As per yesterday's review of One Piece: Strong World, I'm going to have to begin this review with a personal confession - I've only ever watched a handful of episodes of the original Trigun anime series, and for some reason I've never found the time to watch it all the way through. Despite that, there I was at the second UK screening of the new Trigun-based movie, Badlands Rumble, as the film enjoyed its second UK screening to close out the second day of Edinburgh's Scotland Loves Anime festival. With those involved in making the film promising a fun experience for both existing fans and those none too familiar with the franchise however, this didn't seem like too much of a handicap going into the movie.
Certainly, Badlands Rumble lays its cards on the table early enough in terms of how it sets out to entertain the audience, as we join a robber named Gasback and his henchmen as they rob a bank and take on said establishment's lethal security system in a hail of bullets of explosions. However, it seems that on this occasion Gasback has been betrayed by his comrades, who turn on him come the end of the robbery on account of what they see as his imprudent and foolish ways, putting him at the end of the barrel of his former colleagues guns. Just as the game appears to be up for this hulking criminal, up pops the hero of the piece - Vash the Stampede, a man with a $$60 billion bounty on his head and the much feared "Humanoid Typhoon". Of course, the real Vash and his reputation are two rather different things, and thus we're treated to a show of his gunmanship, laugh out loud goofy behaviour and desire to prevent anyone from being killed which predictable ends with destruction aplenty as an indirect result of his actions.
With the scene well and truly set, we fast forward twenty years to the mainstay of Badland Rumble's plot, with Gasback looking for revenge on the men who betrayed him by robbing the symbols of the wealth which they have gathered in the intervening period. In the middle of Gasback's crosshairs is a man named Kepler, now the not-so modest mayor of a town - a role he celebrates via a huge gaudy statue of himself. With Gasback's plans becoming known and a large bounty on Gasback's head, Kepler's town soon becomes the temporary home to a slew of bounty hunters looking to make some easy money from the thief's demise, although as the film develops we see that there's more to it than just money, for one female bounty hunter named Amelia at least. Of course, with so much potential chaos bubbling up, Vash the Stampede is present and correct to try and stop any blood-shed, while other regulars from the TV anime such as Bernardelli insurance agents Meryl and Milly and gunman Wolfwood are all present and correct to make the fans feel right at home as the story unfolds.
For those who are familiar, if only partially, with the Trigun universe, settling into Badlands Rumble is a breeze - indeed, even if you're completely new to the show and its concept it won't take long to be clued in to Vash's motivation and the film's "sci-fi Wild West" setting, while other regular characters roles become self-explanatory quickly enough. Once you've eased yourself into that rhythm, you'll find yourself watching a movie which is far from taxing on the brain, keeping its plot simple and its roster of major characters small so that it can instead focus upon its real business - frantic gun battles with bullets flying and big explosions, offset by humour which almost always centres around the haphazard Vash the Stampede. Naturally, it's Vash who steals the show over and over again, illuminating every scene in which he appears and prompting more than one ovation from the audience during the film's screening on account of his comic capers. I won't ruin any of the best moments, but Vash's shenanigans in a bar packed with outlaws are hilarious from beginning to end, marking the comic high point of the film easily. Although Badlands Rumble does take on a more serious and introspective tone towards the end of the film, this doesn't feel out of place nor is it overly elongated, and even here there's enough humour and quips flying around alongside the bullets to keep everything from getting dragged down into depression.
Completing the package for the movie is some great animation work from Madhouse (who took on those duties here as per the original anime series), particular in those high-octane action sequences, while all of the leading characters are excellently voiced, not least Vash himself. This leaves us with an experience that is exactly what a Trigun movie should be - frequently hilarious and punctuated by insane action, with a plot that serves to enable both of these elements while remaining interesting enough in its own right. If you're a Trigun fan, then you simply have to see this movie, and I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Even if you're not familiar with the series, then Badlands Rumble is still a great beer and popcorn viewing experience - a good thing too, for that is exactly what the film's creators wanted it to be.
Trigun: Badlands Rumble was screened as part of the Scotland Loves Anime event in Edinburgh. You can find out more at the Scotland Loves Animation web site.