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.

Momokuri – 15 + 16

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It’s a pool episode…another opportunity for Yuki and Momo to get a little closer. But after Norika inadvertently makes her feel weird about showing so much skin, Yuki covers up and sits alone. Momo thinks she’s caught his cold, but when she tells him that’s not the case, he starts blowing up a beach ball for them to play with.

This unlocks Yuki’s obsessive side, as she’s so preoccupied with the fact she’s batting a ball of Momo’s exhaled breath that she breaks the cheap ball, treating it with far more reverence than Momo, who’s content to buy another.

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When Momo is directed by his friend to hold Yuki’s hand as he escorts her to the bus stop, Yuki overprepares by dousing her hand in sanitizer spray. There’s no need for her to act so deferential; he wants to hold her hand.

More than that, he doesn’t want their day to end with her maturely saying goodbye as she boards the bus. Instead, he grabs her hand and takes the lead, surprising even Yuki.

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Momo really wants Yuki to understand he’s not just a cute animal, but a man, and believes being more assertive is the key. The only thing is, Yuki is so into Momo, his attempts to get closer end up overwhelming her, to the point she’s involuntarily spinning in her swing until she’s dizzy and collapses in his arms; no doubt an ideal outcome for both of them.

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Later, while studying with Yuki, Norika discovers her hidden stash of gifts Momo has given her, but also an obscene amount of used items he has cast away. In effect, it’s a cabinet full of junk that Yuki is placing far too much importance on, so Norika walks out of the room returns with bags, and starts cleaning up.

Even once the stuff is bagged with tight knots, Yuki still wants to get inside to retrieve her “treasures.” This kinda stuff in Momokuri walks a fine line, but the point is made that her love of Momo is so intense, sometimes she thinks she’s going crazy, an assertion Norika can’t argue with.

Purging her stash, and letting the stuff that doesn’t matter go, are necessary steps to tempering what is right on the line of being an unhealthy obsession. Love the guy, not his refuse.

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