No Guns Life
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 21 of
No Guns Life ?
Justice can take many forms, and sometimes that form is a punch square through an old man's brittle cheekbone. Tetsuro's philosophical and physical confrontation with Professor Wachowski ends in a gnarly heap of blood and metal in this week's installment of No Guns Life. While the battles continue undaunted throughout the remainder of the episode, this opening act stands out as the strongest section. It's not so much the fight scene itself as it is the space after it, where we sit through a nearly unbroken cut of Tetsuro pulling the entire length of one of Wachowski's cyber tentacles out of his gaping shoulder wound. Even with No Guns Life's concatenation of increasingly elaborate cyborg augmentations, it's reassuring to see that it hasn't forgotten the fundamental, mortal frailty that all people possess. It won't do squeamish viewers any favors, but it's an evocative cut to include nonetheless.
This sense of rawness extends to Testuro and Wachowski's final conversation, which is a short yet compelling capstone to their back-and-forth last week. Principal to Wachowski's arguments against Tetsuro's idealism was his assertion that Spitzbergen had grown beyond his control, and that his original ideals had been tainted by the sheer scale of the organization. While this is true, Tetsuro battles his shallow breathing to call out the old man's hypocrisy. Wachowski's loss of control over Spitzbergen isn't an inevitability; it's an abdication of responsibility. His platitudes about the nobility of sacrifice collapse in the light of Colt's story, relayed coolly by our rapidly anemic Harmony lad.
I'm a big fan of this moment, both for its place in Tetsuro's arc and for the way it lines up with my complicated feelings about Spitzbergen from last week. Bigoted radicalism was always going to be an issue with a group like this, but its leaders and their refusal to deal with that problem bear the lion's share of the blame. Wachowski has no right to call Tetsuro out for “childish” idealism; he's been clinging to his own selfish ideals and power at the expense of legitimately oppressed people like Colt. It's an especially resonant image to me in this modern age, where every day there's some new reminder that old and powerful sociopaths blithely go about making our warming planet an even more inhospitable place for people who have nothing. Wachowski wants to believe that everyone will grow up to be just like him. Tetsuro won't let him. This is the kind of stuff that keeps me coming back to No Guns Life.
Unfortunately, the episode becomes less compelling once Testuro loses consciousness and Wachowski loses his head. Juzo went along with Tetsuro to serve as a distraction, and once we swing back to his perspective, it certainly does distract from the tough conversations I had been enjoying. First off, No Guns Life upholds its pattern of trying to inject humor into the weirdest of places, and doing a pretty bad job of it at that. There's just zero reason for me to tolerate the way Shimazu is introduced and animated when Dorohedoro exists. Women can have huge muscles, huge boobs, and be treated respectfully—wild, I know! Pepper's reintroduction also serves as an unpleasant reminder that a lot of the recurring female cast is largely defined by their sexuality. No Guns Life might like to poke fun at its noir roots, but that's one aspect towards which it pays homage a little too uncritically.
The revelation that Spitzbergen is in cahoots with Berühren also isn't as compelling as it wants to be, because it just isn't that shocking. I surmised as much myself a while ago, and although this is the first amount of concrete evidence we get, it doesn't do much to develop themes that weren't already front and center in No Guns Life. If I were to look at that more charitably, however, this revelation is perfectly in line with what we've come to expect from No Guns Life, so it's a natural development towards its next big climax. And I do actually think it's a good development. The writing so far hasn't done a whole lot to convince me that it could appropriately tackle the subject of terrorism as a legitimate act of resistance. Quite honestly, I wouldn't trust most stories to explore that thoughtfully, so I think it's wise to reframe Spitzbergen as just another arm of Berühren squeezing the city for all it's worth. That's something this story should be able to handle, and of course it sets up the big fight between Juzo and Seven that the ED has been teasing all season.
While Juzo fights Seven and Pepper, Kronen squares off against his former comrade Kunugi, and Tetsuro, yet again, lies unconscious on the ground. Some things never change. As we transition into the next conflict, I want, for one final time, to commend No Guns Life for turning Tetsuro from my least favorite character into the best part of this arc. It was a subtle change, but he finally grew past his frustrations (and my own frustrations with his frustrations) and became the appealingly determined, if somewhat cliché, anchor for the clash against Spitzbergen. While its hands didn't get as messy as I would've liked, No Guns Life still had some salient things to say about societal inequity, and I hope it can continue to channel and nurture that energy into something even bolder.
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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