Vanitas no Carte – 12 (Fin) – The Beast Lives

Vanitas and Jeanne end their bloody makeout session, neaten their clothes, and return to the streets, and Vanitas asks why she was permitted to spend the day with him, it becomes immediately apparent that Jeanne was unknowingly serve to distract him while Ruthven helping himself to a Caffè Noé. Specifically, he keeps Noé alive so that one day, he can give him a command and he’ll obey it without question…even slaying Vanitas.

Roland may have lived his entire life beliving that vampires were an enemy to be eliminated, but his encounter with Noé has changed his mind about that, and we find him digging into books in a cozy little church library. His comrade Olivier warns him against digging too deep into forbidden topics, but then Roland warns Olivier that there isn’t really anyone to stop him from discovering the truth. He can’t believe in things he knows not to be true.

Speaking of which, upon returning to the hotel to fine Noé right where he left him, Vanitas and he are visited by Dante with news: The Beast Lives. Specifically, the Beast of Gévaudan, a wolf-like abomination that slaughtered women and children in the Gévaudan region in the 18th century. The belief is it’s a curse-bearing vampire, so Vanitas is just the man to hunt the beast down.

While Vanitas and Dante chat, Noé is distracted by Vanita’s ridiulously sweet-smelling blood. Combined with his fatigue and hunger, he begins to ask if he could have but a small taste. Vanitas responds deadly seriously by promising Noé that if he ever tries to drink his blood (and therefore see the memories from his past), he’ll kill him. Daaaaamn.

This creates a friction between the two that lasts through the night until the next day, when the two head out to board the train to Gévaudan. Noé apologizes, Vanitas half-jokingly offers to let him lap up any blood he spills (he can only read memories from blood straight out of the taps) and the two share an easy laugh and are thus made up, just in time for a train ride that Noé is super excited about the way a kid—or me—would be about such a train!

After the credits, we get a lovely but ominous birds-eye view of a snowy landscape not too dissimilar from the countless wintry vistas we were treated to in Golden Kamuy. Only here there aren’t bears or naked Russians: there’s Charlatan’s apparent Boss: an ethereally beautiful lass with silver hair and piercing azure eyes poetically delcaring how she’ll “make my song of vengeance echo across the land”. My guess? She’s the Beast!

While there were some nice tense scenes between Noé and Ruthven and Noé and Vanitas, and their little fight and make-up sequence was a subtle, quiet little marvel of character work, but I’m not gonna lie: not a lot actually happened this week. It was but table-setting for a feast that won’t take place until Winter 2022. But the dishes and silverware look great…just in time for a giant wolf to smash it all!

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 – 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 – 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 – 09 – Bucking Colts

In what can best be described as a respite/setup episode, a lot of time is spent at Berühren HQ, where we finally see that the board of executives occupy a colossal many-faced robot/idol…thing. It’s pretty trippy. Cunningham beseeches the faces for another chance to redeem himself after a string of failures and is granted that shot.

From there we move on to Juuzou, who is back at his office, being courted by the others for some hot pot togetherness. Mary also announces she’s moving in with him, for various reasons. While undergoing routine maintenance, Tetsuro asks Mary why she became an Extension engineer.

Her reluctant answer? In short, so that she’d one day cross paths with…someone she’s been waiting for a long time. We later learn that someone is her brother, Victor.

When one of Mary’s clients, Colt, passes out outside the building, she fixes him up, and she and Tetsuro learn that the news reports about Berühren offering restitution to the families of testers killed by their latest research is B.S. As payment for her work, Colt offers her a fancy extension hand and forearm assembly that she geeks out on—turns out it was build by Victor.

But Colt also steals something of Mary’s, and Tetsuro spots it and follows him. After a brief scuffle, Colt asks Tetsuro to join him on his “job” which inevitably involves something bad. When asked if he wants to do it, Colt only replies only people with futures have stuff they want to do. Everyone else does what they have to.

No Guns Life – 08 – The Justice in Personal Motives

As she rides a taxi to the memorial with Tetsuro to help Juuzou, Olivier recalls when her MP father first told her he’d be assigned to Norse Scott, a job he said “someone had to do.” Olivier didn’t like how her dad was an MP at all, and dedicated herself to rising to the ranks in order to fire him.

Turns out she didn’t reach those heights in time; Gondry murdered her dad along with sixteen others, and all she got out of it was a bouquet and a can of very bad-smelling food. But Gondry was just a puppet, utilized by Armed, while Juuzou is another person he has to erase in order to preserve the progress he believes he’s made with Extended-Anti-Extended relations.

To that end, he crushes the last of Juuzou’s medicinal cigarettes, which results in Juuzou going berserk and revealing heretofore unseen arsenal of weapons and directives. Once he’s in battle formation, the protocol governing his operation awaits “authorization” from an operator called “Hands.”

Ironically, he remained utterly harmless until Armed attacked him, after which the berserk Juuzou mops the floor with him. Olivier eventually arrives, having heard Armed blab about his grand corrupt plan and his inherent egotism; but manages to wake Juuzou up by lighting up one of the cigs Tetsuro brought and blowing the smoke into his mouth—in other words, kissing him.

The awakened Juuzou regains his senses, and resists the urge to kill Armed, even though it’s what his client Olivier wants in the moment. Instead, he’s to face a court, while Juuzou is carried off by Tetsuro. But as he rides in a paddy wagon with Olivier, he asks what court would try him?

Olivier and Juuzou have stepped into something probably better left alone, now that they’ve come to the point where there will be no true justice, since powers far above her authority have already tacitally (if not directly) approved Armed’s actions.

Additionally, since Armed has info that could harm those powers that be, he is killed by Pepper—using Harmony to operate a Gun Slave Unit whose name we learn is Seven—by blasting a huge hole in the wagon. It’s just one thing after another…

No Guns Life – 07 – You Can’t Put the Bullet Back in the Gun

As Olivier is suspended and replaced as EMS director for failing to take care of Gondry and acting on her own, Juuzou and Kronen battle Gondry, whom the former learns is a tough customer, but one whose extended components use up a huge amount of energy.

When Kronen’s paralysis needles fail due to him being unable to his Gondry’s internal sub-brain, Juuzou engages Gondry in a battle of stamina, constantly wailing on him until his armor finally cracks and his sub-brain overheats. It’s reckless and crude, but effective.

Last week I lamented that so much time was being spent on what I deemed to be a one-dimensional crazy-evil villain, but Gondry proves more than that. Unbeknownst to either Juuzou or Kronen, Gondry was being controlled remotely via Harmony by a pink-haired woman named Pepper, whose partner is a Gun Slave unit like Juuzou. That’s an interesting twist!

It also means when Pepper’s link is severed, Gondry has no idea what’s going on, and sounds like he thinks the war is still going on. That means all of the murders of his old unit might have been done using his body, but without his consent or knowledge. Now I kinda feel bad for the ugly bastard!

Turns out he may not have done any of the murders after all. That’s because once Armed realizes Juuzou and Kronen intend to get intel from Gondry about the old days, he turns on both of them, declaring them collateral victims of the overarching need to protect the Extended industry and the money it brings the nation.

This is good stuff. First you have the wildly popular and esteemed war hero Armed possibly being a big ol’ fraud, who might even have orchestrated the murders himself—if Pepper didn’t do them through Gondry…unless Pepper is working for Armed. There’s a lot of neat angles to this. And Armed even has a good big picture point, even if it boils down to ends justifying the means.

At any rate, there’s no way he’ll succeed in killing Juuzou or Kronen. Aside from the fact they’re tough bastards in their own right, Tetsuro managed to escape protective custody by inhabiting a guard thru Harmony. His goal is to get Juuzou the cigarettes to which he’s so addicted. Mary hints that they don’t just ease the pain of his Extended parts, but could be suppressing…something.

It’s a nice secondary plot thread that continues to fester in the background, and could come to the fore at the worst time for Juuzou, who it must be said doesn’t seem to have the best luck. But hey, at least he’s got good friends, or in the case of Kronen, people he doesn’t like he can trust nevertheless.

No Guns Life – 06 – Watch Out for the Little Kid

With Mary, Tetsuro, Scarlet and her dad all in safe EMS custody, Juuzou can focus on tracking down and apprehending Hayden Gondry, who just happens to be the first renegade Extended case. Why he was being transported in an ordinary paddy wagon with three other prisoners is beyond me (if it were me I’d keep him on the prison island) but he’s loose, and he’s already murdered three people.

Olivier (whose compulsion to smell really bad smells is an interesting detail about her) warns Juuzou to take their arrangement seriously and bring Gondry in alive so he can face a formal trial. Judging from the photo on her desk, Olivier seems to have a personal stake in this case: either Gondry killed her father, or is her father.

Juuzou visits the mansion of the latest victim, walking past a photo that could be a young Mary, but his work is interrupted by the arrival of Section Chief Kronen, and the two fight until the latter is out of poison needles. Juuzou makes the connection between the three victims—they were all “extension subjects” for the first-generation unit, Tindalos.

He also knows who the next victim will be, so Kronen gives him a ride in his vintage Corvette to that next victim’s present location. That would-be victim, the famous and well-loved world’s first full-body Extended, Tokisada Mega Armed, is inspecting a massive statue being constructed in his honor. On the way to Armed, Juuzou encounters a cute young child who isn’t scared of his gun face.

As Armed is moving through a crush of admirers, Gondry strikes—and is instantly captured by Juuzou. Gondry breaks free, and Kronen hits Juuzou with more needles because he’s in the way, but then Kronen launches a kick at Gondry but hits Juuzou, whose head smashes what is revealed as a Gondry mask—only a decoy.

Meanwhile, Armed has gotten away—incidentally, with the same cute, innocent kid with whom Juuzou crossed paths. That turns out to be bad news, since the kid is actually the real Gondry, who is able to change his form and use holography to mimic the girl. We’ll see if Juuzou and Kronen can put aside their differences, because it will probably take both of them (and possibly more) to bring the guy down.

While there are a couple moments of decent humor and action, this episode was a bit of a drag, groaning under the weight of too much exposition and setup surrounding someone who is, so far, a two-dimensional murderous baddie. I also missed Mary and the others; while it’s logical to detain them for their safety, it would have been nice to cut to them at least once.

No Guns Life – 05 – More Faces, More Problems

This week introduces a number of characters who have been previewed in the OP and ED (the latter sporting very different character design). We start with Juuzou’s new landlady Christina, his “barber” who is best at cleaning his gun components and calls him “Zippo-chan”, and the barber’s daughter Scarlet, who seems to have a thing for the big guy but often stumbles on her words.

The more the merrier, I say, particularly where quirky colorful characters are concerned. They add depth and dimension to this cyberpunk world, and this week underscore how tenuous Juuzou’s grip on his freedom and the safety of the civvies he knows is, especially now that he discharged his head to defeat Spider-Ende.

The woman in charge of keeping Over-Extendeds in line, immune or otherwise, is the blue-(and very full)-lipped EMS director Olivier, who storms the barbershop in the blink of an eye with her Extended SWAT team. Juuzou pretends she’s not even there and asks the barber to keep cleaning his parts.

When Tetsuro and Mary come with leftovers for the Barber and Scarlet, they end up in the middle of things, and all of them end up arrested along with Juuzou. But turns out it’s all for show: Olivier and Juuzou have an arrangement where she smooths out any legal problems he causes, and in exchange she does something for him.

In this case that means capturing two of the seven prisoners who escaped from a van during transfer from the remote, supermax Over-Extended prison Wunder Bender to Berühren (a different arrangement between EMS and the megacorp in exchange for tech EMS needs). One of the two makes it easy and shows up to disrupt the EMS convoy, sending the wagon with the civilians (which Juuzou asked to be brought along for their protection) over a bridge. Somehow they all survive…I guess people are just tougher in this world.

Anyway, the escaped prisoner is called Hug Bear, and loves to give his victims bear-hugs with his meat grinder-like Extended muscles. He takes out some of Olivier’s men and is about to turn on Scarlet, Mary and the others when he is immobilized by yet another new character, Section Chief Kronen. That leaves just one prisoner remaining, who happens to be the most dangerous. What a coincidence!