Series premieres can take so many directions and have an endless amount to accomplish. It’s easy to cram too much into a first episode over fears of a premiere that drags its feet. It’s greatly appreciated that there’s such a casual, comfortable energy to “Noman’s Land” even if it’s not exactly lacking in action. It’s so smart to kick this series off with a Man With No Name-esque simple problem where this encumbered gunslinger must save a town and help the helpless. It perfectly sets up the scope of Trigun Stampede and what’s to come.
A lot of the fun in this premiere comes from Meryl Stryfe and Roberto De Niro, two reporters (insurance agents in the original series), who unintentionally end up in Vash’s orbit and become his saviors. Vash is largely filtered through Meryl and Roberto’s incredulous perspective on this unconventional outlaw. Their initial fascination with Vash is to help an innocent man clear his name, which introduces a human element to their meeting and friendship that quickly clicks into place. Meryl is the surprise secret weapon in “Noman’s Land.” She carries such a fun, undeniable energy that’s a contrast to everyone else in Trigun Stampede.
Trigun Stampede’s series premiere nails its character development and storytelling, but it’s also such a pretty show to watch in action. Aesthetically, this is just a gorgeous piece of television and any fans’ reservations over Studio Orange and their signature CG art style clashing with Yatsuhiro Nightow’s universe can immediately rest easy. These visuals convey a grandiose sense of scope and juxtapose blistering desert terrains with sterile, claustrophobic space stations as relics of the past mixed with the future.
The characters’ faces are also incredibly expressive–one of Studio Orange’s specialties–which is crucial in any show, but vital for Vash and the rest of Trigun Stampede’s complex characters. This first episode truly celebrates the emotionality of its cast and how it’s a crucial component of this series. Studio Orange’s visuals are a constant delight to behold, but the series’ exceptional score also deserves praise. Much like in the original Trigun, the soundtrack to Trigun Stampede taps into an ideal western sound that’s full of twangy genre tropes, but also regularly subverts this traditional sound. It effectively reflects the melting pot of genres that make up this universe.
“Noman’s Land” masterfully plays with the audience’s expectations on whether Vash is an idiot or an atrocity. This premiere waits until the last possible moment until it reveals the character’s truth. There’s such glorious tension that’s cathartically released in the episode’s climax. There’s kinetic movement as the choreography captures avalanches of action. Vash cartwheels through carnage that’s driven forward with endless momentum. These sequences thrive and make an impact in a crowded genre that’s become oversaturated with goofy-then-grimdrark action heroes. There’s a sequence where Vash engages in a sunset-lit duel that features such a sublime, iconic image that beats anything from the original Trigun. Additionally, the premiere’s final setpiece involves the use of a single bullet to prevent a city-wide destruction that’s pure Trigun and guaranteed to please any fans of the original.
Another subtle area in which Trigun Stampede excels is the world-building of this dystopian galaxy. Sci-fi elements frequently invade the anime’s western veneer as Chocobo-like alien mounts and enormous sandworms compliment the scenery. This all brings a quality that’s reminiscent of Star Wars, Dune, or the works of Mœbius to the series’ action and movement. There are even hints of mecha mayhem and some really crunchy steampunk mechanics that tease a level of excess that trumps the original Trigun in every department. All of this helps Trigun Stampede feel alien and develop more of a distinct personality than just a “heightened western.”