No. 6, Volume 4

No. 6, Volume 4Creator: Hinoki Kino
Original story: Atsuko Asano

U.S. publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781612623580
Released: December 2013
Original release: 2012

Hinoki Kino’s manga series No. 6 is an adaptation of a series of nine science fiction novels written by Atsuko Asano. The fourth volume of the No. 6 manga was originally published in Japan in 2012. The English-language edition of No. 6, Volume 4 was released by Kodansha Comics in 2013. My introduction to No. 6 was actually through the anime adaptation, but I have been enjoying the manga’s rendition of the story as well. I have had a fondness for dystopian fiction ever since I was introduced to the genre in high school and so I am particularly pleased that a manga series like No. 6 is being released in English. I did find the first volume to be a little rushed and disjointed in places, but each subsequent volume has continued to improve and the series has settled into an excellent pace. The characters and world-building have also been developing rather nicely. Because the series keeps getting better, I was looking forward to reading the fourth volume.

Shion’s close friend Safu has been arrested by the Security Bureau of No. 6 and taken to the Correctional Facility, which may very well mean her death. Rat has known about Safu’s predicament for some time, but it’s something that he has been keeping a secret from Shion, concerned that he would put his own life at risk in order to rescue Safu. Rat is soon proven correct when, by chance, Shion discovers that Safu has been taken. Shion is prepared to do anything that he can to save her, even if that means doing it alone. But, despite his reservations, Rat isn’t about to let that happen. Infiltrating the Correctional Facility won’t be easy. Both Shion and Rat have been classified as dangerous criminal fugitives by No. 6’s authorities which severely limits their movements outside of West Block. Simply getting information about what is happening in No. 6 is a difficult task which will require all of the connections and influence that the two young men can muster. They are at a definite disadvantage and their situation is nearly impossible, but Rat and Shion are determined to come out of it alive however unlikely.

While the previous volume or so took time to further establish the relationships between the characters in the manga, No. 6, Volume 4 ratchets up the pace again, moving the plot forward quite handily. This is not to say that Kino has forgotten the series’ main players for the sake of the story. In fact, there are some absolutely wonderful character moments in the fourth volume. These are critical for the development of both the plot and the characters themselves. It is quite clear by this point in the manga that Shion and Rat deeply care about each other. But in No. 6, Volume 4 Shion is forced to confront just how vicious Rat can be, something that he has been avoiding. Rat has never hesitated to intimidate or threaten other people and is a master manipulator. Though up until now he has largely (but not completely) kept his overt violence in check, when given a reason and opportunity he can be absolutely terrifying. Rat’s actions in this volume are nominally for Shion’s sake, but he also has an intense, deep-seated hatred and anger towards No. 6 which lends to his brutality.

West Block has always been a violent place, but at least its residents are honest and forthright about it. They hold no delusions as they often literally have to fight to survive. On the other hand, there’s No. 6. The city is presented as a perfect society even though it is anything but. Granted, most of No. 6’s citizens are completely unaware that anything untoward is going on and those who do suspect find themselves conveniently disappeared. Because of this, No. 6 is actually the more terrifying of the two places. What exactly is going on in No. 6 has yet to be made clear. There have been some hints, and Shion and the others have uncovered a few clues, but even some of No. 6’s highest ranking officials aren’t privy to that information. All that is known is that some sort of terrible experiment is being conducted on the city’s population. However, the goal, purpose, and motivation behind that experiment hasn’t been revealed yet. With plenty of questions remaining to be answered and the story increasing in intensity, I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next volume of No. 6.

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.

No. 6, Volume 2

No. 6, Volume 2Creator: Hinoki Kino
Original story: Atsuko Asano

U.S. publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781612623566
Released: August 2013
Original release: 2011

My introduction to Atsuko Asano’s No. 6 was through the anime adaptation of the original novels. I enjoyed the setting and characters, but was disappointed in the anime’s rushed, original ending. Asano’s No. 6 novels are unlikely to be released in English, so I was glad when Kodansha licensed Hinoki Kino’s manga adaptation of the series. The second volume of the No. 6 manga, originally published in Japan in 2011, was released in English in 2013. Although Kino’s character designs are based on the same ones used for the anime and many of the underlying elements are the same (they are both adaptations of the No. 6 novels after all), Kino’s version of the story is different. The first volume of the manga was a little too quickly paced for my taste, but for the most part I still enjoyed it. However, I did have hopes that the second volume would slow down a bit after the first volume‘s rush to establish the characters, story, and setting.

After barely escaping from the holy city of No. 6, Shion is now a fugitive hiding in West Block, a dangerous area outside of the city walls and No. 6’s dumping grounds. Although he is out of immediate danger, he still has a lot to learn about West Block if he hopes to survive there. The violent and bleak conditions outside the city are very different from the peaceful and pampered life that Shion led in No. 6. The only reason he’s made it this far is thanks to the help of Rat, the young man whose life Shion once saved as a boy. The two make an unusual pair. Shion is altruistic and slow to doubt people, characteristics which could get him into big trouble in West Block, while Rat only looks out for himself and is much more wary of others. Saving Shion’s life was a way for Rat to repay his debt, but in the process he has begun to open up to another person. For the time being Rat persists in watching over the other young man, but he is also capable of turning on Shion at any moment.

One of my favorite things about the No. 6 anime was the relationship between Rat and Shion. I’ve happily found this to be the case with the manga as well. Even though it’s only the second volume, there has already been some very nice character development. Both Shion and Rat are beginning to change due to the circumstances surrounding Shion’s escape from No. 6 and their continued association with each other. As Shion is faced with the harsh realities of living in West Block and Rat’s seemingly uncaring attitude, he is learning to stand up for himself and what matters to him. In turn, Shion is also influencing Rat to a much greater extent than either of them at first realize. When it comes to Shion, Rat finds himself acting out of character and letting his guard down. It understandably bothers and worries him, but it’s also rather touching from an outsider’s perspective. I’m really enjoying watching their relationship evolve in No. 6.

In addition to character development, the second volume of the No. 6 manga also reveals more about No. 6 and West Block. As Shion experiences West Block first hand, nearly getting killed in the process, the readers are also introduced to the world in which he now lives through the people he meets—the children who are starving, the marketplace vendors who are quick to pull guns on thieves, the prostitutes and pimps. Everyone is struggling to get by in any way that they can. It also reveals in part why Rat has the personality that he does. To survive in West Block requires people to place their own needs above those of others. Simply trusting another person means taking a huge risk. It’s a hard lesson for Shion with his innocent nature and privileged upbringing. The second volume of No. 6 does build and improve on the first in its pacing, characterization, and world-building. I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to the next volume of Kino’s adaptation.

Manga Giveaway: Dystopian Duo Winner

And the winner of the Dystopian Duo manga giveaway is…ShadowOtakuGal!

As the winner, ShadowOtakuGal will be receiving a copy of Hinoki Kino’s No. 6, Volume 1 and Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan, Volume 5—the most recent volumes of two very different dystopian-flavored manga to be released by Kodansha Comics. For this giveaway, I asked entrants to tell me which of the two series interested them the most and why. I was also curious to know about other dystopian manga that people had read. There were some fantastic responses, so do check out the giveaway comments. I enjoyed everything everyone had to say, so thank you to all who participated!

And now for your manga-reading pleasure, a selected list of dystopian and dystopian-esque manga licensed in English!

Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
Animal Land by Makoto Raiku
Apollo’s Song by Osamu Tezuka
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
Basara by Yumi Tamura
Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro
Battle Angel Alita: Last Order by Yukito Kishiro
Battle Royale written by Koushun Takami, illustrated by Masayuki Taguchi
Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei
Clover by CLAMP
Deadman Wonderland written by Jinsei Kataoka, illustrated by Kazuma Kondou
Death Note written by Tsugumi Ohba, illustrated by Takeshi Obata
Dorohedoro by Q Hayashida
The Drifting Classroom by Kazuo Umezu
Eden: It’s an Endless World by Hiroki Endo
Fist of the North Star written by Buronson, illustrated by Tetsuo Hara
From Far Away by Kyouko Hikawa
From the New World by Tōru Oikawa
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit by Motoro Mase
Japan written by Buronson, illustrated by Kentaro Miura
Knights of Sidonia by Tsutomu Nihei
Mother Sarah by Katsuhiro Otomo
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki
Neon Genesis Evangelion by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
No. 6 by Hinoki Kino
Noise by Tsutomu Nihei
Phoenix by Osamu Tezuka
Psyren by Toshiaki Iwashiro
Silver Diamond by Shiho Sugiura
Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee by Hiroyuki Asada
Tsubasa: Those with Wings by Natsuki Takaya

Thank you again to everyone who shared with me; I hope to see you again for the next giveaway!

Manga Giveaway: Dystopian Duo (No. 6 and Attack on Titan)

It’s the last full week in June, which means its time for another manga giveaway here at Experiments in Manga. Thanks to the good folks at Kodansha Comics, I actually have two volumes of manga to give away this month: the first volume in Hinoki Kino’s No. 6 and the fifth and most recent volume of Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan to be released in English! One lucky winner will receive both volumes of manga. And, as always, the contest is open worldwide.

I first started reading dystopian fiction when I was in high school. I’ve never grown out of dystopias and I continue enjoy reading about them. While at the moment the young adult market in particular is fairly inundated with dystopian literature, there are relatively few manga that have been licensed in English that deal with dystopian themes. But just this month, Kodansha Comics released the first volume in No. 6 which is a excellent example of a classic dystopia—a seemingly perfect, highly controlled society with a darker side and hidden costs. Attack on Titan is a dystopia of a different sort—a world in which humanity struggles to survive against forces beyond its control. It may not be a dystopia in the strictest sense and may actually share more in common with post-apocalyptic fiction (its difficult to tell from only the first five volumes), but I’d argue that there’s often significant overlap between the two subgenres.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a copy of No. 6, Volume 1 and Attack on Titan, Volume 5?

1) In the comments below, tell me which of the two series—No. 6 and Attack on Titan—interests you the most and why. (If you win, you’ll still be getting both volumes regardless of your response.)
2) For a second entry, simply name a dystopian manga that hasn’t been mentioned yet by me or by someone else.
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

So there you have it! Each person can earn up to three entries for this giveaway and has one week to submit them. If you have trouble leaving comments, or if you would prefer, you can e-mail me your entry at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com and I will post the comment in your name. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on July 3, 2013. Good luck to you all!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: Dystopian Duo Winner