This week I’m doing another first volume of a manga, with a look at the dystopian SF manga “No. 6”.

Title: No. 6, Volume 1
Story by Atsuko Asano
Art by Hinoki Kuno
Translation by Jonathan Tarbox & Kazuko Shimizu

Available from Amazon.com (in Print and on Kindle), and from RightStuf.com

The Premise

Shion is a student in the highly controlled city-state of Number Six. When he opens the window on a stormy night, he ends up rescuing a fugitive who calls himself “Rat”, and finding his way onto the wrong side of the powers that control the city.

High Points

The detail put into the environments in the setting is very well done.

Low Points

There’s creating a totalitarian state that is put together in a coherent (if not rational) fashion, and then there’s a totalitarian state that exists for the metatextual purpose of causing the main character additional angst. Having Shion killed because he stumbled across someone who had been murdered with a deadly bee weapon (bees… my god), seems a bit much, particularly since it’s not clear if the government is in control of this weapon or if someone else controls it (or if it’s just out of control). In all seriousness, it’d make much more sense for the government to spin some BS cover-story that Shion immediately questions and investigates, leading him back into contact with Rat again.

That’d take more time, but it’d give more characterization for Shion and make him someone with agency in a world where people with agency are penalized. It’d also give us more time with Shion’s family and put him in contact with some of his friends, giving them more character development as well, as well as giving us more time in this world – sort of like how we got a bunch of time in the dystopian era of 20th Century Boys before things get serious again.

Oh, and while I don’t consider myself prudish, the homoerotic subtext between Rat & Shion feels like it exists for the sole purpose of pandering to fans of Yaoi. This might be due to the fact that the manga was serialized in a shoujo magazine, and older readers of shoujo tend to be into yaoi. While some subsequent research shows that the relationship between the two becomes text later in the series, the two don’t have any chemistry.

Scores

Originality: Dystopian fiction set in totalitarian controlled societies designed to hide the cage isn’t new, and this doesn’t bring anything new to the table at this point. 2/6

Artwork: Some of the backgrounds are very well done. Otherwise, the character designs feel somewhat generic. 3/6

Story: Again, pretty generic. Even the Yaoi plot bits are pretty by the numbers. 3/6

Characterization: 2/6

Flow: 6/6

Overall: This volume is a solid “meh.” 3/6

In total, this gets 22/42.