DEEP DIVE: The TRIGUN STAMPEDE Anime Ending, Explained
"I'm Vash the Stampede."
Note: This article contains full spoilers for TRIGUN STAMPEDE, so if you haven’t watched it before reading, you should!
The 12th episode of TRIGUN STAMPEDE is currently one of my favorite episodes of anime to air this year. Not only does the plot lead to a promising continuation of the story (with a “final phase” to come), but there are a lot of pieces that seem to tie into the Trigun story I was enamored with back in the ‘90s.
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There’s a lot to unpack in the ending moments of TRIGUN STAMPEDE, a lot to geek out over and a lot of speculation to be had on what could possibly come next. Spoilers abound, but let’s dive into the events at the end of TRIGUN STAMPEDE.
Table of Contents
- 12th episode explained
- Nai's love of cowboys
- The song Vash hums
- Vash's new look
- Vash the Stampede
- Destruction of JuLai
- Vash's bounty
- Milly Thompson?
- Who is Eriks?
- So, what comes next?
What happens in the 12th episode of TRIGUN STAMPEDE?
Millions Knives is making fast progress in his plan to turn all Plants into Independents. This has the severe drawback of humanity being wiped out, as humans rely on Plants for survival. However, because of the abuse Plants have suffered at the hands of humans, Knives is convinced the only way for them to be free is to get rid of all humankind.
Vash wants to trust in humans, though. Despite being hunted by them, he sees the good in them, reasoning that they aren’t hurting the Plants on purpose, but are just trying to stay alive themselves.
Knives isn’t interested in that conversation anymore and decides to use Vash to gain access to the higher dimension. Here, a core exists that will allow Knives to give all Plants a soul of their own. However, thanks to memories of Rem and Meryl calling out to him, Vash is able to break the synchronization between himself and Knives. He takes hold of the core and the two have an all-out brawl, one that leads to Vash attempting to fire the core’s energy into space.
Knives is desperate to get the core, so much so that he puts himself in the line of fire, literally, much to Vash’s dismay. Despite succeeding in blasting the power into space, JuLai is destroyed by the impact of Vash’s landing. Knives is also presumably dead, blaming Vash for the death of his beloved Nai.
Two years pass after the incident and we see the aftermath of JuLai’s destruction. Despite the short amount of time left in the episode, a lot of things are set up for the future of TRIGUN STAMPEDE. There are also several nods to the original manga throughout the episode, along with other noteworthy details that make for a powerful conclusion. I’m going to break everything down that I noticed, point out how it correlates to the original Trigun manga, and discuss any other interesting tidbits from the episode.
Nai’s love of cowboys
One of the biggest surprises in the final episode comes at the beginning. In a flashback, we see an enthusiastic Nai talking about his love for cowboys. He even moves his fingers like guns, “BANG BANG,” to illustrate how in awe he is over the way cowboys protect their friends and beat the bad guys.
Nai’s entire purpose has been to protect his fellow Plants from harm and he’s been wanting Vash to join him in freeing them. He tells Vash a gun is perfect for him and, at the time, it sounds like a scathing commentary on the fact that Vash loves humans, so now he could use one of their favorite weapons and be just like them.
Now that we know that Nai, as a child, loved cowboys, it adds some rather tragic context to Nai giving Vash his gun — a weapon cowboys typically use.
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Maybe he gave him the gun because he thought Vash would be the perfect “cowboy” to go in and beat the bad guys to save his friends — in this case, those friends are the entirety of their species. To Nai, humans are slowly killing them, killing Vash, and even Wolfwood has questioned why Vash tries so hard to protect those who wish to hurt him. So it’d be fitting for Vash to turn his back on humanity and become the hero who restores his brethren and himself, but that’s not who Vash the Stampede is — much to Nai’s disappointment.
Arguably, in this last episode he learns that, sometimes, your cool, Western-inspired heroes do let you down.
The song Vash hums
While trapped in the tank, Vash hums a haunting melody that the rest of the Plants respond to. It's a completely distorted tune that's hard to make out, but when we're taken back inside his memories, Vash's younger self hums a clearer version of it. Nai asks what the song is but Vash doesn't know, he just says that it comes to him and keeps him calm. It does sound familiar, though, like we've heard it in the series before.
That's because we have!
A couple of careful listens to the 34th track on the OST reveal very similar notes to the song Vash is humming. What's the song called on the OST? "MILLIONS KNIVES."
This means that the song Vash sings along with when he's nervous is his brother's theme. Despite their differences, it's clear that the two care deeply for each other, making their fight all the more heartbreaking.
Vash’s “new” look
Once he’s able to break free of his brother’s hold, Vash pulls all the power back into the core. This closes the gate to the higher dimension and frees the city of JuLai from the overgrowth of plant life that threatened to take it over.
Once everything is cleared away, Vash is seen with a new, yet familiar look. His hair looks similar to the way it does in the source material and ‘90s anime. He’s also wearing darker colors instead of his usual red trench coat.
The color of Vash’s coat has always been significant, in my opinion. Nai is closer to the healthy blue of Plants while Vash (and his iconic jacket) is the sickly red — also the color of Rem’s geraniums. To be even more specific, the inside of Vash’s red jacket is lined in blue. Vash’s new look isn’t the red of a dying plant or the blue of a healthy one, but something completely different. A combination of the two colors, perhaps? Some kind of sign that Vash doesn’t quite fit with Plants or humans?
Or maybe it means something else? After all, the inside of this new trench coat is lined in red.
Vash the Stampede
Knives and Vash both have two valid points. Knives wanting to protect his fellow Plants makes sense considering how they’ve been mishandled by humans. Vash wanting to coexist with humans instead of fight them also makes sense, especially since he’s run into a handful who seem to genuinely want that kind of future for everyone.
However, the brothers take their values to the extreme with Knives wanting to obliterate all of humanity and Vash being okay with taking on the abuse of humanity to the point of not defending himself when humans go after him.
Vash tearfully proclaims he is Vash the Stampede, the outlaw name the humans gave him. With a wistful smile on his face, he tells Knives that he’s willing to keep running for as long as he has to until things settle down. He truly believes that one day, he’ll be able to sit alongside humanity instead of being their target.
We’ve seen this throughout the series, from Vash not being upset with the townspeople of Jeneora Rock when they try and collect the bounty on him after he helped them, to Vash sticking with Luida and Brad even after they’d kept him in captivity when they first brought him in.
Essentially, Vash is forever patient with humans while Knives has reached a breaking point with them. Vash wants there to be a middle ground while Knives wants to decimate every fragment of that ground.
The destruction of JuLai
As a Trigun fan, I was a little bit suspicious of JuLai still being intact. In the previous anime iteration, the city had already been destroyed before the start of the story, so when Vash decided to use the core like ammo in TRIGUN STAMPEDE and his arm transformed, I realized, “Oh, JuLai is going to be destroyed right now.”
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It’s an accident, of course, as Vash’s goal was to fire the giant blast of energy stemming from the core into space. Surprisingly, he actually succeeds in doing that, but it’s still not enough to save the city. The blast of power fades away and, for a moment, it looks like JuLai won’t be destroyed at all. Unfortunately, Vash’s descent back down into the city leads to its demise, something I’m sure he blames himself for.
The increase in Vash’s bounty
Two years after the destruction of JuLai many are still reeling from the devastating loss. Vash the Stampede has, unsurprisingly, been blamed for the massive explosion, leading to a ginormous increase in his bounty. Instead of being wanted ALIVE with a reward of $$6,000,000, he’s now wanted DEAD or ALIVE for an astonishing $$60,000,000,000.
Not only is this the bounty on Vash’s head in the ‘90s anime, but this final episode of TRIGUN STAMPEDE is retroactively labeled as #0. After JuLai is destroyed, the episode title appears on the screen, “HIGH NOON AT JULY,” but instead of going in numerical order (which would be 12) it goes back to zero.
This, along with the higher bounty, directs us to the start of Trigun where Vash has this price on his head and JuLai has already been destroyed. At the start of Trigun, this incident is a mere memory, but in TRIGUN STAMPEDE it’s the climax that sets up whatever studio Orange has planned next.
One character fans have been wondering about since the announcement of TRIGUN STAMPEDE was Milly Thompson, the woman who works alongside Meryl in the original manga. However, she does not appear in TRIGUN STAMPEDE and instead, we meet a Meryl who is still learning the ropes herself.
Slowly but surely the series has been developing her character, everything coming to a head with the death of Roberto and her deciding to continue fighting instead of running away. She takes Roberto’s gun which, in hindsight, is about the size of the guns she has in the ‘90s anime. She’s also told, at the end of the series, that if she keeps running off the way she does she’ll end up at the Insurance Society — which is where she is at the start of the manga.
The biggest reveal of all comes with Meryl being told she’s getting assigned a newbie, someone who asked to work under her specifically. This newbie is Milly Thompson, which lets us know the two women will be working as a duo after all. Why Milly asked for Meryl specifically is anybody’s guess. It could be because she, like Meryl, knows Vash isn’t the monster he’s been made out to be, or maybe she’s related to Roberto somehow. Whatever the case, Milly is seemingly joining the story!
Who is Eriks?
A lot of the final episode of TRIGUN STAMPEDE seems to link back to the original story. This is especially true with the appearance of a man named Eriks. Eriks is quietly pressing his finger against piano keys, clueing us in on Eriks actually being Vash. By now, we know the piano is a key part of Knives and Vash’s relationship, having seen the twins play together and seeing Knives play by himself to fill the space where Vash used to be.
That’s not the only interesting tidbit about Eriks. Fans will recognize him from the ‘90s anime (he shows up in Episode 18), but more importantly, readers of the source material will recognize him from the beginning of Trigun Maximum.
Trigun Maximum is the manga that takes place after the original Trigun to continue Vash’s story, clocking in at 14 volumes compared to Trigun’s three-volume run. Much like the two-year time jump at the end of TRIGUN STAMPEDE, Trigun Maximum also takes place two years after the events of Trigun. Interesting…
So, what comes next?
While the nods to Trigun have been made pretty clear, especially in this episode, there’s no telling where the story will go from here. It’s not as simple as reading the source material to see what comes next because the events of TRIGUN STAMPEDE have differed throughout the course of the narrative.
That being said, we are left with plenty of questions. What happened to William Conrad and the other Plants? What about Legato and the others who were serving Knives? Is Knives actually dead? Where did Wolfwood wander off to? Will we ever get a full explanation of what happened to Tesla, the Independent Knives and Vash found on the ship as children? What other secrets was Rem hiding from the two brothers?
Also, in the post-credits scene, who is that talking? We hear someone mention “Project Pieces of Earth” entering phase two and we get another character name: Special Ops Lieutenant Colonel Independent Chronica. Is this another Independent like Knives and Vash? And why is this person familiar with Project SEEDS?
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It really does feel like Orange has spent this series telling their own story and setting up the pieces to lead us back to the source material. Instead of getting a clear-cut retelling of Trigun, we’ve got something that not only respects the source material but fleshes parts of it out in intriguing new ways.
Seeing JuLai’s destruction play out instead of it being a background detail, working up to that comically large bounty instead of starting off with it, it’ll be interesting to see what direction TRIGUN STAMPEDE takes in the future and how it weaves existing plot threads into a fresh, new narrative. Whatever the case, you can bet we’ll be there watching.
What did you think of the TRIGUN STAMPEDE ending? Let us know in the comments! And if you haven’t watched it yet before reading this (shame on you!), you can catch the whole thing right here on Crunchyroll.
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Briana Lawrence is the Senior EN Features Editor here at Crunchyroll. When she’s not writing she’s taking care of her three butthead cats and playing Hades for the 100th time. You can check out her writings and her book series over at her website and give her a shout over on Twitter.