No. 6 is one of the more ambitious projects of the season, second only to Mawaru Penguindrum. Garnering attention for the conspicuous BL undertones as well, it’s become one of the heavy hitters of the summer season for a myriad of reasons. It also has a well presented story, showing just a few things off in a utopian society, finally culminating with our lead taking in a fugitive from the law.
Our episode opens with a young man running frantically through a sewer after having just been shot, until he reaches a grate. As he frantically tries to pull it off to escape to the outside by dry humping the bars, his pursuers get closer and closer.Overhead, an ominous storm of symbolism is brewing as the camera pans to our protagonist, named Shion, sitting quietly in his classroom, listening to a fellow student named Safu give a lecture about the brain, and how the concept of a soul can be explained by neuroscience.
While this is going on, Shion fantasizes about drifting away on the approaching storm, before he’s called out of his trance by Safu. With Safu teased for being on the advanced track by other classmates, she goes apeshit on her tormentors. After school, Shion invites Safu over to her house. On the way there, Safu accuses Shion of not listening at all to her speech. Showing his high memory capacity, Shion proves her wrong and recites a part of her speech perfectly from memory.
Once the two reach Safu’s house, Shion is presented with a sweater that holds meaning to Safu and a celebration for his twelfth birthday. Accepting it, he’s given a parting kiss, which he barely acknowledges and Safu explains as her showing an urge to procreate. The boy may not show interest, but he has no excuse for any obliviousness that might pop up later. BL indicator #1. Shion heads home before the encroaching typhoon can catch him and heads to his room to study. To further show his love for stormy weather, he opens his window to shout gleefully into it to match the mourning call of the city’s indicator of a storm.
Taking the opportunity presented to him, the fugitive sneaks into Shion’s room and holds him hostage. Shion, not having normal senses of self preservation, welcomes said fugitive with open arms and even offers to treat his wounds. BL indicator #2. Learning that the fugitive is named Nezumi, and that the history behind the city of No. 6 may not be as straightforward and clean as he was taught, Shion goes downstairs to grab him some food while he recuperates. He talks to his mother, and it’s here that we learn that they’re on good terms and fairly close, but don’t really interact too much due to Shion’s heavy involvement with school.
When he returns upstairs, Nezumi tries to clash with him with words, but the two end up playfully fighting before lying in bed, hands interlocked. BL indicator #3. With a mysterious policeman driving by after the storm clears, Nezumi’s fate will most likely get wrapped up in Shion’s. His fate most likely not all that’s going to be wrapped up in Shion by the end of this series.
I know that the synopsis got sloppy toward the end, but this is something that’s best left seen rather than explained through text. While not nearly as nuanced as Usagi Drop was, the relationships and nature of this supposed utopia are best seen, particularly how the dregs of society are treated as nothing more than game animals. Or… just Nezumi this episode, but that’s close enough, yet kept out of the public conscience.
Right off the bat, there are a few subtle things off about this society. Considering how pristine it looks and the number of people flitting this way and that, it seems very devoid of life. Everyone marches according to their schedule, not given room to deviate. Status is held by those of higher intelligence, so those who’re exceptionally bright are plucked and placed right in the lap of luxury, unaware of the severe poverty those who don’t pass such a grueling task go through. It’s a society built on the blood of its workers, with the blood kept out of sight and out of mind.
The students, seen giving presentations on what would be considered advanced material for even the brightest of college students, are barely old enough to have their feelings sorted out. Really, there’s probably a lot more going on here, but this definitely not as utopian as Shion would like to believe.
The relationship between Shion and Nezumi is definitely a stark contrast between his and Safu’s. While most will scream that it’s romantic, and it can certainly be thought as such thus far with the actions that the two have taken together, I believe it’s mostly one of Shion looking at Nezumi with wonder. For Shion who is known nothing but a blissful, if academically strenuous existence, this is an object of unheralded fascination for him, and arguably the one that will ultimately dethrone him from his ideal lifestyle. A case of curiosity killing the cat, or the cat protecting curiosity from The Man.
As for this episode itself, No. 6 did quite a lot right in setting up an interesting story through a mixture of exposition and visuals. Not in the SHAFT way of the visuals being eye candy of dubious relevance, but of the visuals and the dialogue building on each other to build a future that feels real, similar to Aria.
The animation is quite good for the most part, as are the voices. The OP and ED are fitting and relatively subtle. On that front, nothing’s bad at all, but nothing’s particularly worth mentioning either. As for the BL undertones… they’re present, but not distracting. You’ll find them if you look, but they’re a garnish akin to mushrooms on an already lush salad; easy to stomach for those who don’t care for it, a treat for those who love homoerotic tension.
Well, my thoughts were certainly all over the place on this. Long story short, No. 6 is something good that I couldn’t find any immediate flaw with. It might fall apart in later episodes, but for now it’s off to a promising start. Take this as a recommendation.