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No. 6 Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

Utopia’s are never what they seem as decay continually lurks beneath it.

What They Say:
In a near future world, after the last great war, most of mankind lives in a handful of city states. There, for the privileged elite, life should be perfect. But for young Shion, the only thing perfect has been the nightmare his life has become since letting a strange boy called Rat spend the night in his apartment.

Banished to the outskirts of the city and stripped of all privileges for helping the mysterious stranger who has since disappeared, Shion now finds himself in even worse danger as his inquiry into a new series of mysterious deaths results in his being arrested on suspicion of murder! But even as Shion is being sent to the city’s Correctional Institute, the long-missing Rat reappears to rescue him! Now on the run, the two young men have only one chance at survival: uncover the mysterious secrets that lie at the sinister heart of No. 6!

Contains episodes 1-11.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is quite good as we get a pair of DTS-HD MA stereo tracks for the English and Japanese mixes. The show is not one that goes big for most of it, but it has its key moments throughout where it gives the forward soundstage a good workout. The show is largely dialogue driven as the various characters interact, but they get to expand at times as well, from the shouting and quiet discussions at first to the bigger action sequences towards the end. The mix is well handled here and it shows off where it needs to but also handles the quiet moments just right throughout. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The eleven episodes are spread across two discs with eight on the first and three on the second. The show has a very good bit of detail here as one would expect from a Bones production and it comes across very well here. With the two very distinct worlds, the upper end of No. 6 and the ruins outside of the walls, colors are pretty varied and they’re used well to give it a very intense feeling when you shift between them. When it goes from outside to the utopia itself, the blues and greens are prevalent and really are quite striking. Background details are strong and black levels are solid in the areas where it gets dark and dangerous. The show looks very good throughout and is definitely a better overall presentation by far from our streaming experience.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is good in that we get a standard Blu-ray case, but it’s the artwork that’s surprising. With the show having used a lot of standard brightly color headshots in its original run, I didn’t expect some dark, murky illustration artwork to be used. And while that may seem like a criticism, it’s actually a positive because I think it gives it an edgier feel and one that’s more true to the story itself. The front cover gives us the lead pair together outside the walls of No. 6 as they walk the streets, showing the bright white of No. 6 itself. The back cover goes a bit simpler as it just frames things with some soft white colors and has a pair of murky headshots of the two leads along the side. The summary dominates the middle and we get a small grouping of shots from the show as well. They do make clear the discs features while the remainder is filled out with the production credits and a solid, accurate technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for the release follows the lead of the packaging’s front cover as it gives us a look at Nezumi and Sion together where it’s kind of dark but very neatly detailed illustration piece. With bits of the city behind them that has a flair of red to it, it’s a definite mood setting piece that has a certain sadness about it. The bottom is kept simple with a series of gray shaded hexagons wherein the numbers are contained for the episodes along with titles, making for easy selection and viewing during the main menu and as a pop-up menu. Submenus load quickly and language selection is a breeze with it being clear what’s selected and what’s being highlighted.

Extras:
This release has some exceptional extras to it, if you want to put in the time with them. The basics we get here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences and the original promos for the show, which are always welcome. But the big extra is that all eleven episodes have Japanese language commentaries with them. Generally speaking, unless things have changed, English productions with these don’t come with scripts from the Japanese and must be translated by the localization team. And in comparison to the series themselves, they’re an order more difficult to deal with for a variety of reasons. Getting eleven of them here, done so well and filled with such useful and interesting information, makes for a great release just on that alone. Fans of the series will get a lot of value out of all the material contained within them which will make for replays of the series taking on a new light.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the nine volume light novel series by Atsuko Asano, No. 6 is an eleven episode adaptation that came from Bones as part of the summer 2011 noitaminA block. The series is one that garnered a lot of fans and enthusiasm as it plays up the two young men’s relationship together as it has plenty of “shipping” going on within the show that made it all the more fun to play with for the fans. While it’s never quite as strong as what the fans want, and it can be interpreted in more ways than how most Western eyes will view it, it’s definitely an element here, but not one that dominates by any stretch of the imagination.

The series takes place in a future where, once again, mankind has gone too far and has ruined the world. Those that survived the devastation and destruction of the natural order and resources pooled their efforts together to create six city states that are known only by their number. Each has its own distinct aspects to it, but they are largely uniform and play up the utopia aspect. As can be expected within structures like these, there are those that wield power in the hidden shadows and use that authority to ensure its continued survival. Hence there are always those that end up disappearing, get killed or have accidents that ensures that the status quo is kept at any expense. Those that question too much only end up in the same boat themselves and end up in the Correctional Facility.

The series introduces us to one of the up and coming young elites of No. 6, a twelve year old boy named Sion. He’s gifted and about to shift into that class in the educational system, a place where his childhood female friend Safu also goes as she’s quite exceptional as well. He adheres to the system and believes in No. 6 as he doesn’t cause any trouble and looks to be a productive member of the city. Where things go wrong for him is when one night another young man comes bursting into his house and in his room in the middle of a stormy night, wounded from being chased by the authorities. Rat (aka Nezumi) is a wanted convict that escaped from the Correctional Faciltiy and Sion’s empathy has him helping him out by giving him a place to rest, some food and just honest discussion. It’s not a normal situation and Sion’s curious and drawn to the other boy, who is the same age as him. While Sion helps him and Nezumi makes his way back into the night, it’s something that comes at a huge cost when Sion’s discovered. His family loses its privilege, forcing his mother to move to the lower class section of the city inside its massive protected walls, and Sion loses all his opportunities. It’s an intriguing first episode that highlights the structure of the city well and the stresses that ifs occupants face, often without realizing it.

Where the series goes from there, thankfully, is that it shifts it forward four years later and gives us the two boys as young men at age sixteen. Sion’s working for the city in a menial job, but one that causes him to question authority once again as parasites are coming in from somewhere ant killing citizens. It’s not something that he’s allowed to talk about since it questions the status quo, so it doesn’t take long for him to get picked up. But unlike before, Nezumi has been watching him and leaps in to save the day. With a fair bit of action, Sion’s life takes the dramatic change by now abandoning the city he loves, even with all it did to him, and ends up outside its walls. Discovering what life is like out there amongst those that are huddled close to the walls of No. 6 is interesting, especially since it’s where Nezumi is his most comfortable and lives a life where he knows it can all disappear in the blink fo an eye.

Within this framework, we have a situation where Nezumi has a burning hate towards No. 6 that stems from a past that’s not explored until near the end. For Sion, he wants to get back to those he loves, such as his mother and the potential with Safu, but he knows he can’t get there easily because of what happened and his wanted status. As he gets to know Nezumi more, he sees how Nezumi sees everything in black and white terms and with just hatred. And he comes to see some of why, as he meets more people that exist outside and how high class officials from No. 6 come out of the city to partake in certain aspects of it for their pleasure. Sion gets to provide the softer approach to things, to try and redirect him a bit while also coming to learn about the harsher realities of the world that the majority of those inside the utopia haven’t a clue about.

The structure of the series is fairly standard in that we have the somewhat chaotic but interesting opening episodes that sets it all up. I definitely appreciated that they shifted it four years later as this show with twelve year olds would have been terrible. The middle arc is where I had problems during the simulcast as things ground to a halt in order to showcase what it is that the outside world is like while giving us some insights into how subversion can be viewed within No. 6. Nezumi doesn’t come across as likable and Sion is problematic because he goes through a change by barely being able to survive the parasite attack that he witnessed which infected him as well. He changes significantly in terms of visual approach, but it doesn’t seem to have any real meaning other than a connection to someone else we eventually meet.

So when the show shifts to the final arc, where events hit quickly that puts No. 6 in a position to be destroyed as a confluence of events have occurred in a lucky way, it’s all quite rushed. It’s rather engaging to watch in a lot of ways, but it felt like it needed a few more quality episodes between and an expansion on the middle arc to draw us into Nezumi and Sion more. A good part of what makes it problematic is that we do get a look at Nezumi’s past and it, along with a chunk of the ending, goes all super-natural and mystical on us. And it feels very disconnected from the harshness of the world. I get what they’re doing, but when we learn about the Forest Folk and Nezumi’s connection, it just feels out of left field and disconnected from what we had been seeing so far.

Series of this nature are things that I do enjoy overall as looking at how a world in ruin functions has a lot of appeal. What tends to happen, at least with anime and manga, is that they’re not interested in the details or the fact that most of the systems they come up with can’t actually operate and survive. Even worse here is that the time frame for it is just far too tight as the young men that built it are old men now while others are just middle age, making it something that’s barely a generation old or more depending on how you look at it. To get something so streamlined, so conformist and controlled so quickly just takes you out of it. Everyone is so accepting of the status quo when you have adults that saw what the world was before is just unrealistic unless there are other elements introduced. And that’s not even hinted at here to show a way that these city states could come together like this in just over a generation from the fallout without more dissent and open wounds.

In Summary:
The simulcast run of this series was one that was hugely uneven for me at times. It gave me some really good potential aspects at the start, lost me once they got outside of the city and frustrated me at the end with the way it went big so fast and with the otherworldly aspect of it all. These faults are still here within the series as a whole, but marathoning the show helps to ease the problems some as the ties that it all goes through are clearer and the narrative is more cohesive. I’m still frustrated by the lack of exploration of Sion’s change and the whole world as it was built since I wanted more detail and explanations about it. My frustrations with the show are definitely lessened though and I liked it a lot more as an overall work, especially where it does go big at the end in a sort of classic anime science fiction way.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentaries, Japanese Promo Spots, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A+

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 21st, 2012
MSRP: $69.99
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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