No. 6, Volume 3

No. 6, Volume 3Creator: Hinoki Kino
Original story: Atsuko Asano

U.S. publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781612623573
Released: October 2013
Original release: 2012

Hinoki Kino’s No. 6 manga is one of two adaptations available based on Atsuko Asano’s series of science fiction novels No. 6. My introduction to the story was through the anime series, but I am very glad to see the manga being released in English as well. No. 6, Volume 3 was originally published in Japan in 2012. The English-language edition was released by Kodansha Comics in 2013. Although the manga and the anime both share the same character designs and basic story, they are both different interpretations of the original novels. The manga, which is currently still an ongoing series, actually began serialization before the anime adaptation began airing. I quite enjoyed the No. 6 anime—except for its rushed original ending—which is why I was particularly interested in reading Kino’s manga. I felt the first volume was a bit uneven, but the second volume improved in both world-building and pacing, so I was looking forward to reading the third.

Even though at one point he was considered to be among No. 6’s elite, Shion is now a fugitive hiding outside of the city in West Block. Currently he is living with Rat who has already saved Shion’s life on several occasions and who himself is listed as a violent criminal by No. 6. Fortunately, the city seems to have very little interest in what is going on outside of its walls, so the two young men should at least be safe for the time being. In fact, Shion seems to be adapting surprisingly well to life in West Block, although his kindheartedness and naivety still have a tendency to get him into trouble. Inside the city, Shion’s mother is still afraid for her missing son’s safety and Shion’s childhood friend Safu wants to do anything that she can to find him. The risks involved in searching for Shion are not small and both of the women are under close surveillance by the authorities. A single mistake could lead to their arrest or convenient disappearance.

The relationship between Rat and Shion has always been an important part of the No. 6 manga. This hasn’t changed with No. 6, Volume 3, but the volume also further develops the relationships between them and the other characters. The pacing of the third volume is happily a bit slower than the first two which allows more time for Kino to better explore those relationships. Particularly telling is Rat’s interactions with Dogkeeper and how different they are from his interactions with Shion. Rat normally doesn’t hesitate to manipulate and intimidate other people and is more than willing to resort to violence. It’s his way of distancing himself from others in an attempt to avoid being hurt or taken advantage of. There is a small amount of kindness to be found in Rat’s personality, but he keeps it very well hidden. Shion is Rat’s complete opposite in this and seems to be made up of nothing but kindness, though he certainly has become less of a pushover than he once was.

It’s not only that Shion, Rat, and the others have different personalities, it’s that they have completely different worldviews and ways of thinking. This is a sources of strife in their relationships, but from this conflict comes subtle changes in their attitudes. Shion has an effect on those around him and he in turn is slowing changing as well. As an outsider in West Block, Shion asks questions that no one else would think to ask; he’s not as naive as he first appears, simply more open-minded and optimistic. Those used to living in the harsh environment of West Block have lost that idealism, and in time Shion may lose it as well as he is confronted with the terrible reality of West Block and the truth behind No. 6. He is strangely accepting of his own situation and exile, but when it comes to those he cares about he feels compelled to protect them at any cost, even if it puts him in danger. Each volume of the No. 6 manga continues to improve; I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where Kino takes things next.

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