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An Apocalyptic Beginning} ?> The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear “apocalypse” is the end of the world. But really, when an apocalyptic event occurs in books or on film, it’s usually presented not as the end of the world, but rather as the end of the world as we know it. The earth may be devastated and existence is diminished, but somehow life goes on.
Aboard the command ship of a mission to colonize a new world, a young woman named Rem teaches two boys—who are actually aliens resembling humans—about the limitless potential of humanity and the goodness of which they are capable. One of the boys, Vash, admires Rem and binds her words to his heart. His brother Knives, on the other hand, victimized by Rem’s colleagues, becomes bitter and vengeful. He eventually sabotages the ships in an attempt to kill all the humans before they reach their destination, but because of a self-sacrificial act by Rem, not only do Vash and Knives survive, so do many of the colonists.
After the survivors leave their pods, they struggle to build lives in an unforgiving world. But despite the hardship resulting from Knives’ vile act, their response isn’t to curl up and die; they instead move forward.
These are the events that set up Trigun, the classic sci-fi western based on Yasuhiro Nightow’s manga. The humans populate the desert planet, and by the time the main events of the show take place, they have begun to thrive in communities that depend on “plants” (alien energy sources resembling giant light bulbs). They didn’t give up.
I admire that tenacity, that toughness and grit demonstrated when people band together and spit in the face of extreme hardships. It’s a mentality that runs deep in many cultures, and one I was taught growing up. But though I adopted that idea in principle, I can’t say I lived by it, not when the storms of life showered down upon me. There were times when I gave up. There were times when I couldn’t bring myself to keep on.
Vash struggles, too. Though he hides it behinds smiles and juvenile behavior, Vash is weighed down by guilt and acrimony, provoked by memories of his beloved Rem and her precious cargo of people, most of whom were murdered by his own brother.
Though not technically human, Vash’s experience is a very human one, marred by the experience of pain. Oftentimes, painful occurrences—personal failures, tragic events, difficult circumstances—come pouring down in quick succession. In my life, these personal apocalypses have flooded in like torrential waters, incapacitating me. Recently, my favourite uncle passed away; it was a painful end to a long journey of mental illness. Compounding that was the death of a close friend, who died unexpectedly and left behind a husband and three young children. Meanwhile, I was making poor decisions at my new job, saying hurtful things to my children, and letting bad habits and sinful choices creep into my life. In a matter of weeks, I went from thinking I was in full control to realizing that I really wasn’t.
With my world changed, I’m forced to somehow respond. But what will that response be?
At first, Vash’s response to difficulty isn’t heroic at all. Knives, knowing at what high regard Vash holds human life, forces him into a situation where he must kill a person to save others. Devastated, Vash runs away. He’s defeated, ashamed, and pained; he doesn’t want to think about the life he’s taken or how disappointed Rem would be in him, even though he had no choice in the matter. But encouraged by friends and motivated by the love demonstrated through Rem, Vash arises, ready to face reality to stick to his convictions.
Out of his failures, depression, and bitterness, Vash becomes stronger, more committed to his peaceful ideas, and more able to be the individual he wants to be. He confronts his brother, but in an unconventional way—with love and peace first and foremost on his mind. And he wins. Vash’s new reality is better than the last, even if it took a disaster to create it.
And ultimately, maybe that’s the point. An apocalypse isn’t just an end—it’s also a beginning, a chance at renewal after a sweeping deluge, a peace that comes after a torrential downpour. The world I know may never be the same, but neither am I. And that might just be a marvelous thing.