No.6: Another Day; Another Dystopia

[A review of No.6 (anime)]

No. 6 was a watchable show.  Although it lasted only 11 episodes, it managed to deliver a passable story revolving around a dystopia and a somewhat dysfunctional relationship. While I’ve read several novels centred on this concept (the dystopia), this was the first time I watched an anime about it.

Like in all dystopias masked as utopias, in No.6, the ignorant masses lead rather contented lives and know better than to question the system – a common trope in this genre. screenshot-2016-12-08-23-51-42As the audience though, we know better – we get glimpses of a secretive armed force that weeds out and rids the city of any malcontents and rule breakers.  Beneath the security and order, there is a malicious force at work manipulating the rules and toying with the lives of its people. No. 6 is a completely horrible place to live in, replete with corruption at every turn, conspiracies and even merciless human experimentations.

Again, like in most dystopian stories, Shion, the protagonist, is an anomaly in the system. Exceptionally intelligent, he likes to think for himself and make his own decisions. Still, he turned out quite bland as a character and while I wanted him to win/ survive, I couldn’t really bring myself to like him. On his own, his character falls flat and there were even times when I found him disturbing.

I suppose that’s how it’s supposed to be – he’s not intended to function alone. There’s Nezumi, the anti-hero type deuteragonist, and Shion’s other half. No.6 2.pngThe true driving force of the show is their relationship. Nezumi and Shion are as different as night and day. Shion is friendly, considerate and quick to trust (most of the time); Nezumi is guarded, aggressive and anti-social. Nevertheless, they become close and it is patently obvious that there is more to their bond than friendship. I wouldn’t exactly call their relationship healthy but I guess at least they genuinely care for each other.

I’m not really into shonen-ai (or ai of any kind, for that matter) but I like romantic relationships being part of a larger narrative. When done well, it contributes immensely to the emotions that the audience invest in the story. I’m not saying that No.6 succeeded at doing that; it tried.

Anyway, No. 6 wasn’t exactly what I would call a large story, or an epic. The plot itself is very very very straightforward. The city, No.6, is revealed to be run by evil and corrupt people and Shion and Nezumi have to reach a common understanding and somehow find a way to destroy the dystopia and hopefully save the people. Most of the show focussed on the interactions between the two boys, fleshing out their contrasting personalities and perspectives, while gradually building up their relationship.  Altogether, it was a short but complete story, but 11 episodes of following standard dystopian tropes meant that it was nothing remarkable.

There were two things that I completely disliked about the show. The first was the pacing. Things happened steadily in the first two episodes, then slowed down considerably after that focussing more on Shion and Nezumi’s “courtship”, before speeding up again in the last two to three episodes. Secondly, the plot was a bit of a let-down. It should have been more… thrilling. I expected more of a mystery from the story and truthfully found some of the revelations at the end extremely lame. It’s fortunate that this was a short show. It was over before the pacing and plot got too annoying.

I don’t regret watching No. 6  but it’s not something to celebrate either. I enjoyed it to some extent and might even watch it again someday if I’m bored enough. It was a good  way to kill two days of leave. If you have a completely free weekend, and don’t mind the sight of two boys kissing (and if you haven’t watched the show yet), give it a go.

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