This Week in Anime
Is No Guns Life a Sure-Fire Hit?

by Nicholas Dupree & Andy Pfeiffer,

Juzo is a detective about town, and that town just so happens to be a dystopian, cybernetic hellscape. Nick and Andy are locked and stocked for the only series starring a guy with an actual gun for a head. The premise sounds ridiculous but this is a wild ride you'll want to see the whole way through.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


You can read our weekly coverage of No Guns Life here!

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Nick
Let me shoot straight with you Andy. We're staring down the barrel of a new season of anime and we're fresh out of Netflix content. Fall is cocked, locked, and loaded with new shows and returning favorites, and it's our job to pick em off one by one. So what better choice for a first shot than this steely, high caliber tale?
Andy
There's a few premieres left in the clip but I've been itching to handle the gritty full-bore life of Gun-Cyclops Alphonse Elric since its first round of previews, so what better time than during this opening salvo of episodes.
OK I'm officially out of gun puns. But yes, we're kicking off the season proper with NO GUNS LIFE, the hard-boiled, gritty, cyberpunk dystopia story of a man with a gun for a head that somehow actually works.
Hey now, we don't know that yet. In order for that gun head to work it requires someone else to pull the trigger, and since this is a hard-boiled story about a serious man with a gun for a head you know Juzo is just too tough to rely on anyone else.

Note: This is why the show works
No Guns Life starts with a very strong introduction. It had me hooked the moment a somber saxophone solo started playing as Juzo lit a cigarette and started monologuing about the city. It's just such a perfect pastiche of neo-noir film that I couldn't stop grinning.
Juzo takes the stereotype of chain smoking private eye to the next level by coolly smoking roughly 98% of the time he's on screen. I don't even give a shit that they later give us a reason for it because you can't convince me that reason isn't just so they can constantly make shots like this.
I'm fully convinced they did it solely for the visual gag of a literal smoking gun.
As they should have. The entire structure of the show is built upon Juzo being such an obvious pastiche of noir but playing him completely straight. Every word he says is drenched in such deep cynicism that it comes right around to hope. Every action he takes is so put-upon but is inevitable. And every time he says something he hates or would suck you know for a fact it's about to happen.
It's a bizarre yet beautiful balancing act. Yet somehow marrying the absurdity of stock noir/detective character writing with the equal but distinct absurdity of a dude whose head is a gun makes both just click.

In a more mundane setting Juzo's monologues and hard-boiled one-liners would feel too ridiculous to invest in. With a more conventional sci-fi narrative his character design would feel like a total piss-take. But together it manages to keeps its tongue firmly inside its metal cheek so far.
Look, all I know is that when in the first few minutes he drops lines like "I hate kids" and

and then the plot kicks off with protecting a kid and Juzo being dumbstruck by a murderous tiddy nun.

You've got to have a deft trigger hand to make it not groan worthy and so far they've nailed it completely. Now I'm patiently waiting for the episode where he gets drunk on cheap whiskey.
I think a part of the charm is that, for all the Blade Runner pastiche, NGL feels like it has its own world it wants to get the viewer interested in. Rather than using its cyberpunk aesthetic for window dressing and cool robot powers, it's actively digging into a lot of common themes in cyberpunk and noir fiction.
I gotta give a lot of credit to the character design by Masanori Shino, who unsurprisingly worked on Black Lagoon, and has done a great job with Gun Heads, Tiddy Nuns, and the shitty Trump Bots and their smug corporate boss.
Boo this man.
You just know Evil McCorporate there had those bots designed too look like cooler versions of him, then insisted they be given worse hair so he wouldn't feel intimidated by them.
Somehow their stock Terminator grins are less appalling than his globby smirk
The character design is super strong throughout. Besides the obvious eye-catcher that is Juzo, I wish to properly thank mangaka Tasuku Karasuma for his fine taste in piercings.
Mary is very good
She's super fun, especially when she's playing off Juzo and prodding at his straightman visage to make him go full Alfonse Elric.
Or literally disarming thugs to help protect him.

She's exactly the kind of character you'd expect to see in a cyberpunk dystopia. A street surgeon with low scruples in the junk heap that is the poor cyberized slums.
But I like that "low scruples" mostly extends to breaking the rules of the corporate oligarchy that rules the city—her main job seems to be helping people who can't afford "official" cybernetics. Joking about dissecting Juzo aside, she's also one of the few non-Extended we've seen who doesn't treat her cyborg neighbors like spare parts.
We get that she works with the local Yakuza, but as you said it's mostly a way to get legitimate working parts onto people at an affordable price than leave them stuck as slaves to their corporate overlords. Especially as we see what happens when people opt for cheaper parts.
It's gotta suck to find out your new legs have DRM.
Imagine needing firmware updates for your brain otherwise your body stops working, which hey fuck off Black Mirror this one's mine!
To NGL's credit it seems to be doing a little more with its whole technocracy setup than just a spooky thought experiment. And so far I think it's handled itself pretty well.
It does go straight to evil child experimentation but honestly, it starting there kind of cuts out the middleman of "human experimentation is bad but children is too far!" progression that a lot of these kind of stories try to pull to make the already clearly evil Megacorps worse.
Cyberpunk as a genre can have some uh, problems when it comes to thoughtfully depicting body modification and the dehumanization of authoritarian corporatism (hey there Cyberpunk 2020). So it's at least comforting that NGL insists from the get-go that Juzo and Tetsuro are just as human as anyone else, and it's the society they live in—specifically the people in power—that seek to make them less than that.
Look, video games need to be apolitical because Gamers have transcended thought and such things are now beneath them. Thankfully this is anime where we can all be happy that a Gun-Head man is not about to let a corporate shill tell him what he is.

and then proves it by derailing their private prison train with a single punch.
Excuse you, that's a GUN punch. A gunch if you will.

Which is maybe my favorite bit of ridiculous character writing. No, Juzo won't let anyone fire his Head Gun, so instead he'll fight by punching people. With a gun. Because fuck you.
NO GUNS LIFE is truly the Farewell to Arms of our time.
Who needs arms when your arms are armed?
Not this sad boy

because he'll just take control of your gun arms.
Tetsuro's having a rough time. One day he's living his life as the son of the CEO of EvilCorp, the next he's got amnesia after having experimental cybernetics stapled onto brain stem. Then he escapes, gets chased by a sexy assassin nun, and now his new Gun Dad is lecturing him.
Again, I love how everything Juzo does to be tough is immediately acted upon by the cruel irony of the world he exists in.

Buddy, I don't know how you still never see this shit coming. You have gotta be the worst private eye, which I give is partially due to the fact I still don't know where his eyes are.
Anyway, it's good to see how quickly Tetsuro grasps at independence, and willingly throws his own body into a trash bag while he Great Saiyaman's his way around in Juzo's body, and joins us in being completely confused on how it works.
Props to doing his best casual Tanjiro Kamado cosplay.
The boy may have lost his memories but it's heartening that residual nerd knowledge will stay with us all. That or the in-built response of a too-online teenager knowing how to avoid being financially cut off. It's a Venn Diagram that has some kinks but plenty of overlap.
Really though, while I side with Tetsuro in theory, I also totally see why Juzo hates kids. And it's looking like he might have two more pretty soon.

I have no idea if it'll happen but my dream is that Juzo's detective agency just slowly becomes an orphanage for every cyborg street urchin he runs into.
You say that but man, this is jumping straight to some Bubblegum Crisis levels of dystopia with horrifying death machine children and while I'm all for Juzo running a daycare I don't think Giant Cybernetic Rage Spider is a super fit for naptime with the rest of the kids.
She's fine. It's fine.

You weirdos were all for spider-girls when they were being sexy but once they start getting uncontrollably violent and packing heat suddenly iT'S a pRoBLeM.

You're right it's clearly nothing a few ibuprofen can't fix.
But yeah, knowing this genre my hopes of these two getting a happy ending are tempered, but I'm not giving up on them.
If nothing else I sure hope next episode we get to see Juzo and/or Tetsuro gunch that dude's face in. Sick of seeing his bad-guy-from-The-Lorax-movie lookin' ass. Regardless of what happens, I'm strapped in for whatever No Guns Life fires my way. I think Stars Align still edges it out for my favorite this season, but it's a darn close second place and an easy recommendation for anyone who wants some cool, fun, surprisingly wholesome sci-fi.
It doesn't have the emotional depth of Stars Align but that's ok! It's a whole lot of good dumb fun, but in a smart enough way that I never feel talked down to. I'm enjoying that we have such a difference in material and tone this season. It means there's gonna be something every week to sync to my mood. Now if you'll excuse me I believe The Outer Worlds is out and I've suddenly got this odd hankering to go loot some dystopian vending machines.

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