Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: No. 6

Sorry this is so late tonight, partially because I've had a busy day but mostly because my school email account (which was my google account) but got updated(?) and it's making logging into blogger really tricky. Trying to fix this but it could be a few days and I might just have to go yell at the tech services at my school for this problem, since I think it's a problem on my end, but hopefully I'll at least be able to put up the second diversity post in a few days.
Anyway, to the review! The noitaminA timeslot has had a lot of original works this year (there will be four and a half-ish original works) but both of the summer shows were based on exisiting works, in the case of No.6 it was based on a nine volume young adult series published in Japan (not a light novel, no pictures and a bit higher up on the vocabulary scale I'm told). I'll be blunt, I've read summaries/partial translations of all the novels now (I actually read the bit for the final two after I saw the last episode which covered them so I went into that unknowing) and I really prefer how the novels went. It seems like this was the first time this director has directed and entire series (instead of just an episode or a unit) and it seemed to show.


Summary: After a global war decimates most of the planet, Sion lives in one of the few remaining cities, No.6, where he is an elite, chosen based on his test scores when he was young to become one of the leaders of the city. But one night Sion leaves his window open and the young escaped criminal Nezumi (literally mouse/rat) spends the night in his room and Sion befriends him. Soon afterwords the city discovers what happened and Sion is stripped of his position. Life is quiet for the next few years when the story starts there are some mysterious deaths in the city which intrigue Sion and Nezumi has reappeared as well.

The Good: No.6 is has a classic looks-like-utopia-but-is-really-a-distopia set up and reminded me of both The Giver and Brave New World, two really good books in the genre. And, as much as I complain about the changes from the novels, there was one change that the anime made that was for the better, making Nezumi and Sion meet-up with the old man in the cave before the final arc, in the novel that happened during the final arc (the novel readers all agree that that didn't make much sense to start with). Also, since this seems to have been the intention, I must congratulate Atsuko Asano, the original author, for writing what is possibly the most ambiguous relationship between two characters ever. If you like BL then you'll probably see Sion and Nezumi as a couple, if you aren't so sure then you'll just see their relationship as a bromance, I have yet to find two people who have the exact same view of their relationship and my own opinion on it changes depending on what part of the story I'm thinking about, I don't think I've ever seen a relationship that has had me thinking about it quite that much.    

The Bad: The pacing had some issues and, in a series this short with so much source material to adapt, that spells problems. The pre-timeskip part took too long, one episode early one (I believe it was episode 4) was 90% filler that never had an actual impact on the story and the final episode combines the final two volumes, sort of anyway, the strange bits were all the anime's doing (basically both versions got to the same end point, minus the epilogue, but the anime took a much different route to do it). That's not a good plan and it cut out quite a bit of the explanations, I found myself having to explain some details to anime readers that the novel had explained quite clearly early on, and sadly it also cut down on the conversations between Nezumi and Sion which are vital for their character development. That was an understandable change but there were times when it seemed like the characters were acting differently than how they had in the novels.

The Audio: I've seen a lot of people either love or hate the music in this show for reasons I didn't quite get (apparently it sounded 80s ish at points?) but aside from a few tracks (such as one that had been used in the trailers) none of the music really stood out to me. I did like the opening song because of the way it sounded happy at first but sounds creepier each time you hear it (much like the city No.6) although I haven't been able to find lyrics for it. I have been able to find lyrics for the ending song which I didn't like as much and again, a lot of people found the lyrics to be incredibly sad but I didn't think so. I did like the few instances when Nezumi sang which unfortunately does bring us to a problem. Nezumi is an actor, in the books he's supposed to have an androgynous voice to start with (and have an incredible range) but here he sounds quite male which made a few scenes awkward. It was a nice voice ( Yoshimasa Hosoya was the voice actor) and the acting was good, it just didn't exactly work the way it needed to.

The Visuals: noitaminA shows in the past seasons have shown that just because the shows have a low episode count (ie, not as much to stretch the budget across) doesn't necessarily mean they're good but here we have Bones and the show looked very good. There was a lot action, very few still shots if I recall correctly, and lots of detail in all of the backgrounds. It was a very clean looking show, although there were one or two more "artistic" scenes involving Sion that I didn't like as much but only a couple of scenes in 11 episodes still means it is a very good looking show.

So, for the third season in a row it's the noitaminA show I like less that's been licensed and I just don't know if I want to buy and rewatch this series. It was good in many places but when it was bad it was really bad, honestly I wish the novels were licensed since I enjoyed those overall. I suppose in the end it will just determine on how much the show costs but, since it's a Section 23 release, it might be a while before the show it at a price level I'm willing to pay. Those who want to check out the show (and are in the US/Canada) needn't worry about that however, it's still streaming for free over on crunchyroll and if you have a paid account it looks quite nice in HD.

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