No.6 Review: What Lies Beneath the False Utopia

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It’s been about a week and a half since I finished watching No.6.  The premise sounded interesting, though I quickly noticed that it was only 11 episodes long and wondered just how much development could happen with such little time.  While I would say that not everything was as fleshed out as I would’ve liked, the story did a relatively good job of presenting itself with its small episode count.  It wasn’t the most enjoyable watch I’ve had, but it was still a good one regardless.

So the story starts by paralleling the lives of the two main characters: Shion and Nezumi.  Shion is a smart and privileged boy who lives in a futuristic society and, aside from being pretty much set on success, has what one might consider a “normal” life.  Especially in comparison to Nezumi, who is first seen trying to escape from guards who are shooting at him.  These two individuals with very different lives later cross, as Nezumi finds his way to Shion’s house during his escape.  Shion lets him stay for a bit in spite of realizing that Nezumi is a wanted criminal, but loses his opportunity for success when the government finds out about how he sheltered Nezumi even though he knew about him.  As such, Shion is relocated to the outskirts of No.6, where he witnesses a bizarre death and begins to question the legitimacy of his society.  Unfortunately, No.6 has no room for dissenters and the authorities take him to the Correctional Institute as a result, though it turns out that Nezumi is back once again, and this time to bail Shion out of trouble.  With Shion’s future reduced to the life of a fugitive, he and Nezumi set out to uncover the hidden truths of No.6, and sure enough, quite a few suspicious incidents take place soon after.  Shion hopes to find a way to save those he cares about in No.6 before it’s too late, but Nezumi has no such sentiments for Shion’s old home…..

The story, while not extensively developed because of the anime length, is a good watch and entertaining at its best.  There’s a constant sense of mystery as Shion attempts to learn more about the city he once lived in, and there are many vile secrets that he could never have imagined originally.  However, not all of the plot is spent on exploring this aspect of the story, as there is a decent bit of downtime as Shion and Nezumi interact with some of the side characters early on, and other residents of No.6 who were close to Shion also get some screentime as well, so there isn’t as much focus on the dark, intense events as some might like.  When the more serious moments take place, however, the story does know how to hit pretty hard and some of the more action-packed moments in the anime are quite interesting to see.  Quite a few unusual events take place, some of which I felt weren’t properly explained or developed, but on the whole the story was an interesting ride.

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Now for the characters.  Truth be told, No.6 doesn’t have the strongest of casts, and most of the side cast is quite limited in its development.  As such, it really comes down to the interactions between Shion and Nezumi to lay the foundation for character development, and at least as far as those two go I’d say it went well.  As main character, Shion goes through the most development, and it’s clear that he changes significantly from the first two episodes to the very end.  Shion is a kind but naive character, and as the series go on and he learns more about the truth, some of this changes, though sometimes this is done in a rushed way.  Nezumi is my personal favorite because of his role in the story, as he is one of the main causes for Shion’s growth and also has mysteries of his own.  The series does touch on Nezumi’s backstory, but many things were left unexplained.  In any case, the two characters have strong dynamics and they make an interesting pair, and the interactions between the two are certainly among the best in this anime.

While I’m on that topic, I think I’ll mention something that not everyone might expect before watching.  Now the friend who initially recommended this to me told me that there was some shounen-ai, and truth be told I wasn’t sure what to make of that since I’m not particularly fond of those types of series, but I figured it shouldn’t be a big deal.  After all, I have seen and loved some series that either suggest or outright display a character with such feelings (Future Diary being one off the top of my head).  In any case, having watched it, what I can say is this: Yes, there are indeed some shounen-ai aspects, and probably stronger in this anime than I’ve personally seen in most others I’ve watched.  For me, it didn’t at all take away from the experience, in part because the series was never about shounen-ai and more about how the two leads, in their own different ways while still helping each other out, aim to deal with the secrets behind No.6. Beyond that though, it really does solidify the bond between the two leads.  While there is indeed a female love interest for Shion established early on, it’s clear that the relationship he has with Nezumi is the strongest in the series and certainly has a lot more grounding it.  In any case, if you’re really iffy about shounen-ai then you might be a bit uncomfortable, but I’d say that you shouldn’t at all let that deter you from watching the anime if the premise sounds interesting to you.

So in short, I’d say that No.6 is a worthwhile watch.  Not the best series out there and a bit too short for me to be satisfied with everything, but it doesn’t do a bad job.  On the whole I’d say No.6 would be a 7/10 for me.  If you’ve got a bit of free time and you wanna give an anime about dystopian society a try, then you might as well go for this since 11 episodes makes for a very fast watch.  Since the anime was adapted from light novels, I imagine those will have much more detail and development so I would definitely like to give those a chance sometime in the future.  On a random note, did the character designs for Shion and Nezumi remind anyone else of Allen and Kanda from D.Gray-man?

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