Atsuko Asano and Hinoki Kino’s sci-fi dystopian manga No. 6 has impressed me thus far. Its characters are multi-faceted, its artwork is stunning, and its contribution to dystopian literature is unique. Previous volumes have gone up and down between being great or just good, so how does Vol. 4 stack up?
No. 6 Vol. 4 starts off with one of the best chapters in the entire series thus far. Up until now, Shion and Rat’s relationship has been tense; the characters clearly feel strong affection for each other but that affection is complicated by their difficulty acknowledging it as well as their major ideological differences. After some hints at the romantic nature of their emotions in previous volumes, the pair finally hits an important benchmark here. I don’t want to spoil any of the details, but after so much lead-up this volume’s opening chapter is incredibly satisfying. The pair’s relationship is still fraught with issues, but their emotions are beautifully conveyed here, both writing-wise and art-wise. Rat’s development is particularly great to see given how harsh his behavior was throughout previous volumes.
The volume’s remaining three chapters don’t match the high quality of the first, but they’re still good. Rat, Shion, Dogkeeper, and Rikiga begin gathering information on the Correctional Facility in order to rescue Safu. Their methods for gathering that information are controversial and trigger major in-group conflicts. Perhaps more notable than the information the group gathers is what information they can’t obtain; a strong sense of corruption and mystery still drives the plot forward. Unfortunately, these segments of the narrative aren’t as enthralling as the start; though the events depicted are important their actual execution feels a bit too slow. It’s easy to lose some interest when several chapters in a row consist almost entirely of characters talking.
The one aspect of this volume that almost never disappoints is its artwork. I’ve been saying this since the series began, but Kino’s work is just exceptional. Light sources, shading, textures, architecture, facial expressions–all of these things are beautifully rendered. There’s a two-page-spread in the aforementioned great first chapter that is just phenomenal–and it’s not your average two-page-spread depicting action-heavy events. Kino hones in on a tender emotional moment between two characters, fully detailing them and their surroundings at a pivotal second in time. There’s no dialogue or caption, just them–and it’s the best moment in this volume by far.
Overall, No. 6 Vol. 4 is a good read. Its opening chapter is excellent and features the culmination of romantic tension sprinkled throughout the series’ first three volumes. The following chapters are still good, but unfortunately their pacing is a bit too slow so the plot’s progression feels stilted. Thankfully, the artwork throughout is nearly flawless, as Kino continues to be deserving of major praise. This may not be the series’ best volume, but it’s still yet another strong showing from a talented creative team.