Why Trigun Stampede Stands Out Among Anime Remakes

By Deja L. Jones

There are a lot of “re” things going on in media lately — we’ve had remasters, remakes, reboots, and re-imaginings of existing properties across so many mediums. With all the recycling (ha!) of stories, it sometimes feels like the creativity is gone from entertainment. How many times have you heard someone lament that no one has original ideas anymore?

But coming to an old story with fresh eyes and years of additional experience can result in something as good as (and, sometimes, even better than) the original. A lot of the disappointment that people feel when new takes on old material are produced stems from bias and nostalgia. We want the things we know and love to remain as we know and love them. And if one of those things is, for example, a much beloved anime like Trigun, the idea of changing things rather than just updating them is almost taboo. In most cases though, as with this year’s Trigun Stampede, change is a gift that breathes new life and grants new perspective to an old favorite.

Trigun Came to North America on Adult Swim

During Fandom Rewind last year, we took a look back at Toonami, Cartoon Network’s after-school block of content that introduced so many of us to anime. For the older kids (or the sneakier ones like me), there was Adult Swim, the network’s late night block of higher rated, largely animated content. This is where Trigun premiered on North American television in 2003. Since then, the series has become a classic. It frequently appears on best anime lists, and it is the property that got industry veteran Johnny Yong Bosch (AKA one of the Black Rangers!) his start in voice acting.

The show adapts the manga of the same name into 26 episodes and follows Vash the Stampede, a goofy, nomadic gunman plagued by his mysterious past. Despite his affable demeanor, he leaves disaster in his wake wherever he goes, and it’s made him a wanted man. The $$60,000,000,000 — that’s double-dollars, the show’s currency — price on his head makes him a popular target for glory-seeking bounty hunters and desperate residents of dying towns alike. It is a riot of a show with hijinks and tragedy in equal measure. Plus, it has one of the greatest opening songs of all time thanks to Tsuneo Imahori of The Seatbelts (think the Cowboy Bebop OST). Actually, the entire soundtrack, for that matter, is absolutely stellar. When considered in combination with its story and characters, it’s obvious why Trigun is so loved.

Wait, so … a remake?

It’s also easy to understand, then, why Trigun Stampede made some fans nervous. The announcement that the series was getting the remake treatment generated a lot of excitement at first. However, the wildly different animation style and the revelation of an all-new cast soured people’s initial anticipation. Hype rose again when Crunchyroll confirmed that Johnny Yong Bosch would be reprising his role as Vash the Stampede, and then the show began airing in January.

Fan Reactions to Trigun Stampede

Comments on the first episode of the dub are a microcosm of fans’ usual reaction to any new spin on an old classic. There is effusive praise for what has remained the same — Johnny Yong Bosch as Vash the Stampede, in this case. And for what is different — namely the animation style, story and character development, plus a new voice cast — there is, at best, suspicious optimism and, at worst, downright disdain. Viewers complain that the CG animation and new character designs don’t fit, that the characterizations are wrong, that the pacing is too fast, or that certain characters and story elements are missing entirely.

However, as one commenter noted, the episode and the series as a whole are only lacking if you’re going into the experience expecting a remaster, so to speak, and not a retelling. Trigun Stampede is not just Trigun with updated graphics. Instead, it’s a complete reimagining of the source material, and that’s okay. What matters more than anything is whether or not it feels like Trigun, and this new series definitely does.

Updated Graphics with a Fresh New Pace

Studio Orange did a masterful job with the show’s production. It is a visual treat with vibrant colors and smooth CG animations that give the space Western an almost cyberpunk vibe. But the new paint job doesn’t make the deserts of No Man’s Land feel any less desolate or harrowing. The sense that humanity is just barely outpacing extinction is still just as palpable as before, even if the struggle looks prettier than it ever has. New character designs are less cartoonish, but the flair that made each of them so memorable isn’t lost. Their stylized updates make them look more realistic in their highly unrealistic setting.

The best and most controversial thing about the new series is its story — or rather, its pacing. Trigun Stampede tells nearly the entire story of the original show in less than half as many episodes. Compared to the original, many viewers complained about how quickly the new story was moving. For example, the second episode of Stampede is called “The Running Man” and is a retelling of “Hard Puncher,” which is episode 5 of the original Madhouse Studios production. Many of the late-game reveals of the original run are introduced in the first few episodes of Stampede. Some fans felt that this ruins the story. Letting go of preconceptions and understanding that Trigun Stampede is its own story, separate from the original anime and even the manga that inspired them both, is crucial to appreciating it. To condemn the new series because it tells Vash’s tale in a new way is to miss out on an incredibly moving story about the bond between brothers and the nature of humanity.

Trigun Stampede Keeps the Original’s Heart

Trigun Stampede is a distillation of the original series, and it hits all the harder for it. With less time to tell just as much story, every beat has to matter. Every introduction has to pay off, and do so quickly. Cutting out all the filler allowed the writing team to get to the essence of Trigun’s story and really hammer it home, and boy, did they ever. There is something so much more personal about Stampede. Less focus on the morality of Vash and Knives’ differing philosophies gives more space to explore how those differing philosophies destroyed their relationship.

Even when they’re fighting (both verbally and physically) it’s very clear these brothers love each other but also feel betrayed. The two desperately miss one another but are unable to understand or forgive each other. As a result, the destruction and mayhem from their broken bond is all the more devastating. Likewise, the voice performances from Johnny Yong Bosch and Austin Tindle as Vash and Knives are perfect. Vash is as silly and sweet as ever, but the underlying heartbreak is present in every word he speaks. Knives’ fanaticism is as clear as his need to have his brother back by his side. By the end of the finale, I felt like someone had wrung my heart through a pasta roller.

Even though they’re wildly different shows, Trigun Stampede is just as faithful to Yasuhiro Nightow’s original story as the original Trigun. Like any other remake, Stampede maintains the spirit of the source material but is still its own thing, and that’s important to keep in mind. And who knows? Maybe all the missing elements that fans mourned will show up in the recently announced second season.

What do you think of Trigun Stampede, and how are you celebrating Anime Day 2023? Tell us over in our Atomic Misfits Facebook Group, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!