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Sunday, September 4, 2011

TRIGUN: BADLANDS RUMBLE -- DVD review by porfle

Cliched though they may sound, "rollicking" and "rip-roaring" are pretty good descriptive words for director Satoshi Nishimura's TRIGUN: BADLANDS RUMBLE (2010), an eye-pleasing anime that's bursting at the seams with fast-moving action and comedy.  A feature-length version of the manga by Yasuhiro Nightow and the popular television series, it's a dense conglomeration of sci-fi, steampunk, Westerns, and various other genres with energy and style to burn.

The film opens with hulking outlaw Gasback and his three henchmen robbing a fortress-like bank but then having a falling out over Gasback's tendency to invest all their spoils in bigger and more elaborate robberies, which is his sole motivation.  Before the three traitors can kill him, however, he's rescued by Vash the Stampede, who values all life even more than he values fun, adventure, and donuts.  Unfairly regarded as a villain and bearing a sixty-billion double-dollar price on his head, Vash (known as "The Humanoid Typhoon") is a wanderer who only wants to help people and have a good time. 

Gasback, meanwhile, has patiently waited twenty years for his former allies to rise to positions of wealth and prominence, so that his revenge will be even greater.  After destroying the livelihoods of the first two, he's on his way to Mecca City to bring down Caine, who is now the mega-wealthy owner of the town's massive power plant.  News of Gasback's impending arrival has drawn hundreds of bounty hunters from all over, including the beautiful Amelia who has some unfinished business with him.

Jittery insurance agents Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, old friends of Vash, are also in town to protect Caine's giant bronze statue of himself, which their company has insured for five billion dollars.  And mysterious clergyman Nicholas D. Wolfwood, another of Vash's past acquaintances, shows up as Gasback's current bodyguard, fulfilling a debt to him with the help of his huge cross-shaped rocket gun.

With its sleek character design and detail-packed backgrounds, TRIGUN: BADLANDS RUMBLE is a constant joy to look at.  Along with a colorful vehicular caravan, the bounty hunters travel to Mecca City aboard a huge steamship that hovers across the desert and serves as the setting for some lively encounters between Vash, Amelia, and some troublesome competitors.  The city itself is a clever combination of modern and Old West design, where the main characters engage in an old-fashioned barroom brawl before Gasback's attack sparks a spectacular battle sequence filled with sound and fury.

With so much explosive action going on, the body count in this bullet-riddled but lighthearted tale is practically nonexistent.  Much of the emphasis is on comedy as Vash courts an unwilling Amelia, who is literally allergic to men, while Meryl and Milly work themselves into nervous fits worrying about the fate of Caine's big, gaudy statue. 

Even hardbitten characters like Gasback and the hordes of bounty hunters out for his head contribute to the story's often deadpan-comic atmosphere.  The story isn't all fun, however--surprisingly, things get a little emotional now and then, particularly when we learn of Amelia's tragic origin and at least one of the main good guys bites the dust. 

Before the dust settles over the ravaged Mecca City, the action heads out into the desert as the bounty hunter caravan pursues Gasback in a thrilling sequence heavily inspired by THE ROAD WARRIOR.  Later, a final showdown between the good guys and the bad guy revels in heaping helpings of Spaghetti Western goodness, with Sergio Leone's influence nicely recycled into over-the-top cartoon visuals.  Here, all the various threads of the story are neatly tied up with a satisfying conclusion that extends through the closing credits crawl. 

The DVD from Funimation is in widescreen with English and Japanese Dolby 5.1 sound and English subtitles.  Disc one is the movie and some Funimation trailers.  Disc two contains a number of bonus features including several lengthy, lively cast-and-crew panel discussions at various locations including the film's premiere.  There's also a post-recording short, promotional clips and trailers, and other assorted tidbits.

Like an old Mad Magazine comics panel from the 50s, TRIGUN: BADLANDS RUMBLE is so richly detailed that it bears repeat viewing just to take in everything you missed the first time.  But most of all, this seriocomic burst of creative energy is just a ball to watch.

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