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Sunday’s Segment: No Guns Life, Midsommar, SAO (#6)

No Guns Life

Unlike the Summer season, I haven’t found that much interest in the shows that are airing this Fall. Beastars doesn’t get me going in the same ways as it does other people, and I haven’t watched many of the prequels to currently airing sequels. However, one that shines through is No Guns Life. And every time I type that I have to refrain from typing ‘No Guns No Life…’


A massive gun on your head, mate?


More than anything else, the aesthetic of this show attracts me. The grungy colour palette, the equally as grungy setting, and the often mysteriously shady characters. The MC, Juuzou is a pretty cut-and-dry cigarette-smoking detective type, all tied together with a gruff, nonchalant voice. It’s simple. It works. The soundtrack fits perfectly too – jazzy melodic notes that round out and give balance to the diesel-punk like world. It reminds me a lot of the feeling of Blade Runner, and even last year’s Megalo Box. Just like that show, I’m always aching for more adult-themed plots with adult characters and narratives that require even the smallest amount of thought. I don’t know if No Guns Life will fit into all of those categories, but it certainly seems to push close to many of them – especially with the theme of using altered humans as tools in war, Juuzou himself having experienced this as an ‘Extended.’

No Guns Life blends traditional and 3D animation in some of the most interesting visuals I’ve seen in a while. Whilst there isn’t much in the way of inspiring animation (though it isn’t bad),  scenes taken as a whole easily make up for this. Many of the backgrounds and props are 3D, created in Unreal Engine. At times it’s hard to notice, but it’s given away by the visible textures in areas – the cigarette vending machine in Episode 2, for example. No Guns Life is one to keep an eye on! The OP and ED are also to die for!

 

Midsommar

(Spoilers) Before watching Midsommar, I’d heard a little about it. Its praise of course, how it is a breath of fresh air within the saturated horror genre. But that did little to prepare me for what happened in those long two and a half hours. Also, I’ll preface this by saying I’m not a massive horror fan. Sure, I appreciate a good film regardless of genre, but I don’t go out of my way to watch everything the genre offers. However, Midsommar and its psychological horror fall under my more preferred themes.

Midsommar is a slow burner. Being so long, there’s a lengthy unassuming set-up. The characters are introduced well enough, despite some feeling like bit-parts. I understood Dani, the main character, well. After losing her sister and parents in what we assume is a murder-suicide, it’s fair to say her mental health is in decline. This, partnered with a boyfriend who is not in the least supportive sends her on a downward spiral, despite the often stoic face she assumes.



The most present thing in Midsommar is the constant sense of unease. From the way the shots are framed, often up-close and claustrophobic, to the setting of a pagan cult and its initial presentation of being a cultural haven of pure and untouched beauty. Culture is at the heart of Midsommar, the fear of the unknown, and the dread that comes from experiencing things so far removed from the reality of a person’s everyday life. And yet, from when the very first person ‘leaves’ the cult, we know what has happened, and we know what’s going to happen to the rest of them. Midsommar is not about mystery, it never has to throw us a bone. It’s about the visceral reality the characters are living through, the oddness of things we can never have imagined. And how truly unsettling its scenes can be. It’s not for the faint of heart, but Ari Astler has done a brilliant job in creating a sinister experience that will be difficult to forget.

High School of the Dead

I couldn’t bring myself to write an entire post about this one. I doubt I’d even find enough content. Years ago I watched a few episodes, but never finished. So, I decided to embark on the quest to get through the whole thing, doing so in between episodes of Kimi ni Todoke that I needed as a respite in what have been two long days of zombies and oversized oppai.


 

The Gang!


No, I don’t think High School of the Dead is a bad show. I don’t even care about the insane levels of fanservice. In fact, given the setting, the fanservice works. High School of the Dead is ecchi to the core, and that’s fine. Some people hate it. Some people love it. I don’t particularly mind it depending on the show. High School of the Dead has been created with ecchi as its foundations, it hasn’t been tacked on, because it is the show. Without its fanservice, High School of the Dead wouldn’t be even as vaguely amusing and entertaining as it is. Because let’s be honest, the characters are all one-dimensional, the plot is taken from just about any other zombie narrative that has ever existed, and well… actually the art and animation are of decently high quality in parts. I’m also nostalgic for that early 2010s style that it seems to encapsulate so well.

I grew up watching The Walking Dead before it became… something else. Those first four seasons I remember like they were yesterday. The grittiness of the world, the unflinching evil of its villains, and the sweet and ofter bittersweet moments that gave respite between all the killing and plotting. Of course, High School of the Dead is incomparable, it reminds me of that more simple time, and there’s something to be said of the feeling that bubbles up when I watch it. Not to mention, it quoting T.S. Eliot as the closing card is about the most hilarious thing I’ve seen in a while. “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang buy a whimper…”

 

SAO: War for the Underworld

I hold a special affinity for the first twelve episodes of the original Sword Art Online, it’s simply the scenario that made me love it so much, the time at which I originally watched it, too. I suppose I wanted to be anywhere but where I was, and the escapism of Aincrad was about the best, and the only thing I could imagine. My interest dropped from there, but I did enjoy the majority of Alicization, and the longer it went on, the better it became. I have a feeling War for the Underworld isn’t going to be any different.



The same can be said for the first part of Alicization, but War for the Underworld looks exceptional. The visuals are so clean, I don’t know whether it’s the skimpy line art, or the post-process effects, but everything boldly leaps from the screen.

Kirito is, of course, a vegetable, but I can’t see that lasting long, after all, he has to save everyone as usual. Alice is currently the star of the show, a sizeable part of me is sticking around just for her, she’s the heroine SAO has always needed, and as of yet, there are no tentacles in sight! The plot has never been the strong part of SAO, it’s always been the characters, their relationships, interactions, and everything that’s always trying to rip them apart. This is where SAO is at it’s best, when the stakes are high and everyone is trying their absolute best to pull through. The scene in which Alice was defending Kirito’s honour after his sword was taken from him was truly heartwarming. I’m hoping for more emotional scenes like that, and I’ll be right on board!

 

Thanks for reading! (Follow me on Twitter!)

-Chris

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