No Guns Life
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 8 of
No Guns Life ?
No Guns Life closes its third major arc on a complicated note that solidifies the kind of story it wants to be telling and the kinds of messages it wants its audience to hear. Alternately melancholy and action-heavy, it's a good and entertaining (if characteristically overwrought) installment, but this is also the point at which No Guns Life really wants you to know that it has Opinions about Things. Of course, all art is inherently political, and given the previous seven episodes, nothing that's said or done here should be at all surprising if you've been paying attention and/or reading my writeups here. However, it's noteworthy to have its anti-war-machine beliefs spelled out so plainly over the course of these 20 minutes.
In cases like this, most writing defaults to having some character act as the voice of the author, but No Guns Life actually takes the opposite approach here. Our friend Mega Armed, whose head is as big as it is gold-plated, instead takes up the mantle of bloviating endlessly about the hollow nobility of his beliefs and actions, and it's on the audience to realize that everything he's saying is wrong. It's an indirect approach when it comes to writing, but not necessarily a “deeper” one, because it's still instantly and ultimately obvious that this dude is a bad guy whose words should not be taken at face value. No Guns Life even takes the unambiguous route of pairing his awful politics with a murderous cover-up that directly impacts one of this arc's main characters. You just don't get much more evil than that.
Not to mention that Mega Armed comes across as absolutely insufferable in every aspect. He speaks and acts with the lofty condescension of a politician who has bought into their own brand of bullshit. He's slimy and nationalistic, weaned on the teat of a military-industrial complex that drags its citizens deeper into poverty and despair, while figureheads like him commission statues and brandish false promises flagrantly in front of the public. Maybe, on some level, Mega Armed does believe that his path is the one that leads to a better life for all Extended, but in practice it's only led to a better life for one particular Extended: himself. At the end of the day, he doesn't care about how many war crimes he helps cover up, so long as the systems in place continue to exist and benefit him specifically. The gradual degradation of his face over the course of the episode is a blunt but apt metaphor for the two-facedness of many politicians—a smiling veneer plastered carelessly over a soulless, power-hungry automaton.
Countering Mega Armed is our hard-boiled hero Juzo, who gets put through the ringer once again. Juzo's not one for dialogue, so his ideological opposition to Mega Armed has to be inferred through his big punches. But his opposition also comes through the way his history ties into Mega Armed. It's worth taking a moment to dwell on the fact that Juzo's unit was literally called a Gun Slave Unit, and that alone should tell you how No Guns Life feels about war. This comes into sharp focus when a robotic woman's voice emerges from the unconscious Juzo—his body is not entirely his own, and the scars of war that he fights back with cigarettes can come back and control him. It's satisfying to see him go full-Evangelion beast mode on Mega Armed, but it also paints a haunting portrait of a war that lingers indefinitely.
The third wheel in this conflict is Olivier, who gets her own fair share of pathos, starting with a flashback to her now-deceased father. It's a predictable play on the audience's emotions, and it almost feels derivative to the point of undermining its emotional impact. Even if I didn't know he was already dead, his dialogue during their breakfast scene is the exact dialogue of a man who's about to die for the cause of the narrative. Still, I like that it fleshes out Olivier's character a bit, as her reasons for joining and rising through the ranks of the EMS become abundantly clear. I also like the revelation that her affectation of opening stinky cat food to relieve stress is actually a weird memento of her father. That's the kind of silly, left-field, but emotionally resonant character-building I appreciate. Her arc with Mega Armed plays out much more rotely, with a crying Olivier asking Juzo to kill her father's murderer before she calms down and remembers her commitment to serving justice. I've seen that exact scene more times than I can count.
What's much more interesting is how the episode concludes. Olivier sits with Mega Armed in the police van and coolly informs him that his self-aggrandizing confession has been sent to the Justice Department. Mega Armed is unfazed, however, as he's content in the knowledge that it was their very government that propped him up as a shiny-headed distraction from their war crimes in the first place. Such is the very modern conflict at the heart of most noir: corrupt institutions can't be policed when they're in charge of the policing. We laud the concept of justice as this literally divine institution, but justice in practice is as subject to human foibles as anything else. And it's just as Olivier realizes this that a giant hole gets punched through the side of the van, presumably disintegrating Mega Armed (but not her, I'm hoping). Olivier stopped herself from killing Mega Armed earlier, but perhaps this act of vengeance from yet another party is the closest thing to “justice” a man like him could ever hope to see. It's a depressing thought to chew on, and one I'm glad to see No Guns Life ask us to chew on.
It's appropriate that this arc should end without much of a note of finality, and I presume we'll be looking into the identities of our new gun-headed assassin and their partner next. Luckily, it looks like the next arc should feature more of Tetsuro and Mary, since Tetsuro gives Juzo a stern talking-to about playing the gruff male lone wolf hero. Juzo needs these characters to counterbalance himself, lest he descend fully into parody. Also, while I vocally opposed Olivier's earlier scene coming onto Juzo, I have to admit that her shotgunning the cigarette smoke into his giant metal maw was the exact correct balance of weird and sensual for this show. As long as No Guns Life continues to let me write unique sentences like that, I have little room to complain.
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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