Story by: Atsuko Asano
Art by: Hinoki Kino
In the walled utopia of No. 6, Shion has spent his childhood living the life of an ideal citizen: educated, privileged, conforming. But somewhere deep beneath the surface, Shion is not simply the obedient boy he seems, and one stormy night as he opened his window to the rain, everything changed. Because that evening brought not only the rain, but also a boy, hunted, injured, and not much older than himself–a boy being tracked by the government of No. 6 as a dangerous criminal. Shion helps the boy, who goes only by the name “Rat,” to safety, staying behind in No. 6 himself. But after that night’s encounter, something was set in motion, and neither Shion’s nor Rat’s life would ever be the same again.
No. 6 is an incredible dystopian manga in a world where dystopian stories exist ad nauseum. Truly, I’m just about sick of dystopian books, but this manga is something special. The world is brilliantly well-developed in its isolation and intentional misinformation, and the combination of Rat’s rage against the city balanced against Shion’s gradual realization of the government’s corruption is very nicely done. The characters are subtle, complex, and moving: Rat with his suave competence, his skills with all sorts of robotics and weaponry, his love of classic literature, his surprising career as an actor/singer, his external sarcasm and coldness, and his secret fragility. Shion with his baby face, his utter innocence of any sort of real life outside of No. 6’s protection, his brains, his tenderness, and his underlying instability and even cruelty. And of course, the miscellaneous other individuals who come to their aid, all painstakingly written. I think the relationship between Shion and Rat is fascinating as well–they clearly care for each other, yet there’s this level of mistrust there also, coupled with the fact that Shion loves what Rat hates: the city itself–it’s clearly a very complicated situation for them both. Kino’s treatment of the story in manga format is commendable; the characters are grippingly true to themselves, the scenery is lovely, and the manga as a whole is beautiful in spite of the often violent material. No. 6 is a dystopian/shounen ai manga that I would definitely recommend–something of a favorite of mine, actually.