After the war, there are many "Extends" in the city, people whose bodies were modified to make them into dangerous weapons. Inui Juuzou is one of them, and he has no memories of his life and body before his head was transformed into a gun. Strangely enough, his head-gun is designed so that only someone behind him can pull the trigger. Juuzou makes a living by taking on cases involving Extends in the city, and he is assisted by Mary, an intelligent young woman that he has taken under his protection.
Shaping up nicely. I’ve suppressed my urge to write a review until now, because I was unsure about the overarching plot progression, but the latest chapters made me feel optimistic. Although it was obvious even before that there is a plot, and it has the potential to be interesting, but what really carries this story is its cyber noire setting.
Sometimes you gotta pay attention to editorial remarks on your mango, an here one on the cover says “SF hard boiled the gun smoke drifts muzzle talks” (like that, without commas). And it’s surprisingly accurate – the protagonist, Inui Juuzou, is ya rogue private detective, always
smoking, smoking hot, smoking with gun smoke, because he is a cyborg made of revolvers, his head is a revolver, and he is the spirit of the noire revolver embodied: bitter, badass, with a history, seeking to break away from the hands that try to subdue him, actually a weapon. Of course, he doesn’t trust, but tries to see things right. And, of course, he’s got involved in something big this time. Enter the low-comma action. No Gun’s Life earnestly works on bringing together the many things that are associated with the noire today – blood, mystery, 40-s New York, femme fatales, violence barely suppressed, powerful figures on all sides of social spectrum. The heart of this works lies with the noire.
Or maybe half of it. The second half is taken by a retrofuturistic cyberpunk, also a proper one – with an evil cybernetic corporation, with a police force, tasked with keeping implanted “extends” in check, with questions of transhumanism and alienation, also with the punk part – bodies being spliced and spruced up in back-door undercity clinics, body horror and brain hacking. Aesthetically it’s sort of Gunm, sort of what Deus Ex could be, if it went radical with designs (i.e. an old guy with wheels for legs, or artificial eyes, or full body mods that are not too human looking).
And the two halves are connected, cleverly, by a war recently ended, which both explains why heavy modifications have been used on people and breathes depth into the powerful noire characters. Just like this No Gun’s Life is more intelligent, than you initially expect, in some of its parts – the original, movie noire’s heavy men also brought their violence from the smokes of the battlefield, and nothing breathes life like blood after all.
The structure is supported by memorable art: black and white and stark contrast, smoky handsome designs, sprinkled with details and ambitious – no matter what, you don’t see a hero with a revolver for head all that often. The covers and the colored pages are great. Though, at least at the beginning, there’re moments, mostly during fights, where the contrast and the detailization clash, making it hard to understand what is exactly happening.
No, No Guns Life is not ideal. There have been several mushy chapters, not failed, but not quite exciting – side characters not that well presented, humorous moments not that well placed, immature. There’s the annoying fetish battle garb for women, that breaks immersion, though sexualization doesn’t discriminate and men too, especially Juuzou, end up being sexualized to hell and back. (There’s also a drag queen, who provides comedic relief, just fyi.) In general, the plot is not as meaty as I’d liked, with separate arcs being rather light on substance.
But then there’re these slightly more intelligent things that give hope. The hooks set for the bigger plot are effective (well, catchy). The protected child this time is a boy, and annoying and bratty sometimes at that, which creates a wonderful character dynamics. Juuzou is connected throughout the city, which makes his encounters with different powers more lively and personal. And the handsome gentleman type rival, that has appeared recently, has these amazing nervous broken lip corners, which liven up his design.
No Guns Life is still developing, and its growth will take time. Its future is still covered in smoke – maybe it will overgrow its issues, maybe it has hit its glass ceiling. All still drifts in the air. But No Guns Life sharp originality of setting and ambitiousness of designs make it a work worth checking out for any manga enthusiast, who is interested in noire and cyberpunk both as settings and as visual styles, and I hope that most of us are.