No Guns Life
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 10 of
No Guns Life ?
Well, that all wrapped up a lot more quickly than I was expecting. To be fair, the lion's share of this episode does in fact deal with Colt's attempted act of terrorism and Tetsuro and Mary's attempts to grapple with it, but I was hoping we'd spend a bit more time with a topic as thorny as this. Still, the power dynamics at play remain consistent with the rest of No Guns Life: Berühren uses its money and power to pull strings behind the scenes while our heroes and other ordinary citizens get tangled in the ensuing mess.
The show wastes no time establishing Colt as a sympathetic figure. A quick and quiet look at his home life reveals his bedridden mother and his two younger sisters, both gaunt with hunger. No Guns Life has dabbled in the aesthetics of the slums since its beginning, but here, however briefly, it's good to see the human cost of poverty on frank display. These are the circumstances that push Colt to take on a job for Spitzbergen. It's not solely the prospect of money, which he and his family of course sorely need; it's the idea of striking back at an organization that drains and hoards wealth and well-being from ordinary people. Remember, too, that his mother is one of the botched experimental volunteers that Berühren is now both silencing and refusing to pay damages for. Tetsuro made a big deal out of Colt swiping some medicine from Mary last week, but any of Colt's perpetrations are thoroughly dwarfed by any giant corporation's collective acts of theft.
An undercover (or rather, underdumpster) Mary and Tetsuro pretty much immediately figure out that Colt's job offer isn't anything above board. I enjoy the irony of Mega Armed's statue continuing to stand proud as a monument honoring and benefiting the people who assassinated him. Indeed, Mega Armed's only function was to be a popular figurehead of the military-industrial complex, and a giant statue can do that a lot more efficiently than a person. I like, too, that Tetsuro's valiant attempts to stop Colt's thievery last week actually messed up Mary's own plans to keep tabs on and swipe back at Colt. Mary's perfectly savvy and capable enough to handle her own messes, and hopefully Tetsuro can remember to trust her more in the future. Still, Mary is also genuinely concerned about Colt, and she seems grateful to have backup (especially when that backup can hijack big scary security cyborgs).
Colt's plan is simple: create a commotion at the ceremony so all the suits evacuate on a train with a conveniently located explosive on it. It's worth noting that, despite the gravity of his work, he still immediately jumps to Mary and Tetsuro's aid when he believes them to be in trouble. He's also agreed to his plan based around a design that explicitly avoids civilian casualties. Colt's a fundamentally good guy, which is why Mary and Tetsuro try to appeal to his morality with blanket statements like murder is wrong. Colt, however, has already framed this in his mind as a blow from the working class delivered straight to the head of the serpent squeezing the life out of them. We instinctually recoil at acts like flashy murders or bombings, but society too often turns a blind eye to the “softer,” more prolonged acts of murder perpetrated by the vampiric greed of an already unfathomably wealthy ruling class. Colt's sisters aren't merely starving—they're being callously denied fundamental human necessities through no fault of their own but the circumstances of their birth. That is murder. And it's a kind of murder nobody will ever go on trial for, so what other recourse does Colt have? How else can he show his sisters and others suffering in poverty that a different kind of future is possible?
This is a radical look at some very timely motivations behind an attempted terrorist attack, and consequently it's some of No Guns Life's most compelling (and most blatantly cyberpunk) material yet. I only wish we had more time to properly tackle it. Colt's words manage to deflate Mary and Tetsuro's kneejerk reactions to his plan, but everything turns into a scramble as they soon find themselves trying to rescue a train car full of innocent choir orphans. This is a much more straightforward and less interesting conflict, sidestepping the tougher questions that Tetsuro in particular would have been forced to answer. Would he have let Colt blow up the executives or not? Whose sense of justice would have prevailed, and what would've been the consequences? I want to explore that. Still, this scene isn't all bad. There's a particularly great moment where the Berühren goon tries to point out the “hypocrisy” of Colt using their company's Extensions while also attacking them. This obviously ignores the context that it was Berühren who helped shape an exploitative system where a laborer like Colt could only get work via Extensions. It's the exact kind of disingenuous “yet you participate in society” rhetoric that the wealthy and their lackeys love to trot out, and No Guns Life certainly doesn't expect us to buy it.
Colt, with the help of Tetsuro, ultimately saves the day, but it comes at the cost of his life. While there's no question that it makes for a gut-wrenching conclusion, I think Colt's story is too relevant and interesting to sideline with such immediacy. It's a clean ending that tugs at heartstrings instead of a messier one that prompts further reflection. Also, too often do immigrant and minority characters get treated like periphery concerns, whose stories are only important insofar as they relate to the protagonist's journey. It's commendable that No Guns Life refuses to paint Colt with a broad brush, and furthermore paints his struggles and frustrations in entirely sympathetic light. Its gunmetal heart is in its right place, but I wish it would've allowed itself to be bolder with its anti-capitalist message—to show us more of the righteous fury of the incessantly oppressed class. That would have been a lot trickier, sure, but potentially much more rewarding.
As it stands, Colt's story appears to be a prelude to an upcoming conflict with Mary's supposedly-long-lost brother Victor, who has some relation to Spitzbergen. I liked the increased focus on Mary and Tetsuro this week, so I'm eager to see some more character development (and/or angst) out of her. While I may be disappointed in how Colt's story evolved, I also continue to be pleasantly surprised at No Guns Life's commitment to following through with its cyberpunk themes. It's not perfect, but it's been much more thoughtful than my initial impressions of a parody-adjacent techno-noir thriller about a grumpy giant gun guy.
No Guns Life is currently streaming on FUNimation.
Steve loves two things: writing about anime and retweeting good Fate GO fanart on his Twitter.
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