Original Run: Jul 8, 2011 to Sep 16, 2011
Genres: Action, Science-Fiction, Romance
(Heavy spoilers for the anime)
After the end of a long and bloody war, mankind began living in picture perfect city-states. But Shion, a resident of the most prominent city-state No.6 with remarkable intelligence that guarantees him a bright future, abruptly comes to understand the darker side of his home after an encounter with a young convict boy. Stripped off his elite privileges and moved to the less prosperous section of No.6, Shion soon adjusts to a life of menial work.
But the secrets of No.6 are darker than imagined and Shion soon finds himself reunited with the boy he saved as they try to unravel the mystery behind the faux utopia of No.6.
I found this anime in a recommendations list somewhere and it seemed nice enough so I gave it a try. The premise of No.6, of a dystopia disguised as a utopia, is not really a new one but it is a formula that I’m fond of. And at the beginning at least, the show delivers in that regard as the protagonist, Shion, is ripped away from his comfortable lifestyle and encounters the less savory aspects of his home. But mostly, No.6 focuses on Shion and Nezumi and their developing relationship with some plot sprinkled along the way. The relationship development is handled really well but the plot drags a lot, with the characters running around in circles while doing nothing, eventually culminating in a finale that is abrupt (giant bees, anyone?) and dissatisfactory (so many unanswered questions).
Taking a look at the positives of the show, that’s mostly the characters, particularly Shion and Nezumi. The two bond during a single, eventful night when they’re both young. When the consequences of that meeting leads to them meeting again four years later, Shion’s life and worldview are forced to undergo drastic changes. It’s definitely interesting to see how these two entirely different people come together in a classic example of opposites attracting. It’s a collision of worlds that leave neither party unscathed. The Shion and Nezumi at the end of the show are notably different from who they are at the beginning, and a lot of this is owed to their influence on each other.
On the matter of No.6 (the city, not the show) and its mysteries, the anime fails to deliver. We know No.6 is a totalitarian state that cleverly disguises its ruthless methods with a polished exterior. But we never get to see why No.6 is the way it is, how it came to be or even the idiot mastermind behind the queen bee fiasco. We know No.6 is evil but there’s no depth to it; it’s just evil for the sake of being evil because who needs a reason for doing fun things like making gigantic human corpse piles.
The ending is disappointing but more than that, it’s extremely confusing. They try to introduce elements of fantasy into the story and while that’s nice in theory, throwing in a giant rainbow bee that reproduces using human hosts in a less gross version of Aliens is probably not the best way to go about executing it. Oh and it can bring people back from the dead and heal mortal wounds. As if that’s not enough, there’s the utterly random mass slaughter at the end via magic bees that leaves a good portion of No.6 dead and the rest in what is effectively a state of anarchy. The ending is supposed to be hopeful and meaningful – I think – but I was and still am just very, very confused.
No.6 doesn’t have a very large cast. Most of the focus is on Shion and Nezumi, though secondary characters like Safu, Inukashi, Karan and Rikiga are interesting enough in their own right.
Shion starts out as a natural genius whose high intellect guarantees him elite privileges in No.6. But he’s shown from the very beginning to crave a sort of freedom denied to him by the comfortable but confining life in No.6. Even after an act of kindness costs him his charmed life, Shion retains his empathy and optimism. We see how Shion’s idealistic attitude sticks out like a sore thumb in West Block, which is where all of No.6’s rejects end up. But while his own misfortune does little to affect Shion, harming Nezumi seems to be a definite trigger for him. And towards the end, after witnessing his the city’s cruelty firsthand in the form of the purge of West Block’s inhabitants, Shion starts showing a vaguely unstable dark side once again triggered by any harm to those he cares about. By the end, he is markedly different from the naïve boy he was at first but still retains his gentle nature and positive outlook on life.
Used to the brutality of life and bearing a grudge against No.6, Nezumi is initially Shion’s polar opposite. His prime concern is for himself, except when it concerns Shion, a fact which Nezumi himself is bothered by. He is a multi-faceted character; cold, ruthless and a survivalist but with a passion for literature and performance arts as seen in his stage persona, Eve. As the story progresses, his self-serving philosophy is challenged by his own affection for Shion and he gradually mellows. Nezumi’s growth is in counterpoint to Shion’s. Where the latter grows out of his naiveté, Nezumi learns to care for more than just himself. An important aspect of Nezumi is his unrepentant desire to watch No.6 fall along with those inhabiting it but the change in his priorities is evidenced by his reaction, or lack thereof, when that much coveted event finally comes to pass.
Other than the main two, we have the information broker and dog-lender Inukashi (their name apparently translates to dog-lender) who has a semi-antagonistic relationship with Nezumi and takes a liking to Shion. Another character of note is Rikiga, a sleazy but surprisingly genuine man who was in love with Shion’s mother Karan. Shion’s blunt childhood friend Safu, his quietly strong mother and the vengeful reporter Youmin comprise this show’s small but strong cast.
Art and Music:
The character designs are nothing special; they’re not bad but they don’t stand out either. The backgrounds are usually detailed and look good. Despite the show being labeled as ‘Action’, there isn’t much of that going on but what little there is has some fluid animation.
The music isn’t really to my taste but the slow, ballad-like ED is pleasant to listen to. The OP is unremarkable and so is the OST.
No.6 is a watchable anime but the characters do spend a lot of time running around doing nothing and the ending is likely to leave you frustrated. Mixing fantasy with science fiction is a good idea with lots of potential but the execution of it here is severely lacking.