No Guns Life
Episode 22

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 22 of
No Guns Life ?

Last week's episode did a lot of nice work with Tetsuro's character, so this week it's the Juzo half-hour, dwelling on his present and past while finally connecting his dots from a military dog to a private detective with a gun for a head. There's not a whole lot else going on here. Kronen and Kunugi's needle battle ends almost as quickly as it begins, and Juzo's fight with Seven continues without inching much closer to victory. Tetsuro shows up to lay down some deus ex Harmony, but the fruits of that won't be reaped until next episode. I don't mind, though. I find that I enjoy No Guns Life more when it's in introspective mode. While I can't say I don't enjoy the increasing absurdity of the giant bag of tricks each Gun Slave Unit keeps in their spinal cord (you love to see Seven, already a giant gun, whip out TWO even BIGGER guns), I prefer exploring what makes these characters tick.

Arguably the most surprising thing about this episode is its lack of a surprise. No Guns Life has spent almost two full seasons laying the foundation of Juzo's origin story, brick by flashback brick, but it's been holding off on the cornerstone moment. What flipped his muzzle around and made him turn against the government? Well, we see the answer this week, and…it's pretty much exactly what I expected. There's no twist. There's no unforeseen betrayal. There are barely any fireworks. All we get is a man who was finally and completely worn down by his circumstances, only to realize his error the exact moment it became too late to do anything about it. It's a denouement instead of a climax, and I think it fits the tone of the show perfectly.

If there's one thing I would have liked to see more of from Juzo's past, it's his relationship with his Hands partner. We're reminded again that Juzo has no memories of his prior life before his full firearm augmentation, so this one man is essentially his entire immediate family. No Guns Life repeatedly hammers the point of how much his partner meant (and still means) to him, but we don't have a good picture of how the two actually bonded. I think there's a good story in there about two dogs of war finding a kind of solace in each other's presence, to an extent that Juzo never realized until it was gone. I'm sure there's a fanfic out there that fills in these gaps, and I salute it, but it would've been nice for the show itself to make their relationship more convincing outside of just telling us about its importance. Maybe a shot of their foreheads gently touching? Or, er, his partner's forehead gently touching Juzo's barrel. I'm just spitballing here, but do feel free to point in the direction of any fanworks of this ilk.

The irony is that both Juzo and his partner reached the same breaking point due to the same circumstances. Juzo's just a little slower on the uptake, which isn't at all surprising, but it comes at the cost of both his ties to his partner and the lives of the surviving Gun Slave Unit. I like how understated his conversation with Twelve is, as well as its anticlimactic conclusion. A big, flashy fight scene would have stripped a lot of the rawness away from Juzo's tragic realization, and the sniping scene fits thematically too. No matter how much Juzo tried to distance himself from everything in the war—from the horrors of combat to his own decision-making—he couldn't stop it all from slowly eating away at his soul. Five, Twelve, and the others must have come to similar conclusions and dreamt of a life outside the military. Through killing their dreams, Juzo alone was able to fulfill them himself. In a horribly ironic way, that's the only way he feels like he can atone for what he did.

This also fuels his sparring match against Seven. To a metaphorical extent, Juzo is beating down a facsimile of his former willfully blind and obedient self, but he's also motivated in a more concrete sense to prevent a comrade from repeating his past mistakes. This helps this conflict feel like it has a bit more at stake than two superpowered gun people beating the powder out of each other for the hell of it (although there is still plenty of that). And as much as Juzo would like to rely on his steely machismo alone, it also makes thematic sense that Tetsuro is going to need to help him. Juzo was so horrified at killing his comrades that he did a complete 180, pivoting his deleterious trust in external forces into a deleterious distrust of everyone else. At long last, it's time for both him and Tetsuro to trust each other wholly and in tandem. No more worming around each other, trying to prove who can screw things up the most by being the most complete paragon of toxic masculinity. Fellas, it's time to pull that trigger and be emotionally vulnerable.

However, I do have one boring plot-related question: why doesn't Tetsuro just hijack Seven? I'm sure there's a reason I've either missed or forgotten, and more importantly, it would totally nullify the thematic significance of this arc, so I'm not at all complaining. Not to mention, where's the fun in that when we can instead watch two burly gun men go to town on each other with an arsenal of escalatingly huge sidearms in the next episode, presumably? For now, though, I appreciate the subdued route No Guns Life took with Juzo's memories. It forwent shock factor to confidently reinforce all the character work done up to this point, and I appreciate that.

Rating:

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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