Anime and Manga — Reviews and Previews
I can’t quite put my finger on what in No. 6 rubs me the wrong way: is it the diminutive 11-episode length, the flip-flopping attitudes of its characters, the far-too-frequent drops in animation quality? None of these are damnable offenses in their own right, but No. 6 indulges in a few too many small vices and the show begins to collapse under their combined weight. Before we get into the specifics, however, let’s give the story a cursory glance.
No. 6 is the story of Sion (pronounced Shion), a young genius growing up comfortably in the advanced city, No. 6. He recognizes on a subconscious level that something is wrong with the so-called paradise he inhabits, but his expressions of this doubt are limited to small rebellions: drifting off in class, shouting his frustrations at oncoming storms. All of this changes when his home is broken into by a young runaway delinquent, Nezumi (which is translated in the subtitles as “Rat”). Sion rejects his obligation to report Nezumi to the authorities and instead patches up the boy’s wounds and gives him a place to sleep for the night. In the morning, Nezumi has disappeared, and Sion is punished for aiding and abetting a wanted criminal.
Four years later, Sion is now living in the lower quarters of No. 6. He works as a janitor for one of the city’s parks, but even this idyllic lifestyle can’t last forever. Instead, Sion finds himself embroiled in a deadly conspiracy that involves parasitic bees, and he is nearly taken back into custody but is saved once again by Nezumi who comes to his aid like a knight in leather armor. The boys set out to somehow expose and stop the evils at work in No. 6, with Nezumi constantly trying to save Sion from his own kind-heartedness.
It’s an interesting little premise that feels like it would work for such a short show: a political struggle between a corrupt order and the rebellious upstarts that challenge them. Rather, it would be – if it weren’t for those aforementioned parasitic bees. That, in my opinion, is just one of many missteps that No. 6 makes as it rushes to overcomplicate its plot. Things quickly escalate from a relatable struggle between good and evil and start dragging in goddesses, super computers, and “forest folk.” I’m not saying you can’t have a little fantasy with your sci fi, but it’s probably a good idea to establish that those elements exist before the seventh of eleven episodes. Either cut out the unnecessary chaff, or give yourself the 24- or 48-episodes needed to explore them all.
No. 6 apparently started as a series of novels, and I suspect that this convoluted plot plays out much better in that elongated format. A stilted adaptation is probably also to blame for characters who don’t seem to progress along their arcs so much as jump back and forth from one extreme to the next. At one moment, Nezumi is a heartless vigilante with no patience for Sion’s naiveté; the next, he earnestly wants to protect that same innocence and is willing to sacrifice himself to do so. Sion, for his part, doesn’t really change at all: he’s always this wide-eyed, innocent face, at least until one particularly savage turn in the last episode. The lack of consistency causes confusion in those not already familiar with the characters.
I need one of two things to really get behind a show: a thrilling or emotionally-evocative plot, or characters who feel like genuine people. No. 6 fell flat on both counts, but another strike against it is its inconsistent animation. Action scenes and even a few talky bits are beautifully and fluidly drawn, but crowd scenes are almost always relegated to still frames and characters are often drawn off-model if seen from a distance. Were there budget issues that forced these cost-cutting measures? Who knows, but it knocks a viewer out of the experience nonetheless.
I don’t have much else to say about No. 6 – it’s a sub-standard adaptation of a series of novels I never read. Reactions to the shows from those who have seem to skew more positive than mine, so perhaps this is another example of a show being made for its pre-existing fanbase, only I’m standing on the other side of the divide this time. Or maybe I’m just running out of patience for shows that feel the need to cram in every fantasy cliché. Slow down, let your story and your characters breathe, and if you really feel that you need them, the parasitic bees will always be there later.
Side note: there’s some boy-on-boy kissing going on in this show. Certainly nothing approaching [Sekaiichi Hatsukoi] level, but the relationship between Sion and Nezumi is decidedly non-platonic.