No Guns Life – 24 (Fin?) – The Size of the Monster

I’m a big sucker for weird neo-noir/cyberpunk series, so No Guns Life is a show I’ll miss despite its flaws. For one thing, it doesn’t look like any other show airing this season or back when its first season aired. It’s just so much grittier and grimier and greasier, while still maintaining a worn-in futuristic look.

And while Berühren is indisputably evil Big Bad, one of its agents in Pepper gets more of the gray-shading she needed to be more compelling. We go back to the time she first met Seven, and learn he wasn’t the first Seven. That was a seven-legged spider, the only thing in Pepper’s life that was hers. Of course, when she saw the spider with another “test subject”, she stomped it.

Upon first approaching Seven, Pepper receives the wound that leaves the scar she has today, but she approaches him again and delivers a big wet kiss to his face, marking him as hers. She was always deranged like this, but what do you expect? Anything and everything she might have had before meeting Seven was taken away by Berühren. She couldn’t beat them, so she joined them and being given worth by the company meant she could live on.

Now she’s laid up in a hospital room and Seven is gone. Juuzou is ready to interrogate her (with Olivier listening in) on what she knows about Berühren, but Pepper escapes her room, only to be confronted by a husband and father seeking revenge for losing his family to the dustup at Armed Park. Pepper is saved by Juuzou of all people, and when she rushes at him, she trips and he saves her again.

Before he was destroyed by the Berühren twin sisters, he asks Juuzou to take care of Pepper. She may have seen him as merely her property and a tool for her to use, but like Juuzou, he actually had his own will. Gun Slave Units are only vulnerable to control due to the loss of their pasts to the extension process. But once they’ve lived enough life and met enough people, their own wills reassert.

It happened to Juuzou and it happened to Seven, who stayed by Pepper’s side as long as he could. Thanks to Pepper’s info, Olivier has a better idea of the foe she’s dealing with, or as she says, the “size of the monster”. It’s infiltrated her superiors, but her sense of justice is such that she can’t and won’t stand by and do nothing. As for Pepper, she gets her red coat and lollies back and mourns her companion.

Pepper also told Juuzou where his Hands went, and he recalls how after his berserk attack his Hands came back for him, even knowing the consequences from the military that would follow. Before fleeing their wrath, he urged Juuzou to “do stupid things, struggle, and suffer like a normal person”, then make friends with whom they can laugh about such times.

Sure enough, Juuzou found those friends, be it Mary, Tetsuro, Chris, or Olivier. Shimazu survived her injuries and is laid up in his office, so there’s another potential friend, while Rosa is so smitten with him she mended his duster and added an adorable patch, as if to mark her man. Thanks to Pepper, Juuzou too knows the size of the monster he’ll face, but he’ll face it in full control of his body, mind, and heart.

This solid finale ends on a bit of an ellipsis, possibly foretelling a third season—there is apparently sufficient source material for one. That said, that’s not a sure thing, as it wasn’t announced after the end credits. There’s also the sense this anime is an acquired taste and may not be popular enough to keep going, but I for one would love to see more, if it happens.

Season Average: 7.81

No Guns Life – 23 – Pulling Your Own Trigger

Deep within Juuzou’s sub-brain and in contact with his subconscious, Tetsuro assures his friend that he’s not there to pull his trigger (a somewhat dirty-sounding string of words, but that’s an observation I’ll table for this review), but to get Juuzou to realize and accept that it’s his trigger to pull: his will, his choice, his wish. By hanging in there against Seven, Kronen buys the kid the time he needs, even though from the outside it looks like his sub-brain is toast.

With Seven/Pepper and Juuzou’s battle attracting the media and crowds of gawkers, Cunningham decides it’s time to sweep their operatives under the rug, and sends an elimination squad after Seven and Peppeer. I expected the pair to be betrayed by Berühren, just as I expected Seven to easily repel their would-be killers. However, Pepper’s hand is blown off and she starts to bleed out.

Rather than getting Pepper some medical help, Seven decides to obey the last order his Hands gave him: destroy everything. That includes the EMS officers and crowds gathered around the plaza. Kronen can’t stop him, but Juuzou does. Having successfully “pulled his own trigger” as Tetsuro suggested, Juuzou can draw on powers previously only available when he had a Hands, but without a Hands.

As a Gun Slave Unit in the military, Juuzou put all the decision-making on his Hands. As a resolver in the city, Juuzou worked to fulfill the wishes of his clients so he wouldn’t have to think about his own. But thanks to Tetsuro, he now knows he’s not beholden to anyone, even his past self. He can choose to move forward and fight for what he wants. So can Seven, but Seven won’t hear him out, and their destructive duel continues.

At Berühren HQ the board makes preparations to bring Tetsuro in, having been impressed with his recent progress and not wanting the only successful instance of Harmony on the loose. However, one board member, the woman, vetoes the decision. She wants to watch Tetsuro a little longer without interfering, so see what else he might show them. Berühren still considers Tetsuro a tool and their property. Hopefully he’ll prove otherwise in the next and final episode.

No Guns Life – 22 – The Shackled Man

Kronen and Kunugi would have probably fought for some time to an eventual draw. As it stands, Kunugi is almost out of ammo, so he takes the opportunity to flee when the fight betwen Juuzou and Seven distracts Kronen.

That’s just as well; I’m here for the Gunhead Fight. Unfortunately for Juuzou, Seven and Pepper are rather effectively demonstrating the advantage of a gun having a shooter, as Juuzou is soon beaten down into a corner.

Juuzou recalls that his own Hands once gave him the choice of whether to carry out the mission to eliminate the other GSUs. Like Pepper, he chose to do his duty, in the absence of anything worth fighting or dying to protect.

In what may be the first evidence of nuance in Pepper’s character, she actually seems to lament the fact Juuzou won’t join her. She considers not wanting to die to be what makes people human, and can’t fathom why he insists on dying rather than joining her and living, even if it’s shameful.

Pepper decides to give Juuzou what he wants, but Seven is stopped in his tracks by Kronen, allowing Tetsuro to use Harmony on Juuzou. Tetsuro remembers Juuzou telling him never to use Harmony on him again, but he also told him later that his choices and his worth are his own to determine.

Tetsuro choses to save Juuzou, and the only way to do that is to become his Hands, at least for the time being. When he hacks into Juuzou’s sub-brain, he finds a pedestal containing Juuzou’s trigger, and Juuzou’s voice begins to guide him through his formative memories.

I say formative because even here Juuzou doesn’t remember anything about his past prior to becoming a soldier and GSU. He does, however remember the mission to destroy the other rogue GSUs. We get to meet Twelve, who has a big pot belly and drinks sake from a dainty bottle rather than smoking cigarettes (back then Juuzou simply administered the drugs with an inhaler).

Twelve tells Juuzou that he and his fellow gunheads are tired of war and simply want to live their remaining days in peace, and to have a bit of fun after so much toil. He seemingly convinces Juuzou, who gives Twelve an escape route. But Juuzou simply led them to a spot where he could take them all out from a clock tower—an appropriately noir-y venue for betrayal.

It was there, after he had blasted to smithereens the people who considered him a brother, and heard the mocking comments of his fully human handlers who call him a “lunatic extended” that a switch flips in Juuzou. All this time he’d been insulating himself from blame and regret because it wasn’t his hand on the trigger.

But Juuzou wasn’t—and isn’t—an inanimate gun. He’s a gun with a human soul and personality, capable of making his own choices then and now. He chose to let his Hands use him to eliminate his brothers rather than letting them go. When he realizes that no matter who pulled the trigger, the decision was his, he snaps.

This is the first step on the road to the remorseful Juuzou we know, a Resolver living every day trying to atone for the red in his ledger. He’s always felt both he, the people in his life, and the world are better off if he never had a Hands again. But it’s not just his choice anymore, it’s Tetsuro’s too.

No Guns Life – 21 – Babes and Bullets

Tetsuro uses Harmony to remove his own extension limits, enabling him to punch the shit out of Wachowski’s face. The old man then draws from the “every action has a reaction” speech from the Merovingian in The Matrix Reloaded, but Tetsuro is done listening to someone who has thought nothing of the pain and suffering caused to achieve his ends.

He also declines to finish Wachowski off, feeding him back his line about the ideals of men tending to change with time. Despite his scary extended form, Tetsuro neither fears nor hates Wachowski—in fact, he almost pities him. So he’s won on every front.

Well…not every front. Kunugi decides to inject drugs into his own fellow Spitzbergen member Shimazu in order to augment her—that’s right, HER—organic body in order to better fight the Gun Slave Unit. When those huge bazongas popped out of Shimazu’s armor, I knew we were going to have a Bashful Cartoon Juuzou reaction. It’s a silly but welcome bit of levity, though I wish so much NGL’s comedy didn’t rely so much on boobs.

But as averse as he is to hitting women, he doesn’t have much of a choice, so he swallows a bunch of cigarettes to counteract Kunugi’s drugs and brings Shimazu down. It’s here when Kunugi notes that Spitzbergen’s continued terrorism actually increased Berühren’s profits, since public support for self-defense by extension increases with each attack.

Kunugi reveals he was hired by Cunningham to keep that sick cycle of violence going, working against both Wachowski’s attempts at moderation and true believers like Shimazu who aren’t in it for the money. When Shimazu tries to attack him, her arm is sliced off at the wrist by Pepper…who thank goodness doesn’t proceed to compare their boobs.

Kunugi, Pepper, and Seven are all there to bring Juuzou down, but Pepper (with her seiyu Minase Inori really savoring a rare villainness role) admits that protecting a “weak asshole” like Cunningham and killing a “sad old man” like Wachowski isn’t her idea of a good time, just her nine-to-five.

Pepper also tells Juuzou that she knows the whereabouts of the Hands who abandoned him in the midst of bringing down the other Gun Slave Units. But she won’t tell him unless he beats Seven, something she doubts he can do without a Hands.

She also offers more than once, to become his Hands, a matter on which she and Seven vehemently disagree. The perpetually insecure Seven is so threatened by the competition he violently comes between the two, coming awfully close to hurting Pepper, who shrugs it off. I for one wouldn’t mind if at some point Pepper casts aside her loyalty to a corporation that doesn’t give a shit about her.

Juuzou doesn’t believe Pepper, but is so outraged that she’d even bring his Hands up, goes into no-holds-barred full combat mode. Pepper does the same with Seven, but then has to simply step back and watch as the two units go at each other in earnest with blinding speed and ferocity—kinda like the ED, but less informal street-brawly, more epic final-bossy.

Finally, Kunugi comes upon the injured, bleeding Tetsuro where Seven left him, but is confronted by Kronen in his first S2 appearance. The Corvette-loving cop isn’t there to bandy words with Kunugi; he’s there to “take responsibility for an embarrassing fellow pupil.” Of course, by his ultra-rigid code Tetsuro is also a criminal to be dealt with, but at the moment it can’t hurt Tetsuro to have an enemy of his enemy around.

No Guns Life – 20 – A Beautiful Pipe Dream

When Juuzou runs off, Wachowski assumes Tetsuro is still controlling him. Juuzou has no problem taking care of the Spitzbergen operatives sent after him, but since he never speaks we’re not entirely sure either until a very awake Tetsuro speaks to Wachowski.

Since this is after Wachowski sent Kunugi to help fight Juuzou, that leaves the old man in the wheelchair to the mercy of the kid who hacked his own sub-brain in order to control his own body. Juuzou didn’t come here to solve all of his problems for him, but to help him solve them himself.

Tetsuro offers to cooperate until Seven is defeated (keeping Juuzou out of the equation) but only if Spitzbergen ceases their terrorist activities. Wachowski regales Tetsuro with the story how how Berühren became twisted into an eternal life-support system for its four founders, and how he founded Spitzbergen to expose that rot. Only Spitzbergen also became twisted by extremists and anarchists.

For this reason, Wachowski needs Device 13, which has a setting no other Gun Slave Unit has, and which is his fail-safe against Wurzel. 13’s sacrifice will thus eliminate Berühren and with it Spitzbergen’s need to keep fighting, ushering in a new era of peace. When Tetsuro doesn’t buy it and furthermore would accept Juuzou’s sacrifice, Wachowski reveals he’s an Extended and bursts out of the suit in a a super creepy, absolutely bad-ass sequence.

As Juuzou is content to fight Kunugi (who is apparently Kronen’s senpai) and his henchmen as long as they want, Tetsuro grabs hold of his pipe dream of getting everything he wants without losing anyone he cares about. Its “beauty” is something from which he can’t turn away, so he’ll fight for that dream until his last breath—or in this case, Harmony scream.

No Guns Life – 19 – For the Sake of the Selfish

While Tetsuro talks with Mary about her dealings with Victor (she’s satisfied for the time being but still wants to launch her boob rockets at him) Juuzou chats with Edmund, whom we learn was Five’s Hands. When Edmund abandoned him so he could be turned back to normal, Five took it as a betrayal, especially since the military tried to eliminate him and all the other Gun Slave Units.

Juuzou tells Ed that Five then started a rebellion with other GSUs and their Hands, whom Juuzou eventually dealt with. As Tetsuro tells Mary that of the thirteen pairs of GSUs and Hands, only four remain, two of whom are in Wunder Bender and the other two of whom are Juuzou and Seven.

We get a brief look at Juuzou back when his Hands named him, using the Japanese number 13 as the basis. Back in the office, Tetsuro confronts Juuzou about his role in the elimination of the nine GSU deserters, and his realization Juuzou is a resolver to atone for that crime, something to which Juuzou takes exception.

Having learned about his own role in financing Spitzbergen, Tetsuro considers how he can ever similarly atone for the death and suffering his past actions have caused. Juuzou assures Tetsuro that what was done in the past isn’t as important as what he’ll choose to do now that he knows. Whatever his worth was to others back then, now he gets to decide his own. Juuzou clearly speaks from experience.

At Berühren HQ Pepper and Seven prepare to move out, they seem to have a keen sense that they’re about to cross paths with Juuzou again soon. That’s because after their chat, Tetsuro makes his choice and uses Harmony to take control of Juuzou and have him carry his body to Andy Wachowski.

Wachowski gives us his backstory too (the pointless loss of his brother Larry’s legs drove him to invent Extension tech), then tells both Tetsuro and Juuzou how things are going to go: Spitzbergen will ensure the safety of everyone Tetsuro holds dear. In exchange, Tetsuro will use Harmony to release Juuzou’s limiter so he can fight and defeat Seven.

The same device that fixed Tetsuro’s voice also locks Harmony, paralyzing his ability to change his target. Whether Tetsuro expected this, one can’t deny that depriving Berühren of a GSU will probably save lives. If Tetsuro Harmony’d Juuzou without his consent, it means Juuzou has once more become an unwitting tool for the selfish wishes of others. That means Tetsuro himself chose to become the tool who brought Wachowski the weapon he needs to achieve his goals.

While full of talky scenes and little action, like any good noir fiction this episode laid out everyone’s motivations and how past events and actions have shaped their lives so far and led them to where they stand now—with very little of it being black-and-white. Even a monster-face like Wachowski carries deep emotional scars of personal trauma. It’s not a great episode, but it is an important one, and with its deft use of light, shadow, and color it also looks like a million bucks.

No Guns Life – 18 – Birds of a Feather

Tetsuro returns to Juuzou’s agency with an upgraded voice, and is shocked and moved to hear Juuzou not only apologize for putting him in harm’s way, but to thank him for everything he’s done to help him. It must be tough hearing these gestures now, when Wachowski and Spitzbergen have directed him to unleash his true monstrous form via Harmony.

But while Tetsuro wrestles with his friendship to Juuzou and newly split loyalties, an absolute DAME enters the office, with a classic noir case: find my lost husband. The dame in question is Emma Kurtz, and her husband Edmund is an over-Extended like Juuzou. Edmund was actually in the same unit as her fiancee Theodore during the war, but when both were caught in a bomb-disposal mishap, only Edmund returned, and Emma married him.

Juuzou checks the official records, but finds out that like him Edmund is restricted, which means higher-ups don’t want him found. It’s lucky, then, that Mary happens to find him lying unconscious in the street, having pumped himself full of sedatives.  It becomes apparent that Edmund is looking for Juuzou, and looking to fight him, but has nothing but nice things to say about Mary, who helped revive him.

Instead, Edmund leads Juuzou out into the alley, gives some kids candy money to buzz off, and launches right into a fight, using an innovative baseball bat-like club that injects little needles into Juuzou’s arms and chest (at first I thought they were fired bullets).  He then uses his Tesla Coil-like custom arm extension to prepare a massive attack—only for one of the kids to come back early, forcing Edmund to shoot straight up into the air, missing everyone.

When Ed sees that Juuzou saved a kid over himself, he realizes he’s fighting the wrong guy; the partner from his unit he’s looking for is named Five, whom Juuzou himself already killed years ago. Then Emma arrives to call Ed back, confessing to him that she’s known all along he wasn’t really “Edmund” at all, but Theodore. Despite the new body he came home in, she could still sense her fiancee within.

As the couple reunites, Juuzou and Tetsuro are very much out of their element, as romance simply isn’t anything with which either of them know how to deal. Another noiry case-of-the-week with ample, effective comedy and a nice side-helping of romance? I’d call this another successful outing.

No Guns Life – 17 – The True Duty of John Podpie

Olivier has stopped by to collect the data Juuzou has, but he says he doesn’t have it; she later shows him that Christina and Tetsuro are safe and so he doesn’t need the data anymore.

Just then, Rosa McMahon, who has become smitten with Juuzou, bursts in and sees him with Olivier and runs back out in tears. For a gun-faced metalhead, it cannot be said he can’t attract the ladies!

It’s a situation that puts more serious issues on hold to tell a far more comedic story. Much of the episode is sternly narrated by one John Podpie, who possesses special eye Extensions that allow him to (among other things) see through the clothing of women.

Not only is he not shy about employing this when he gets a shampoo from the barber’s daughter Scarlet, but he considers it his duty to observe and collect imagery he can share them with men all over the world.

Scarlet is so devoted to her customers she assumes his ensuing horrific nosebleed to be an acccident, but once Mary shows up for a shampoo and is spurned by Podpie for having too small a chest and stinking up the joint, his nose his bloodied all over again by a much-deserved punch to the face.

She hooks her diagnostic tool to his eye and determines the nature of his Extensions and the shameful way he’s using them. It would seem that despite his noble pretensions they’re about to call the EMS on the old perv.

However, Scarlet takes pity on the man and forgives him without pressing charges. On his way out Juuzou tells him there are good things he can and should be doing with those extensions, rather than being a corrupted tool for the depraved.

Podpie’s plight reminds Juuzou of Extended soldiers who succumbed to “noble rot” as a result of their abilities, and maintains that unlike him, Podpie can still help people. What Mary wants him to understand is that he’s capable of good too, and has saved plenty of people.

As one-off characters go, Podpie was equal parts disgusting and hilarious. It’s good to see No Guns Life letting it’s hair down and lightening things up on occasion.

No Guns Life – 16 – Free Will Ain’t Free

While Juuzou destroyed Victor’s first fake body, he has a smaller spare extended backed in a suitcase. Nevertheless, Avi Cobo has Mary at gunpoint, and demands to know where Victor’s real body is, shooting her in the foot to show he means business. Even if the backup had an open shot, Avi has electroreceptors like those of a shark that allow him to dodge most attacks.

Emphasis on most, as Juuzou comes in unwilling to stand by and let one innocent young woman suffer any further harm. He starts the sequence to release his Gun Slave Unit limiters, enabling him to create a smokescreen and fabricate new arms. While Backup Victor sacrifices its arm to create a field that confuses Avi’s receptors and gets Mary out of danger, Juuzou gives Avi the mother of all forehead flicks, rendering him unconscious.

While Olivier and EMS arrive, Juuzou delays the grunts to allow Mary to talk to Victor properly. Like last week, way too much time is spent in a static location as exposition is delivered. Much of it we already know or have grasped from events thus far, but what we didn’t know was why Victor killed the man who took them in: he threatened to sell Mary’s body if Victor left for the military.

While Victor is still determined to destroy all of the Extendeds his hands created, Mary remains adamant that Extended components can be used for good, in the way Victor originally intended.

While recovering from the bullet to her foot, Mary ponders whether to take Lefty apart in order to determine just how the machine with the intelligence (and quite a few behavioral characteristics) of a dog functions. Lefty is not cooperative, understandably opposed to its own dissection.

Meanwhile, Wachowski pays a visit to Tetsuro’s quarters/cell, and we learn he had an engineer fix Tetsuro’s components so he can speak with his own voice, an apparent gesture of good faith. However, Wachowski’s plans for Tetsuro are anything but peaceful. The Gun Slave Unit Seven is a big thorn in Spitzbergen’s side, but only a GSU can defeat a GSU, and in his current state, Juuzou is no match for Seven.

Wachowski wants Tetsuro to use Harmony to unleash Juuzou’s full GSU potential, which is only possible when the original host surrenders all free will and humanity and becomes a mere tool of destruction. If Tetsuro agrees to do this, everyone he cares about will be safe. If he refuses, they won’t be safe. Pretty raw deal either way, I’d say.

No Guns Life – 15 – Remote Arms Race

Looking back at her brief but happy time with her brother, Mary remembers a kind and gentle boy who took care of her despite being young himself. He always held her hand, and even braided her hair. When he left, she was proud of him for finding the Place Where He Belongs, but in doing so he was taking what she deemed to be her place (by his side) away.

Mary doesn’t see any of that old Victor in the monster before her, so she does what any sister would do when pinned to the wall by her brother’s mecha-ribbons: launch her boob rockets. I’ll admit to having slightly missed the point of Juuzou’s bashfulness at the sight of Mary’s larger chest last week.

As cool as this tactic was, I still don’t know how Mary’s face and body weren’t horribly burned in the process. Regardless, she’s able to stop Victor from dissecting Juuzou until his uncontrollable final form comes out, and Juuzou is able to rip his arms off, which is key because Victor’s hands can dismantle any technology they touch (including one of the rockets).

Unable to discern whether the “real” Victor was the brother she loved or the monster before her now, the only way to keep him from hurting those she cares about is to put him down. She does so by firing Juuzou’s trigger, which blows off Victor’s head and most of his shoulders, ending the immediate threat.

After that, “Lefty” suddenly reappears, damaged but still intact. He even hooks himself up to the voice box of one of the police Extendeds so he can talk to them properly. Turns out the “real” Victor was never the demented puppet they tangled with.

Victor’s own body has been taken over by the dual parallel sub-brain he’d developed, which has a personality and will all their own. Destroying the puppet this “Shadow” Victor was controlling caused enough of a shock to allow “real” Victor to surface and open a dialogue.

Victor tells Juuzou and Mary how as an engineer he was committed to ending the loss of life and limb on the battlefield through the development of ever more advanced Extendeds, working towards fully remote models that would eliminate the need for flesh-and-blood boots on the ground entirely. Of course, it wasn’t until he tested out one such model on the front lines that he realized that what he was doing wasn’t saving anyone, simply upping the volume and efficiency of the  carnage.

The shock of seeing this created an opening for the sub-brain to take over his real body. The thought he had at the moment of transfer—that all Extended should be destroyed—became Shadow Victor’s primary driving force, which led him to join Spitzbergen. Before Shadow Victor regains control, Victor begs Juuzou and Mary to find his real body and remove the sub-brain. Only then will the shadow’s reign of terror end.

While I’m glad the circumstances surrounding Mary’s brother aren’t as simple as “boy turned evil”, this episode got fairly bogged down in Victor’s exposition, which killed the momentum of present events. As a practical matter, having to sit and listen to him also meant Juuzou and Mary couldn’t escape to some safer location.

They really should have tried to do this, as Mr. Law Upholder Avi Cobo walks right up to them, shoots Juuzou down, and holds his gun to Mary’s head, telling her she’s not doing anything with Victor’s real body. He’s going to take it into custody “in accordance with the law.” Mary in mortal danger to end two straight episodes? C’mon, NGL.

No Guns Life – 14 – The Cyberpunk Prometheus

In light of her brother’s apparent return, Mary tells Juuzou more about her and Victor’s past as orphans. They were taken in by an engineer named Emmet, but when Victor got interested in Extended tech Emmet objected. Since Emmet had become a violent drunk, Victor killed him before he could hurt Mary and fled.

Mary only ever got one letter back from Victor saying he’d joined the military, but what she doesn’t know is that he became Juuzou’s primary engineer during the war. Juuzou assumed Victor had died, but considers the man’s dying wish to be his first request as a resolver: Protect Mary.

What Juuzou doesn’t understand is why Victor joined Spitzbergen, and why he’s getting Mary involved in dangerous shit when he told him to protect her. Their talk is interrupted by the pair of Spitzbergen enforcers, but despite the larger of the two describing his anti-Extended armor in great detail, Juuzou still manages to blast it to pieces anyway, safe in the knowledge he didn’t have to hold back.

Juuzou is actually find giving Spitzbergen the data, as long as the hostages are returned safe and sound, but that willingness doesn’t imply he won’t punch somebody for daring to kidnap members of his “family”. He and Mary head for the Kyusei Pit.

Meanwhile, Tetsuro isn’t really treated like a hostage, but allowed to walk free without restraint. He’s brough before a high-ranking member of Spitzbergen named Wachowski, a clear homage to the creators of The Matrix.

Wachowski reveals something to Tetsuro he had forgotten as part of his amnesia: he betrayed his father, left Berühren, and funded Spitzbergen. Tetsuro can’t believe any of it, but he can’t necessarily dismiss it out of hand, either.

Whether Tetsuro became aware of the plight of the downtrodden and oppressed as a result of Berühren’s greed and wished to balance the scales by helping its enemy, who can say. All we do know is that Victor Steinberg is not a good guy anymore.

When Juuzou confronts him and asks why he’s sabotaging his request to protect Mary, Victor reveals that his main goal is to dissect and research Juuzou himself, down to his last bolt. He also knows Juuzou will never fight for himself, only to protect others.

That means in order to unleash Juuzou’s “true form”, he must put a member of Juuzou’s family—in this case Mary—in mortal danger. Victor’s claims to be “reaping what he’s sown” by joining Spitzbergen seems to be in conflict with his more scientific desires.

One thing’s for sure: Juuzou isn’t going to let Victor hurt Mary. It’s fitting that’s their names, since Victor is acting very much like a twisted Dr. Frankenstein, while Mary is likely named after Frankenstein’s author Mary Shelley. Famous name-borrowing aside, looks like a big bruising Juuzou-Victor fight is primed to commence.

No Guns Life – 13 (S2 01) – Enter the Dismantler

Following a brief re-intro by Juuzou, No Guns Life picks up right where it left off. Turns out that chip in Rosa McMahon’s locket, which Juuzou accepted as payment, is exactly as much trouble as he thought it would be. While he’s at a vintage electronics shop playing the recording on the old medium, his office is raided by Spitzbergen, the anti-Extended terrorist group.

Mary and Tetsuro escape (with the former being protected from a flash-bang by the robotic hand-pet), but Tetsuro doesn’t feel right leaving Chris behind. When Mary refuses to let him use Harmony on a badly-wounded EMS officer, he runs right into his captors’ hands. He and Chris are held as hostages until Juuzou coughs up the data.

Meanwhile, Mary follows the hand pet to a foggy staircase, atop which stands her big brother Victor, who is riddled with Extensions and was the same person who attacked the EMS officers guarding Juuzou’s office.

Victor isn’t there to ask how his sis has been, but to offer a simple warning: quit helping the Extended. Considering Mary doing so as her calling—even refusing payment in deference to what her patients have already lost—it seems unlikely she’ll comply.

Mary later meets up with Juuzou at a diner, where they meet Avi Cobo, a detective with Public Safety who is investigating Spitzbergen. Unfortunately, they can’t guarantee they’ll ever see Tetsuro or Chris again, considering how extreme some members of the group are. But what Cobo really wants is the data Juuzou has, and has his partner follow Mary, who he’s convinced is Victor’s sister.

I wouldn’t call this a standout episode of NGL, more of a gentle easing back into its grimy cyberpunk world, a re-establishing of stakes, and the formal intro of Victor, who villain-wise looks to give Berühren a run for its money. This week set up key future confrontations which will no doubt result in more of NGL’s trademark pulse-pounding, rock-em-sock-em action.

No Guns Life – 12 – Believing a Man with a Gun for a Head

This episode oddly re-introduces who Inui Juuzou is and what he does…as if we hadn’t watched the previous eleven episodes. That’s even stranger considering this case was introduced at the tail end of last week’s offering, even though there wasn’t really any reason to do so other than to pad out that episode. Thankfully, what we get here is a self-contained, efficient and clever little mystery that underscores the dangers not of Extended, but prejudice towards them.

It starts in one direction, with Juuzou being hired by Danny Yoe to protect Rosa McMahon, the daughter of his DoD colleague. Both her parents were recently killed in a car accident. Rosa lost a leg and believes not only that an Extended was responsible for their deaths, but that the Extended reponsible is still haunting her. As such, she is terrified of Juuzou, not even considering him a human.

As it turns out, the creepy Extended “hands” that are floating through the mansion aren’t the enemy—they’re protecting her—but Danny very well could be. Because it’s Juuzou telling her this, Rosa doesn’t believe him until it’s too late and Danny has abducted her. He eventually reveals what he’s after: a mysterious metal locket Rosa’s father gave her.

Rosa is shrewd enough to take Danny’s sidearm, but he gets it back when he swerves the car. All he wanted was the locket, so he prepares to put a bullet in her head (it takes him a long time to load the gun), only one of the “Phantom Hands” arrives in time to take the bullet, saving Rosa.

Meanwhile Mary and Juuzou catch up thanks to a ridiculously overpowered motorcycle that belonged to Rosa’s dad. Juuzou takes Danny down while Mary tends to Rosa, and suddenly Rosa has a lot to reconsider about her feelings towards Extendeds. Mary offers to help her out should she ever need a new leg.

As for the locket, Mary determines it’s a kind of puzzle, that opens when solved. Inside is an antique memory medium that Juuzou makes a big deal about taking as payment for the job, but he really just wanted to get it away from Rosa so Berühren wouldn’t harass her anymore.

All in all this was a fun standalone episode that gave Mary a larger role in the field, introduced Rosa and the weird Hand Extended we see in the OP and ED, and was a cautionary tale about keeping your prejudices in check.