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Anime by Studio Bones and Manga Adaptation by Kino Hinaki. All based on the light novel by Atsuko Asana

Let me begin by saying this is one of my favorite anime/manga/light novels. The story is captivating, the characters are brilliant, and I feel so many emotions when watching and reading this work. It’s a story about two boys from different worlds that change the world together, which sounds pretty simple when it’s anything but that. It’s a story about a perfect utopia, secure, safe, happy & peaceful within its walls. And what exists beyond the walls.

No. 6 is the name of the city in which one of our protagonists resides. Here, everything has a place in society. Things are orderly. Everyone is clothed, fed, and mostly content with their lives. There are, of course, marriages, divorces, births, and deaths. Even in a utopia there are flaws. In order to account for and correct these flaws, the government of No. 6 has a unique method of tracking everyone. All of your personal information and access to buildings and areas comes from a unique comms device you wear on your wrist. Even in this utopia, some people want to harm others. But those who have tendencies to create harm or hurt others in society are implanted with a VC chip in their bodies to always know their exact location. Eventually, these individuals are discovered and taken to a correctional facility. There they are removed from the community. These chips keep track of the deviants in an instant, with their vitals read & continuously monitored. The government is constantly searching for behavior that they deem deviant.

The story begins when we see a young boy, probably around 13 or 14, running underground through the sewers, the catacombs, chased by men with guns. They are shouting and shooting at him while he runs, trying to escape. Finally, he reaches a drainage grate, and we can see that he’s bleeding.

The scene shifts immediately to our other primary character, Shion. He’s a young boy sitting at school staring out the window while a young girl, Safu, presents a report on neurotransmitters in rats. The school looks to be elite, filled with advanced-intelligence students. Shion stares out the window watching the wind blow. He imagines himself made of leaves floating away on the wind. The boys in the class are teasing Safu for wearing clothes made by her grandmother, while everyone else wears machine-made clothing made from synthetic fibers. They also laugh at her just for being different. At this point, we sense that she and Shion are kindred spirits. After a moment, Shion returns his attention to Safu’s presentation.

On their way home from school, Safu teases Shion about ignoring her presentation. He turns towards her, then reciting her presentation back to her. He tells Safu how he was distracted by the wind and the storm moving in. He goes on, explaining how he is looking forward to the coming storm. She thinks he’s weird for it, but since she accepts herself as being a little odd herself, she accepts Shion for who he is. When they reach Safu’s home, her grandmother is knitting clothes. They have dinner and cake to celebrate because it’s Shion’s 12th birthday. Safu’s grandma has knitted Shion a sweater for him as a present. Safu walks him out & gives him his 12th birthday gift, a kiss from her. He is bewildered, but she brushes it off, explaining it in terms of biological imperatives. He shakes off his confusion then heads home quickly to make it there before the storm arrives.

Shion arrives home and immediately heads to his room. He tosses his bag down and throws the curtains back. From here, I want you to read the passage for yourself. I have chosen the light novel adaption for its beauty. In other parts of this review, I will include anime snips and manga pages.

Citizens could find out the best time and place to watch or gaze at
these through the city’s service system. Obedient, perfected nature.
But even it would be raging on a day like this. It was, after all, a
hurricane.

A branch with green leaves still attached smacked into the
window. A gust of wind followed, and its roar resonated for some time.
At least, I thought I could hear it resonate. The soundproof glass cut
me off from any outside noise. I wanted the window out of my way. I
wanted to hear, to feel, the raging wind. Almost without thinking, I
threw the window open. The wind, the rain, came blowing in. The
wind rumbled as if coming from deep within the earth. It was a roar I
hadn’t heard in a long time. I, too, raised my own hands and let out a
yell. It would scatter on the storming winds and reach no one’s ears.
Yet still, I shouted, with no meaning. Raindrops flew into my throat. I
knew I was being childish, but I couldn’t stop. It began raining harder.
How exciting it would be to take off all my clothes and burst out into
the rain. I tried to imagine myself naked, running around in the
torrential storm. I would definitely be declared insane. But it was an
irresistible temptation. I opened my mouth wide again and swallowed
the droplets. I wanted to repress this strange impulse. I was afraid of
what lurked inside me. At times, I find I’m overwhelmed by a
tumultuous, savage surge of emotions.

Break it.

Destroy it.

Destroy what?

Everything.

Everything?

There was a mechanical warning sound. It was notifying me that
the atmospheric conditions in the room were deteriorating. Eventually,
the window would close and lock automatically. Dehumidification and
temperature control would commence, and all wet things in the room,
including me, would be dried instantly. I wiped my dripping face on
the curtain and made my way to the door to turn the air control system
off.
What if, at that moment, I had obeyed the warning sound?
Sometimes, I still wonder about it. If I had closed the window and
chosen to stay in the adequately dry comfort of my room, my life
would have been entirely different. It wasn’t regret, not anything like
that. It was just a peculiar thought. The one thing that changed my
whole world, so meticulously controlled up until now, happened from
that one small coincidence ― that on September 7, 2013, on a stormy
day, I, by chance, had opened the window. It was a very peculiar
thought.
And though I don’t have a particular God I believe in, there are
times when I do feel a certain conviction toward the term ‘Divine
Hand’.
I turned the switch off. The warning sound stopped. A sudden
silence fell over the room.

Heh.

I heard a faint laugh behind me. Instinctively I whirled around
and gave a small cry. There was a boy standing there, soaking wet. It
took me a while to realize that he was a boy. He had shoulder-length
hair that almost hid his small face. His neck and arms that protruded
from his short-sleeved shirt were thin. I couldn’t tell whether he was a
boy or a girl, whether he was very young or older than he looked. My
eyes and conscience were too focused on his left shoulder, which was
stained red, to think about anything else.
It was the color of blood. I had never seen anyone bleeding as
profusely as he was. Instinctively I was extending my hand out to him.
The intruder’s figure vanished at my fingertips. At the same time, I felt
an impact, and I was slammed against the wall with a strong force. I
felt an icy sensation on my neck. They were fingers, five of them,
closing around my throat.

These words and feelings Shion experiences begin the unraveling of Number 6.

The boy who grabbed Shion by the throat is bleeding in front of him. The two boys are polar opposites, one pampered and one from the wrong side of the wall. However, Shion does something unexpected that night. He lies to his mother, sews up Nezumi’s (Rat) wound. Then, he feeds him and gives him a change of clothes. He then brings a slice of cake up to Nezumi. Nezumi quickly flips Shion under him and holds the spoon’s handle against Shion’s neck, explaining that if this were a knife, Shion would be dead. He means to scare Shion, but Shion is unlike anyone Nezumi has even met before. He begins to ask questions so he can learn how Nezumi subdued him. Nezumi asks if he can sleep, and Shion says yes. The two boys fall asleep on the bed with their arms around each other, with Nezumi’s last words echoing in his ear before Shion sleeps. “Living people are so warm.”

The following morning, Shion wakes up, and Nezumi is gone, and Shion’s world begins to change. The Bureau of Corrections comes knocking on their door as they have traced Nezumi’s location to that house. We jump forward in time four years later.

This clip is the intro theme song to the anime version of No. 6. It sums up their beginnings very well.

Shion is now a maintenance worker who works on robots that clean public parks. He lost his status and privileges the day after he saved Nezumi. He admitted to knowing Nezumi was a VC (violent criminal) but helping him anyway. Shion had no excuse or reason to offer, so they stripped him of his privileges. Shion and his mother Karan moved to Lost town.

Shion and his co-worker find a dead man in the park. He is shriveled and shrunken and appears to have died of old age. They call someone to pick up and take care of the body. Then they lament the fact the person died in the park. They go about their day, unaware of the chain of events set in motion by this one act.

After work, Shion meets with Safu, who informs him she’s going to study in another district -Number 5. She teases him about missing life in academia, and he agrees. She knows he is lying because he actually seems content. Before they part ways, Safu, in her blunt way, asks Shion for his sperm before she leaves. He looks completely clueless. Safu asks him if he has no interest or fantasies with girls, to which he quickly denies. He tells her; however, he thinks of her as a friend and to please ask him again in two years when her study is over. At this point, a mouse climbs up to him and whispers in his ear, “you are still slow as ever.” He leaves Safu to chase the rat calling out to Nezumi. He seems frantic to catch up with the rat and Nezumi.

In my opinion, it’s a cover for Shion to say he has an average healthy interest in girls. Nowhere in any of the three formats of the story that I consumed was there ever a point where Shion seemed remotely interested in women. If I had to label him after all I’ve read and seen, I would probably say ‘demisexual’ (an individual who won’t experience sexual attraction until they have formed a strong emotional connection with a prospective partner), leaning towards the gay side of the spectrum.

Now back to the story. I promise I won’t recap all 11 episodes and nine volumes of manga and novel translations. However, this setup I want to explain before I talk more about the plot and characters. Shion’s mom now runs a bakery in Lost Town. We see a reporter and his niece become regular’s at Karan’s bakery. He also plays an integral part in this narrative.

Shion arrives at the facility the next day and scans his bracelet, swearing loyalty to Number 6. His co-worker tells Shion that the man whose remains they found the day before was only 31 years of age. And instead of releasing the body to his family, the department swept in and confiscated the body. Shion says to his friend do you think they’re manipulating the news? The friend gets a fearful look in his eyes and looks left and right while telling Shion he shouldn’t question the government. The worker begins to scratch his neck, then suddenly, the man starts to wither in front of Shion’s eyes. He soon resembles the husk they found in the park the day before. As Shion looks on in horror, a wasp emerges from the side of the man’s neck.

Suddenly, government officials and law enforcement come to take the body, and Shion is arrested, being charged with murder. He will be taken to the Correctional Facility for being disloyal to Number 6. Driving away, they pass by his mother’s bakery, and she spots him in the back of the car.

As you probably guessed, Nezumi rescues Shion, and the two escape to West Block, the town that exists outside the borders of No. 6. The way to the West Block is through the sewers, the smell and muck that residents of No. 6 produce. Before you learn about everyone else’s reality, you have to go through Number 6’s shit. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself) This passing through the sewers begins Shion’s awakening to the realities of No. 6 and to those who live outside the walls.

Much has changed since the boys parted ways four years ago. They are older now, and Nezumi is jaded. He’s a street-smart survivor who lives in an old library surrounded by books he’s read. He frequently recites Shakespeare from memory. He’s well-spoken with a keen mind—the survivalist with the soul of a poet.

Shion is no longer a boy. But his hunger for knowledge and experience still strongly exists in him. So he wanders around the city, equal parts amazed and terrified as he begins his new life with Nezumi in West Block. This life is raw and unfiltered, not tame, sweet, or kind. Violence is a way of life with kids hustling the streets or stealing food.

Nezumi hates No. 6. He wishes to see it destroyed and burned to ashes. We don’t know why, but we feel his resolve. Somehow he will find a way to make this happen. He makes sure to warn Shion of his intentions. If, after discovering the truth about No. 6, Shion still wants to save No. 6, he will become Nezumi’s enemy.

Shion meets Inukashi (Dog Loan). Inukashi runs a hotel where he rents out rooms to people without a home and rents out his pack of dogs as warmth for his customers. A dog-mom raised him as a young baby. The dog adopted him, nursed him, keeping him warm, and treating him like her pup. Inukashi was given to the mama dog by an old man who didn’t know about babies but knew about dogs. When he grew up, the old man left one day, but Inukashi stayed with his dog family and survived. He created a business to rent out rooms and dogs for warmth.

Inukashi is a transgender character in the novel, manga, and anime. In the novel, Inukashi uses the pronouns he and him when referring to himself. You don’t realize until the last third of the book that Inukashi was born female. It is mentioned once in the anime, manga, and books in a vague reference. I love that Shion, Nezumi, and everyone around Inukashi accept him as male without discussion or hesitation. Shion only notices when he puts his arm around Inukashi to comfort him, and he realizes that Inukashi has the same soft shoulders as Safu. That’s it. It’s lovely to see the normalization of transgender people in society.

Meanwhile:

A mouse comes to Karan (Shion’s mom’s) bakery carrying a note from Nezumi. It’s from Shion:

I’m sorry, Mom.

I’m still alive.

She breaks down in relief. Shion’s ok. Safu comes to visit Karan at her bakery. She wants to know where Shion is and is determined to find him. She admits to his mother that she loves him. Therefore, she will leave the city and find him. Once she leaves the bakery, Safu is taken into custody to be sent to a Correctional Facility as Karan watches helplessly.

The mouse returns to Nezumi with a new note inside.

Safu was taken to the correctional facility.

Please help her.

Nezumi knows how much Safu means to Shion. He wants to throw away the note & forget about Shion’s ties to people in the city. But for once in his life, he realizes that he’s scared to lose someone. Shion snuck in under his defenses, and Nezumi is terrified at the prospect of caring for another person. But he can’t bear to disappoint or hurt Shion. So he secretly enlists the help of Inukashi to find information about the Correctional Facility.

Many things happened here. I know it may seem like a recap, and partly it is. But I can’t talk about the novel, manga, or anime without some context. From the beginning, we, like Nezumi, are drawn to this enigma that is Shion. Shion is from a society where all the needs are met. At the beginning of the series, before meeting Nezumi, we see that Shion is a dreamer. Someone whose head is in the clouds with one foot in reality while the rest is in a dream-like state. He feels longing and restlessness but doesn’t know why. His curiosity extends to everyone and everything. He appears to fear nothing, however, not with ego or arrogance. Instead, he trusts his instincts & sees the best in people. When Nezumi turns up, he doesn’t see an escaped criminal. He only sees an injured young boy who needs help. Even when threatened, all he can think about is how to help Nezumi with no thought to his own safety or comfort.

And then we have Nezumi. Nezumi is a survivor, you see. He’s tough, emotionally scarred, and steadfastly unable and unwilling to let anyone get close to him. Yet the very first night he meets Shion, Nezumi falls asleep with his arms wrapped around Shion, holding him close. To fall asleep with someone after a traumatic event implies a deep level of trust that this person won’t hurt or betray you. Somehow he senses that Shion is unique and even trustworthy because he allows himself to be vulnerable in front of him, even seeking warmth and comfort in his arms. Something we suspect has never happened for Nezumi before.

So far, an exciting start. I hope you guys decide to read it. The manga is available at bookstores and also available on Kindle. You can buy the DVD from eBay or Amazon. Just make sure it’s the correct region. The English novel translation is not licensed but available through fan translation on the web.

Let me know if you’ve seen it or read it. If so, let me know your thoughts on the story.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. [See our Review Guide]

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Daring to Dream says:

    So glad to see your review. You pointed me to the light novel after I had already seen (and been enthralled for the most part) by the anime. I had started the Manga- which was also good, but seemed to reveal that the anime had closely followed the manga.
    The light novel is another level for me- especially the thoughts and motivations of Shion. He appears as an anime trope – the sweet doe-eyed innocent who often relives on others to survive- but everyone responds to his pure soul.
    The novel version is much more complex and interesting to me. Now he is an active character in his life adventure- with goals and fears that are reasonable to pursue.
    I like that you have combined all three versions in your review and hope others tune in to this wonderful piece of work:)

    • jenhg says:

      I’m so happy that you reminded me of this work. The novel is beautifully written. It is my favorite of the three forms of this story. Spoiler alert, the manga follows the novel more closely than it follows the anime. There are certain scenes which were changed in the anime adaptation. Personally, I didn’t care for the scene changes, but understand why they chose to do it that way. It will be in my third review. My wordy self couldn’t possibly fit everything into one review, so you are stuck reading three parts. 😁 Looking forward to discussing more about this work. 🥰 💕 – Jen

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