Shion and Rat’s adventure continues in the West Block.
After reading No. 6 Vol. 1, I felt excited to see what happened next in the sci-fi manga series. Based on novels by Atsuko Asano and featuring artwork by Hinoki Kino, No. 6 has thus far mixed dystopian themes with beautiful, highly detailed illustration. Does Vol. 2 further develop the plot in satisfying ways? Is it good?
Once again, No. 6 is beautiful to look at. In any piece of fiction centered around a world gone wrong, it’s important to get a clear picture of what that world is actually like, and this volume delivers that. From beautifully textured cloudy skies to decimated buildings, the world of No. 6 Vol. 2 is pleasing to look at while still conveying vital geopolitical information regarding what daily life is like for the series’ less wealthy characters.
This development of the desolate areas outside the titular city No. 6’s borders is the volume’s most important plot contribution. Shion takes Rat around the West Block, familiarizing him with the area while providing several opportunities for Shion to assert himself in ways he’s not used to. The characters’ drastically different capacities for skepticism and violence are a fundamental part of what makes their relationship so tense, so the decision to hone in on those things is a wise one. This volume also does a solid job hinting at the pair’s potential romantic tension as well as Shion’s sexuality. With that said, the volume’s strongest plot reveal has to do with connections between Rat’s past and Shion’s mother. It’s nice to see that she will likely continue being significant to the series’ plot as more than just an expendable loved-one character.
With all that said, I still felt a bit disappointed by this volume. This is because, though the plot’s progression feels logical and calculated, it also feels painfully slow. We don’t get much substantial new information about what is wrong with No. 6, just some background context on what it was like before it changed for the worst. This is important information to have of course, but the volume still lacks any sense of unfolding mystery. It’s also worth noting that while Rat and Shion’s time spent walking through the West Block serves a narrative purpose, it’s not very thrilling to read. None of the newly introduced characters are particularly interesting, and Rat and Shion didn’t touch on enough new ground for their discussions to feel entirely fresh or pivotal.
Overall, No. 6 Vol. 2 is a good read. The artwork throughout is beautiful and conveys a lot of vital information about the series’ world. The volume’s writing is also solid, and we get some cool historical context regarding the titular city. Unfortunately, the plot moves too slowly, especially after the first volume established such a brisk, exciting pace. There are also a number of new supporting characters who aren’t particularly interesting yet, so hopefully future volumes will flesh them out more. Nonetheless, this was a decent installment for the series, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.