It’s kind of been a while since we got a major cyberpunk anime that was outside of the general orbit of Masamune Shirow. Season 2 of SAO, from the description of the arc, was something that I might describe as cyberpunk adjacent – but otherwise, I generally didn’t see much that didn’t have a connection to Shirow or one of the series he created in the listings. So, when No Guns Life came up in the Anime Chart, I figured it was worth checking out.
Man and Machine
Not Guns Life is set in an unspecified future in an unspecified part of the world. Previously, the country where the show is set (it’s not named and thus far it really hasn’t mattered to the plot), had a war with another unspecified country. As part of the war, a portion of the population, known as “Extended” received a degree of cybernetic augmentation, with further members getting additional augmentation to turn them into super-soldiers, who are known as “Over Extended”
In the wake of the war, Extended have been having problems re-integrating into society, combined with some jobs now calling for Extended, leading members of the population to have to go through expensive to get and to maintain cybernetic augmentation in order to get a job – leading to divisions between haves and have-nots (something that also came up in the second season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex). On top of all of this, there is a social movement against the Extended population, which is willing to stretch things into terrorist acts.
Head Like a Gun Barrel
This leads to our protagonist – Juzo. He is an Over Extended who underwent the procedure over the course of the war, but doesn’t really remember why, or even consenting to the procedure. This is not helped by his procedure transforming his head into a gun, making it so he’s really unable to reintegrate into society. Thus, after the war he has become an “Resolver” – a private detective who handles cases related to Extended, and occasionally takes under-the-table work for the branch of the police who handles Extended cases.
At the start of the series, he gets brought into a missing person case involving a young man named Tetsurō who was experimented on by Berühren, a megacorp who develops Extended technology and is the biggest employer in the city.
The plot of the show itself is broken into a series of short, 2-3 episode cases that Juzo is investigating, which somewhat feed into each other to varying degrees – but don’t particularly have a larger resolution outside of those individual cases. Now, it’s a 12-episode series based on an ongoing manga which is getting a second season (which hasn’t aired as of this writing), so this isn’t too much of an issue for me, but I can see this being somewhat frustrating – structurally.
The animation for the show is okay. I’m haven’t read the original manga yet (I want to cut some of the existing stuff off my list before I start anything new) – so I can’t speak to how the art translates. It’s generally okay, though I do feel like the character designs for some of the female characters are kind of over-sexed. It’s not that I don’t mind fanservice, it’s just that I like fanservice that thematically fits into the work – and this doesn’t.
That said, there are a lot of bits around the overall concept of the series that works. The part of the world that Juzo and his friends live and work definitely gets the “The Street Finds Uses For Things” side of cyberpunk a lot more strongly than we see in, for example, Ghost in the Shell. It’s used, it’s kind of grungy and repaired, with Juzo’s friend Mary being a straight-up back-alley cyber doc doing augmentations with what’s available. This all makes for a cyberpunk world that’s closer to the earlier chapters of Battle Angel Alita than Ghost in the Shell, without the presence of Zalem.
In all, I liked the series a lot, and I will be watching season two when it airs in the Spring, but until I see how the rest of it plays out, it doesn’t quite feel like a “Buy” yet. I do want to check out the manga – but it’s not quite enough to bump it to the top of my list yet.
No Guns Life is currently available for streaming through Funimation.