The sci-fi love story comes to a close.
No. 6 has been one of my favorite manga ever since I read its first volume earlier this year. The unique mixture of dystopian themes, body horror, action-adventure, and analysis of what it means to trust another person has gripped me from the start, and the series has yet to deliver a bad volume. Written by Atsuko Asano and drawn by Hinoki Kino, No. 6 Vol. 9 brings the series to a close with chapters 32-35. Vol. 8 ended with Shion and Rat successfully bringing down the Correctional Facility, but Rat was injured and there were a number of as yet unresolved plot threads. Does Vol. 9 wrap said threads up effectively, and does No. 6 end on a high note?
As far as character development and handling of characters’ motivations go, this volume impresses. Shion and Rat’s relationship has always been the emotional cornerstone of the series, and they get a fitting send-off. Without spoiling any major events, I’ll just say that the two have possibly their most poignant romantic moment ever in this volume. The pair’s relationship has never been without tension, but it ends on a note that stays true to both their differences and their affection. As the series progressed, I never felt like I knew how Shion and Rat would end up, but I’m pleased with how their respective arcs played out.
I’m also impressed by the artwork in this volume, but that’s nothing new. Kino delivered strong work across the entire series, and she didn’t take her foot off the gas for the final lap. Shion and Rat’s heartwarming moments are all the more enjoyable due to how real Kino makes them feel. The shine of their hair, the texture of their clothes, and the interplay of light and shadow throughout backgrounds are all lovely. The solidity of the line-work varies a bit, with more action-oriented and chaotic panels receiving more fluid lines to match. Another standout part of this volume’s visuals is Elyurias, who we finally get to see on-panel after only being alluded to in past volumes. I love insects and kaiju, so Elyurias’ giant bee design is right up my alley.
Unfortunately, I’m not as fond of Elyurias narratively. The supernatural nature of their story feels at odds with the rest of the series’ focus on human nature, civilization, and abuse. I don’t hate Elyurias’ scenes, as they’re well-written in and of themselves, but they would have been more enjoyable with additional build-up and stronger thematic integration into the rest of the narrative. I also wish that some plot events received more page-time. There aren’t any major lingering plot threads, but it would have been nice to get a little insight about what happens to No. 6 once the ending flashes forward a ways into the future.
Overall, No. 6 Vol. 9 is a fitting end to a great series. Shion and Rat’s relationship gets its most heartwarming development to date, and most of the supporting characters get some final page-time. The artwork is also beautiful as always. My only major qualm with this volume is that the supernatural Elyurias plot doesn’t feel fully integrated with the rest of the story. It also would have been nice to get more page-time devoted to the fate of No. 6. With that said, I appreciate the open-ended nature of parts of the conclusion, and this volume’s quality is high enough that I’m more satisfied than not. This is a series I’m going to miss.