Trigun has been a favorite anime for many fans since its creation.The protagonist, Vash, is no exception. What Vash seems to offer from a secular standpoint is that, in a world of gunslinging and violence, one can protect, create peace, and show love without succumbing to the same philosophies of the world. Vash shows that even in the most intense situations, one can break the norms of fear and maintain a carefree and silly composure while at the same time combating those looking to do harm to others. On top of that, what we see from a character like Vash is a person fully alive.
From another perspective, what Vash seems to do for the Christian is demonstrate the teachings and qualities of Jesus in a world where violence, immorality, and those with the biggest guns tend to rein in power and control. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence Wolfwood (who eventually becomes a sort of partner to Vash) is a “man of the cloth,” a man from the religious order of that universe who sports a giant gun in the shape of a cross. Although not specifically mentioned, this is obviously a play on Christianity. And what’s interesting is that the creators seem to make you see the contrast between the two—Vash embodying more so than Wolfwood what Wolfwood’s religion preaches. We see Vash as a man of action versus Wolfwood, who only knows what’s right and wrong.
When it comes to many anime, I often find myself wondering how to emulate a particular character I really take a liking to, or who I eventually learn to respect as a character or archetype for a particular way of being. Growing up, Vash was one of the big ones for me.
So how does one be like Vash the Stampede? Yes, he has struggles of his own throughout the series, but how does one take the main qualities of his character (the archetype of who he is) and apply that to one’s life?
With this question came much contemplation on my end. On a fundamental level, what makes Vash who he is, and why does that make him so good at what he does as a protector and bringer of peace and love?
The conclusion I’ve come to is this: Vocation + Discipline
To the Christian, a vocation can be considered a “calling” from God; it’s the path the Christian feels is God’s will for them and they’re called to pursue with God’s guidance.
When we come upon the episode of Vash’s childhood, we get a glimpse of his vocation early on. We meet his mentor and what drove him even as a child. The episode shows us Vash cherished Rem’s love and teachings about love and the sacredness of life, and in one scene in particular, we see him trying to save a butterfly trapped in a spider’s web. His brother (and main antagonist of the series), Knives, proceeds to kill the spider, which sets Vash to attack Knives in anger. Knives explains that one of them had to die – the butterfly to keep the spider from starving, or the spider to keep the butterfly from being eaten – where Vash responds by saying that he wanted to save them both. This is where the conflict in philosophy and worldview set the two brothers apart and eventually against each other. But from this interaction, Vash’s vocation was already forming into what we eventually see from him as an adult – his “calling” is to be a protector of life without taking sides. For him, everyone was worth saving, even the bad guys. We see this time and time again as he refuses to kill (despite Wolfwood’s logic and reasoning), and how he even desires to spare the bad guys if he knows they’re in danger.
Whether aware of it or not, his deep-rooted vocational call was one of peace and harmony.
With this conscious or subconscious knowledge, his life was coupled with this second necessary part…
Living in a world where carrying massive guns around was the norm and even expected, it’s no surprise Vash was an expert gunman and fighter. Given his vocation to protect others and bring peace wherever he was, he probably figured the only way to do so effectively was to learn the skill of gunmanship and combat. This was probably another lesson he learned from his childhood, but it makes sense if your purpose and desire is to neutralize a dangerous situation where shooting and fighting was involved, you’d better learn how to combat those things directly. Vash eventually became so good at gunslinging that in a lot of situations, he didn’t even need to use a gun and rarely hurt others directly. When he did need to use a gun, he would wound them just to the point where they couldn’t hurt anyone else.
So how does discipline play a part in this? All skills and crafts are learned through discipline. Any accomplished artist or athlete or professional in their area of expertise will tell you it took time, learning, and continual practice to get to where they are. Discipline means saying “yes” to something, which then indirectly means saying “no” to what would deter from that goal.
We understand Vash’s “yes” to protecting life, so what about his “no?” We can see from his lifestyle that in order to protect as many people as possible, he said “no” to having a settled life in one place. This could also be due to trying to find Knives, but in general, he wouldn’t have been able to be a light in dark places if he stayed in one location forever. Even in his relationships, he doesn’t seem to hold them very tightly or in a prolonged way, probably in order to keep himself from being redirected to protecting a small group of people versus many. The only relationship which seems to stick and that he prefers is Wolfwood’s, who he knows is completely capable of handling himself in dangerous situations.
Another “no” of Vash is his refusal towards killing and unnecessary violence. He would rather himself get wounded in the process of saving everyone in the situation rather than hurting others, as evidenced from all the scars on his body. On a wider scope, his “no” is towards pain and suffering of all parties.
His vocation of saying “yes” to love & peace (his life motto) in the form of physical protection indirectly makes a discipline for him to say “no” to anything else which would hinder his performance in that area. His “yes’s” become everything which would make him a master of that area.
Now, how does this translate to the Christian? For those who follow Jesus, I’ve heard someone say that overall, every Christian’s calling and purpose is to be a saint—one who’s deeply connected with God and who eventually will be with God. Jesus connects us with this calling.
On a more specific level, the questions can be: What does that look like for you? What’s God calling you to do right now? How is he calling you to love others (“love” meaning in this context, the willing of good towards others)? What’s bringing you true joy that you naturally share it with the world?
This is something which often requires continual prayer and contemplation, but once you’ve come to understand said calling, then you can proceed to the second part: applying discipline. For what will you need to say “yes” and “no” in order to clear a path for God to effectively work through you in this way?
Vocation + Discipline. Vash’s character must have understood this by the way he lived and the mastery he obtained in order to live it fruitfully. Many people look to Vash because he demonstrates the qualities, skills, and good nature they probably want in their own lives. Considering this, it’s no surprise why many people also consider his life an archetype of Jesus’.
For the Christian, you have now entered into God’s dojo. Know who your Sensei is and discipline your life to reflect Him.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” – Matthew 7:24-27
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” – Philippians 4:9-13
“Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
“If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” – 1 Timothy 6-8