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Vash the Stampede

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Vash the Stampede
Trigun character
A blond man wearing a red coat while smiling.
Artwork by Yasuhiro Nightow of Vash the Stampede in Trigun Maximum.
First appearanceChapter 00: "High Noon at July"
Created byYasuhiro Nightow
Voiced byMasaya Onosaka
(Original)
Kōki Miyata
(Young)
In-universe information
RelativesMillions Knives (brother)

Vash the Stampede (Japanese: ヴァッシュ・ザ・スタンピード, Hepburn: Vasshu za Sutanpīdo), is the protagonist of Trigun, a manga series created by Yasuhiro Nightow in 1995. Set on the planet No Man's Land/Gunsmoke, Vash is the most feared outlaw who has earned a bounty of $$60 billion ("double dollar") on his head and the nickname "The Humanoid Typhoon" (人間台風) after accidentally destroying a city with his supernatural powers. He is a skilled gunman who battles bounty hunters and assassins working for his twin brother, Millions Knives. Despite his reputation, Vash displays a kindhearted personality by befriending citizens and refusing to murder his enemies.

Nightow created Vash as a strong gunner who would stand out because of his pacifist ways, traits that are different from those of the stereotypical protagonist of action films. The manga was adapted for television as an anime series in which Vash was voiced by Masaya Onosaka as an adult and Kōki Miyata as a child. For the English dub, Johnny Yong Bosch voices him as an adult and Bryce Papenbrook as a child. The character also appears in the 2010 film Trigun: Badlands Rumble, among other one-shots. Nightow was surprised at Vash's popularity with Western audiences.

Critics praised the mixture of seriousness and goofiness of Vash's character. However, his pacifism received a more mixed response. While some reviewers praised it as a part of Vash's heroic traits, others disliked the negative consequences when his pacifist choices failed. He remains popular in the anime adaptation and has appeared in multiple "best character" lists and articles. Onosaka and Bosch were praised for their performances, though critics favored Onosaka.

Concept and creation[edit]

A black haired Japanese man wearing glasses.
Yasuhiro Nightow created Vash the Stampede.

Trigun manga author Yasuhiro Nightow has stated that Vash's name was his own creation rather than references to bands he gave to other members from the cast.[1] He developed Vash as having a serious personality with a childish side, and found him to be the most relatable of all his creations.[2] To contrast Vash from the typical heroes in action films, Nightow portrayed him as a pacifist since he did not want his lead character to be a murderer. Throughout the story, Vash avoids killing enemies by disarming them and avoids inflicting mortal wounds during combat. His cheerful personality was used to highlight this trait with his catchphrase being: "Hey, sorry. Love and peace?" To emphasize that Vash is an experienced gunman, Nightow depicted him as having a strong eyesight that gives him a more precise aim.[1][3] While making the series, he was surprised by Vash's popularity with Western readers.[4] Comparing Vash's manga characterization with his anime persona, Nightow said his version does not have as many crushes on the women he meets.[5]

To make Vash's appearance distinctive, Nightow often changed the character's hair color throughout the serialization.[2][6] Although fans questioned if this was relevant to the story, Nightow chose not to reveal his reason for it. In the series' climax, it is revealed that Vash's blond hair turning black is a secondary effect of overusing his supernatural powers. Despite his efforts in his design, Nightow regrets giving Vash and antagonist Legato Bluesummers detailed eyes because he drew them inconsistently in the manga.[2] Nightow had trouble designing Vash's gun as he aimed it to look visually attractive and effective to use. Although he originally wanted to create a gun with unlimited bullets, he replaced it with a traditional one after consulting a picture of an upside-down barrel for inspiration. Besides Vash's guns, Nightow portrayed him as having a supernatural power known as the "Angel Arms," in which his arms mutate to form a weapon. The Angel Arms adopt a feminine form and can create or give birth to matter.[7]

While Vash is the manga's protagonist, anime director Satoshi Nishimura used Meryl Stryfe as the main character. In the anime, she searches for the Humanoid Typhoon and initially does not believe it is Vash due to his childish behavior.[8] To create suspense, writer Yōsuke Kuroda suggested that Vash would not shoot a bullet until the fifth episode, which causes Meryl to realize he is the famous gunman.[9]

Voice actors[edit]

Masaya Onosaka started voicing Vash in the anime, which premiered in Japan in 1998. Onosaka said he was unaware when the 2010 film, Trigun: Badlands Rumble, would be made and that most of the cast and crew felt left in the dark for a long time before production began.[10] After the film's announcement, Onosaka was happy to see his character featured in theaters for the first time and to work with the Trigun cast for the first time since the anime ended twelve years earlier. New voice actor Maaya Sakamoto said she liked being involved in the film because she interpreted Vash through her character, a bounty hunter named Amelia Ann McFly, who starred in the movie as a lead.[11] Kōki Miyata voiced the young Vash.[12]

Johnny Yong Bosch started his voice acting career by providing Vash's voice in Trigun's English-dubbed version. He had never heard of the series until he was hired for the role. According to Bosch, most of the fan responses to his performance were positive, and Nightow found his performance to be appealing. Bosch attributed his positive reception to the story and casting director. He enjoyed Vash's traits, specifically his pacifist philosophies alongside the catchphrase: "This world is made of love and peace!"[13] Vash's younger self from the flashbacks is voiced by Bryce Papenbrook.[14]

Appearances[edit]

Trigun and Trigun Maximum[edit]

The origins of Vash and his twin brother Millions Knives are explored in flashbacks from the Trigun manga when the children live in a spaceship containing the last few surviving humans who have fled Earth due to its lack of resources. The two are identified as "Plants" since they age at a slower rate. They are raised by a researcher named Rem Saverem in a space ship colony. Through Rem's education, Vash gains a newfound respect for life, but his brother seeks the mayhem in mankind. Knives disrupts the navigation system, triggering an alarm and waking the dormant passengers.[15] When Knives sabotages the fleet, putting it on a crash course with the planet No-man's Land, Rem puts him and Vash in an escape pod to save them. Rem chooses to stay behind and attempts to prevent the crash rather than escaping. As the two children become young adults, they separate, with Knives amputating Vash's left arm in a fight. Vash is found by a group of humans who construct his cybernetic arm. Knives also attempts to activate Vash's dormant supernatural powers, the Angel Arm, but the plan backfires and a blast obliterates the city of July, leaving 200,000 people without food or shelter. The incident earns Vash's reputation as "The Humanoid Typhoon".[16][17]

When the Trigun manga begins, Vash travels around the planet searching for Knives.[18] He befriends Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, two agents of the Bernardelli Insurance Society, sent to evaluate claims regarding the dangers he has caused and whether or not his bounty should be canceled.[19] He also meets a priest named Nicholas D. Wolfwood, who fights alongside him. Vash is targeted by Legato Bluesummers from the Gung-ho Guns assassins who are followers of Knives.[20] After Legato confronts Vash, Knives reappears. A shocked Vash requests evacuation for Meryl and Milly because of the danger his brother presents. Knives then tries to use Vash's Angel Arm to destroy another city, but Vash resists and redirects the blast upward, where it hits one of No-man's moons.[21]

In the Trigun Maximum manga, which occurs two years after the moon's destruction, Wolfwood discovers Vash relating Knives' exploits in regards to mankind's extinction.[22] In facing Legato's group, Vash fears that they have discovered the location of his home, resulting in the deaths of his friends.[23] Vash learns a ship has made contact with Earth and will be arriving to save them from No-man's Land.[24][25] Knives uses his powers as a Plant to shut down the satellites used to communicate with Earth. Vash learns of the severed connection and guesses its cause.[26] Gung-ho Guns Hoppered the Gauntlet, a survivor of July, seeks revenge on Vash, but is killed by his partners as Knives ordered them not to kill their target but tormenting him. Vash and Wolfwood continue traveling to Knives' base. However, Vash is defeated and restrained by Legato. Wolfwood, revealed as a member of the Gung-ho Guns, rescues Vash.[27]

Vash rejoins Wolfwood, who fights with Gung-ho Gun Livio to the death. When Wolfwood dies, Livio, Wolfwood's childhood friend, joins Vash' cause while grieving for his friend's death.[28][29] As Knives approaches the city with the "Ark", a floating ship designed to leave humans without any resources and end life on the planet. Knives begins dueling with Vash. Throughout his past battles that required him to use the Angel's Arm, Vash has transfromed into a regular human signified by his blond hair now turned black.[30][31] Vash breaks his pacifist vow by killing Legato to protect Livio from the last Gung-ho Guns.[32] Knives also starts losing the powers he stored with the Ark through Vash's actions. Vash then saves his brother from the vengeful ships from Earth.[33] Following his defeat, Knives uses his last powers to help his weakened brother by creating a small fruit tree to feed him. After his brother's death, Vash continues his travels on the planet with Meryl and Milly.[34]

Adaptations[edit]

In the anime, No-Man's Land is called Gunsmoke. While wandering Gunsmoke with Knives, Vash shoots his brother for trying to kill more people. Vash is rescued by a group of humans from the only remaining functioning ships on the planet and leaves after a few months. He goes to July in the hopes of meeting Rem's friends but finds Knives has killed them. In the ensuing firefight, Knives shoots off Vash's left arm which activates his White Angel Arm, resulting in July's destruction.[35] Throughout the series, Vash feels pressure to avoid killing his enemies.[36] As the two interact, Wolfwood decides to be a pacifist like Vash, but is killed by one of Knives' men.[37] Bringing Vash further grief is Legato who controls the civilians targeting Meryl and Milly. This forces Vash to kill Legato in order to save his friends.[38] Despite being initially shocked by the idea of committing a sin, Vash find peace when Meryl says any person can find redemption regardless of action.[39] Vash faces and defeats Knives whose fate is ambiguous. Vash then decides to adopt a new way of life, discarding the red coat that marked Rem's influences over him. The anime ends as Vash returns with his brother's body to Meryl and Mully.[35]

Besides the anime, Vash appears in the 2010 Trigun film, Badlands Rumble, in which he travels to Macca City where he meets a bounty hunter named Amelia Ann McFly. Seeking revenge against a thief named Gasback, Amelia joins Vash and Wolfwood in a quest to capture him. Amelia decides to follow Vash's example and does not kill Gasback, but allows him to be taken into custody. Vash also appears in a manga anthology of alternative stories; Vash being the protagonist who, along with Wolfwood, protects a village from thieves. In the sequel to the manga by Boichi, Vash meets another Plant who seeks her own death.[40][41]

Reception[edit]

Popularity[edit]

Vash was ranked second in the 1998 Annual Anime Grand Prix in the Male Character Category behind Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop.[42] In 2000, the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation awarded Vash the Best Male Character, U.S. Release award.[43] Anime News Network listed him and Wolfwood as one of the biggest "fiercest frenemies" because of their constant struggles and consistent friendship.[44] AnimeNation considered Vash one of the most popular 1990s characters along with Spike Spiegel and Sakura Kinomoto from Cardcaptor Sakura manga.[45]

In 2009, Vash the Stampede was ranked 17th in IGN's Top Anime Characters of All Time, and Nightow was praised for how well Trigun's lead is designed.[46] IGN ranked him as the 20th greatest anime character of all time in 2014 because of the balance displayed between his goofiness and grief in the narrative.[47] HobbyConsolas listed Vash as one of the coolest characters in anime based on his skills and personality.[48] In another poll, Vash was voted the second-best Masaya Onosaka character after France from Hetalia: Axis Powers.[49] Vash has been the used in merchandise, including action figures,[50] plush dolls,[51] keychains,[52] clothes,[53] and cosplay sunglasses.[54]

The lead singer of Mushroomhead wore a Vash the Stampede coat in many concerts before it was stolen from his dressing room.[55] Vash also made a cameo appearance in Boichi's gangster manga Sun-Ken Rock, when the cast goes to watch the Trigun film.[56]

Critical response[edit]

A black haired man wearing a black shirt.
Johnny Yong Bosch, received positive response for voicing Vash, launching his voice acting career.

Critical reception to the character has been positive. Anime News Network stated Vash seems to have been influenced by Western films and compared him with Himura Kenshin from the Rurouni Kenshin manga because of their pacifism.[57] Manga Life compared Vash's way of life with that of the American Midwest in the 1800s. They called his characterization "fantastic" based on the personality he displays when facing enemies as he refuses to murder anybody.[58] When more of the character's past is revealed because of his conflict with his enemies, Manga Life said Vash's true self makes him more engaging, something which is expanded by the artwork.[59] Vash's reintroduction in Maximum drew positive comments with a reviewer from Mania Entertainment saying both new and existing readers would be attracted by the restart of Vash's journey after moments of peace.[60] In a later review, however, Mania Entertainment said some events that happened to Vash might come across as repetitive because his pacifism keeps backfiring and no proper solution has yet been given.[61] As Vash's philosophy was tested in the finale, Fandom Post praised the consequences of his actions.[62] BlerdsOnline noted Vash got so much grief the reader would also feel it when reading the manga.[63]

Journalists have also commented on Vash's role in Madhouse's adaptation of the manga. Escapist Magazine regarded Vash's characterization as one of the most intriguing aspects of Trigun because while being a pacifist, he fights to protect others and despite his victories, he is never seen as overpowered.[64] AnimeOnDVD enjoyed him for "running a gamut of emotions and attitudes" while displaying multiple skills that made him the most powerful fighter on the planet.[65] The reviewer also said the change in Vash's character makes him more interesting to watch in the darker scenarios.[66] Vash's backstory and its effect on him were described as "really interesting" because it would prompt questions from the audience.[67] T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews called Vash "the poster-child for the misunderstood hero".[68] Similarly, Anime News Network praised Vash's characterization for avoiding cliches often seen in Western stories.[69] AnimeNation compared Vash with Abel Nightroad from the Trinity Blood anime based on their similar traits, saying they might be interpreted as identical characters.[70] In the book Anime Impact: The Movies and Shows that Changed the World of Japanese Animation, Chris Stuckmann compares Vash with John McClane from the Die Hard action films because of the similar misunderstandings the two go through while facing enemies.[71]

Some critics commented on Vash's relationship with Knives. His final fight against Knives was seen as another well-developed scenario by ANN.[69] Escapist compared Vash and Knives to yin and yang because of their contrasting natures, which made their antagonism more appealing.[72] Comic Book Bin also made this comparison, suggesting they subtly parallel Cain and Abel from the Book of Genesis because of how much Knives wants to torment his brother.[73] By the manga's climax, Mania claimed the fight between these two characters was "the stuff of legend."[74]

Critics also commented on the Badlands Rumble portrayal of Vash. DVD Talk enjoyed it, stating his characterization would appeal to the audience.[10] UK Anime Network said the character delivers the series' original pacifist message despite the attention given to comedy.[75] Otaku USA said that Vash's portrayal in the movie is true to his character in the television series.[76] ANN had mixed thoughts about Vash's movie persona. While finding this portrayal faithful to the original one, ANN said Vash's act as a lazy character takes too much time until his true self is revealed. Bosch's performance was praised nevertheless.[77] BlerdsOnline noted it was one of Nightow's strongest points when writing Trigun Maximum, along with the antagonism Vash has with Knives.[63]

Reviewers also commented on Vash's voice actors with Escapist praising Bosch's work.[64] On the other hand, DVDTalk found Onosaka's work better than Bosch's.[10] Similarly, despite being praised for his childish take on Vash, Bosch's acting was criticized as unfitting when Vash sounds serious by Japanator. As a result, the reviewer recommended Onosaka instead.[78] UK Anime Network enjoyed Vash's role in Nightow's first one-shot from Multiple Bullets, but criticized Boichi's portrayal of him as childish and almost like a Mary Sue.[79]

References[edit]

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