Satoshi Nishimura's anime battle royale may not break much in the way of new ground, but it does offer plenty of mindless fun. Protagonist Vash the Stampede (aka the Humanoid Typhoon) will be familiar to fans of the Trigun series, but even if your manga knowledge stops at Sailor Moon, you won't have too much difficulty following his latest exploits. As conflicted antiheroes go, Vash, with his habit of cracking goofy jokes before he throws a punch, is nothing we haven't seen before, and neither are the swarthy bad guys he dispatches in every scene. The worst of them, the ultraviolent Gasback, mostly provides an excuse for the art department to show off its skill at rendering explosions—which, granted, is considerable. Twenty years ago, Vash saved Gasback's life after his henchmen turned on him in the middle of a bank robbery. Gasback disappeared, only to resurface with plans to destroy Macca City, a desert town governed by a traitorous ex-lackey named Cain. Will Gasback murder Vash and succeed in stealing Macca's power supply? No, probably not. We never doubt Vash and friends will prevail, but what the film lacks in suspense, it makes up for in beauty. A behemoth steamship built to travel across sand instead of water is hypnotic; the desert is littered with glittering quicksand; and the fireworks are more gratifying than anything we'll see from Michael Bay this summer.
Vash, our hero.
Runs at Grand Illusion, Fri., July 29â€“Thurs., Aug. 4. Not rated. 95 minutes.