I had a hard time deciding whether or not to go ahead and do a rewatch entry for this week, in light of the Pulse massacre this weekend. But as Trigun is just as much about when and how to use or not use your gun, what to use it for and the harm it can do as much as it is about anything else, in the end, I decided to go ahead.
A drunk man, much to the obvious and visible disgust of the patrons, wanders into a bar and begins pestering people, begging for more alcohol, of whatever kind. He is thrown out and beaten, but doesn’t seem to mind. The title card comes up, the episode is called Peace Maker.
The next morning, Meryl & Millie are discussing what to do to find Vash the Stampede when he walks past them, right behind Meryl. Millie happily greets him by name, but Meryl still chooses to believe that it can’t be him. As Vash continues to walk through the town, he is knocked over by the drunk from the night before, who demands an apology. Vash tries to creep off only to be latched onto by the drunk and dragged into the bar. The barkeeper takes Vash’s gun, stating that she wants no trouble. Noting the hands of the drunk, Vash begins to question him about a gunsmith named Frank Marlon. The drunk pretends not to know who Vash is talking about, but the bartender calls Marlon the hero of the town. She tells how the town was once overrun by bandits, until Marlon personally armed and trained every resident in how to defend themselves with the guns he’d made and given them. Vash mentions that he’s come to town so that Marlon can fix his own gun, which is three inches off from just a yard away. The barkeeper tells him that he’s wasting his time, the Marlon would just pawn it for booze. The drunk interrupts her, asking if Vash would really hand a weapon to a stranger.
Millie & Meryl, questioning the Mayor of the town, are shocked to hear that the town has no sheriff. Taking it upon herself to warn him that Vash may be nearby (as Kuroneko-sama walks past on the windowsill) the Mayor laughs off the threat, saying that it might be kind of fun. Elsewhere, a gang on the ridge above the town plans to rob the armored car that will be arriving with money for the town’s bank. Also mentioning the rumor that Vash is in town, they plan to use his presence as a part of their plan.
Late that night (while Kuroneko-sama meows to herself on the roof,) Vash and the drunk are thrown out of the bar. Vash asks for his gun back, it is thrown at him and he catches it without even looking, indicating that most of his drunkenness may be just for show. They run into Meryl and Millie, who are patrolling the town at Meryl’s insistence, waiting for “Vash the Stampede” to appear. While Millie takes the situation at face value, saying that they seem to be having a great time, Meryl says that it is more likely that they are trying to escape from something. Vash helps the drunk home, where he explains to Vash why he drinks and does nothing else; he once tried to help someone, only to hurt other people instead. He passes out. Vash, finding an old toy sitting on a workbench in the room, reflects on what he’s been told about Marlon, how he was a genius gunsmith who was now a drunk, because his wife and child had been killed in a bank robbery not only committed with guns that he had made, but that he had personally given to the men who robbed the bank when he had armed the town not long before.
The next morning, Marlon wakes to find that Vash has gone, leaving his gun behind on the workbench near the toy. Just then, there is yelling from outside that “Vash the Stampede” has attacked the armored car. Out in the town square, the gang is robbing the bank while putting on a show of their leader being “Vash the Stampede.” Meryl & Millie have been pressed into hauling the bags of money to the getaway car, although they still try to do their jobs, Meryl lamenting that it might have gone more smoothly if only she’d had another box of dounuts to present to “Vash.”
The real Vash, hiding in a garbage can in an alley, tries to assess the situation, only to be interrupted multiple times by Marlin, who tries to convince him not to do anything. Vash tells him that he cannot stand aside, as the situation is not an equal one. He, seemingly armed only with the garbage can lid, which he is wearing like a hat, approaches the getaway car. When asked by one of the gang members “are you trying to be some kind of hero?” he responds that he’s not as great as everyone thinks he is. And then slashes the tires of the getaway car with a switchblade hidden in the sole of his boot. The gang opens fire and Vash uses the lid of the trashcan as a makeshift shield, shortly before taking one of the gang members hostage. He is then told that the gang leader is “Vash the Stampede” which causes him a moment of surprise/confusion, but with no hesitation, he draws a weapon (that is obscured by his coat.) He faces down the gang as the town looks on, Meryl and Millie among them. Marlon continues to question why Vash is involving himself, while Meryl and Millie get ready to attempt a rescue, only for all of their musings to be interrupted by the bartender, who’s got her gun, one of the original guns form Marlon’s arming of the town, trained on the gang members. Again asking himself why people are acting, why they’re not just letting the robbery happen, Marlon watches the townspeople re-emerge from their hiding places and homes, all armed with his weapons, and ready once again to defend their town. He thinks again of what Vash told him, that he had to get involved in the situation because the townspeople were not on an even footing with the heavily armed criminals, and at last joins them, sneaking up behind the gang leader and pointing a weapon at his head. The gang is run off, and Vash and Marlon (who knew the entire time that Vash did not have his gun,) are revealed to have been armed only with their pointed forefingers.
That evening while the town celebrates, Marlon, now sober, returns Vash’s repaired gun to him. The next morning Millie and Meryl, following Vash on their riding Thomases, leave the town, Millie commenting that Meryl “just doesn’t want to admit” that she’s worried about Vash, the first indication that Meryl herself feels that her judgement might be off.
The episode opens with Vash being dropped off far from a town in a growing sandstorm. Meryl & Millie are shown already in the town bar, wondering what to do while they’re stuck in the town for the duration of the storm. A young woman/older teenage girl at the next table begins congratulating herself on how well she’s doing at a card game, when she is taken hostage. The title card is shown, the episode is Love & Peace.
The sheriff and the girl’s father are outside, discussing the situation, the girl is being ransomed for $$100,000.00. The girl’s father, Earl Bostock, is revealed to be a former outlaw known as Grim Reaper Bostock, he is afraid that his eldest daughter will be subject to crimes similar or identical to some of those he had comitted himself. Declaring that he doesn’t care how many people have to die for him to get his daughter back, he tries to order the sheriff to get her out of the bar at any cost, only to be reminded that “this is not the old days,” indicating that the sheriff and his men were once a part of Bostock’s gang.
Vash, seemingly obliviously dancing to a Walkman and unable to hear anything else, wanders past in the background and heads into the bar. Much to the consternation of everyone, when the kidnappers in the bar begin to fire at him he dances around the bullets. He enters the bar and is added to the hostages. When he finds himself next to Meryl and Millie he remarks that he’s “been going through a lot of hell since I met you two girls” whereupon Meryl informs him that she’s the one in hell. Vash then sees Stephanie for the first time, she is being kept separate from the others, having been tied up and hung from the rafters. She is certain that all the kidnappers are after is money, and she proceeds to make everything worse by arrogantly claiming that the $$100,000.00 is nothing but “pocket money.” One of the kidnappers, angered, tries to kill her, only to be stopped by their leader.
Outside, the sheriff has called in several bounty hunters on the pretense of getting Stephanie out of the bar. Bostock is unsure of the tactic, but tells the sheriff to go ahead with his plan. Inside the bar everyone is getting antsy waiting for the delivery of the ransom, though the bartender pleads with the kidnappers to simply release Stephanie safe and unharmed. The sheriff then pulls up in an enclosed truck, presumably with the money. Not trusting that it truly is the money, the kidnappers send one of their men out to check it, only for it to be full of the bounty hunters. They drive the truck into the bar and indiscriminately open fire. Vash gets Stephanie out of the line of fire and behind the bar (accidentally throwing Kuroneko-sama into the air) where Meryl & Millie have already taken shelter. The leader of the kidnappers is also shown to be there, behind a partition, but the bartender is not. The Bounty hunters begin to taunt and torment him, while he continues his pleas for Stephanie’s life. Vash, leaves the shelter of the bar and draws on the bounty hunter that is playing with the bartender, but cannot bring himself to fire. Millie, however, seeing Vash lower his gun while muttering “Rem” draws the enormous weapon she carries and takes out two of the bandits. Vash ejects the bullets from his gun, hitting one of the bounty hunters in the face with the shells, causing him to shoot the bounty hunter next to him in the foot. The leader of the kidnappers knocks out the man Vash wouldn’t shoot and while everyone else asks Vash what he was thinking, Millie declares that she’s glad he didn’t shoot. Vash agrees with her, saying that he really doesn’t like pain very much.
Stephanie remarks that the sheriff never intended any other solution, but that she’ll ask her father to pay the ransom anyway. The leader of the kidnappers asks her if she knows anything about the history of the town, she says that she doesn’t. He tells her how generations of people had worked to make the town and its fields thrive, living and dying there so that they had something of worth to leave to their children. And then, fifteen years ago her father and his gang slaughtered the townspeople, the massacre that earned him the epithet Grim Reaper, and took the town for their own. The kidnappers were the survivors of the massacre, and the ransom demand was just a ruse or a means to an end, what they were really after was revenge on Bostock.
Vash, who had gone out to check on the injured kidnappers, approaches Bostock to discuss the terms of the leader of the kidnappers, he agrees to a showdown. Standing beside Stephanie as Bostock and the leader of the kidnappers face off, Vash tells Stephanie that she cannot look away now, and ignore the man that her father was or the deeds that he did. She responds that she knows, but that he was always a good and kind father to her. Bostock and the kidnapper draw and shoot, and Bostock falls, but was only hit in the shoulder. The kidnapper gruffly claims that he was “just distracted” but that he has decided to turn himself in, only to be rebuffed by the sheriff, who is resentful over Bostock’s position, money and good luck. He has them surrounded and plans to kill them all. Vash, after winking at Meryl, launches himself into one of the sheriff’s men, and Meryl throws her cloak open, revealing that it is full of loaded derringers. She quickly manages to disarm all of the gunmen with well-placed shots at their hands/weapons and, once the excitement is over, asks Vash how he knew she was armed. He mentions having seen her help him earlier in the bar, when she shot a light fixture to take out one of the bounty hunters unobserved, further remarking that he’d know the smell of gun oil anywhere.
These two episodes are the first we get a hint that something larger is going on. The mention of Vash’s gun as being nearly useless and his declaration that he is not as great as people think he is, as well as the mention of Rem bring into focus that there is more story than just “claims adjusters follow one-man wrecking crew through the desert.” We begin to see that the world of Trigun is not as simple as “try to contain the damage” made it seem. There is a lot more going on with all of the characters, including those we see only in passing, than we have been shown before.