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.