No Guns Life
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 18 of
No Guns Life ?
No Guns Life returns to form after last week's muddled misfire with a classic and compact story that fully embraces the noir-tinged predilections of the show. To wit, the inciting incident literally has a trenchcoat-wearing woman, every bit as sad as she is attractive, walk through Juzo's door and ask him to look for her missing husband. The only thing that would've made this scene more noir would be Juzo using the word “dame” in between his puffs of cigarette smoke. The last thing we need right now is more casual misogyny in the world, however, so I'm glad that's one trope this episode decides to eschew. And although the twists of this story can be seen ahead as easily as gently squinting into the distance, it still manages to be a breezy and solid venture through the quotidian life of a professional gun detective.
Before we get into the story proper, though, Juzo and Tetsuro share a nice little moment together that warrants a bit of close reading. Tetsuro, fresh out of both Spitzbergen's and the EMS' clutches (for the time being anyway) is back “home,” yet he's anything but free. His mind is racing, exacerbated by Juzo's apparent ignorance of how he really managed to get himself and Christina out of their hostage situation safely. I'd wager that Juzo probably surmises a lot more than he's letting on here—he's a shrewd, worldly guy after all—but I also believe he's genuinely happy that his young ward is safe. This, of course, eats away at Tetsuro even more, as he plots how to fulfill his end of the bargain and use his Harmony on Juzo. It's ironic that his new ability to use his real voice has coincided with a total crisis of identity. Is he a Spitzbergen operative, or is he Juzo's friend? Which act of betrayal would be worse, and, perhaps more importantly, which one would get him closer to striking at the heart of Berühren? For my money, this is a much more interesting conflict than anything Tetsuro has been given previously, so I'm fully invested in its resolution, however painful it may end up being.
Despite these developments, Tetsuro is only a minor part of this week's installment. Juzo instead focuses his energy on finding the missing motorcycle-headed husband of the femme not-so-fatale Emma. I won't lie, I guessed the big reveal as soon as she mentioned the details of Edmund's story, which dovetailed way too conveniently into the narrative that he was secretly her presumed-dead fiancé. Just saying, if a big man in a full-body prosthetic saves your life out of nowhere, claims to be the best friend of your dead lover, and immediately turns out to be great in the sack, then he's probably not a stranger. To No Guns Life's credit, there are plenty of unsubtle hints strewn throughout the episode, so it's not like they were trying to be coy about it.
Just like much classic noir was heavily informed by post-WWII morbidity, the specter of the cyber war hangs over both this mystery and Edmund's motivations. Even though the battles may be over, the legacy of the Gun Slave Unit continues to send ripples throughout this period of presumed peace. Just the sight of Juzo's main weapon firing is enough to send a paralyzing chill through Edmund, a man on the run from his past as a Hands. These are broad, familiar strokes, especially for No Guns Life's particular set of affectations, but working within its wheelhouse means that the show knows what it's doing. The episode, consequently, is executed with confidence, and that makes it more enjoyable to watch.
Each subsequent revelation about the Gun Slave Unit hammers the point that its creation was a no good very bad idea. Juzo, for instance, casually reveals that he has no memories from prior to his Extended augmentations. Whether these were subconsciously repressed or just the result of the procedure and subsequent war, that's still pretty bad! Edmund, meanwhile, lets it slip that he betrayed his partner Five and somehow managed to get out and start his life over, albeit haunted by the perpetual paranoia that his partner would return to exact revenge. Given the other examples we've seen of over-Extended modifications seriously messing with people, it's really not surprising that Berühren ended up with a big gun man in their employ who specialized in “cleaning up” other big gun men. Consequently, nary a gasp should be heard when Juzo admits to killing Five.
That about covers the episode and its themes, but one final thing I enjoyed about this week's episode of No Guns Life is its continued commitment to deadpan silliness. Edmund's character design emerges as the clear winner in this story. What's not to love about a guy who emotes via a big round motorcycle headlight, or whose hairstyle is a pair of handlebars? His whole ensemble, particularly his long white jacket, completes the aesthetic, and he's basically one pompadour short of embodying the bad boy biker stereotype (which I'll admit a very particular fondness for). The running gag about Juzo's embarrassment towards sex talk is more cute than funny, but sometimes the sight of a visibly flustered revolver is good enough to carry a cut of animation. At the very least, it's a welcome change from last week's attempt at bawdy humor.
This simple story of a love lost and rekindled wraps up the first half of this cour in a good place. Emma's machinations are admittedly way too underdeveloped to support the emotional swell of the conclusion, but it's also nice to see that there are indeed people who are horny for a big buff talking motorcycle. No Guns Life tends to be most compelling when it's exploring regular folk's varied relationships with Extended technology, and I hope we continue to see that facet even as, I'm presuming, we begin to home back in on the central plot.
No Guns Life is currently streaming on FUNimation.
When he's not writing about sentient gun detectives, Steve can be found on Twitter probably talking about vtubers or something.
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