In this week’s adaptation news, Universal is developing a reboot of the 1994 sci-fi actioner Timecop, which starred Jean Claude Van Damme. There has also been an interesting development in the quest to adapt Microsoft’s Halo franchise, with Steven Spielberg on board to produce a live-action TV series based on the popular video game. While decades-old movies and gaming adaptations are prime for development, anime properties continue to be overlooked. Today’s installment of “Hollywood! Adapt This” aims to bring one of the most popular animes to light. This space Western follows the exploits of the world’s most dangerous outlaw and his narrow escapes from bounty hunters. Hit the jump for more. Hollywood! Adapt this: Trigun.
Starting as a manga from creator Yasuhiro Nightow that ran from 1996 to 2008, Trigun was serialized into 26 episodes of an animated TV show. The animated film Trigun: Badlands Rumble debuted in 2010 and a video game, Trigun: The Planet Gunsmoke, was also developed. The animated series gained popularity in America when it debuted in 2003 and the show was re-released on DVD/Blu-ray starting in 2010.
The central character of Trigun is a quirky character named Vash the Stampede. A tall young man with spiky blonde hair and wearing a bright red trenchcoat, Vash isn’t exactly laying low, an odd choice for an infamous outlaw worth a bounty of 60 billion double-dollars. Viewers soon find out that his heinous crime was the destruction of the city of July, but Vash’s amnesia causes him to forget most of what actually happened. Though he is a wanted man for these terrible events, most of the death and damage in the series is caused by the bounty hunters who track him down.
Vash possesses an incredibly destructive device, but he prefers to resolve conflicts by non-lethal means. An expert marksman, he often disarms or incapacitates his opponents rather than outright killing them. This moral code is often tested by his various enemies with conflicts growing more intense as the series goes on. Vash does manage to recruit a few allies along the way: Milly and Meryl of the Bernardelli Insurance Company, the warrior-priest Nicholas D. Wolfwood and townspeople he helps out along the way. The entire series builds to a final conflict between Vash and a shadowy character from his childhood who has returned to put his morals to the ultimate test.
Trigun is an absolutely crazy anime with over-the-top characters and explosive action sequences. It’s out of vogue with the current spate of “gritty and realistic” movie adaptations but it would certainly be a welcome change of pace. The anime’s set pieces range from dusty Western towns to massive desert transporters called Sandsteamers to orbiting ships called Arks. Its oddly-named characters – such as Midvalley the Hornfreak and Legato Bluesummers – are every bit as eccentric as the protagonist himself. These colorful and exciting aspects of Trigun make the anime a lot of fun to watch, but a real trial to adapt. Hollywood has shown that they don’t quite grasp the appeal of animated properties when adapting them – Dragonball Evolution, Aeon Flux, The Last Airbender – which makes a successful Trigun adaptation particularly difficult.
I’m hoping that properties like Pacific Rim, Elysium and the more adventurous of Marvel’s upcoming films will help to push the boundaries of not only what filmmakers can achieve, but what movie-going audiences will demand. Trigun is a tough sell for those who are unfamiliar with the manga or anime and the “realistic” approach to sci-fi/fantasy films of late make this an even more difficult project to get off the ground. Perhaps the bounty hunting aspect of Trigun would be a good place to start building a franchise around, before getting to the heart of the conflict between Vash and his ultimate opponent.
The Final Word:
While I’d love to see a live-action version of Trigun on the big screen, I doubt it will get exposure any time soon. It’s too unwieldy, too complex and too over-the-top for mainstream audiences at the moment. Hopefully anime properties will start to be tapped for adaptation in the next few years, but it will take a few critically and financially successful features to help kickstart that trend. (It’s worth mentioning that the international stage is doing relatively well with their live-action anime adaptations as Hollywood lags behind.)
Next week on “Hollywood! Adapt This,” we’ll revisit a late 80s cartoon series that features a ridiculous cast of characters on either side of the thin blue line. Tune in to see who’s fighting crime in a future time!