“I am not a number! I am a free man!” – Patrick McGoohan as Number Six in The Prisoner.
The choice of the above quote is rather fitting for this review, and not just because the connection between the title of the manga and the name of title character from a 1960s cult TV show. No. 6 has similar themes, namely trying to escape from those who want to control you, or indeed want to see you dead.
Based on a sequence of light novels, the series is set in the city of No. 6, which on the surface at least seems idyllic: a crime rate of practically zero percent, cutting edge medical care, nature provided in a safe environment, and surrounded by huge walls to protect the city from outside threats. Shion is an ideal student living in the well-off part of the city, but on his twelfth birthday he helps an escaping criminal who calls himself “Rat”. Because of this, he and his mother are punished by being forcibly moved to the worst part of the city, and Shion’s studying is blocked.
Four years later, Shion is working in Park Maintenance looking after waste-disposal robots. One day he encounters a corpse that mysteriously has had rigor mortis set in after only a few minutes. Shion discovers that the cause of it is some form of disease, with large bee-like insects hibernating in humans, but not until after his boss dies too. The authorities try to frame Shion for murder, but then he reencounters Rat…
This first volume is mainly an introduction to the whole series, lasting only three chapters. However it is a nice set-up. Shion appears to be a good protagonist, who, through no fault of his own, is thrown into a world of chaos, as he discovers that his perfect world in No. 6 is not what it seems. The grey-eyed Rat is also an intriguing character. On the surface he seems rough, but outside of the city we discover that he is a well-read fellow with a huge collection of books.
The ideas in the book draw in the read, and the art does too. There are both the landscapes of No. 6 and the surrounding area, and then there are the darker depictions, those of the death and the destruction seemingly caused by the city itself.
Other than the fact the plot seems a bit slow at the moment, No. 6 appears to be an enjoyable series. Hopefully the action will pick up in the next few volumes.
No. 6 © Atsuko Asano, Hinoki Kino