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No. 6, Vols. 7 + 8

Welcome to another midweek manga review. This week, I’ll be taking a look at No. 6, Vols. 7 + 8, but first, some news…

And now, onto this weeks review of No. 6, Vols. 7 + 8

No. 6, Vol. 7No. 6, Vols. 7 + 8
Story by Atsuko Asano, Art by Hinoki Kino
Kodansha Comics
Rating: Teen (13 +)

Raised in the luxury of No. 6, a seemingly utopic city, Shion’s life changed forever when he helped a young fugitive by the name of Rat evade capture by the city’s authorities. Nearly a decade later Shion’s accused of murder and is forced to flee No. 6 with the help of Rat. No. 6, Vols. 7 + 8 sees the duo conduct a daring rescue operation, as they infiltrate No. 6’s Correctional Facility in hopes of freeing Shion’s childhood friend, Safu, from its depths. As they uncover the horrors of the Correctional Facility the duo are pushed to their physical and emotional limits as this manga adaption of Atsuko Asano’s light novels careens towards it’s climax in style, thanks to the visual stylings of Hinoki Kino!

I was really impressed by series when I first encountered it, and these two volumes do absolutely nothing to change my initial impression. This futuristic, sci-fi series is more interested in the characters rather than the big ideas that serve as its framework. While these two volumes do approach and deal with some of those ideas, the focus remains on the development and growth of Shion and Rat. The optimism of Shion has taken something of a beating over the course of the series, and that’s fully displayed here as Shion engages in acts that are hard to imagine him doing at the start of No. 6. It’s clear the grimness and horror of No. 6 has worn down his world view, but Asano avoids the series falling into a pit despair with Rat. Much like how Shion’s arc has brought him to a rather dark place, Rat’s has had the opposite affect. He started off the series as the grim, cynical and cold figure, but his time with Shion has affected him deeply and within No. 6, Vols. 7 + 8 we see he’s changed. It’s not a total inversion in their characters though, and both Rat and Shion still have moments where they more closely resemble their older selves.

While most of these two volumes are occupied with Shion and Rat’s infiltration of the prison complex, there are other scenes showing how chaos is spreading throughout No. 6 as a whole as we check in with various minor characters. It’s a nice way to tie the events together, showing that the various character’s actions have some wider reaching ramifications for the world of No. 6 as a whole. Families that have suffered at the hands of No. 6’s administration begin to take up arms, supporting characters fall, we’re given a chance to see the larger consequences of their deaths, and more.

The visuals are subdued and not terribly flashy, but they do a wonderful job at conveying emotions and the mental state of the characters. Some of the sequences are almost heartbreaking, such as the long awaited reunion between Safu and Shion. At times things feel a bit too clean though, with certain moments that should be messy and brutal losing a little bit of their impact. This also spreads to settings, like the scene set in a waste disposal area which looks far too clean, despite the characters constantly commenting on the stink and the filth. This has been a small problem with the series from the get go, but frankly Kino’s handling of the rest of the material has been so on point that it almost feels like needless nitpicking.

The character development and growth of No. 6 has felt natural and has been incredibly well handled from the get go, as a result the actions of these volumes really resonate and hit home, with the Shion’s despair feeling incredibly real and tangible. The series has gotten mostly positive buzz, but it feels like the manga has slipped under most people’s radar, which is a bit of a shame as it’s a really strong and engaging read.

No. 6, Vols. 7 + 8 are now available from Kodansha Comics. Review copies provided by the publishers.

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