No Guns Life – Season 1- Anime Review
Synopsis: Humans that have been physically altered and turned into dangerous weapons are known as the Extended. Juuzou Inui awakens as one of these weapons—with amnesia. But his job as an agent investigating the Extended leads to a mysterious child with Extended ties showing up at his office. Now Inui must keep the child away from street gangs and the megacorporation Berühren, and it won’t be easy. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: No Guns Life grabs your attention with its visually unique protagonist and his literal gun shaped head. It oozes with promises of something unusual and interesting with its strange characters and new world built around people sacrificing parts of their bodies to become “extended” by having artificial mechanical limbs grafted on in place of their flesh. This dystopian world where war led to capitalism taking literal control of people’s bodies had us excited and curious. But 12 episodes in and all that seems to be but squandered potential. Juzo, our visually bad ass hero barely gets any backstory or character development and by the end of cour one, is nothing more than your standard gruff detective with a heart of gold that you’ve likely seen before. This world, brimming with potential for interesting abilities and crazy combat chooses instead to focus on age old human drama and tired themes of corruption and crime that doesn’t extend beyond story lines that most of you will probably have seen already. The show’s unique visual style does little to invigorate new life in these overused, tired ideas that lack a unique twist to give them new meaning.
Tom: It’s a shame because No Guns Life started well enough. Juzo got sucked into protecting a young man, experimented on by the terrible corporation that’s forced extensions on so much of the populace through coercion and subterfuge. But as interesting and well constructed as the first two episodes are, No Guns Life plummets in quality across the board. Visually the series barely holds up past Episode 1. Making use of Unreal Engine for the backgrounds, praise must be mentioned for how even the quality is across the background artwork for all 12 episodes. Rarely do the backgrounds outright disappoint, or dip so horribly in quality that they become distracting. But at the same time this baseline quality isn’t all that impressive either, and makes for a kind of static decency. The character work however leaves much to be desired. Rarely do the visuals pop, and more often than not ‘epic’ battles are anything but. So few of what should be flashy, eye-popping moments actually do just that. Instead characters are stilted, often standing around talking, only doing the most minimal of movements to qualify these sequences as anything resembling action. It’s so prevalent there’s actually only two stand out fight sequences in this 12 episode run. There’s one towards the back half of the show and another in the last episode itself, making most of No Guns Life action sequences completely unmemorable.
Linny: Another failing is how frequently the emotional thrust of the series hangs on its one-off characters. No Guns Life injects drama into its plot quite often, introducing our heroes to supporting characters of the week, who’ve suffered tragedy, loss, or wallow in a life slowly falling apart due to societies’ ills. Relying on mostly one off characters for these dramatic beats is hard to pull off. These characters are injected and removed so quickly, often lasting no more than two episodes at a time, meaning there’s little time to build up emotional weight before tragedy strikes in full. At best you end up with a ho-hum episode that’s tragic, but emotionally distant. It doesn’t help either that the villains are often laughably evil. The show often portrays them as beyond the pale in their villainy such as in one episode where the bad guy of the week reveals that they’ve replaced the targeted evil corporate leaders on a train with innocent orphans in order to kick off a reverse negative campaign against the rebels who were on a mission to take down said corrupt officials. It’s painfully contrived and borders on cartoon villainy, instead of being shocking or heart-wrenching.
Tom: Compounding these dramatic missteps is how often larger plot lines pop up and are quickly shunted off to the side. These stories briefly appear for a few developments, an abrupt and unexpected battle, before disappearing as suddenly as they first appeared. These moments make it difficult to become enveloped in the story, because as soon as it looks like things are moving we’re off doing something near entirely unrelated. But underused elements and ideas seem to be No Guns Life’s bread and butter. Take Juzo himself. Despite Funimation’s official synopsis talking about Juzo suffering amnesia, with no idea of who he was before he became a full bodied Extended, that concept appears but briefly throughout these 12 episodes, and is never truly addressed. It’s frustrating how our main character, perhaps the most interesting aspect to the story, and his mysterious past are totally overlooked for so long, with nary a mention before Season 1 is over.
Linny: For anyone remotely familiar with Shonen tropes, a lot of No Guns Life’s one off stories are egregiously transparent and predictable. You’ll be able to identify the bad guys or the character who’s going to die within minutes of them being onscreen, which takes away a lot of impact and entertainment value as you are forced to sit through something you already know the outcome of. This issue is all the more glaring in the final episode where most viewers should be able to figure out the villain so quickly, the show may as well have had Vegas style bright lights pointing at them with the word VILLAIN. And despite the gritty aesthetics, No Guns Life thoroughly embraces Shonen tropes and values such as people miraculously surviving certain death, and death only sticking to inconsequential one off characters. All of these factors combined unfortunately make No Guns Life a difficult show to recommend. Style is a major factor working for the show so if cool aesthetics alone can sweep you off your feet or bolster a show for you, by all means, dive into this story of a gruff detective and the various cases, conspiracies and people he ends up involved with. But if you were hoping for a completely unique and deep story to go along with the visuals, brace for disappointment.
Tom: No Guns Life held a lot of promise early on, but is unfortunately the kind of show that never lives up to it. I’m not familiar with the original manga, so I don’t know if these are intrinsic issues or if we’re looking at a botched anime adaptation that’s cut far, far too much. Either way, the anime is one of the Fall’s more disappointing offerings and my lukewarm Take it or Leave it from our Mid Season evaluation now drops to a fairly hard Not Recommended. It’s too frustrating watching interesting ideas tossed aside in favor of more pedestrian characters or narrative meanderings.
No Guns Life is available for streaming via Funimation.