Monday, September 27, 2010

Ghost Hound

Imagine that there's a parallel world where spirits exist and that it's possible to enter it by having an out of body experience. Okay, now imagine what sort of havoc could be wreaked on such a world when humanity starts considering ways to create artificial life, in a controlled environment, a la Dr. Frankenstein, if he had himself a factory. There's more. Imagine you are seeing this from the point of view of a teenager suffering from Post Traumatic Stress from being kidnapped at a young age and his two friends, all three of whom can have questions asked about their sanity. Now add an evil cult to that... and organ traffickers...  and the yakuza...   and well, are you creeped out yet? Break out your tinfoil hats, we're about to enter the whacked out weirdness that is Ghost Hound.

Unlike much of the other anime I've covered so far, Ghost Hound was an original idea that went directly to animation, based on an idea by Ghost in the Shell creator Shirow Masamune. It ran on the Japanese WOWOW network from 2007 to 2008 and contains 22 episodes. It was produced by Production I.G. and if you have any interest in finding it in the USA, Sentai Filmworks currently holds the licensing rights. Even though the art style is visually very different from Masamune's more iconic series, you can definitely tell his fingerprints are all over it, from the philosophical questions about why the brain does what it does and how it relates to having a soul to the clinical specificity of discussing scientific knowledge of how it works. That specificity is more than helpful too, because without it, this anime would be way more confusing.


From left to right, Masayuki, Makoto, and Taro
The story starts in a remote mountain village called Suiten with the main character, Taro Komori, who has been having out-of-body experiences and nightmares resulting from Post Traumatic Stress (PTS for short). The cause appears to be residual memories from a kidnapping when he was three years old, which resulted in the death of his older sister. Due to concerns by the school, he is introduced to Atsushi HIrata, a psychiatrist from Tokyo, who at first has strictly grounded all of his beliefs in the basis of science and thinks that he can cure Taro based on his theories. Later, after being prodded into it by Masayuki Nakajima, a transfer student recently come from Tokyo, he is convinced to go take a look at the abandoned hospital where he and his late sister were found following the kidnapping. The two are joined reluctantly by Makoto Ogami, Taro's distant cousin, whose father committed suicide when Makoto's grandmother, a noted medium of the area, predicted where the two children would be found. In a classic "dumb kids" maneuver, they go into the hospital while the water has been drained out of the riverbed where it sits in order to see if that will help Taro move beyond his issues. Instead, things get incredibly weird as, upon finding the room in which Taro had been held with his sister, all three of them start seeing strange apparitions resulting in a mass waking OBE where they see a whole bunch of weird spirits wandering around the hospital. 


The three, who initially look like little translucent blobs of goo with eyes, ears, and butt-cheeks, while in astral form, at first panic and then start experimenting with this new state of consciousness before going back into their bodies. After getting told off by the local shinto priest and his daughter Miyako upon coming back to the shrine where Taro left his bike, they get the hell out of dodge. However, this is not the end of the story by a long shot. They plan a couple more joint expiditions into the Unseen World as they call it, as well as going in on their own on occasion, over time, hoping to seek their own answers as the people around them attempt to understand what's going on. Some worry more than others as I would be the first to say that none of these kids are without problems.


This is an anime that really excelled in characterization in the main cast as well as in the minor characters that are running around. Everyone has their own motives for doing what they do and their own issues which makes you tempted to suspect everything even if some of their actions are totally mundane. Masayuki for instance, starts off with a crushing fear of heights due to an accident in Tokyo where a student he had bullied threw himself off the roof and blamed him for it. Because of this, he sees himself as a murderer at the beginning and his instigation of the abandoned hospital trip seems to be more than just boyish adventurism for him. Makoto on the other hand is withdrawn and moody. He claims it's because his mother dropped him when he was an infant and that he might be driven to kill someone one day from the brain damage. Guided by this statement, and the suggestion that he was totally serious, I spent most of the series worried that he actually would do something, which definitely had me on the edge of my seat. Then there is the psychiatrist. Because of Hirata Sensei's internal monologues and various things he does prove empirically that he has an ulterior motive for treating Taro, even if he doesn't admit that to him until near the end. But because of the way he is portrayed, he seemed like the scariest one in the bunch until I got past the halfway mark and the story started moving towards the end-game. Then he get's a little more sympathetic as he also starts having some strange experiences of his own. Miyako is also a pretty interesting character, a young girl who is struggling with what is officially being called a dissociative disorder, but many of the villagers are interpreting it as being routinely possessed. It's a little depressing in a way, but just about all of the families involved in this seemed to have some sort of looming psychological issue. Taro's mom is still depressed from losing her daughter, Masayuki's parents no longer communicate and his mom's closed herself in to the point where all she does anymore is play video games. Don't even think about Makoto's folks, his dad's dead and his mom's run off so we don't see her until later in the story. All he's got is his psycho cult-leader grandmother and her evil assistant (we'll talk about her next paragraph). I really felt the worst for Miyako's dad though. Out of all the other parental figures, aside from Taro's folks trying to help him get through his PTS, you see her father working the hardest to care for his little girl and yet he has to watch her suffer through the possessions/psychological issues without being able to really do anything about it that she doesn't refuse.


As for the number of adversaries and challenges the main characters face, there are many. The brewery Taro's family owns is threatened by the local bio-tech facility that just opened up the river, which happens to be the place where Masayuki's father is working. Makoto's family had a falling out with Taro's family following Makoto's father's suicide. But the problems are not limited to the mundane, there's also some higher issues to deal with, such as facing down the unknown, which they often do when exploring the unseen realm. There are a couple of points where they have to not only face it, but overcome their fears of it. Masayuki gets over his fear of heights pretty early in the show, but the others have deeper issues that take up a huge part of the series, such as Taro's issues relating to the kidnapping. At one point, this is brought especially into focus when they find a spirit-echo of the man who kidnapped him at the abandoned pachinko parlor where where he had been hit by a car before the children were discovered. Through Taro's being overcome with anger and rage which leads him to attack the figure, before realizing he's still terrified of it, the others learn that it's possible to change their astral shape in the Unseen World after which, Makoto learns to turn his astral form into a powerful wolf-like figure. Makoto's issues with his family also play a major role in the story as his reconciliation with his mother and subsequently helping to bring down his grandmother's cult is a crucial point in the endgame. But first he must learn the truth behind Taro's kidnapping which not only brings some amazing revelations about the activities of the cult to light but also their connections to less reputable organizations like organ smugglers, and even a group that's disturbingly similar to the yakuza. It's actually the cult that turns this anime into an all out clash between the concepts of science versus spirituality. This is because of the activity at the bio-tech facility, which is directed at creating brainless bodies from which to farm organs, has birthed these man-made spirits that have thrown the whole local climate in the Unseen World out of whack. After the death of Makoto's grandmother, her assistant takes advantage of this perceived imbalance to attack Miyako's father and then trick her distant mother into taking custody of Miyako so she can use the girl's spiritual powers to regain the cult's lost acclaim. It eventually requires the aid of the entire main cast, plus some of the parents, and a little help from a scientist at the bio-tech facility to rescue Miyako and make things right again.


It was probably a product of the fact that this was an anime before it was anything else, but one thing that struck me about this story was just how full it was. I can't possibly go over every single thing that happened in this one review because even when the characters weren't doing anything, the unexpected could still happen. This left me on the edge of my seat even when perfectly normal everyday stuff was going on. Most days at school, Taro could drift off and start doing his OBE thing at any minute, you never knew when Makoto might actually show up to class, or if Masayuki was actually going to take initiative and stop the poor kid with glasses from being bullied (he does eventually, which leads to Michio Hoshino becoming a fourth addition to the regular astral travelers). Then there are the crazier things that happen on a regular basis. After the first few episodes, Taro falls down the stairs at the shinto shrine, hitting his head and causing him to have the strange experience of looking inside his own head. Then there's the instance where the group meets a spirit of the Mothman from a sighting in Virginia, USA, that took place in 1966, in the unseen world. Taro gets attacked by the spirit of a Pterodactyl at one point. Later in the story Masayuki is out flying around and freaks out this one guy who can also see the spirits without going into the unseen realm. And if that wasn't crazy enough for you, the psychiatrist himself starts having strange things happening to him as well. Like there's one night when he's coming home and sees a UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) off in the distance right after a missing time phenomena occurs (that's not even the most exciting thing that happens to him either.) 


There's a philosophical/pseudo scientific element to all of this as well, One thing that's really interesting is that whenever the episode ends and there is a preview for the next episode, the narrator won't talk about the episode but will instead introduce a new psychological concept or disorder, which also happens to be the title of the next episode or is related to it in some way. At a couple of points characters even talk about these terms and disorders in the context of the story. Such as when the psychiatrist is discussing Miyako and Taro's cases with their parents. Although they occasionally do riff on these discussions and which can be entertaining. For instance, at one point while Taro's in the hospital, Masayuki comes to visit him and after talking to the doctors the two boys get on the subject of whether or not their adventures exist only in their own minds and have a laugh over it by arguing over which one of them only exists in the mind of the other. Taro's adventures in the Unseen World also get him in contact with another soul traveler who calls himself Snark and claims he is a Boojum (in reference to a nonsensical poem by Lewis Carrol), but in reality is actually the current husband/boyfriend of Makoto's mother, and also an amateur physicist who tries to insert his scientific understanding into things which adds a unique perspective on the stuff that's happening.


Normally I don't do a separate paragraph for things like presentation, but here I think the visual and auditory imagery really bear mentioning. While the overall level of visual detail is not quite as high as with Masamune's other works, the images more than makes up for it in having quite a bit of character of their own, and the ambiance of the neighborhood in which Taro lives is still very nice. It actually does feel like you are seeing somewhere that you could go, aside from the stuff we let slide for suspension of disbelief. Some of the dream sequences are also very interesting, but very, very creepy, such as Taro's recurring dream where he's tied up in the hospital with his sister's corpse and there's a fly wandering around it that the camera zeros in on every single time. It's creepy before you know what it is, but it gets worse after you figure it out. But I especially liked the musical score and ambient sounds for this one. While the music itself is sparse and often limited to a slowly beating taiko drum with an occasional rise in the sound track at dramatically appropriate points, its designed not to be noticed unless it really needs to be, but at the same time, build tension in all the right places, leaving the viewers biting their nails at every new development. The only points where it becomes anywhere near being obnoxious, is during the sessions where Dr. Hirata is attempting a couple of types of therapy for Taro and later Miyako. His method of choice is to move his finger, or a light, back and forth in front of his patient of choice to the time of a clock. However, when this occurs...   how do I describe this? Pretend that the clock's ticking got sound-mixed with that ominous booming sound that happens every time Frodo drops the ring in the Lord of the Rings movies but the second sound is heavily muffled so the clock is louder. It's something like that and it's one of the creepiest sounds I think I've ever heard. There are also a couple of incredibly good tracks that are utilized for the opening and intro. The opening, Poltergeist, is jazzy and stands out with some nice chords that leave you with the assurance that something strange and mysterious is afoot. The outro, Call My Name is equally memorable though it lends itself more to reflection, and has a softer, more soothing quality to it which helps ease the punch of being on your way out.


Overall, I really enjoyed this anime, with its dark and yet hopeful themes, its exploration into the human consciousness, and its willingness to allow the viewer to question what's going on. I just hope I did this one justice because there's only so much I was able to talk about in such a small space. This anime is definitely worth checking out. And that's the tiger's two cents.


Images taken from Ghost Hound.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fun with Japanese: The Language of Death

It may seem a little bit odd to classify death as an aspect of Japanese culture that could ever be fun, but in the world of anime it's all over the lives of characters we encounter, and is often an intimate part of them (such as in the case of Seras Victoria, newly turned vampiress from Geneon's Hellsing OVA, who was the reluctant recipient of this coffin). Some have lost a loved one, others are trying to keep the people around them from biting the final bullet. Hell, some are already dead themselves and still kicking, somehow. Characters such as Kikyo from Rumiko Takahashi's Inuyasha come to mind, but there are plenty of other varied characters who don't have to be gone from this world to deal with death on a daily basis. Whether they're trying to initiate the deaths of others, like Kenshin used to do before he became a wanderer in Nobuhiro Watsuki's Rurouni Kenshin, or trying to figure out who killed the poor stiff on the other end, like Conan from Gosho Aoyama's Detective Conan, dealing with the dearly departed requires a vocabulary in order to properly understand the situation. With this in mind, I've selected five common words and phrases you will hear in relation to death scenes that could be handy for the amateur translator. At the very least, the language nerds in the audience can have some fun. Oh, and for those of you who can't read kanji, or your computer can't read kanji, I'll have the romaji under the Japanese text for your reference. So let's break out the dictionaries and get started.

殺す
ころす
Korosu

An important one to know. If you ever hear someone say this to you, with nothing else attached to it, you'd better get out of the room fast, because otherwise, you may be in trouble. This is a plain form verb that literally means "to kill" but often it's used in dramatic moments where someone has that sword pointed at the main character's throat, and then very menacingly, they'll utter this word, basically saying "I'm gonna kill you." One such epic instance occurs in episode 30 of Rurouni Kenshin in which Kenshin is dueling to the death with Hajime Saito, and since talking is apparently as much of a free action in anime as it is in RPGs, they pause the fight to engage in some banter about whose line this is supposed to be.

人殺し
ひとごろし
Hitogoroshi

So a lady just watched her brother being mercilessly slaughtered by some horrible murderer. She's likely to scream this at the fleeing attacker. Literally translated, it's the noun "hito" which means "person" paired off with an altered form of the verb "To kill" as noted above. Put'em together and you have a "killer." Such an event happens in volume 2 of Tezuka Osamu's manga, Dororo, on page 111, when Hyakkimaru, one of the protagonists has just slain a demon who had taken the form of one such lady's older brother. She screams it after him just as he and Dororo, his little thief companion are leaving town. I apologize for not posting the panel itself, but I didn't want to ruin the manga that I bought in Tokyo by flattening it out and trying to put it through a sub-standard scanner. Hyakkimaru is on the left, and yes, those swords are actually his arms.

彼が死んだ
かれがしんだ
Kare ga shinda.

Someone has died. That's the word, and this is one phrase that is often said when this happens. Note that I'm using the general pronoun "Kare" here. It generally means he, but the example I'm pointing out here uses a different noun, "kanja" in it's place, meaning 'patient'. Sorry I'm using an extra Tezuka Osamu derived work for this, but this classic artist is worth it in my humble opinion. As you can imagine, Black Jack would be surprised to hear this phrase seeing that most of his patients survive when he does surgery on them. If you watch the movie "Black Jack, The Two Doctors of Darkness," you'll understand why he looks so shocked. His operation had been a success after saving the poor lady from being murdered by Dr. Kiriko (to the left here), but then she walked out the hospital door with her kids and they all died in a car accident. Oof, death by irony. It hurts. 

亡くなった
なくなった
Nakunatta.

An alternative form of saying that someone has died. If you watch a lot of mystery dramas, you will hear this one and its cousin in definition, "shinda" (as demonstrated above) a lot. Especially in a series like Detective Conan, where one can safely predict that, on average, one death will occur every episode. Sometimes more if you've got a serial killer. It is generally used after the person determining the status of the victim has checked their vitals and has ruled them deceased, which the police detective, Miwako Satou (to the right and behind the panicking guy on the floor) is about to do a few seconds after this screenshot from episode 146. Note that it should not be confused with the other "nakunatta" which is spelled and pronounced the same, but uses a different kanji and means someone has disappeared.

死ね
しね
Shine

Basically, you just told someone to die. This is a common one in fight scenes where the stakes are actually life and death. Such as in episode 15 of  Inuyasha when the title character remembers the situation before he stole the shikon jewel and it seems like Kikyo betrayed him. She screams this very loudly at him with her bow drawn and ready to fire directly at his heart. And it isn't just Kikyo who uses this. It seems like almost all the characters tell Inuyasha to die at one point or another, with the exception of Inuyasha himself and maybe Kagome. Naraku, the big bad villain of the series says "Die, Inuyasha!" so much, it may as well be his catchphrase. Please note that there are two syllables in that, so it sounds more like shi-neh rather than the English word shine and making that mistake can have some very dire ramifications. Regardless, it's probably unnecessary to point out that in Japanese, it's not a very nice thing to say to someone, so you should try to avoid using it in polite conversation. Okay?

In fact, as a general rule, it's probably best not to use these in normal conversation unless things are really serious, but I'm sure you were smart enough to figure that out. So, until next time, practice up, and keep those dictionaries handy. You never know what interesting terms you might find out there.

Images taken from Black Jack, Detective Conan, Dororo, Hellsing, Inuyasha and Rurouni Kenshin.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Claymore

I guess it's about time we found one of these. A traditional hack and slash anime with a lot of horror elements mixed in, Claymore is a pretty conventional story about a character who becomes what she is for revenge, but has to learn to get beyond that. There are few surprises and it's a pretty formulaic and predictable story, only made more interesting for those who revel in shock value. But that's enough stalling. Hope you haven't eaten anything recently, this one's a bit gruesome, and you might lose your lunch.


The first time I'd heard of Claymore was a couple of years ago when they showed the first three episodes at the local anime club. If anything, I was kind of repulsed by it because of all the gratuitous violence. But then again, it is a series where folks are regularly disemboweled, dismembered, and otherwise mutilated on a daily basis. Claymore was produced by the studio Madhouse, for viewing on the Nippon Television network in the year 2007 (probably in a really late viewing slot). It was based on the manga by Norihiro Yagi which is currently ongoing, but this series only ran for the average 26 episodes.  If you care to get a hold of it state-side, Funimation holds the licensing rights


The story follows the exploits of a swords-woman named Clare, whose job it is to go around the country slaying these monstrous beings known as Yoma, on the behalf of this enigmatic organization that remains unnamed. And what is a yoma, you ask? Their basic characteristics are pretty disgusting. They can function as human dopplegangers when the situation calls for it, but they are really monsters in disguise, and they like to eat human entrails to the point of obsession. You see that a lot as the plot progresses, which is why it is recommended that folks shouldn't have eaten prior to viewing. The organization has been charged with keeping this population under control by recruiting young female warriors to undergo a process of being infused with Yoma flesh and blood in order to have the power to fight these monsters. It's a sort of "to fight them you must become one of them" kind of a deal, and really, it kind of sucks in my opinion, because once you become a claymore, which is what these warriors are called by the local populous, you can't really live a normal life anymore, and you're always worried about using your powers too much for fear you might become a total yoma yourself. Meanwhile, the chances that you are killed while on the job are prohibitively high, so it's a thankless job, with very few returns. You'd think the least they could have done is offer a retirement package that was slightly better than "don't turn your back on the organization or we kill you."


We first meet Clare through the eyes of Raki, a young, and soon-to-be homeless boy whose parents were eaten by a yoma that had already devoured and started impersonating his brother.  After Clare dispatches the fiend, he follows her out of town as it becomes apparent that people are afraid his close proximity to the yoma might have made him one of them and no one is willing to take him in. With no where else to go and nothing better to do, he takes it upon himself to follow her to the ends of the earth out of gratitude. She's skeptical of him at first, but then decides to humor him by allowing him to be her cook. It's really a poor excuse since her yoma infused body makes it so she doesn't need to eat as much as a normal human, but at least it gets him to stop whining.


After he follows her around on a couple of missions and she tries to lose him in a couple of the towns where she stops, they end up coming to a heavily populated city where a yoma has taken up residence, and in the fight, she ends up burning too much yoki (the rough equivalent of claymore/yoma energy) and nearly goes into a full transformation before Raki talks her down, sending us into an extreme flashback mode that takes us back....   um several years? Decades? It's hard to say. To be honest the writers are very vague about details in this anime, but I'll get to that later. We are then introduced to another claymore named Teresa who takes on a similar caretaker role to another orphan who turns out to be a younger Clare. It seems Teresa broke a cardinal rule for the orginization by killing some human bandits in the course of defending Clare from them, as killing humans is strictly forbidden. As a result a group of other claymores came to hunt her down, but unfortunately, the one who actually offed her, a new recruit named Priscilla, went into a full transformation as a result and flew off as an awakened being, which is what ascended claymores are called. 4 episodes after we got into this flash back (which really was almost a mini-series in itself) we return to find that Clare is called to join some other claymores out to hunt an awakened being which forces a parting of ways with Raki with the promise that they will see each other again. The rest of the story follows Clare along the road she walks afterward, as she encounters Irene, the lady who was in charge of the party that was sent to kill Teresa, as well as few others, including Jeane, a claymore who had been  tortured into awakening after which Clare managed to call her back. After some meandering, it becomes clear that the endgame is intended to deal with settling Clare's score with Priscilla who's been hiding out in the North with some guy named Easley.


Plot-wise, it's not a bad story. There's some discussion relating to that fear the claymores often have of becoming that which they are fighting, and they try to get into the heroic nature of loyalty and remembering those who are dead and fighting for those you care about. There was also some interesting debate on whether or not a claymore can revert back after ascending to awakened being status, which becomes important to the endgame, but there aren't any serious surprises. The only real twist of note is that Clare isn't technically a true claymore because the organization gave her Teresa's flesh instead of the flesh of a full yoma. But predictable does not mean bad. I think the writer warmed up to the idea of camaraderie among the claymores later on and gave them a little more personality which helped make the hellish nature of the last few battles in the in-game a little better. There's also a point where Raki tries to man up and learn how to fight, but he's not quite there yet at the end of the series. (He does get points for trying though.) The main emphasis still seems to be on the gory dismemberment of the latest ugly thing that's crossed the heroine's path, along with the dismemberment of the heroine and any potential allies. These girls lose limbs a lot. Most of them should have been dead so many times over it's almost silly. (Like this lady here whose been run through by what looks like a small telephone pole? Yeah, she'll be fine.) As far as combat is concerned, the show's got plenty of that, in excruciating detail. It made me want to wince every time someone got an arm chopped off, or had their stomach run through. Torture also occurs on a few occasions along with a near rape, and several decapitations. I guess it kinda tells you something that the first thing you see in episode 1 is a yoma getting its head cut off.


When it comes to the villains, they're mostly just a bunch of intelligent monsters that got hit over the head repeatedly with the ugly stick, and have some really nasty habits, (like the guts-eating thing). That's okay for the yoma, but for the awakened beings, things should be more complicated. It seems like they maintain some amount of consciousness and ability to keep a certain amount of humanity, but almost none of that is taken advantage of. In the case of Priscilla and Easley (who, strangely enough, seem to have both gained appearances that are physically attractive) it almost seems like the the artist did try to give them some depth, and tried to express it from Raki's viewpoint as he encounters them briefly while off on his own, searching for Clare. (Priscilla and Easley seem to have a policy of not eating humans they like, in spite of the fact that Priscilla is just trauma-stricken crazy by the time we meet her again.) Unfortunately, beyond what Raki sees, that depth is not explored! I was certain Easley at least had to have some sort of motivation above that of the common monster, something to make him a more compelling villain, but we don't find out what that is. My suspicion is that he might be a former claymore from back when the organization used to take male recruits, but it's never actually brought up, which is too bad because I like to know what drives a villain. But no, instead we get the big fight with Priscilla in which Easley just watches, and in the end, he and Priscilla aren't even properly defeated, they just call it a draw and ride off into the sunset like nothing happened. Meanwhile, Clare nearly goes ascendant again but only gets pulled back because one of the other claymores goes suicidal to stop her. It's not quite climactic because no one really wins in that situation. 


Then there's the information issue. No matter how far anyone travels in this world, there really doesn't seem to be more than a vague sense of place. There's no maps to look at, no real sense of the world the characters live in, who's running it, or what other places are out there. The most we get is that there is at least one other country, and that there is some form of religion among the human populous that is somewhat organized and includes a pair of love goddesses in the pantheon. That's it. Are the yoma prevalent in other countries? It's never said. All there really seems to be is the next town where there's a job, with maybe a few terrain changes to make it different from the last town. Sure, a couple of the towns have names, but the frame of reference is so limited there's nothing to gain by remembering them. That makes me sad, because usually in adventuring stories like this, one expects more detail. Otherwise, you just feel lost. In fact, this problem exists even down on the individual level. Most of the townsfolk all look alike, and it seems like all the claymores do too to some extent. It's hard to tell them apart from a distance, and even when the show goes into closeup, you're often relying solely on trace differences and personality to tell them apart. The intro and end credit tracks are also kind of forgettable, and though there is some interesting background music used, there aren't any themes I'd randomly start humming out of the blue.


As anime goes, its definitely not the worst that's out there, and it functions as a decent story. If what you're looking for is a good old-fashioned gore-fest incorporating a fight for one's own humanity, this one is for you. But if you're looking for a little something more, or perhaps you have a weaker stomach, you may want to steer clear. And that's the tiger's two cents.


Images taken from Claymore.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dangerous Characters: Vash the Stampede

As I promised, this month we're taking a look at a character that epitomizes the tradition of mass collateral damage. Hailing from Madhouse's TV series based on Yasuhiro Nightow's manga Trigun, Vash the Stampede is notorious for the damage that is often left in his wake. You've most likely seen him during the time his show ran on Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" block, after Funimation licensed the show for an American release. (Come to think of it, I should probably try to find some dangerous characters that aren't from Funimation titles. Oh well, I'll try to fix that next time.) His reputation has him down as regularly leaving whole towns in ruins and the people in them with nothing but their lives (most folks think it's a miracle he's never killed anybody). However, as with many characters, all is not necessarily as it seems.

Unlike what one would traditionally think of as a character inflicting a lot of damage to his environment, Vash the Stampede is the kind of character that draws damaging influences to him (notably bounty hunters, thrill seekers and other violent types that are all after his head), usually leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. But this is an instance where it really isn't his fault. If he had any say in the matter, he'd talk out his differences and coexist with his neighbors in peace. Unfortunately, his problems which were started by his personal conflict with his brother Knives (which involved the explosive destruction of the city of July), have earned him his title as well as his secondary nickname, "The Humanoid Typhoon," based on the assertion that whenever he comes through a town, it's virtually ruined. His problems are compounded by the fact that people hold him responsible for the damage left behind on the desert planet he inhabits. One of the biggest plot points in Vash's story has to do with two ladies from an insurance company that are charged with following him to keep track of the damages he is responsible for. However, this blame is really better placed on the people who try to start fights with him. So if you ever happen to find yourself on a desert planet and see this fellow run by, it's time to take cover. Chances are, the bounty hunters aren't far behind and things are going to start exploding real soon.

Image taken from Trigun.