No. 6, Volume 7

No. 6, Volume 7Creator: Hinoki Kino
Original story: Atsuko Asano

U.S. publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781612625539
Released: June 2014
Original release: 2013

I have been following Hinoki Kino’s manga adaptation of Atsuko Asano’s science fiction novel series No. 6 since its beginning. The manga got off to a bit of an unsteady start, but it quickly improved its pacing and setting development, each passing volume becoming stronger and building on those that came before it. No. 6, Volume 7 was initially published in Japan in 2013 while Kodansha Comics’ English translation, which includes a bonus story from Japan’s special edition, was released in 2014. I haven’t read Asano’s original novels (sadly, they have yet to be licensed in English) so I can’t directly compare the manga series, but I have seen the anime adaptation. In fact, it was because I liked the characters from the anime so well that I sought out another interpretation of their story. Though both the anime and the manga began around the same time, the anime was completed in 2011 while the ninth and final volume of the manga was released in 2014. The anime and manga share many similarities with each other, but in the end they are their own works.

Rat and Shion’s daring plan to infiltrate the city of No. 6’s Correctional Facility has so far been surprisingly successful and, with a little outside help, they have been able to penetrate the building’s first line of defenses. Gaining access to the Correctional Facility and surmounting the initial challenges preventing the rescue of Shion’s close friend Safu is only the beginning; even with their unexpected luck, things will prove to be much more difficult for Rat and Shion as they continue on their mission and press on farther into the Facility’s interior. Considering that Safu was once counted among No. 6’s elites, Shion is convinced that she must be being held captive in the most secure, upper levels of the Correctional Facility. At best, he and Rat have mere minutes before their intrusion is discovered. After that there is no knowing what they will have to face and they were working with very limited information to begin with. Both Shion and Rat anticipated that the rescue attempt would be extremely dangerous, and at this point there is no turning back.

Since I have seen the anime adaptation of No. 6 and am therefore familiar with many of the important plot points found in the manga, I can’t say that I was particularly surprised by some of the major developments in No. 6, Volume 7. That being said, there are still some incredibly shocking moments which can be attributed to the strength of the underlying story as a whole. Especially potent and devastating is the evolution of Shion’s character over the course of the series. In the last few volumes in particular he has changed so much it seems that Rat’s fears are starting to come true—at times he is no longer even recognizable as Shion anymore. He has become a different person. Gone is the innocent and optimistic young man who was so quick to see the good in people. In his place is a person within whom hatred is growing and whose sense of justice has taken a dramatic and dangerous turn, not only for those around him, but for himself as well.

Taking into account everything that Shion has been through so far, it’s not unexpected that he and his outlook on the world has changed. His own life and the lives of those he holds dearest have been repeatedly threatened. He has personally witnessed the poverty and despair of the residents of West Block as well as the horrors of the Manhunt. Shion has seen senseless violence and death. He has learned about the atrocities committed in the name of No. 6, and yet he still doesn’t know everything. Rat and Shion gained access to the Correctional Facility in order to rescue Safu, but in the process they discover even more of the city’s dark secrets. The truths behind No. 6, its establishment, and its continued existence are not pleasant ones. It’s a so-called perfect society, but the leadership is more than willing to turn on its own citizens in order to maintain that perfection. Shion is trying to come to terms with all of this and to protect the people that he cares about and loves, but in doing so he may very well lose himself entirely.

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