Friday, December 19, 2014

Lessons from Anime: Trigun

So today I want to talk about an anime that is close to my heart and a theme that is even closer. Violence is a big thing in American culture. We have a lot of it in our media and a lot of us are desensitized to its effects. Rare is the piece of media that comes along and presents a main character who is an awesome, gun toting badass… but also a pacifist. Hear me out. I’ll explain it to you.

In the genre of space western animes—and yes there are surprisingly a lot of them—Trigun is one of the most well-known. It centers on a man known as "Vash the Stampede" and two insurance company employees, Meryll and Milly, who follow him around in order to minimize the damages inevitably caused by his presence. However, most of the damage surrounding Vash is actually the fault of the bounty hunters in pursuit of the huge bounty on his head for the destruction of the city of July. But Vash cannot remember the destroyed city, and in person he is not the kind of guy to cause destruction. In fact he promotes love and peace, traveling around the planet and saving lives through non-lethal force. 
Love and Peace!
As the series progresses, more of Vash’s past is revealed and he must wonder if is idealistic pacifism can actually win out against the show’s villain, Knives, or if his idealism ever worked in the first place.

There are lots of awesome fight scenes in this anime. What sets it apart is that the main character is always working to prevent loss of life. It’s similar to Batman in a way, but it dives even more into the ideology of whether or not one can actually save lives without taking them. Many of Vash’s opponents certainly try to prove him wrong in often terrible ways. But what was important about his anime, to me, is actually changed the way I looked at things. In short, it made the peaceful option the cooler option.

I think a lot of middle school kids go through a violence and action phase. And I did as well. I thought that concepts such as an eye for eye were actually legitimate. But Vash’s absolute refusal to play by those rules… that was inspiring. You wanted him to succeed. Now that didn’t mean his views weren’t still questioned. Half the show wars over when it’s okay to take a life if it is ever okay. It’s thought provoking stuff for a show that starts out… kind of goofy.

Really goofy.

I blame this show and a few others for my hatred of some pieces of media. For instance, I really hated TAKEN. I was just kind of… violence for violence sake disguised as some 'noble' revenge plot. I wanted it for a more enriching purpose.

Trigun gave me a lesson in pacifism as an important ideal as well as how to explore complex idealism in conjunction with the real world. And it’s a lesson that continues to find its way into my writing today.

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