No Guns Life
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 4 of
No Guns Life ?
Tetsuro's gotten himself into quite the mess, and it shakes out to be proving ground both for his resolve to fight the Berühren corporation and his relationship with Juzo. It's a character-heavy episode, laden with more dialogue than action, but I'm actually tickled to see a show called No Guns Life act so contemplatively. It should be said, too, that although it's a pretty clunky title as far as the English language is concerned, “No Guns Life” does emphasize the story's main running theme so far—people are people, not tools to be exploited. Again, it's not an elegant expression of that idea, but noir is rarely concerned with elegance. Noir is all about digging up the muck that always lies beneath opulence, and in that respect, this is one filthy episode.
It's also a pretty darn sad episode. Ende and Anne, the two Berühren-owned orphans responsible for all the recent attacks on Extended, find themselves stuck between a gun and a hard place. Tetsuro was just another tool for that corporation not so long ago, and they're in that exact same situation, albeit with the significant added comfort of having each other. The episode does as good a job as it can when it comes to making them feel tragic and sympathetic, but it's hampered by the fact that we really haven't spent enough time with these characters to form a deep enough connection with them. It's clear they're not in the wrong, and that they're only trying to survive in spite of Berühren's iron fist. However, it's soon clear that their narrative purpose is to drive home just how nasty the villains in this show are going to be.
That's a shame, because I think No Guns Life could have done a lot more interesting things with Ende and Anne's story. Their dynamic isn't that far removed from the still-burgeoning friendship between Juzo and Tetsuro, and I would've liked to have seen those parallels explored in more depth. They also provide a pretty uncompromising portrait of how ultra-capitalist direction programs people to devalue themselves, even when they know it's wrong. I also would have liked to have seen that deprogramming and assertion of their value as people, not tools. The episode touches upon these things, but there's just not enough time to do them justice. Additionally, noir isn't exactly known for its great treatment of female characters, and it's kinda shitty that Anne has to die in order to push Tetsuro's character development along. I do like that No Guns Life sticks so closely to its genre roots, but that doesn't mean it needs to adhere to its more dated elements. At least Ende makes it out alive, albeit minus one robot spider body.
Tired conventions aside, Tetsuro's development this episode is a very nice step forward. Unsurprisingly his impulsively heroic excursion into the fray with Juzo's body has largely proven to make an abject example of his naiveté. Noir isn't about classical heroes. Noir is specifically about how modernity precludes their existence, and Tetsuro's drive to stop Berühren on his own literally blows up in his face. Once Juzo regains control of his body, he also wastes no time admonishing Tetsuro's methods, which he compares aptly to what what was being done to Tetsuro himself and the rest of these orphan Extended. He thought he was doing something heroic, rushing out to save people in spite of Juzo's seeming nonchalance, but really what he did was strip Juzo's agency and turn him into exactly what Juzo doesn't want to be: a gun with a trigger pulled by others. While Juzo has enough delicacy to empathize with Tetsuro's frustrations, he makes his point irrefutably clear.
Thankfully, however, this episode isn't entirely about putting Tetsuro down. He's humbled after this experience for sure, but it doesn't extinguish the fire in him that rages against his previous captors. He struggles against his unfamiliarity with his limb extensions to refuse to let Juzo fight on his own. And Juzo in turn, whether out of desperation or out of a begrudging respect for Tetsuro's moxie (probably a bit of both), does something completely out of character and let's Tetsuro pull his trigger. First of all, pull your mind out of the gutter. Second of all, this is a genuinely touching moment! Tetsuro's resolve ends up saving Ende's life, but more so than that, he and Juzo end the episode feeling like partners on equal footing. Their childish bickering on their walk home betrays a comfort that both of them are vocally uncomfortable about. Juzo carved out a cloistered and cliché life for himself, while Tetsuro's imprisonment and experimentation precluded him from forming relationships. Nevertheless, they're learning to rib on each other, and that's the first important step towards friendship.
No Guns Life didn't quite hit the emotional bullseye it was aiming for this week, but it still delivered a gratifying next step in the development of its two main characters. I'd also be remiss if I didn't shout out just how impressively obnoxious Yōji Ueda's voice acting for Hugh Cunningham is. The dude possesses the exact cadence of a villainous imperial advisor from some unspecified piece of classic Japanese theatre. It's over-the-top in a way that suits No Guns Life's propensity towards absurdity, but it also paints Cunningham as a cartoonish lackey standing in for a more sinister villain yet to be revealed. This episode also clears up why Juzo doesn't like people pulling his trigger. He possesses one heck of a laser cannon there, and I really like the delayed gratification in that scene. At first, after the foreshadowing from the earlier episodes, I was surprised at how normal the attack seemed. And then the scene cuts to show the beam piercing the heavens higher than any of the city's skyscrapers. We don't even see where it ends. That's a cool moment. I hope No Guns Life has more of that in store.
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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