So even more so than anime, I don’t know that much about manga. At all. Even though I came of age during the Manga Bookstore Explosion of the 2000’s, I never got into the medium, having already fallen for its Western predecessor of regular American comics.
But now I’m friends with a whole bunch of manga nerds, so now I feel inadequate. Hence, for my birthday, I asked for the English-language omnibus of Trigun, the Weird Western manga that ran for the space of 3 collected volumes under that name before switching genres (jumping from shonen–boys’–magazine to seinen–adult’s–magazine) and becoming Trigun Maximum.
My good friend Nate got it for me off of Things From Another World (tfaw.com), which had a gently used copy for cheap. Having finally finished the bulk of it the other day, I’m happy to say that while this is some rough-going early on, it’s an enjoyable experience that can help ease one into manga.
The story–quite a bit different from the famous anime adaptation that the franchise is best famous for here in the States, though I confess I haven’t finished it–takes place on the future, desert world of Gunsmoke, where the descendants of humanity live in far-apart settlements named after the months of the year. We’re told in a prologue that the third city, July, was destroyed under mysterious, dangerous circumstances.
We’re then introduced to our main character, Vash the Stampede (that guy on the cover), who carries an enormous pistol, walks around in a trademark all-leather outfit (without boiling to death in the hot sun…somehow) and is an easy, genial guy. Except for the $$60 billion double dollar (not a typo) on his head due to all the wanton destruction and murder he supposedly commits. He’s so dangerous they call him the “Humanoid Typhoon.”
Among the many people trying to keep tabs on Vash are two insurance agents and investigators from the Bernadelli Insurance Society: Meryl Stryfe, a no-nonsense worker and Millie Thompson, who is decidedly ditzier…and larger…and carries an enormous gun (a stun gun, apparently). The two wind up stumbling after Vash, who seems to want to genuinely help the people he comes across, is a staunch pacifist despite his reputation, and is haunted by visions of a mysterious woman named Rem.
Mangaka (manga artist) Yasuhiro Nightow, like so many others, created Trigun as his first series, and it wasn’t that big of a hit initially; like I said above, it jumped genres and titles, all because it got cancelled by its original magazine. It’s somewhat understandable; the art in the early chapters is really cramped and indistinguishable at times, although it improves as the scope–both story-wise and art-wise–widens and increases.
From the start, the characters are all quite genuine and fleshed out. When Vash’s backstory gets fleshed out, it not only raises more questions, but plays on the feelings you’ve developed for him as a reader by then. Similarly, it’s pretty funny that there’s a running gag about Millie calling Meryl “senpai” constantly, but it’s just one way of her showing she genuinely cares about Meryl.
Besides that initial cluttering, and some crampedness throughout, Nightow at his best has some really strong clear artwork with some dynamic action and fight poses. His script–as translated by Dark Horse Comics, anyway–starts small and expands, taking us from small stories to something absolutely huge and mind-boggling. The omnibus ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger, but it’s genuinely earned and makes me want to hunt down the first omnibus of Trigun Maximum.
There’s a bunch of extras in the Omnibus that I haven’t read yet, but I know they include the initial one-shot that inspired the manga and some other stuff, so I’m confident to check them out. If you like Weird Westerns and want to explore some from a new perspective, check this out.