Hinoki Kino’s manga series No. 6 is an adaptation of Atsuko Asano’s No. 6 science fiction novels. I’ve wanted to read the original series ever since I watched the No. 6 anime adaptation, but I am quite aware of how unlikely it is that the novels will be licensed any time soon, if ever. Still, I was very pleased when Kodansha Comics announced that Kino’s manga adaptation would be officially translated into English. No. 6, Volume 8 was originally released in 2013 while Kodansha’s edition was published in 2014. The English-language edition is actually based on the Japanese special edition of the volume, which means that it contains a bonus story as well as some additional material. Of particular note is a sixteen-page color illustration gallery which will most likely be limited to the first printing of No. 6, Volume 8 (at least in color). This is the first time that color pages have been included in the English-language version of No. 6; it’s Kodansha’s way of thanking readers for the strong support that they have shown the series.
Rat and Shion have been able to successfully infiltrate No. 6’s Correctional Facility, but it hasn’t been easy. The two young men have faced off with the building’s security forces and survived, but not without injury and not without taking the lives of some of those who would do them harm. It’s been a traumatizing experience for both Shion and Rat, but they are determined to complete their mission at whatever cost. Shion’s goal is to rescue his close friend Safu, who has been arrested and is being held within the Correctional Facility; Rat aspires to completely destroy No. 6 and anything and anyone associated with it. Sadly, Shion’s reunion with Safu isn’t all that he hoped for and now that Rat and Shion have reached the most secure and heavily guarded areas of the Correctional Facility they must find a way to escape–something that will prove to be even more dangerous than their initial assault on the building. With time quickly running out, it will be all that they can do just to survive.
Even though I am already familiar with the story of No. 6 it is still astounding and incredibly heart-wrenching to see just how much Shion has changed over the course of the series. And it’s not change without cause. He has seen and been put through terrible, horrifying things. Some harsh truths and decisions have been forced upon him while other choices have been entirely his own, either consciously or subconsciously. Glimmers of who Shion once was can still be seen–even when in utter despair he can somehow find beauty in life and in other people–but it’s likely only a matter of time before reality completely breaks him. Over the last few volumes he has been slipping further and further away; by this point in the series Shion’s mental state is extremely precarious. He is desperately trying, and failing, to process and make sense of everything that has happened. Tragically, Shion is no longer even capable of saving himself. It’s only when Rat’s life is in mortal danger that Shion is temporarily torn away from his inner turmoil and crisis.
No. 6, Volume 8 focuses almost entirely on the escape from the Correctional Facility. Kino’s action sequences have improved immensely since the beginning of the series, which is especially important for a volume which relies so heavily on them. Kino has started using some very interesting and effective angles of perspective, which adds to the dynamic nature of Rat and Shion’s flight. While there isn’t much plot advancement in the eighth volume of No. 6, there are still some crucial and defining character moments for both Rat and Shion. The changes that Shion has been going through have had a tremendous impact on Rat and as a result he is struggling, too. Although there is excitement and drama to be found within the story itself, it’s ultimately the characters and their evolution as the series steadily progresses that make No. 6 so gripping. With only one more volume to go there is still plenty that could happen, but no matter which direction No. 6 takes Rat and Shion will never be the same.