No Guns Life – Deep AND Dumb

No Guns Life – Deep AND Dumb


Like ogres and onions, and parfaits too, many
of the best anime have layers. Beneath neat high concepts, strong characters,
and fun action scenes lie hidden depths, themes and messages, that hardcore fans can uncover
and understand upon multiple rewatches, through careful consideration of how the show’s
constituent parts work in concert. That might sound intimidating, boring, or
pretentious, depending on your tastes; but therein lies the brilliant trick that makes
these layered shows so good. Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Neon Genesis
Evangelion, One Punch Man; these anime are all eminently accessible. They speak to a primal part of our brain that
wants to see cool people do cool things and make cool explosions in the process; that
wants to imagine and escape to worlds of possibility beyond our own. They make a sincere effort to be fun, first
and foremost; but beyond that, if you care to look, you’ll find each is about something
more. Fullmetal Alchemist is a cool shounen action
thing about a steampunk cyborg wizard kicking the shit out of other wizards and monsters;
it’s an exploration of how wallowing in grief and refusing to accept loss can cost
us everything we still have; it’s a pointed, cautionary tale about how those in power maintain
it by consuming the lives of those beneath them until nothing is left. Some shows make their intent more obvious
than others; Evangelion is famously an exploration of how Hideaki Anno’s otaku obsessions both
fight and feed his depression. The last two episodes of the anime practically
shout this message at you as the cool robot shit fades away, but there’s still deeper
layers to be found; pay attention to the movie and you’ll see Anno’s whole mental landscape
laid bare through animated symbolism. But you’ll also see some of the coolest
big fuckin robot fights ever put to film. Layered narratives allow these shows to entertain
laymen, anime analysts, and everyone in between; and No Gun’s Life is a beautiful example
of that approach in action. Glorious, high octane, balls to the wall action. As I said in my fall anime rundown, No Guns
Life is an anime about about a MAN WITH A GUN FOR A HEAD, explode-punching trains with
his revolver fists to save kidnapped children from evil business robots and sexy cyborg
assassin nuns. Zany as it sounds, the show presents that
story with utmost sincerity and not event a hint of irony. Gun Head detective man Inui Juzo is a fully
realized character, with goals, values, anxieties, and flaws; a hero, who uses his strength to
protect the weak from the powerful. No Guns Life is an anime about a MAN WITH
A GUN FOR A HEAD… a former soldier, or… living weapon might be a better word. A man whose whole life was conflict and combat,
until one day it wasn’t, and he had to figure out, on his own, how to live for himself. A man who tries to do good by his neighbours,
using his power to keep the criminals who might hurt them in line. A man whose gruff demeanour and literal cold
metal exterior, belies a (metaphorically) beating heart yearning for real human connection. A man who sees a bit of himself in a young
boy who’s been chopped up, experimented on, mechanically augmented, and left immobile…
but still ardently refuses to just be a tool. A man who thinks that maybe, with his kindness,
guidance and help, that boy can find freedom in a brighter tomorrow. The world that gave Juzo his 40 caliber cranium
is likewise fully realized: a dystopian future where cybernetic enhancement is commonplace,
and where the transhumanist potential of the technology has given way to a dehumanizing
reality. Common people fear the extended, while elites
exploit them; some as slave labour, others as a captive marketplace, pressed into brand
loyalty by a need for continuous maintenance, medicine, and replacement parts… with potentially
incompatible black market yakuza parts being the only alternative. Don’t like apple and google owning your
whole music library? Well, what if they owned your arms? Your eyes? Your heart? What if by taking your phone to a third party
repair shop, you risked incurring a fatal seizure as punishment? Now… what if you needed it to LIVE, and
couldn’t afford the real deal? By exploring these questions, No Guns Life
makes its cyberpunk world feel chillingly REAL. This is the second layer; a world you can
believe in, full of characters you want to learn more about; a story with a hero you
really want to ROOT FOR, no matter how ridiculous the odds stacked against him may be. None of this makes the show any less RIDICULOUSLY
FUN AND AWESOME than its premise promises it will be; but it’s there for you if you
want to become a HARDCORE No Guns Life fan. And if you want to dig deeper still, there
is a third layer. A greater point that the series is driving
towards, with both its nakedly awesome, silly concept and the surprisingly delicate worldbuilding
that supports it. No Guns Life is an anime about a MAN WITH
A GUN FOR A HEAD… a “Gun Slave Unit” whose entire identity has been supplanted
by a singular fucntion – trapped in a capitalist nightmare world, where people like him are
literally THINGS for the rich and powerful to own and use. Be that in the form of a government-owned
human weapon, a corporate mercenary, or for the truly unfortunate, mechanical office equipment. A world where employees and their families
– from salarymen all the way up to CEOs – are property. Resources to be extracted and exploited at
the corporation’s sole discretion, for the corporation’s sole profit. While the common man outside the company lives
in illusory freedom; dependant on consumable goods that their millionaire masters can cut
off in an instant, should they step out of line. A world that, for all its fancy doodads and
cool metal bits and bobs, feels uncomfortably familiar. Because in many ways it’s a logical, if
greatly exaggerated extension of the one we live in now. On that note, the robots that get to decide
whether I have a stable career or not currently aren’t showing my videos to as many people,
because I got two copyright strikes right before going on vacation and putting up a
bunch of guest videos, so I would greatly appreciate it if those of you who ARE watching
could leave lots of comments and – if you’re enjoying the video so far – hit the like
button as well. Just get my channel back in people’s feeds. Like that moment of shameless begging and…
basically everything else in No Guns Life, this anticapitalist messaging isn’t particularly
subtle. The second episode trots out Hugh Cunningham,
a pudgy, gleefully cruel corporate crony – with a fully human body that he’s all too proud
to own – who lords his control of the medicinal cigarette supply over Juzo. Threatening him with agonizing disfunction
and a slow, painful death should he fail to comply with the beruhren company’s demands,
but presenting those threats under the guise of a peaceful, equitable negotiation. A fair trade on paper. A shakedown in practice. Facilitated by police officers who seem at
first to be stopping Juzo’s vandalism for the public good… but who are in fact merely
enforcers of the corporate status quo. Like I said, it’s not particularly subtle
It’s only thanks to Juzo and his back alley mechanic Mary’s forward-thinking and class
consciousness – their awareness of the true leverage the corporations hold over them – that
this plan is foiled. As we learn at the episode’s end, Mary has
already replicated the medicinal blend of the cigarettes for our hero (though without
their alluring flavour); likely running afoul of a few patents in the process, but giving
Juzo a bitter taste of freedom by saving him from a deadly consumer dependency. If they’d followed the law, they would have
been fucked. Tetsuro would be in Hugh’s hands. It’s a philosophically fascinating and prescient
plot point, but presented with all the gusto and bombast we demand of our anime. Juzo demonstrates that he will not; cannot
be owned by obliterating the corporate jackboots pressed into his back in a glorious laser
light show, before staring down his would-be oppressor with cool-headed, utterly badass
conviction. Whether you agree with or even recognize its
philosophical underpinnings, you can’t deny that this moment – and the entire show that
contains it – is, first and foremost, cool as all hell. Contrary to what you might expect, the philosophical
elements of the show don’t take away from its ability to deliver those fun, visceral
thrills; nor do its goofy design sensibilities and over-the-top premise “Dumb down” its
greater message. Pure entertainment and thoughtful allegory
are often framed as being at odds with each other in media – that’s the crux of the
“turn your brain of and have fun” mentality. But those two sides of No Guns Life SUPPORT
each other, amplifying their respective effects. No Guns Life is an anime – a manga – with
something to say. In order to say that effectively, it needs
to dig into the meat of its individual characters; put a great deal of effort into its world
building. These requirements also having the effect
of making its goofy premise feel believable and serious; which only makes that surface-level
goofiness more entertaining for new viewers. And as you get invested in those elements,
they only give you more reason to care about the outcomes of its already cool action scenes. Conversely the… just inherently fucking
rad concept of a MAN MADE OF GUNS serves as a surprisingly ingenious symbol of the dehumanizing
effects of capitalism. The way that, as wealth accumulates and wealth
extraction strategies are optimized, everything – and eventually everyONE – becomes a
product. A commodity. I say on a platform that lets me sell my opinions
about anime to you, while simultaneously collecting data on your tastes and viewing habits so
that advertisers can more easily sell you other things. And unlike this video format, where just making
that statement probably made a lot of you uncomfortable and a few viewers, I’d wager,
pretty angry… by packaging those ideas up in cool, fun action scenes and an interesting
sci-fi world, No Guns Life is able to prompt viewers to consider them from a comfortable
distance, and without feeling like they’re being lectured to. Like its High-Caliber hero, an efficient marriage
of narrative form and function. Substance within style, and vice versa. An anime about what it REALLY MEANS to be
a man with a gun for a head.

100 Comments on "No Guns Life – Deep AND Dumb"


  1. This video has made me want to watch this anime now. Also gave me some inspiration for a book I'm writing!

    Reply

  2. This is more of a filler comment to boost your numbers a bit but I think you should do a video on the manga: To You, The Immortal by Yoshitoki Oima. It is gut wrenching, extrospective perspective, speaking about a non human evolving into a more nonhuman while simultaneously becoming more human, if that makes sense. Its a very character driven story and you'll know what I mean when I read it. It, like No Guns Life, has layers behind its characters and in its world, but it really is based around its vast array of characters that the main protag adds to his arsenal. The first couple chapters are told in an almost ancient yet contemporary way of word-of-mouth like myths or fables. A great read and I respect and look forqard to your opinions on everything you do and I think this story is a great discussion point

    Reply

  3. Thanks youtube algorithm and thank you Jeff for also liking this show, I now feel validated in my hobbies.

    Reply

  4. Might actually check this one out sometime. Mr. Gun Head's design is pretty awesome and the concept seems solid.

    Reply

  5. One thing I like about this show is it seems so drenched in that late 90s/early 2000s aesthetic. The character designs and the opening and closing all seem to have that same spirit as back then. Like, if I went to the anime section back then and saw this next to shows like Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Hellsing, Gungrave, and many others I would not have even batted an eye. It's been scratching an itch that many shows today do not.

    Do not get me wrong, I do not wish for every show to be like back like this. I firmly believe there is just as much need for moe/slice of life stuff, but sometimes you just need that grim and gritty, down to earth and yet not afraid to be weird nonsense drama (with comedy elements) in your life.

    Reply

  6. Dictatorships whether created by socialism or via corporations are bad. It is all about controlling the people. Power over the masses. The elimination of independence and freedom of choice and thought.

    Reply

  7. This show is really goddamn great and it's op is fucking awesome too. Give it a watch if any of you people in the comments are on the fence about it.

    Reply

  8. Comment, comment comment comment? Comment comment comment comment comment comment comment. Comment? Comment? "Xomment?"

    Hope that helps Geoff, you professional shitbag, and the channel bounces back stronger than ever.

    Reply

  9. So does that make Youtube Bruhren or is that too mean a comparison for Bruhren who at least make people into cool cyborgs for their troubles?

    Reply

  10. Shame Geoff had to take a turn down the breadtube route. Good videos, but it's a shame how many great content creators get sucked in by leftist nonsense.

    Reply

  11. Pretty sure that if he named all themes in Fullmetal Alquemist we would be here for an hour and I wouldn't mind.

    Reply

  12. This reminds me of Psychopass, an anime my roommate and I loved watching and the reason for our love was totally different from one another. My roommmate liked it because it was a fun and sleek and gritty anime crime drama with a cyber punk theme to it. I loved Psychopass because it was a deep dive into the human mind, the motivations and justification for horrific things done out of a skewed sense of justice or their own greed.
    I already love anime for its ability to take an anime that is, at its base, about a "MAN WITH A GUN FOR A HEAD" and make it mature and interesting. Almost as if its like a tantalizing dish that lures you in with a bouquet of scents only to surprise you with its cultural and spiritual origins that came from the chef themselves. Insert hungry joke here.
    Regardless, you're a huge influence on my own writing and an even bigger inspiration on my own series of essays on creative writing. I really appreciate the work you do here.

    Reply

  13. A capitalist society must always fight against monopoly as it robs capitalism of it's core power, competition.

    Reply

  14. I love u mention FMA:Brotherhood n this. When I first started no guns life it gave me those same vibes FMA did

    Reply

  15. Good analysis as always (halfway through)! I haven't seen this show yet, but it's cool hearing some of the themes you can take away from this show and the way it plays into the problems with capitalism by going to the extreme of a business owning parts of your own body.

    I usually just watch the channel without commenting, but I always really enjoy both your positive and negative dives into what a show is doing/how it's doing it and what ideas it's pushing forward I hope the Youtube nonsense gets better soon.

    Reply

  16. I can't believe they're making an anime for this manga. I would think too many of those companies would find the basic premise too stupid.

    Reply

  17. leave youtube, get a real job. NEVER rely on stupid capitalists and their moronic policies for your livelyhood

    Reply

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