everything looks top notch from Madhouse in terms of the animation and backgrounds etc but if you’ve been raised on modern, bright anime then the colours here may feel a little dull (which adds to the realism of course).

I don’t want to forget mentioning Masahiro Ikumi’s disturbing score, which will probably echo in your head for a while after watching the film – especially Virtual Mima. Some parts evoke a real clash of analogue and digital and it’s all drenched in tension 😀

This has turned into one of the longer reviews I’ve written for quite a while and so I think it’s time to wrap things up, otherwise it’ll never end.

I think this might be Kon’s best film although my favourite of his is probably still Paprika, but if you’re seeking something equal parts confronting and compelling, then Perfect Blue is probably worth seeing at least once.

5 Stars

*Pāfekuto Burū: Kanzen Hentai as written by Yoshikazu Takeuchi.

**Costume plays a really big role here too.

There are

WordPress is (for whatever reason) not letting me add captions to the images but I want to note a couple of things – the ‘anime billboard/poster’ is funny and I noticed that like in many other films from Satoshi Kon, film-making itself is once again referenced in the story.

The recurring reflection motif is sometimes very ‘upfront’ like in the first image, and other times a little more subtle like in the image two above.

The amount of clutter in a lot of the rooms really adds to the sense of claustrophobia that develops in some scenes.

I also eventually noticed just how often the camera shows us Mima from behind, hiding her face and expression, maybe obscuring her relationship to the Mimi who torments her?

Thanks again to everyone who voted for this one back here 🙂

Trigun (Toraigan) – Gallery Post

Trigun (Toraigan) (1998)

So, I took a fair few screenshots and wanted to share some that I didn’t include before… just because, I guess 😀

Hopefully I don’t accidentally double up, but these are just meant to be shots or moments I found interesting in one way or another – if I have the energy I might add a few captions or comments here and there too.

Below, a shot from episode 4 which is actually where the manga starts, from memory.

Lots of dramatic, deep red and orange sunsets in Trigun.

Kuroneko Sama here appearing as she sometimes does, on a poster or a label etc, instead of in-person.

Below that, green, headless birds? 😀

Here is another (somewhat) rare shot of a city-scape that suggests the level of technology in the past/some parts of Gunsmoke is a fair bit more developed than most of what we see during the series.

Feels like the smoke below could almost read “SOS”.

Switch between power being the thing that hides clear view of Vash’s eyes and then his glasses:


Another costume/hair change for Vash.

For the two above, sometimes I forget the twin suns, obviously having some impact on how arid the setting can be.

I’ve always wondered who wrote this – sinister as it is, I can’t recall if Knives is supposed to be out and about at this point?

And done!

In the future, I might like to do this sorta thing again – have a series of posts for one show – and see how many I can build up. They tend to take a really long time though, so it might be a while.

Next time it could be Cowboy Bebop, or FMA or Neon Genesis or Samurai Champloo perhaps… not sure yet!

Trigun (Toraigan) – The Final Shoot Out Arc, Episodes 24-26

Trigun (Toraigan) (1998)

The final shoot-out!

While hardly so divisive as the ending to Neon Genesis, there are a fair few disappointed folks out there when it comes to Trigun’s conclusion.

It’s not an unfinished series, and it’s not the discontent from “it’s not like the manga” that I’m throwing out here in this post either, but something I guess somewhat different… but more on that below.

[Spoilers of varying degrees from this point onward]

So, the leading episodes first.

Wolfwood is quite the scene-stealer and I think you could argue that he does this in the final arc, as his exit during the previous episode hits pretty hard. It’s a bitter end to Vash and Wolfwood’s friendship, to the influence they have on each other too, and the ramifications continue into this arc.

You could certainly argue that his death is in service to Vash’s character development but it certainly functions within his own storyline too.

I say that because, like many other deaths or injustices in the series, they seem to operate (not only) as justification for Vash to finally, directly take a life. Legato and Knives have pushed Vash so close to the edge that, when he must chose to save Meryl and Milly by killing, he does so – and the pain that act causes is a neat, cruel time-bomb left by Knives.

But again, I think of it as necessary in order for the audience to accept Vash’s action, after all the pain he bore to save lives and prevent death in the preceding 20-odd episodes.

Okay, to the ending itself finally.

As I said before, I think the conclusion to Trigun is inevitable and it’s also very clearly set up. That doesn’t mean I found it entirely satisfying, but I don’t think the anime could have ended any other way – Vash was always going to save Knives, rather than take revenge.

Here’s why I think that:

  1. Vash is shown to be a pacifist, often and convincingly.
  2. Rem is kind of Angel-like and her memory functions as a paragon, and one Vash has been striving to live up to for over one hundred years.
  3. Rem charged him with “taking care” of Knives, which doubtless means not just protecting, but redeeming his brother somehow.
  4. When Vash kills Legato, we see that even killing an enemy has quite the impact on him (and the storyline paused to show us that with episode 25) making it clear that he’d never be able to do something similar to his own brother.

Okay, so, having made that list, I definitely wish that Knives had experienced a different consequence for his sociopathic reign.

It did not feel to me that he’d earned forgiveness, nor Vash’s almost infinite patience, and so the final shoot out between them, while impressive, had less of a visceral impact for me. In fact, I think the final flashback (of their years together after the crash) ended up being more compelling.

And I’ve always wondered, actually, what would the final episode be like if we saw the shoot-out first and then the long stretch of their past together?

… and there it is, six posts on one of my favourites 🙂 If you’ve never seen Trigun and it’s already on your list then I think you’re in for a fun ride. It’s one of those shows that feels like it has stood the test of time pretty well – and coming up on 25 years old soon!

But before I finish up (for now) I’ll quickly mention a few quick things like usual:

  • I’ve always wondered whether the narrative ‘punishes’ Wolfwood and rewards Vash for their respective lifestyles.
  • Poor Milly!
  • (I forgot this last post, but ‘Empty Smile’ guitar piece from the OST seems usually to be directed at Vash but its obviously aimed at Wolfwood instead during #23).
  • Animation quality goes up here in the last few eps.
  • Of course, as with many villains, Knives is deeply hypocritical – he still uses Plants himself for example.
  • …and finally, Milly’s laugh after the boulder is pretty great.

I think I will do a gallery/extra bits and pieces post tomorrow for fun – so one more Trigun post coming tomorrow sometime!

Trigun (Toraigan) – The ‘Doubts’ Arc, Episodes 18-23

Trigun (Toraigan) (1998)

Post number five for Trigun – this time it’s a span of episodes that I’ve called something simple, just ‘Doubts’ as I reckon it suits fairly well.

To contrast with the excitement at seeing everyone together again (not right away), there’s an undercurrent of unease here, of impending doom. Part of that feeling for me is fed by the ongoing tension between Vash and Wolfwood’s respective approaches to life.

Opening up with ‘Eriks’ I’m always struck by the sadness that’s pushing forward now – Vash is doing his best to protect everyone by hiding away, but of course he can’t help but form bonds with the people he meets, bonds which we all know are going to be broken. (The use of ‘Not An Angel’ in the OST here always gets me too).

And more, while Wolfwood sort of brings the gang back together there’s a cost – once again, to those Vash loves.

Especially in the ‘Flying Ship/Out of Time’ episodes, as more Gung-Ho Guns attack and interrupt those important memories connected to Vash’s past. To me, it feels like a few bits might even be overplayed but on the other hand, it’s all building to something. The narrative really, really wrings Vash out here, forcing him to absorb more grief on behalf of the promise he’s trying to keep for Rem.

Of course, even the fearsome Vash the Stampede has a limit. And while we don’t see him reach it in these episodes, he gets plenty of trauma to nudge him further toward Wolfwood’s way of life. It’s trauma the narrative needs to show the audience, I reckon, in order to have them accept something that’s due to happen later.

And Nicholas himself is still pushing Vash too. Maybe he can’t accept that someone could ‘permit’ the suffering of many by a refusal to commit violence, while clearly also wanting to prevent it. I guess it’s another facet of the tension between Vash and his world view and so many others upon Gunsmoke. (Actually, maybe that’s a bit simplistic of me).

I guess you could argue that it’s an extension of the ‘outsider’ trope, a classic one that Vash fits really well, not just via his character design with the red coat and blonde hair, but of course his pacifism. Which kinda sets him up as an underdog too, which is another way to manipulate an audience… but I’m always happy to go along with it.

And Vash has the contradiction of being a gunslinger but one who doesn’t want to draw blood – at times he’s covered in the imagery, poses, props and conventions of violence as equivalent to ‘cool’, but the goofy side, the gentle side both add that internal tension to his character.

So, getting back to the arc itself again, toward the end of this stretch of episodes is where Wolfwood confronts his own reluctance to commit a certain act (that I won’t spoil just in case). And I’ve always found it striking that he tells Vash “don’t tell me your dream in a place like this” here, another quote that always leaps out at me.

Some more quick observations:

  • Milly being late to work 20 times, I think it was
  • The rare costume change in ‘Hang Fire’ (#19) for Vash
  • I always thought the puppet master/dolls are creepy designs that double as good ‘fodder’ for Vash and Wolfwood – allowing the heroes to do some damage, and give the audience that outlet, without murdering
  • Chapel is a pretty memorable character, maybe a bit under-utilized perhaps
  • Finally we get to learn the sad truth about Plants

Well, it seems that the next and final* post is suddenly right around the corner – the ‘Final Shootout‘ with episodes 24 – 26!

(yep, I had to use a Western trope for the title of this arc).

*Well, there might be a gallery style post too 😀

Trigun (Toraigan) – The Gung-Ho Guns Arc, Episodes 12-17

Trigun (Toraigan) (1998)

Fourth in this short series of posts about Trigun – time for the Gung-Ho Guns Arc.

Here the series takes a bit of a turn again – a gradual darkening begins and then quickens, kicking off in dramatic fashion with ‘Diablo’. The appearance of Monev is fantastically menacing with those blues and reds, and his attack on the city definitely pushes Vash to the edge because once again, he’s not able to save everyone.

Earlier, Legato Bluesummers had already begun to torment Vash – kicking off a recurring theme from this point forward. Upon second viewing too, you definitely notice something re: his character design, but again, I’m trying to mostly avoid spoilers 😀

But what probably stands out most for me is that first glimpse of rage from Vash when imprisoned, and we sort of switch out of his POV for a moment, to experience that moment with the insurance girls and in theory, feel the same shock they do.

This block of episodes are also important because a vital character, Knives, is given a proper introduction with some flashbacks (in episode 17 ‘Rem Saverem’ especially). There, the way both Vash and Knives approach life is quickly established, as those formative experiences on SEEDS end up ricocheting through the rest of Trigun.

The theme or central conflict of pacifism coming up against more ‘survival of the fittest’ style beliefs are echoed all across Gunsmoke; in the characters and the ‘wild west’ setting itself too, and it’s obviously exemplified in one relationship by Vash and Knives.

Rem’s importance comes into focus in this arc too, as she urges Vash to “take care of Knives” – and based on how important she is to Vash, we know he’ll do everything he can to live up to her request – which leads to what I see as an inevitable ending… but more on that later!

At this point, the series still squeezes in a episodic storylines, a bit of a recap ep and more run-ins with the Gung-Ho Guns. Obviously ‘Fifth Moon’ is a huge moment but I think of Dominique’s episode as just as impactful due to maybe another big shift in tone (with that corpse pile) but also, it’s another point where Vash once again makes it clear to the viewer that he’s far more than he seems, far more than a “Broomhead” 😀

Vash also does his best to scare the girls away in this arc, kinda snapping at them, and of course he’s doing it in that hope of protecting them – and to some extent this works, as we don’t see the Meryl or Milly for a while.

Okay, some more fav moments gleaned from these episodes:

  • The mix between action and montage at the fountain, mixed in with the unsettling change in sound design, where the reverb drops over everything (In Diablo)
  • The string-bending little guitar phrasing here too
  • I always get a real ‘Judge Dredd’ vibe from Monev’s design, which I liked
  • And it should be this arc that features what feels like the very first use of green in the scenery, with the ‘Little Arcadia’ episode
  • Here is also a return for the Nebraska family
  • ‘Vash Pack Horse’
  • Somehow, the cat survives that gunshot 😀
  • Feels like Meryl might be beginning to realise her feelings in #16, or at least more than before
  • Wolfwood’s motives are called into question in this arc, adding another layer of mystery on your first watch

And that’s about it for this time, next up I’m allocating the episodes 18 – 23 as the ‘Doubts’ arc, where ‘sins’ of the past and present start to come together.

Onward!

Trigun (Toraigan) – The Wolfwood Arc, Episodes 9-11

Trigun (Toraigan) (1998)

Time for the third Trigun post – the Wolfwood Arc. (These middle posts are probably going to be shorter than the first and last in the series, I reckon.)

Here, two things seem to be the main focus: introducing Wolfwood and having him slide neatly into the gang, while having Nicholas and the audience continue to wonder about who or what Vash truly is.

At least in the case of Wolfwood, he either knows exactly what Vash truly is or strongly suspects… due to ‘reasons’, reasons which I certainly won’t mention at this point due to spoilers. And while the team is still wandering across the desolate world of Gunsmoke, having Wolfwood join narrows the focus a bit.

This is my second favourite arc in the series too, in part due to something I mentioned in an OWLS post a while back (spoilers in that link), which is the huge impact Wolfwood has on old Needle Noggin’.

Over the course of Trigun Vash often struggles with Wolfwood’s approach to justice but we also see how they respect each other, despite differing methods. For the most part, they have common goals, which tends to ensure they work together well, and so there’s a fun buddy-cop thing that they have going and which kicks off in this arc with episode nine, ‘Murder Machine’.

To widen my scope for a tic, during the course of the series, Nicholas spends a fair amount of time sort of urging Vash toward violence. And of course, Vash always resists this and it takes a few big events to finally drive him to break his own moral code. 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, which is something invaluable.

But yeah, that aspect to their relationship hasn’t really kicked off at this early stage – it’s still fun with rivalry and cautious friendship 😀

All right, some more dot points – again, just various stuff I noticed across the episodes:

  • Linked to my point above, there’s a Wolfwood quote that always stands out, when he says that Vash is “hurtling like crazy and grinning to hide it”
  • The ‘portable confessional’ is a nice moment of levity
  • ‘Quick Draw’ is one of my fav single episodes to chuck on sometimes when I just want to watch one ep
  • I think there are a few more hints about ‘Plants’ around here, which I recall really latching onto when I first watched Trigun

Done! Which means that the next arc will be The Gung-Ho Guns Arc and I’m including episodes 12 – 18 in that span, from memory.

Until tomorrow!

Trigun (Toraigan) – The Sand Steamer Arc, Episodes 6-8

Trigun (Toraigan) (1998)

Welcome back to more Trigun! Second post already, covering the introduction to the Sand Steamer:

So, in terms of the shift I mentioned last time, one is that from this point forward the girls are more or less on board with Vash, having pretty much accepted who he is. (Here also, Madhouse gets the chance to work on a connected storyline that spans more than one episode.)

I think it’s also a point where the tone shifts a little, considering villain Brilliant Dynamites Neon and our first flashback to “July”. These episodes certainly leave no more room for doubt that Vash is more than he seems. Despite revealing a bit of real pain for the first time here, he continues to defy expectations too.

Elsewhere, Milly’s ‘concussion gun’ provides more comic relief, along with Milly herself, especially when drunk or having “two stomachs”. Milly is one of my favourite characters in Trigun actually, and so it’s always sad to see her suffer – though we’re spared that for a fair while longer yet.

At this point, the tone is still overall somewhat ‘light’ as befitting the feel of adventure story, but tension is high with so many lives at stake on the runaway Sand-Steamer. And while I love the Steamer, there’s one example where it shows the age of the animation perhaps, contrasted with a similar night shot:

The action sequences in Trigun always feel great to me and I have seen criticisms around ‘off-model’ faces at times, which I assume exclude the moments it’s done purposefully, but I wouldn’t say Madhouse did a bad job – at all. Even if this is a show I watch primarily for the characters, storyline and world-building, everything still looks convincing for an action/comedy series.

Probably my favourite bit in the arc however, is not a shoot out or a laugh, it’s a pair of quieter moments. [Spoiler follows]

At one point both before and after Vash has outwitted plant engineer Elizabeth, the audience is given a glimpse of something unusual about Vash and his true nature, as he both grieves for and comforts the Plant, who is essentially a family member/sister imprisoned and drained for electricity.

Despite this injustice, Vash knows that many will die if the plant is ‘broken’ and so, in his utilitarian way, he restores her and the status quo. At this point, the audience doesn’t fully realise what’s going on but hopefully they’re still responding to his tenderness and obvious empathy.

Okay, now that I’ve explored a few things from the episodes I think it’s time to jump to a few quick dot points – this arc had some fun little bits and pieces I noticed:

  • Nightow’s neko (Kuroneko-sama) appears on a poster here instead of in the flesh
  • There’s an impressive instance of ‘super-deformed’
  • Vash has what I think is his first clash over pacifism with Kaite
  • BDN is voiced by one of my favs, Unshou Ishizuka

Next up is an arc I had a few names for but couldn’t really decide on – I settled on just the Wolfwood Arc but nearly went with ‘clues’ or Beneath the Surface Arc for episodes 9 -11, but it seemed easier to mention Nicholas instead.

Still, it’s a fun stretch of episodes since Wolfwood brings a lot to the table 😀

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.

Trigun (Toraigan)

Trigun (Toraigan) (1998)

Welcome to Trigun week!

As I did with Nadia here, I’m reviewing Trigun by breaking things up into arcs or at least sections. The plan is to once more share posts one at a time over the next 6 days or so, instead of putting everything together in a single, long write-up.

Again, also in a very similar way to what I did with Nadia, I want to note that my arcs are just ones that I’ve come up with, they’re quite obviously nothing official. I found it more difficult to divide Trigun up into various parts than I did with Nadia, and so these divisions especially might not gel with what you see as distinct movements in the series.

In time, the list below will include links but for now it’s just my arcs/sections:

The Mysterious Man in Red Arc – Episodes 1-5
The Sand Steamer Arc – Episodes 6-8
Wolfwood Arc – Episodes 9-11
The Gung-Ho Guns Arc – Episodes 12-17
‘Doubts’ Arc – Episodes 18-23
The Final Shoot Out Arc – Episodes 24-26

Finally, I should add that I don’t have a whole lot of objectivity when it comes to Trigun, as it’s one of my all-time favs and I watch it a couple of times a year compared to other favs that I might not watch as often.

More, I’ll probably end up focusing far less on the production side of things this time around, since I believe it went a lot smoother when compared to Nadia.


So, if by chance you haven’t come across Trigun before, I’ll quickly say that, like many anime out there, it’s an adaptation of a manga.

It’s also one that focuses on action, comedy and drama with a lone gunman wandering a desert-like world… at first.

Now, whether it’s a great or a good adaptation might depend on how you feel about the ending, where the adaptation and source material certainly diverge. Author Yasuhiro Nightow was still working on Trigun while the anime aired and so there had to be differences – but I plan to start at the start of course, so no more about the ending for now!

Until tomorrow!

Now and Then, Here and There (Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku)

Now and Then, Here and There (Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku) 1999

This was no walk in the part – equal parts compelling and disturbing.

And if you want to see a fictional narrative that explores the brutal horrors of child soldiers then look no further, since Now and Then, Here and There wipes the floor with something like Children of Whales for instance.

With that admittedly dramatic opening paragraph, I won’t actually do a long review but instead mention something connected to the show first.

Not too long ago, actress Hiroko Konishi (who played Boo) revealed awful, abusive behaviour by NTHT director Akitaro Daichi. I doubt the animation industry got as much attention as Hollywood in terms of exposing abusers, so I hope things can start to change there too.

If you do take a look at this short series, expect some tough moments but you’ll be moved throughout.

Maybe the animation is not endlessly flashy, but it doesn’t need to be at all. The story and characters are the stars – and there are some real heroes here, like Shu and Sis (to name just two), based in part on how they try to solve their problems. They contrast perfectly with the villains too, from the psychopath Hamdo to the brainwashed/cowardly Abelia.

No easy answers to complex problems in this anime.

And thanks to Curtis for the rec 🙂