No Guns Life
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 23 of
No Guns Life ?
I can't say I expected the anime about a literal gun man to devote so much airtime to the psychological contours of its main character, but I also can't say I'm disappointed. Juzo's insecurities and vulnerabilities are laid bare and lifted up in this penultimate episode of No Guns Life's second season. It's been a long time coming—perhaps a bit too long, considering the sometimes janky pacing of this arc in particular—and I'm glad to see it finally out in the open. It's nothing novel or revolutionary, but making Juzo a tad more three-dimensional only benefits No Guns Life as a whole.
At the end of the flashback, Juzo's horror at his actions during and in the aftermath of the war inspires him to leave the military entirely and work as a Resolver, using his particular set of skills (i.e. being very large) to help others instead of killing them. That's a good thing. It doesn't, however, address the root of the problem, which was him forsaking his responsibilities and desires, and substituting those of others for his own. As a Resolver, he basically mooches off the resolve of his clients to avoid having to confront himself. Juzo admits as much in this episode, but he still doesn't really address why he is so hesitant to live for himself. This is speculation on my part, of course, but I'd wager that he's afraid of the person he was prior to becoming a gunheaded gunslinger for the military. He has no memories of that person, and while that means anything could have led him to becoming the Gun Slave Unit, it also means he's allowed to assume the worst for himself. Maybe he used to be a dude who just wanted to kill a bunch of people. There's no way for him to know that isn't the truth, so it may as well be true.
Juzo's self-hatred explains a lot about his character, from his standoffishness to his cynicism. However, his companions (and the audience) know that he is a good guy no matter what he thinks, so Tetsuro comes up with an elegant solution to his current life-or-death dilemma: if Juzo doesn't trust any one person (including himself) enough to pull his trigger, then he just has to get more than one person to do so. And sure, solving your complicated emotional trauma with The Power Of Friendship is as schmaltzy as it gets, but that doesn't make it any less potent of a message for a big sap like me. Sometimes, it is as simple as telling the voice in your head to shut up and holding hands with a friend. In that respect, this marks Juzo's true graduation from being a Gun Slave Unit, and the beginning of a life he's comfortable living for his own sake.
This also makes Pepper and Seven's presence thematically useful, because they embody the worst toxicity of the standard Gun Slave Unit relationship. Seven is totally codependent and cannot function without his Hands, Pepper—disregarding the fact that she doesn't really care about him. Pepper holds all the power in their relationship, but she's still dissatisfied and eager to find a new toy/tool (i.e. Juzo) to command as she pleases to avoid addressing her own insecurity. They're two vulnerable people filling in each other's gaps without actually dealing with either of their own problems. I can't help but see shades of the Couple Of The Year material that was Shuichi and Claire's relationship in Gleipnir, but Pepper and Seven receive nowhere near as much depth or pathos. Pepper's desire for attention springs up out of nowhere, like a CliffsNotes version of actual characterization, and Seven's emotional turn after Pepper's conveniently tragic injury is similarly textbook. At least it's enough to construct a meaningful contrast against Juzo's own growth, making his clash against Seven ever so slightly more compelling.
While I like what it does with Juzo's character, this episode flails wildly when it comes to anything plot-related. The developments aren't surprising as much as they're sloppily executed, pushing this increasingly messy confrontation towards its conclusion. A perfect example is a scene of Olivier ordering her EMS officers to control the situation before Berühren can swoop in and cover things up, only to learn that Kronen was one step ahead of her and already did so, only to then reveal that a gaggle of Berühren troops managed to infiltrate and muck things up anyway. It's hard to feel too strongly about anything that happens on this front, other than the fact that it's nice to see Cunningham act like an oversized baby. The action in this episode is also heavily CG-reliant, and it's too weirdly floaty for a clash between two big cyborgs who have got to weigh at least half a ton combined. I kinda wish they would have dialed things back and duked it out with a simple and visceral fistfight, a la the ED.
I also give a resounding shrug to Berühren's board of directors showing their creepy faces again and spouting blowhard supervillainy. Their aesthetic remains very good and baroque, but they just don't have any characterization beyond “evil CEO,” so I don't really care about what is or isn't a part of their machinations. I just want to see them get owned. Unfortunately, it doesn't looks like we're going to get close to that with just one episode remaining in the season. However, that's fine, because what we did get this season was some direly-needed character growth for both Tetsuro and Juzo (I'm not including Mary because she was already a more interesting character than the boys by the end of the first season). No Guns Life doesn't stray far from the beaten path when it comes to its narrative or its themes, but it's still commendable as a doggedly competent cyberpunk yarn.
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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