Trigun: Badlands Rumble

Somewhere, deep in the bowels of every anime studio, there is a screenwriter's Bible that spells out, note for note, how to write filler. It doesn't really matter if the filler is an episode of a series or a film entree in a long-running cash cow. Its front page reads, "Whatever people liked about this property, do it some more." Its second page says, "Don't add any revelations about the leads that might upset the fans." Its third page states, "Your best bet is to add unimportant characters that no one will miss, or even remember, when the program is over." This screenwriter's Bible has many more tips, and they have been passed down from generation to generation of men and women driving themselves mad trying to squeeze blood from a franchise's stone.

Yes, I'm cynical about Trigun: Badlands Rumble. It is a cash grab. It is by far not the worst cash grab I've seen from an anime studio. It is vaguely entertaining, especially if you liked the original series. Its animation is strikingly better than its predecessor. It includes plenty of action and a couple of laughs. It is also stunningly unnecessary and eminently forgettable. It reminded me over and over again of Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, which follows many of the same filler patterns. The difference is that Milos was so entertaining that you could forgive its filler faults -- I'd even watch it again to catch the great train sequence in the opening third. But Trigun: Badlands Rumble doesn't include any great set pieces, nor anything else that wasn't done many times during the series proper. It is fine. It should be better.

As Badlands begins, our savvy imbecile Vash winds up in the midst of a robbery attempt by Gasback and his gang. Turns out that the gang has had more than enough of Gasback, and so there's violence on all sides, but Vash keeps anyone from dying in the midst of the chaos. Fast forward twenty years, and Gasback has come back to get his revenge on the traitorous guys who've lived in luxury off his loot. Milly and Meryl, the insurance agents ever on the lookout for the human typhoon that is Vash, wind up in Macca City, the place where the former gang members live and have insured a gold statue for an astronomical amount of money. Then Vash shows up, along with a beautiful but cold redhead with a mysterious past...and Wolfwood arrives as Gasback's bodyguard. Destinies collide, fortunes trade hands, and things get blown up real good.

There's nothing wrong with being a Trigun fan, and if you are, you might enjoy yourself. It's certainly never looked better, and while it isn't as beautiful as the latest Makoto Shinkai film, it still looks pretty great. Occasionally, music reminiscent of the original show will burst in and there's a wonderful sense of deja vu. In fact, if you really liked the first eight episodes of Trigun, you will feel perfectly at home here. If you've never seen Trigun, I'd suggest slotting this in right before episode nine or so. It's enjoyable enough that you might try it and see how it works for you.

But what I found frustrating about Badlands Rumble is that the TV show did most everything that's in here. I didn't like the stupid-but-dangerously-rapacious criminals threatening innocents in the original, and I don't care for them here. We don't get any of the stuff that makes Vash a more well-rounded and meaningful character here, only the idiot savant. The relationship between Wolfwood and Vash isn't deepened or strengthened, either. There's really no purpose for this to exist. And the script? Give me a break. It's plot-by-numbers.

I can actually deal with much of that sort of thing in filler films...if they are fun. There is some fun to be had here, just enough to save Trigun: Badlands Rumble and give it a "barely recommended" grade. There should have been more pizazz, but it's servicable. The fact that it is streaming on Netflix is probably the saving grace. Had I rented or purchased it, I would have been disappointed. But as a stream from Netflix? Perfect. It's mindlessness in the Trigun universe about a decade too late. I didn't mind returning to this world, and this wouldn't put me off from returning again. But if there is to be another adventure of Vash the Stampede, it better be more than a rehash.

Trigun: Badlands Rumble -- violence, profanity -- B-