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Friday, November 14, 2014

A Writer's Take on Trigun: Vash the Stampede, Part 2

This post is part of a series I’m doing where, as a writer, I’m dissecting Trigun and its characters. We’re getting in deep into this story. Be prepared to freak out about what I found (that’s what I did). And if you're a writer, maybe learn some new storytelling skills along the way.

Character Arcs (Continued)


Character Arc 3

Last time I talked about how Vash grows as a character by learning to be more proactive and independent.

But Vash grows in more ways than that. Another weakness he has is an ignorance of his own nature. It's even suggested that he might have a bit of a fear of it. He's not human; he's a plant, a powerful species engineered by humankind, but Vash doesn't fully understand what that means or what he's capable of. When Knives was a child, he didn't either. Unlike Vash, though, Knives embraces his nature and power, maybe because he grows to detest humans so much.

On the SEEDS ship, Knives finds Vash crying. Vash says he's upset because "Steve says we're not human," which shows Vash identifies himself as human. When the SEEDS ships crash onto Gunsmoke, Vash yells at Knives, "You're not even human," which again shows Vash thinks himself as human. Knives says, "Dang straight I'm not," showing that he strongly differentiates himself from humankind.


If you watch, throughout the series there are little subconscious slips of Vash identifying himself as human. Even after Meryl knows what Vash is, she refers to him as being a better human than most. In the episode preview for "Sin," Vash asks, "Can I chose to remain human?"

After the crash, Knives goes on to test his plant abilities, their limits and capacities while Vash remains almost clueless in comparison. Because Vash identifies himself with humans, he wants to live the human lifestyle. He's only interested in using his plant abilities when necessary, and while he understands enough to do things like stop other plants from exploding (which, come to think of it, he may have learned how to do when helping the crew with the plants on the SEEDS ship) and communicating telepathically, he doesn't understand much. He nearly dies walking through the desert while Knives appears fully capable of using his plant abilities to survive the climate.

At one point Knives says to Vash, "You can't even regenerate the scars [the humans] left in your body," further implying Vash's ignorance to his own plant abilities. If Knives can regenerated from being basically obliterated, I'm pretty sure Vash can regenerate from his injuries, if he only knew how. Vash doesn't understand how Knives can create such lethal organic weapons, control human beings, mess with people's minds, and he doesn't get how his angel arm works--he can't even thwart Legato from taking control of it--and he's afraid of it. Not that that's a surprise considering his experience with it.


Oh how the series would be different if Vash had embraced himself as a plant and learned to use some special skills against his enemies, if only in defense. At one point, Vash feels he's incapable of beating Legato, but I'm sure he would feel differently if he was more accepting of his plant abilities. I mean, Legato isn't even a real plant.

Legato challenges Vash's weakness and ignorance just before Vash shoots him. Legato says, "Don't you understand you aren't human? It's time for you to understand exactly who you are. There is power, power you have always possessed. Even more, this [angel arm] represents what you are." But Vash retreats from it, though for good reason.

But in the last episode, I feel like Vash accepts and comes to terms with his nature. Knives is even aware of Vash's personal struggle with being a plant. "Did you have fun with the humans?" He asks, "othering"  humankind. "You're not a human. You're a plant." He states the fact bluntly, and the context seems to really say, "Look, we've been through this. You've been trying to live like a human all these years, but you aren't one of them, you're a plant--it's a fact that can't be argued."


Vash responds by saying, "I know." And it's like he's finally accepting himself as something other than human. He's finally accepting that he's a plant. In the battle that follows, for the first time he uses his angel arm gun intentionally. He has control over the thing. He's not running away from his plant nature, he's using it. So he overcomes his ignorance and is accepting of his nature at last.

Ignorance of nature ---> Accepting of it

Character Arc 4

I touched on this in an earlier post, but I think it's interesting Vash has no problem forgiving others for treacherous deeds--murderers, rapists, whatever--except for two people: Knives, and himself. It's another interesting contradiction, which is again, why it's poignant that he learns to forgive both at the exact same time.

The basis of all of Vash's beliefs come from Rem. He chooses not to kill Monev the Gale, saying if he did, Rem really would die. So when he chooses to kill Legato, Rem "dies" for Vash, because she can't live on through him. I love it because in the show, once Vash makes that decision, it shows Rem fading out, like he's lost her.


I talked about this character arc of forgiveness in this earlier post, so I won't repeat it all here. But Vash learns to forgive himself.

The cool thing happening in this character arc, is that when Vash kills Legato, he loses Rem, but when he defeat Knives, he let's Rem go. Losing vs. Letting Go. It goes back to independence.

So the last arc is

Unforgiving of Self --> Forgiving of Self.

And that, my friends, are the character arcs of Vash the Stampede.

Lack of proactivity --> Proactive
Dependence --> Independence
Ignorance of Nature ---> Accepting of it
Unforgiving of Self --> Forgiving of Self.

See what I mean about a condensed story? If you've noticed, I've pretty much talked about the same few episodes in all four arcs. Trigun is that condensed.

For Writers: Try picking out your character's arcs. She might have a primary and secondary etc. Look at how she changes by the end of the story. Can you interweave her arcs? An extra challenge is to see if you can progress multiple arcs with one plot point, like Trigun did. Several arcs are completed by the same instance. It makes for a potent effect.

"Natural Disaster" by yours truly

The Giveaway

Every time you like or share or reblog or retweet any of my Trigun dissection posts on my Tumblr, Facebook, or Twitter outlets, you will be entered to win a Trigun decal. You can pick out of the ones below. Obviously you can stick them on things other than iphones and mini ipads, like laptops, car windows (you can get them in white), whatever. This is an international giveaway. You must be a follower to win.

If you win and don't want the prize (you just wanted to like and share my posts), just let me know, and I'll select another winner.


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