Write great protagonists!
I'll be at LDSPMA
Tips organized by topic
Read about me
Editing Services
Read Testimonials
Learn the "bones" of story

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Writer's Take on Trigun: Knives (Analysis and Themes)

(Knives--This character analysis is crazy.)


It's interesting how Vash and Knives grew up as twins in the same environment and how they turned out so differently. Where does Knives veer off course? I think most fans would say it happens when he kills a spider to save a butterfly--that's the first real manifestation of it--but honestly, it starts before that.

It starts when Commander Joey of the SEEDS ships explains why they were sent to find a new planet. Not only does he reveal the faults of the human race, but also their drive to survive, and he explains that they use logic to "make the smallest sacrifice they can think of at the time."

This wisdom sticks with Knives, we see, because he repeats the advice to Vash when Vash is crying. Steve told Vash "he's not human" (an insult Vash himself uses on Knives later). And when talking about the humans, Knives says, "Remember what Joey said? We have to make the smallest sacrifice we can think of at the time."


After that, we see Knives contemplate an apple tree, saying, "Yeah, plants are strong, but we eat their fruit." Vash says, "We have to eat their fruit to live." So we see this theme of survival and sacrifice again. Knives wonders, "Do you think I'll be eaten one day?" And the first time you watch that, you probably laugh, but by the end of the series, we see there is some sense to his question.

Knives is thinking about humans and Plants. Plants were made to help humans, just like the trees give humans fruit. Knives thinks about how some humans, like Steve abuse him, and wonders, "So why am I here?" He is having an identity crisis. He realizes that Plants, the creatures, were made by humans, for humans, and that he's one of them, even if Vash hasn't quite figured it out yet. He wonders if he's just here to serve humans. But he's not like other Plants.

Knives then cuts his hair and there is a frame that makes it very obvious that it's cut to resemble a butterfly. In the spider and butterfly analogy, he sees Plants as butterflies, because they are being used to sustain humans, who are like spiders, sucking the life out of them, (literally so in the manga). We also see the apple with a knife through it, which to me, shows symbolically that Knives has rejected the idea that he (and all Plants) are here to serve humans.


So, in order to save Plants, Knives must eliminate humans, a species that's proven itself to be faulty and wasteful anyway.

Then we get the whole moment where Vash is trying to save a butterfly from a spider web, and Knives kills the spider, saying it's naive to try to save butterflies and spiders--they'll both die.

What I love about Knives as a villain, is that, realistically, his concept of "you can't save the butterfly without killing the spider" is realistic. So we can understand his thought-process.

So Knives sees killing the spider as the best choice. It's the "easiest, smallest sacrifice to make at that time." I feel like it relates all the way back to what Joey explained about humans.

Okay, then the next thing Knives says to Rem is important. He says that the longer they had thought about it, the the sooner the spider would have gotten the butterfly--this thought process goes all the way down to Chapel, to Wolfwood, who are taught not to hesitate, to act right away. (I talked about that in my Wolfwood analysis.) You have to kill to survive.


I like the argument that happens between Knives and Vash about it. Knives, as we see through the whole series, has an extreme intellectual, logical argument. Vash's is emotion and moral driven. The feud isn't really about two brothers, it's about two belief systems. Trigun is about a battle between two opposing belief systems, and if you look, you'll find examples of both sides littered throughout the series, even in minor characters like Kaite, Julius, Steve and Mary. Sacrifice, survival, the sanctity of life, killing others to save those you care about--it's everywhere.
Rem vs. Joey = Vash vs. Knives
What's crazy is that Rem's and Joey's thought processes are the same as Vash's and Knives'. Vash and Knives have just taken Rem's and Joey's beliefs to the extreme. Rem is very idealistic and emotion and moral based. Joey is more intellectual and logical. At one point in the "Rem Saverem" episode, we see Knives siding with and consoling Joey while Vash is siding with and consoling Rem. Rem and Joey are on opposite sides of an argument, about whether or not Rowan would have shot to kill Rem.

(Side Note: He wouldn't have. If you listen, Rowan says, "Something’s broken inside me. I can’t seem to stop." This line of dialogue implies that Knives is using his plant capabilities to take control of Rowan's body. BUT, Knives hadn't planned to kill Rem, so he wouldn't've actually made Rowan shoot. It's interesting to point out that Rowan knew Knives was behind this all somehow, as he pointed the gun at him.)

Anyway, we see Vash is influenced by Rem and Knives is influenced by Joey. But unlike Vash and Knives, Rem and Joey have a great friendship. As Rem says, "There are many different ways of thinking," and while they disagree, she and Joey are still respectful of one another, which does offer hope that after the series, Vash and Knives can manage to live together too. Vash even takes into account "There are many different ways of thinking," when he prepares to meet Knives at the end of the series.

So Knives uses his mind-altering Plant powers to set-up situations where the crew members ruin and kill one another. He sabotages the whole SEEDS ship. What's kind of creepy, is that as awful and warped and cruel Steve was, what he was afraid of kind of came into fruition. He thought the Plants were monsters, and if they had done away with Vash and Knives, the human race would have frankly been better off, in a sense. I guess the humans did need to fear sentient plants after all...
Rem and Knives
I get the feeling that Rem really catches onto the direction Knives' thought-process is going. She's obviously alarmed when he kills the spider, and after that point, she seems to keep a quiet watch of him, but it's like she doesn't want to cast any kind of judgement.

She's not a confrontational person. She was never confrontational with Joey. The red flag, though, for me, the sign that she thought there was something more serious going on with Knives, happened when she, Vash, and Knives were evacuating. Knives says that Joey was going to stay behind to help the other ships, but Rem doesn't seem to believe him, because she decides to stay behind herself. I feel like a lot of Rem's character is based on what she doesn't say. She keeps her concerns and worries quiet. Of course, we can't forget the telltale line, "Vash, take care of Knives," and then, "Don't worry, Vash." It's interesting that she doesn't really say anything to Knives. It's not her place to judge. But her "Take care of Knives," refers to her worrying over the course of Knives' beliefs. That's why, when Vash finally figures out what to do about Knives, he remembers her line, along with "People have many different ways of thinking."

Plants, Sentience, and Humans

It's interesting that Knives hates humans so much when Plants were created by humans, and he wouldn't be alive without them. But he does tell Vash that "You and I have free will. We are no longer things to be used by humans." At first I didn't fully understand or respect that dialogue. I get it now. Knives was talking about how he and Vash are an evolution/mutation of Plants that actually, literally, possesses a sentience that gives them free will, unlike the others. They don't need to be used by humans anymore.

What's ironic about Knives trying to sabotage the human race is that, in doing so, he indirectly made the humans more dependent on Plants, since humans lost so many of their resources.

Next time, I'll talk more about Knives and his crazy/killer plan to break down Vash's belief system. Remember, it's really a war of beliefs, and Knives knows just how to break down Vash's.

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.


  1. This is an interesting analysis! I'm curious, have you read the manga or plan to read it soon? Knives' is very different since the anime ended before the manga did, and he's a bit more fleshed out with different origins. It's a good read!

    1. I have read it, but after I wrote this. I loved it! And yes, he is quite different and more fleshed out.

  2. The spider and butterfly analogy didn’t happened in the manga right? If it was pls tell me what chapter

  3. Do you plan on analysing the manga? I think the Manga has way more to offer in complexity and depth.

    1. It's definitely more complex . . . and has more depth. At this time, I have too much going on, so don't have any plans at the moment. But it's a great series!


I love comments :)