「伝えてくれ、ありのままを」 (Tsutaete kuru, Ari no Mama wo)
“Tell Me the Truth”
Like it’s NoitaminA stablemate Usagi Drop, No. 6 ends on an understated, restrained and reflective note – a quiet and dignified final episode that reflected the nature of the series as a whole.
Oh, wait – no, it didn’t do that at all. It was a gigantic FUBAR.
I picture the inner sanctum at BONES during the planning for this final episode, with one of the staff asking what was left of the novels that they hadn’t used already, and, given the answer, asking what they should use in the finale. Director Nagasaki Kenji’s response must surely have been, “All of it! Use it all!”
Once I again I find myself asking whether the helpless peals of laughter I was emitting after the finale were a good thing or not. In a strange way I think No. 6 was as true to itself in the end as Usagi Drop was – it was overdramatic, confusing, breathlessly sincere and hilariously absurd. And I have to admire that, just as I did all along with this show – it never pulled its punches or worried about believability or restraint (certainly not restraint). It just said “These go up to eleven!” and cranked up the volume of insanity.
So what did happen? As near as I can tell, Elyurias intentionally delivered Safu into the hands of No. 6, which was trying to use Elyurias for their own power, because she was a perfect medium and would allow Elyurias to wipe out the city and reclaim it for nature. The wasps were an experiment No. 6 was conducting on its own citizens as some sort of way to harness Elyurias’ (who appears to be a giant wasp) power, with the help of a supercomputer called “Mother”. Yoming was part of some sort of violent resistance that planned to overthrow the city, but was a casualty when the wasps hatched. Nezumi was shot at least three times and lost twice his own body weight in blood, but because Shion stitched him up he was able to overcome a perfectly healthy Shion and disable him, using a bomb to blow up the correctional facility, which in turn destroyed the city wall. Shion himself was shot in the heart, but when ElyuriaSafu went non-corporeal, she emanated some sort of magic healing dandruff that cured Nezumi’s wounds and resurrected Shion from the dead. Nezumi kissed Shion on the lips again just to remind us this was a bromance, then left for no apparent reason except so the ending would be bittersweet. Did I miss anything? I would have used more punctuation and paragraph breaks, but the show didn’t use any so I figured I shouldn’t either.
I’ll give BONES credit, it was certainly a breathtakingly fast-paced finale. I was a little disappointed that we never saw the reunion between Shion and Karan or learned the identity of Shion’s baby, and I would have liked to have gotten some sort of indication as to just what No. 6 needed those mountains of people for. And Dogkeeper and Rikiga fleeing together because they “wanted to survive” was pretty anticlimactic. But while the novels might be different, I can’t help but feel like trying to make sense of the No. 6 anime is rather beside the point. It was certainly confusing enough and had just enough metaphysics to be BONES, but in the end it was a pretty unique experience, not quite like anything else they’ve done.
ED2: 「六等星の夜」 (Rokutousei no Yoru) (Full Version) by Aimer
NoitaminA couldn’t have found much more of a yin-yang than Usagi Drop and No. 6, could they? Where the one was subtle, low-key and direct, the other was sheer outrageous bombast, full of sound and fury signifying… Well, I don’t know what. But it was a trip. I kind of like this “head/heart” format that NoitaminA has used lately, though it seems as if they’re going in a different direction with two sci-fi accented shows this fall, geared more towards an otaku audience. I think the slice-of-life, emotional series have been the more successful artistically for NoitaminA, so this is a questionable change. We’ll see.
Through no fault of its own I can’t help but compare this show to Fractale and C, its two predecessors in the Brain Block of NoitaminA. While Hourou Musuko, AnoHana and Usagi Drop have all adapted well to the 11-episode schedule, we see with all three sci-fi based series that the format is extremely problematic. C was the most egregious example, and this series was certainly more successful than that one. And while I rank it about level with Fractale on the whole, I don’t think the ending fell apart quite as badly with No. 6. Here, I think the source material was so much bigger than the episode count would accommodate that some tough choices needed to be made, and clearly weren’t. This probably would have been a much better series with 26 episodes.
But for all that, I really do admire No. 6 for sticking to its guns. It really was a throwback to the anime of the 90’s with its over-the-top dialogue, apocalyptic imagery and soaring BGM. I’ve said already that the characters speak as if they’re in a play, and I really do find that to be true – and with this show as much as any I can recall the suspension of disbelief is truly crucial to getting any sort of enjoyment from it. It’s a mess, it’s confusing, it’s preposterous, offtimes silly and (I suspect) unintentionally funny. But it is fun, at least for me, in part because I haven’t seen anything like it for ages. Kamisama Dolls – a much better series than No. 6 – is another one that has strong elements of ‘90s style, so perhaps this heralds a return to a different age in anime – and least for a little slice of the genre pie.
The elements of ‘90s style shounen-ai certainly weren’t for everyone, and they ironically probably generated more discussion than any other element of the show despite being a very small part of it. For me, having cut my teeth on ‘90s anime, the light bromance here was nothing, and even sweet. But we live in a age where anime are pretty much either full-on yaoi or none at all, where everything is targeted at a specific audience. It didn’t always used to be that way, and even now yuri is widely accepted and even applauded by fans of “mainstream” anime. And while I’d certainly rather watch Mahiru tuning in Tokyo with Hibino than see Nezumi and Shion snogging, I also think we can be big enough to accept a little subtext and not lose our lunches. If it bothers you, no one had a gun to your head telling you to watch…
I’m not going to pretend everything worked with this series, or even most of it. Analyzed point by point, I think you’d walk away thinking it was a dismal failure. But viewed as a whole, the experience was mostly pleasant for me. There was a guileless charm to No. 6, a show where people would say and do the most preposterous things without a hint of self-awareness. I don’t think it really belonged on NoitaminA and it probably could have used some serious editing, but I give BONES credit for sticking to their guns and going all in with the craziness.