The Fall 2019 Anime Preview Guide
No Guns Life
How would you rate episode 1 of
No Guns Life ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
The first episode of No Guns Life indicates that it is a cross-breed of two genres which rarely cross over even though their tones can be remarkably similar: dystopian cyborg stories and hard-boiled detective stories. Whether it is trying to be a mild parody of, or homage to, the latter is a more difficult call. The whole notion of a cyborg whose head is designed as a functional revolver, down to a spinning cylinder and even a trigger in back, is patently ridiculous, though folk who don't know Juuzo tend to regard it more as unsettling than silly. (Indeed, some of the sharpest individual shots in the episode involve Juuzo taking on an intimidating pose with that gun head, and they are plenty effective enough to understand why people would react to him like that.) However, beyond that gimmick the story takes itself almost completely seriously, with the only light-hearted moments being the alternate animation of Juuzo when he's reacting to women doing something sexy. But I'll get back to that.
The noir flavor comes in the way Juuzo fills the role of a hard-boiled detective/handyman, down even to constantly smoking cigarettes. The latter raises the question of whether obvious puns about a “smoking gun” were intentional or not, but Juuzo's behavior involving everything but the ladies hearkens back to genre mainstays like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe: he's a cool customer with a strong personal sense of justice and the experience necessary to handle himself in any situation. The artistic choices made by Studio Madhouse and director Naoyuki Itou (Overlord) promote this through heavy use of shadows and/or dimly-lit settings and a heavy, tense musical score also furthers the impression. Mixed into that are cyborg elements which probably most resemble Solty Rei but could probably just as well claim almost any other significant cyborg title as an influence. The subject matter here is also pretty dark; cutting someone's tendons so they can't escape is straying into some extreme territory.
For all the darkness the series has, it still doesn't take itself totally seriously. The skimpy outfit that the “nun” is wearing when she disrobes is over-the-top, and the opener suggests that buxom female characters in inappropriate outfits is going to be a regular feature. Hence a certain degree of fan service can probably be expected, but as an enhancement rather than a focal point.
Overall, what the series is doing so far mostly works, though it's going to have to do a bit more on the story front to fully establish itself as more than just a derivative work. The prominence of the featured boy in the opener suggests that he's going to get rescued and become a cast regular, and that would be a step in the right direction.
It seems that today's new releases are uniquely determined to strain my suspension of disbelief. After the unrepentantly chūnibyō Assassins Pride, we finds ourselves with No Guns Life, a hard-boiled action show that takes violent, ostensibly “gritty” action drama to its logical conclusion. Meet Juuzo Inui, the former soldier-turned-reluctant hero with a literal gun for a head.
Juuzo having a literal gun for a head is theoretically explained by this episode's world-building, but remained such an inherently preposterous and on-the-nose choice that it kept feeling newly funny to me all throughout this premiere. If I were to make an uncharitable parody of No Guns Life's particular sub genre, I probably couldn't do better than writing a protagonist with a gun head. After all, this is the genre about Action Man overcoming Sad Past using Big Gun, generally with the assistance of Youthful Innocent with ties to Major Conspiracy. It's a silly, reductive explanation of the genre reframed as this show's literal text.
It doesn't seem like No Guns Life is really in on the joke, either. This episode proceeds as the most textbook possible articulation of this very familiar story, as Juuzo chain smokes and monologues on the darkness of his city and his inability to trust, before getting wrapped up in precisely the spiraling fiasco you'd expect. Only the silliness of this show's character designs really separate it from its genre predecessors; you've definitely seen “representative of the nefarious organization arrives to take back their test subject,” but you might not have seen that representative reveal she's not actually a nun, but instead a bikini-clad woman with a glowing green eye who fires a double-cylinder revolver.
Character designs aside, No Guns Life has a polished (if exceedingly familiar) aesthetic, reasonably evocative direction, and slightly above-average animation. Its narrative is an unending string of cliches, but it at least moves quickly through its setup, and understands how to pace its dramatic beats. If you're a fan of these sorts of hardboiled action shows, and furthermore could see yourself investing in a man with a gun for a head, it's probably worth a try.
Rating:Cheesy detective stories are something of a guilty pleasure of mine, in that I'm pretty much down to give anything a shot if you slap some moody lighting and hard-boiled inner monologue onto a story. Cyberpunk flavored neo-noir cheese just so happens to be especially near and dear to my heart, so No Guns Life had some points in its favor before I even got started with the show. Having watched its first episode, I'm happy to say that it is the exact kind of low-impact anime junk food I was hoping to find more of this fall. This isn't the kind of show that is likely to blow minds or inspire fervent fandom, but it gets its own modest job done with style.
Really, for a cartoon about a gritty detective whose head is literally a giant revolver, No Guns Life takes itself far more seriously than you might expect, but it ends up working in the anime's favor. There's absolutely nothing about Juuzo Inui that we haven't seen in a noir protagonist before, save for the aforementioned gun head, but he's just crusty-yet-honest enough to get us invested in the plot. Likewise, the world of megalithic corporations and people whose bodies have been augmented by advanced technology is basic Cyberpunk 101 stuff, but Madhouse's execution once again injects the whole affair with an entertaining and lively sheen. The character designs of the Extended, including Juuzo, are all pretty interesting to look at, and the action is well-paced and entertaining, which is more than you can say for a lot of genre fare these days.
No Guns Life's premiere is the kind that leaves you asking questions, but in a good way. What's going to happen next with Juuzo's investigation? How is the story going to twist and turn, in typical neo-noir fashion? Will our protagonist ever find that certain someone to, ahem, pull his trigger? I don't know if Chekov ever thought his theory about guns would apply to such a brazen double-entendre, but Juuzo's ridiculous looks seem to be doing it for at least one lady in his life. I'll be sticking with No Guns Life for the time being, if only so I can find out whether a guy like Juuzo can really find “acceptance” in the crazy, mixed-up future he's living in. Or maybe I just want to know what happens when someone actually fires his gun head. Either way, it'll probably make for decent entertainment.
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