NO.6 – 03
「生と死と」 (Sei to Shi to)
“Life and Death”
NO.6 continues to be a solid, entertaining BONES effort despite not really hitting anything out of the park in three well-produced episodes.
I said last week (not without some disagreement) that the dialogue was somewhat awkward with this show. Well, to be honest I still don’t feel it’s a strength – but I’m beginning to settle into the comfort zone the series invites the viewer to share. This plays like a good YA story, and the dialogue tends towards stating the obvious and dramatic flourish over subtlety. But hey, that’s all right, and in some ways I think this could be viewed as a throwback series in terms of style. In fact, the anime feels very much like one that was produced at the time the first novel of this series was written – 1999. And I’ll give credit to BONES for being true to that.
There’s more than a little of the junior detective in this story, and Shion plays the protagonist role pretty well. Of course the hints laid out in regards to his appearance were confirmed here, as Rat finally noticed (just in time) the signs that Shion had been infected. It was time to return the favor for Shion’s little impromptu surgery in the premiere, except this time there was no anesthetic, and Rat cutting a pupal wasp out of Shion’s neck was one of more grisly moments in the series. When Shion awoke three days later his hair was white, and a ribbon scar ran up his torso to his face as a reminder of how close he came to death (and as an object for Rat to fondle tenderly).
While the underlying sci-fi plotline is a good one, it seems clear NO.6 will stand or fall on the relationship between the two boys at the heart of the story. The elements that made some uncomfortable are still here, but I choose to view them as genuine fraternal affection between two fundamentally lonely people. More importantly, the two make a nice contrast in terms of character. Shion is as naive as they come, though that’s already started chipping away as Rat doles out nuggets of the truth (as he sees it). Shion is analytical and forgiving, as witness his desire to try and find a way to use his own antibodies to save the city from what he sees an an impending annihilation at the hands of the parasitic wasps (translations aside, wasp makes more sense than bee from a behavioral standpoint). Rat, by contrast, seems to take genuine glee in the prospect of the residents of No. 6 screaming in terror as their lives are ripped from them. He even counsels Shion to forget his mother, though he secretly gets a message to her after Shion expresses concern over her worrying. He’s a lover of literature with decidedly old-fashioned tastes in human culture. Rat seems, if you’ll forgive the use of an overused term, tsundere towards the human race generally and Shion specifically.
Of course, what Shion – and we – don’t know yet are the reasons why Rat hates No. 6 so much, and it appears we’ll find those out next week. Several nice seeds were sown in this ep, not least of which is the coming conflict between the boys about helping the city. We also met one new character, Inukashi – known as Dogkeeper (Shindou Kei), with the promise of more next week. Dogkeeper runs a “hotel” where she lets the desperate souls of the West District sleep with only the warmth of a rented dog (interesting entrepreneurial notion) to stave off freezing. She’s an information trafficker too, and from the looks of things an uneasy ally/rival of Rat’s.
I suspect this show is not going to work for everybody. It’s decidedly retro and rather self-serious, with only occasional moments of levity (such as Shion throwing water in Rat’s face, mistaking his laughter for a fit). This is one of those series where suspension of disbelief is necessary, not just because it’s a rather grand fiction but because the characters behave as if they’re part of one. It’s working for me, though, and if you can switch off the cynicism enough to embrace it I think you’ll enjoy the ride.