Despite its optimistic-sounding name, Trigun Stampede Ep. 6 “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland” is anything but hopeful. Especially not with Nicholas D. Wolfwood having to make some very difficult choices, starting with whether to kill his best friend or not.

Trigun Stampede Ep. 6 “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland”: Details

'Trigun Stampede' NA key art.
The happiness in this key art seems so far away now.

Trigun Stampede Ep. 6 “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland” is the latest episode (you can read reviews of Ep. 1, Ep. 2, Ep. 3, Ep. 4, and Ep. 5 here) of this CGI post-apocalyptic action space Western anime, which is a reboot anime of the 1998 anime Trigun. That 1998 anime itself is the anime adaptation of the 1995 manga of the same name by Yasuhiro Nightow. Orange (Land of the Lustrous, Beastars, Godzilla Singular Point) is still the animation studio behind this 2023 reboot anime. Unfortunately, we have no idea who the director and writers of this particular episode are as of this writing, so all we can give you are general production details.

Kenji Mutō is still the director of Trigun Stampede overall, with Katsuhiro Takei still producing. Tatsurō Inamoto, Shin Okashima, and Yoshihisa Ueda are still the writers. Tatsuya Kato is still the composer of the reboot anime’s music in general. “Tombi” by Kvi Baba is still the opening theme music, and “Hoshi no Kuzu α” by singer Salyu and composer Haruka Nakamura is still the ending theme music.

Trigun Stampede Ep. 6 “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland” premiered on February 11, 2023. You can watch this episode, and all previous episodes of this reboot anime, only on Crunchyroll. If you wish to, you can also check out the original 1998 anime also only on Crunchyroll. Unfortunately, both anime series require you to get a Crunchyroll premium account to watch them. My advice if you want to watch them is to pay for a single month, and then binge-watch both anime series. You get the most bang for your buck that way.

Warning: spoilers for Trigun Stampede Ep. 6 “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland” below. If you want to see Nicholas being forced to make a sadistic choice for yourself, then stop here and come back once you’ve finished smoking away your woes.

Trigun Stampede Ep. 6 “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland”: Plot Summary

Remember how cool Nicholas looked when he first made his debut like this? Well, now we get to see him at his saddest.

Trigun Stampede Ep. 6 “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland” picks up where we last left off in the previous episode, when Vash decides to board a sand steamer (basically a giant tank powered by a Plant that ferries people across the desert in more or less safety) to head to the city of July…sorry, JuLai, where his brother Millions Knives is. Nicholas tags along with Vash, allegedly to keep him safe and sound. Meryl and Roberto surprisingly don’t join them on the sand steamer, but then Meryl changes Roberto’s mind and drives off after said sand steamer in their little car.

Meanwhile, Vash and Nicholas’s nice relaxing cruise on the sand steamer gets interrupted by the appearance of a masked assassin with dual-wielding submachine gun crosses. Nicholas immediately recognizes him as Livio: his childhood friend from the orphanage they were in. The scene then briefly transitions to Nicholas’s time in the orphanage, even changing the animation style on top of it.

This backstory flashback reveals how Nicholas became friends with Livio, how the Eye of Michael (Knives’ pet religion) was running the orphanage and took Nicholas away, and how they then proceeded to perform very unethical medical experiments on him that resulted in him being able to regenerate after taking a specific drug, and then how Legato Bluesummer (the leader of the Eye of Michael who has a hot-on for Knives) coerced Nicholas into becoming his assassin via threatening to do the same to Livio and the other kids. Which makes Livio’s appearance in the present day all the more perplexing.

And Just When You Think It Can’t Get Any Worse

'Trigun Stampede' Ep. 6 "Once Upon a Time in Hopeland" screenshot showing Livio from the front, blazing away with his cross SMGs.
Worse than having to fight your brainwashed best friend? You bet.

Back in the present day, Livio’s gunfight with Vash and Nicholas causes absolute chaos on the sand steamer. The heavily armed security guards try to arrest all of them, but they can’t even get close. Amazingly though, it looks like none of them die. Even Livio seems to be avoiding deliberately shooting them despite his brainwashed state. And then Legato shows up with Zazie in a pretty fast car. Apparently, Legato decides that there isn’t enough chaos, and thus decides to use his telekinesis to wreck one of the sand steamer’s gearshafts, causing it to veer off-course on a collision course with Hopeland. Which probably not coincidentally, is where Nicholas’s orphanage is.

And then a very brightly colored gang called the Bad Lads Gang (who look like they drove straight out of a Mad Max film) show up to take advantage of the out-of-control sand steamer to try to raid it, actually driving right past Meryl and Roberto’s car in the process. As the sand steamer’s security stand by to repel boarders, Vash and Nicholas are caught in what’s shaping up to be a 4-way shootout between Vash and Nicholas, Livio, the sand steamer’s security forces, and the Bad Lads Gang. With Legato and Zazie potentially joining in later. How will this mêlée à quatre/cinq resolve itself? Well, that’s what we’ll presumably find out in the next episode of Trigun Stampede.

Trigun Stampede Ep. 6 “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland”: The Good

2 screenshots of 'Trigun Stampede' Ep. 6 "Once Upon a Time in Hopeland" showing the 2 adorable faces of little Wolfwood.
You can’t deny that little Nicholas D. Wolfwood is the highlight of this episode.

As you can see above, I believe the best part of Trigun Stampede Ep. 6 “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland” is that all too brief flashback to Nicholas’s past. Not only is the sudden transition to hand-drawn traditional animation a welcome aside, but the story it told was rather poignant. On par with Vash’s backstory, really. It adds even more depth to Nicholas’s character, since not even the original 1998 anime actually showed us this detailed a look at Nicholas’s past. I would say that Orange’s version of Nicholas is just as true to his original character as the 1998 anime was, if not more so. It’s just a shame that there’s still one big blemish in their depiction of canon characters.

Trigun Stampede Ep. 6 “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland”: The Bad

'Trigun Stampede' Ep. 6 "Once Upon a Time in Hopeland" screenshot showing Meryl with a silly face as she looks at a magazine.
Yup, you guessed it.

Given how true Orange is to the other Trigun characters, I really don’t understand why they chose to depict Meryl Stryfe the way they do in Trigun Stampede. Again, she effectively has Milly Thompson’s personality grafted into her with none of her firepower. Case in point: Meryl in Trigun Stampede Ep. 6 “Once Upon a Time in Hopeland” basically guilt-trips Roberto into going after Vash and Nicholas with…innocence? I think? No logic the way canon Meryl would have. Just a weird innocent determination that sweeps Roberto along with her.

Again, this incarnation of Meryl is basically an OC wearing Meryl’s face and carrying her name. Other than that, she has basically nothing in common with the original Meryl from 1998 or even 1995. Given how Orange is so faithful to the other canon characters, I don’t understand why they chose to go in this direction with Meryl. Maybe it becomes clear in a later episode, but until then, I’m marking Meryl as a big negative for me.