Thus far, Kodansha Comics’ No. 6 has impressed me with its memorable characters, beautiful artwork, and unique sci-fi premise. With that said, I have often had gripes with the series’ slow pacing. In Vol. 6, we finally get some solid answers about Rat’s past, as well as insight into the founding of the city No. 6 itself. The volume, written by Atsuko Asano and illustrated by Hinoki Kino, collects chapters 20 through 23, and builds momentum for the rapidly approaching conclusion. Does No. 6 Vol. 6 make up for the series’ slow-burn thus far?
Story-wise, this is one of the series’ most thrilling volumes. The information we get regarding Rat’s childhood and the origins of his hatred for No. 6 does not disappoint. His character development here is the most satisfying it has been in a few volumes. Rat’s relationship with Shion also gets fleshed out successfully; their interactions no longer feel as repetitively antagonistic as they have in past installments. This volume’s plot revelations about No. 6’s founding are also satisfying. The story is moving in a different direction than I originally anticipated, and I appreciate the fact that Asano and Kino are keeping me on my toes. Watching Shion grow in unexpected ways is particularly enjoyable.
Visually speaking, this volume is fantastic. Kino’s work on Vol. 5, while still good, was not quite at the level of previous installments. In Vol. 6, however, they deliver some of their best work to date. The texture-work is beautiful, the detail in many of the background shots is impressive, and the storytelling’s flow from panel to panel is clear and effective. Much of this volume takes place in underground caves, which provides Kino with a great opportunity to showcase their talent for rendering the interplay of light with shadow.
With all that said, I still have some very minor qualms with this volume. The pacing for the segments starring Shion and Rat is impeccable, but the events that take place inside No. 6 feel slightly underdeveloped. The shoe finally drops in terms of No. 6’s beginning to fall into chaos, which I like because of how long we’ve been waiting. Nonetheless, now that it’s finally happened, I wish it had gotten a bit more actual page-time. I also hope that Karan and her associates within the city will get fleshed out more before the series is over. As is, their importance to the plot is clear, but I don’t actually feel very invested in what happens to them.
Overall, No. 6 Vol. 6 is a great volume. My qualms with it are all quite minor, and they are mostly confined to the last chapter. Before that, there’s virtually nothing wrong. The artwork is not just beautiful as always; it’s some of the best the series has had thus far. Thankfully, the writing is also elevated to that high level. We finally get some detailed explanations regarding Rat’s childhood and how No. 6 was founded, and the answers are satisfying. No. 6 only has three volumes left, and if the rest of the series is as good as Vol. 6 then it will likely go down as one of my favorite manga ever.