The Classic Anime That Took The Greatest Inspiration From Superman Is Not The One You Think

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

What’s the classic anime that took its inspiration from Superman, the greatest superhero of all time? It’s tempting to say Dragon Ball Z and Goku’s superpowered good guy with a heart of gold is certainly reminiscent of the Man of Steel. However, the anime that most channels inspiration from Superman is Trigun, a Western-themed anime that spent much of its time trying to redefine what it meant to be a hero.

Vash the Stampede

To understand our comparison to Superman, you need to first understand what Trigun is all about. The series, like the manga of the same name, focuses on a man named Vash the Stampede, one of many space travelers who end up settling on an unforgiving planet where water is scarce and dangers are abundant. Vash is reportedly so dangerous that he is considered a “Humanoid Typhoon” with an outsize bounty of sixty billion double dollars on his head, but everyone who meets this unconventional cowboy is amazed by how gentle and downright peaceful he really is. 

Unconventional Power Fantasy

Where does the comparison between Trigun and Superman come in? The thing about Superman that many fans (up to and most certainly including Zack Snyder) don’t understand is that the character represents a very unconventional kind of power fantasy. Most audiences don’t love Superman because of all the fantastic powers he has: instead, they love the fact that with all his strength and speed, Superman has dedicated his life to protecting others instead of claiming more power for himself.

Fighting For A Better World

This is, of course, a major part of Trigun’s appeal. It turns out that Vash the Stampede really does have amazing powers, both due to his strange biology and his unnatural skill as a gunsmith. However, he is always hesitant to use his powers unless somebody’s life is on the line, which is why this famous anime cowboy doesn’t even fire his gun until the fourth episode of the original show. Like Superman, he only wants to use his powers to create a better world for others rather than just for himself.

The Vow

Another major similarity between Trigun’s Vash and Superman is that Vash, like Clark Kent before him, has sworn not to take the life of another person. That’s part of the dark irony surrounding his scary reputation: the world knows Vash as an unrelenting force for destruction, but in reality, he always goes out of his way to avoid inflicting harm. And like Superman (both the one from the original comics and the one in the DCEU), Vash is eventually forced to break this rule in a way that changes him forever.

Represents The Best Of Humanity

The final major similarity between the hero of Trigun and the hero of Krypton is that they both struggle to fit into a population of those very different from themselves. Superman is an alien from Krypton, and he tries to blend into a planet of people who don’t share his superpowers by donning the disguise of a mild-mannered reporter. Vash, meanwhile, is a “Plant” with his own amazing powers, but rather than standing out as either a hero or a monster, he simply desires to blend into the world as a traveling do-gooder out to make the world a better place.

Shane Meets Superman

That’s the real strength of Trigun, of course: it’s Shane meets Superman. One part avenging cowboy hero Western and one part fish out of planet narrative, it’s an anime that is truly unlike anything else out there. By the time it’s over, Vash will have you singing the praises of a goal he shares with Superman: creating a world filled with nothing but “love and peace.”