Cowboy Bebop, a classic well known by anime fans, was a testament to Jazz music and bounty hunters, and greatly overshadowed its like-minded series titled Trigun. The 1998 adaptation of the Trigun manga took the concept of “space western” a bit more literally than Cowboy Bebop by encapsulating the desert scene, saloons, wooden towns, guns blazing, etc. It perhaps captured the “western” elements so well that the viewer would often forget this wasn’t Earth. It’s only with the increasing sophistication in gunware and technology that slowly shows itself more and more throughout the series that one remembers “oh, right, this is space.” But fans weren’t thinking too much about if this was space or not, they were too caught up in following a silly little dude outrunning bounty hunters, with no memory of why the 60 billion double dollar bounty was on his head. That’s why it was so shocking when they announced a remake for the series, released in January of 2023, titled: Trigun Stampede (known as TriStamp among fans).
Unlike the raucous announcement for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood back in the day, the reveal of TriStamp was met with a more tempered response. How were they going to top this classic anime adaptation? The original Fullmetal Alchemist had a horrible ending because they’d done the early 2000’s “let’s make it up because we don’t know if we’re going to have a season two” fad (thus the cheering when the reboot was announced). Trigun ‘98 didn’t fall into that trap. It still holds up. Maybe a bit on the slower side for the modern anime fan, but still a fantastic watch. After the horrible Netflix live-action attempt at Cowboy Bebop, anime fans were gnashing their teeth, horrified for what TriStamp was about to give them. If not for the reboot, then because it was going to be 3D. Live-actions and previous attempts at 3D animation in the 2D anime sphere were horrid. TriStamp just kept layering on fears for the ‘98 fans.
Well, fear no more, I’m here to tell you that it’s worth the watch. It’s perhaps, dare I say, better than the original, and this is mostly due to the animation studio Orange taking the job into their hands. Mostly known for series like Land of the Lustrous and Beastars, Orange is paving the way for 3D animation in the anime scene. Beastars was a huge success proving (right alongside Arcane) that it was possible to hold the aesthetics of anime while utilizing 3D elements. The most jarring thing about 3DCG utilized in anime in the past was how obvious (and ugly) it looked in the background of a 2D series. Beastars proved that an entire series could be in 3D without the visuals looking like a bad Pixar production.
TriStamp is a different rodeo. Yes, it’s a manga series but it’s a manga series with a pre-existing anime adaption and Orange wanted to do a reboot? Absurd. But, thank the powers that be that it was Orange doing the adaptation. Yoshihiro Watanabe, a producer on the team for TriStamp, in an interview held by the Trash Taste podcast, mentioned that not only did they spend five years working on the project, but members of their team had a close relationship with ‘98 Trigun via working on it directly, knowing someone who did, or simply loving it to death. So this wasn’t a typical animation project, TriStamp was a love letter– and it shows.
From the fight scenes, to their understanding of the complex characters, to the worldbuilding, anything and everything is a beautiful recreation, while still maintaining its unique interpretation of Trigun. TriStamp tells the story prior to Trigun’s first episode, but isn’t necessarily a prequel. Although it happens “before,” it still uses characters that would’ve only existed in the original plotline and wouldn’t have known Vash in the “prequel” timeline. In the ‘98 series, the main character Vash the Stampede has amnesia that slowly wanes as the story continues, until he finally learns what put the massive bounty on his head. Until that reveal, the viewer is left guessing if this character is really a good person or an evil mastermind. TriStamp, on the other hand, tells the story prior to that event, building up to the bounty, while still keeping around the familiar cast of characters who wouldn’t have known him pre-amnesia (such as Meryl and Wolfwood). All the while taking the “space western” vibes of the original and upping the sci-fi ante.
The most potent example of the show’s approach to sci-fi is the character Millions Knives. In the ‘98 series, this character showed up at the very end because he was a crucial factor in Vash’s memories. Due to spending such a long time following Vash’s shenanigans, it’s fairly easy to write him off as a villain. In TriStamp, not only do they give the character a true name (Nai) but they also explore his reasoning. He is transformed from being a straightforward villain to being more of a foil for Vash. The two are twins but not when it comes to their interpretations of humanity (one pessimistic, believing humanity should be destroyed; the other optimistic, believing in humanity’s good side). Yes, the audience is still inclined to cheer for Vash, but the increase in screentime ups the intrigue for Nai. ‘98 Millions Knives fell into the guns blazing shootout trope, while TriStamp Millions Knives has a space suit that transforms piece by piece into, guess what, millions of knives. In fact, there is a scene in TriStamp where Vash and Nai have a confrontation and Orange absolutely flexes their animation production with the beautiful intricacies of all of Nai’s knives.
TriStamp is well worth your time and effort, even for those that have perhaps never touched Trigun’s manga or 1998 adaptation and especially for those that have never stepped foot into the anime scene. Those pre-existing biases of 3DCG may not be as big of a hurdle for you! In any case, the unique new story with a previously neglected character, a prequel that’s not a prequel, and the stunning animation are all more than enough to keep you on your toes so give it a go!