No Guns Life
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 9 of
No Guns Life ?
No Guns Life takes us inside the hallowed halls of the Berühren corporate headquarters this week, and it's a little weird, to put things lightly. I'm a big fan of the interior design, where a narrow and improbably tall hallway opens up to an even more giant cylindrical room housing a Final-Fantasy-boss-looking machine symbolizing (and perhaps housing) the company's board of directors. A pair of thin and twinned secretaries sporting deliberately inhuman robot heads address the COO with an air of reverence, and indeed the whole atmosphere feels very religious and cathedral-like. It's the logical endpoint of unfettered capitalism. Wealth has been conflated with God's grace for centuries if not millennia. The cult of disruption venerates rich tech CEOs as geniuses unbeholden to the rule of law, and we've subsequently all been thrust into a brave new world of their own making (albeit, importantly, not of their own design). Jack Dorsey, for instance, stubbornly refuses to grapple with the awful power of Twitter, while he instead seeks to purge his body and soul with harsh diets and appropriated mysticism. How close are we to the transfiguration of late capitalism's death spasms into a medieval sense of terrible and religious awe towards our incomprehensibly wealthy overlords? Good sci-fi is never too far-removed from modernity.
I digress, but, aside from looking neat, the opening scene of this episode does dabble in resonant aesthetics. It also serves the more perfunctory purpose of wrapping up loose ends from the previous arc. Most notably, Mega Armed's mega murder was not an act of vigilantism but a calculated strike by Berühren to shut up a poster boy who had gotten a bit too big for his gold-plated britches. It's satisfying to see our weaselly friend Cunningham get dressed down by the hulking metal conglomeration of faces, but in abstract it's another depressing reminder that Berühren is a web of puppet strings whose ends are being held by just five people. The mysterious assassins from last week were also working for Cunningham, and it turns out the woman, Pepper, is the younger sister of the gun nun Karen from the premiere. I can definitely see the family resemblance in the way they choose to dress.
That's enough villainous machinations for now, however—how are our heroes doing? Well, pretty much the same. It's nice that we get some small assurance that Olivier is (probably) okay after the attack last week, but otherwise Juzo is still looking out windows pensively, Tetsuro is still desperate to prove his worth, and Mary just looks tired. It's a little frustrating how Juzo's character in particular seems to reset at the start of each arc. That in itself is, of course, a deliberate personality trait, but generally speaking the character development in No Guns Life has been a bit thin over these past nine episodes. At least Mary gets a chance to be little more three-dimensional this week, even if her backstory could have been more naturally integrated into its surroundings. I'm also more forgiving than I'd otherwise be this far into a season, because we are getting a second cour next year. It's worth emphasizing, however, that this show's appeal has so far rested not in its characters, but in the confidence of its themes and the commitment to its aesthetic.
No Guns Life is really going to need all of its confidence and commitment in this arc, too, because the subjects it chooses to tackle are only getting trickier. Mary's first customer at her relocated office space (“generously” donated by Juzo) is a young immigrant man named Colt. He's a regular, since his illegally-installed Extensions take a heavy toll on his sub-brain and body. Cruelly, though, they are also the only reason he is able to get any work at all. I was immediately reminded of this recent article about how Amazon's warehouse workers are destroying their bodies to fulfill tyrannical quotas, all just to make ends meet. It's an evil system that makes its laborers suffer the most and benefit the least. To make matters even worse, Colt's mother is currently suffering as a result of experimentation by Berühren, who are also wielding their power to cover up and prevent any blowback from families like Colt's. Considering all this, it's no wonder he's taking on a job for Spitzbergen, with his line about “cutting branches” a reference to the Berühren company logo explained earlier the episode.
In short, we have an immigrant working for a terrorist organization in order to strike back at the corporate overlords profiting off the misery of everyone beneath them. This is some deliciously thorny territory for a story to be covering in 2019 (especially for American audiences), and I'm equal parts eager and apprehensive to see how No Guns Life handles it. I want to see some depth to Colt's character, and I don't want to see any cheap moral platitudes. There are shades of this when Tetsuro catches Colt stealing some medicine from Mary and demands that he gives it back. This conflict quickly fizzles out once Colt excitedly invites Tetsuro to come help him on his job, but I hope the complicated dynamics here continue to play out as this arc continues. While stealing is unequivocally wrong in Tetsuro's mind, Colt is struggling against a system rigged to thwart his attempts to help either himself or his mother. Overall, I hope the writing is thoughtful enough to both interrogate Tetsuro's naïve sense of justice and give Colt's character some agency in his own story.
This was, by and large, a transitionary episode, so it's difficult to judge it on its own merits. As a piece setting up the conflict to come, however, it does commendable work both highlighting and hinting at the issues being brought to a boil underneath the surface of the narrative. Let's see what blows up.
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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