No Guns Life – 02 – Brand Loyalty

As promised, Juuzou finishes the job, derailing the train, disabling Karen by deactivating the sub-brain that governs her Extensions, and rescuing Tetsuro, after he gets the kid to act like a kid and have a temper tantrum, using Harmony to yell through one of Karen’s Extended goons.

Juuzou takes the still-unconscious Tetsuro to his friend/associate Mary, who is a whiz when it comes to installing/repairing Extended equipment. We also learn Tetsuro is the son of Berühren’s CEO.

We don’t learn how they met, but it certainly behooves Juuzou to know someone not Berühren-affiliated who can fix him, and he probably keeps the non-Extended Mary safe.

I liked Mary’s slightly ratty character design, and seiyu Numakura Manami finds the perfect voice for her: youthful, sarcastic, and confident. She agrees to let Juuzou know the second the kid’s awake so she can determine what’s keeping him in his coma-esque state.

Thus the rest of the episode features Juuzou basically playing the waiting game, which is doubly irritating to him due to his complete inability to track down his preferred brand of cigarettes.

Turns out there’s a reason for that: a very well-spoken Berühren stooge named Cunningham has acquired every pack of that brand in the city. He believes Juuzou needs the special “active ingredient” in the bran to move properly, and he’ll only part with them in exchange for Tetsuro.

Juuzou dismisses Cunningham’s presumption—he just likes the brand’s taste is all—and wastes all of the guy’s goons, forcing him to flee. And while a masked Mary tracked Juuzou down to tell him Tetsuro is awake, she also provides a key assist by removing the arms of Cunningham’s sniper.

No Guns Life remains a show I’d recommend now that the cast is expanding. Mary’s tinkerer type complements the  more world-weary Juuzou, while her prediction he’ll make the “freed” Tetsuro his partner in resolving doesn’t feel too off the mark.

Above all, both Juuzou and Mary seem like people doing what they want, not acting as tools for a corporation, and want to afford Tetsuro that same freedom to choose his path. Berühren won’t make it easy.

No Guns Life – 01 (First Impressions) – As the Cylinder Spins

No Guns Life is a somewhat awkwardly-titled cyberpunk noir series centered on Inui Juuzou, private detective-type guy called a resolver who also happens to have a gun for a head. That concept pays immediate comic dividends when we first see him lighting up a cigarette in his dingy office, or when we see a super-simplified version of his face when he expresses bashfulness over being kissed by a woman he helped out.

Juuzou may be an Extended with his gun head, indicating a past life as a tool of war, but seiyu Suwabe Junichi imparts a world-weary, warm and irreverent humanity to him—a heart of gold beneath all the gunmetal. The modifications made to his once fully-human form are the work of Berühren, a military megacorp whose monolithic headquarters called to mind Wallace Corp.’s in Blade Runner 2049.

Juuzou’s latest client is a seemingly “renegade” fellow Extended accused of kidnapping a boy named Tetsuro from an orphanage, but the scary-looking Extended’s meek disposition has Juuzou suspecting there’s more to it than that. Juuzou takes the job and custody of the unconscious Tetsuro while the Extended lures the Security Bureau away.

This scene hits all of the usual noir detective story points: a messed up office that wasn’t that nice to begin with, an immediate sense of peril, a new client who isn’t what they seem, and a job Juuzou can’t pass up if it pays, since he’s barely making rent. One key downside to the scene is that no one has any facial expressions, so the voices have to pull double duty.

We finally do see some facial expressions when Juuzou encounters Karen, a meek (but oddly not fearful) nun from the orphanage searching for Tetsuro. Juuzou doesn’t buy her cover, so she removes most of them to reveal she’s an evil badass Berühren operative tasked with retrieving a vital R&D asset, with a mean gun and an Extended eye that can see through his smoke bomb.

The Oni-faced Extended reappears to help Juuzou out, but Karen makes quick work of him, leaving Juuzou with no choice but to abandon Tetsuro as she shoots him, causing to fall down a very high ledge (also reminiscent of Blade Runner in its general dinginess and great height).

When he comes to, Oni-face has dressed his wounds, but is at the end of his rope. Then comes the twist: Oni-face was never an independent entity: it was being remote controlled all along by Tetsuro using something called Harmony. When Berühren, who rendered him incapable of escaping on his own legs, he manipulated the unoccupied Extended to aid his escape.

Before his remote Extended shuts down, Tetsuro thanks Juuzou for trying to help him, but is resigned to end up back in Berühren’s pokey-proddy clutches. Juuzou is not so resigned. Resolved to “finish the job” even if it ends up being pro bono, he locates Tetsuro (with a tracking device in his ear) aboard a train, and puts his Extended body to use stopping it in its tracks.

Comparisons to Cop Craft are there, only instead of a human-alien odd couple undertaking fairly conventional police missions, we have a cyborg P.I., in a world where his breed of cyborg isn’t particularly celebrated, trying to protect the weak in a world that will otherwise chew them up more viciously than our own. It swaps Cop Craft’s slick Range Murata design with the grittier style of Shino Masanori (Black Lagoon) and Iwasaki Taku’s soundtrack with Kawai Kenji’s (Gundam 00).

It’s a very fun (if sometimes dark and depressing world), again thanks to Juuzou’s irreverent attitude, and the story seems headed in a finite direction with confidence, something that definitely didn’t end up happening in Cop Craft. One episode’s not enough to judge whether it will succeed where that show failed, but that curiosity is thankfully not the only reason to keep watching.

Akame ga Kill! – 02

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Tatsumi’s two friends are dead, and he has no other prospects or better ways to make money for his village, so when he learns what Night Raid truly is—a group of elite covert operatives attached to the country’s growing revolutionary army, literally rooting out the evil in the capital in preparation for a future coup—he decides to enter “the life of carnage.”

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Night Raid is a very colorful collection of characters, literally and figuratively, and while some are cordial or even friendly, the fact is, he’s the newbie. If he doesn’t prove himself, he can’t hope to earn their respect, trust, or approval, let alone friendship. The eye-patched boss accepts his enlistment and assigns the titular Akame to train him.

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Akame is a young lady of few words, all of them precise and to-the-point. She also has a penchant for hunting huge ferocious beasts and eating them. Because she tried to kill him so readily, twice, Tatsumi doesn’t quite trust or even like her; she just doesn’t show enough of a hand for him to even get a proper read off her.

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In its first two episodes AGK has had a knack for employing deception in its storytelling that is gradually training us the viewers not to take anything at face value. It’s how assassins must live. Last week’s Evil Samaritans were one example of that; this week we get two: Akame’s initially cold demeanor, and Tatsumi’s strategy for defeating his first target, a crooked cop named Ogre.

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I think I speak for most in saying most excessive infodumping is tiresome drudgery, especially if one’s mind is filled with pointless information, but I didn’t have any problem with how it was apportioned here. Not only do we get a sense of the bigger picture, in which Night Raid plays a crucial role. They also have no illusions about being “assassins of justice” (Tatsumi’s words, met by a burst of laughter by some members); they’re murderers, who could lose their own lives at any second.

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But it makes perfect sense for Tatsumi to want to join, and more importantly, to be up to the task of killing Ogre. Practically speaking, he’s trained for this kind of stuff his whole life. Emotionally speaking, he, Ieyasu and Sayo vowed that they’d die together, fighting for the good of their village. Only Ieyasu and Sayo went before him. Some in Tatsumi’s position may not mind dying sooner rather than later, that he may join them.

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But then who would help the village? Tatsumi isn’t ready to go yet, and before he’s willing and able to contribute to a cause that promotes a better world than the one he entered, with people with diverse pasts all similarly scarred by the evil that stil infects that world. After defeating Ogre (emphatically and with quite a bit of panache, I might add), Akame is almost immediately warmer and kinder to him. The next member he’ll shadow, Mine, however, is a nut he may never crack.

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Stray Observations:

  • Tatsumi is a bit too shocked that Bulat is gay, but then again Tatsumi is a backwoods yokel, so I’ll forgive him this. Don’t make me regret it, show!
  • It’s pretty clear this weeks two targets were also “demons in human form.” I like how their over-the-top monologues defending their evilness are accompanied by severely-drawn close-ups that make them even less human.
  • This episode also had a painterly “coup-de-grace shot” with 3D blood similar to last week’s. Good to have a consistent visual language.
  • The client paying Night Raid to kill likely sold her body several times to earn the gold. Leone, usually flippant about everything, isn’t so about this. These are dark times…they call for dark heroes.
  • Mine looks like she’s going to be a handful…both for Tatsumi and for me.