It’s been a long time since I’ve had time to sit down and watch an anime, let alone review it. The last one was… yikes, last August, with Star Driver, and I was less than complimentary.
This time around I’m looking at No.6, which is an anime adaptation of a light novel series with the same name. It’s set in a The Giver-esque dystopian future society, where people are sorted into positions/career tracks early in life based on caste and intellectual ability. Shion is primed to be a shining star in the society of No. 6, one of several futuristic cities that are the remaining bastion of high civilization in the show’s post-apocalyptic world. However, his life is thrown off track when he helps another kid who’s on the run, a boy named Nezumi (which means Rat in Japanese, fun fact). When he denies knowledge of Nezumi’s whereabouts, he’s demoted and ends up stuck in a thankless maintenance job.
Four years pass and a bizarre plague strikes No. 6—wasp-like insects that have laid eggs under peoples’ skin start hatching, killing their hosts. Shion finds himself rescued by Nezumi this time, and they go into hiding together to attempt to figure out the secrets that No. 6 is hiding.
The story is intriguing, and it’s only twelve episodes so it’s a really quick watch. But what I’m most interested in is the romance in this story. It’s light but it’s canonically there, and it’s between Shion and Nezumi.
What I love about their relationship is that we get to see it develop on screen, and it’s not perfect and pretty but neither is it weird and rapey like many BL romances. And, also unlike most male-male romance anime, it’s not just a romantic shoujo series with flower backgrounds and sparkles cast with the same paper cutouts from from every Shungiku Nakamura story ever. The characters are complex and well-developed—Shion is really bright but idealistic and naive and doesn’t know what to do in the crazy world he’s been thrust into; Nezumi is jaded and tough but also thinks gender roles are for losers and plays a lady on stage to make money.
There are also some awesome supporting characters, such as tons of puppies and their mom, a brash girl just referred to as Inukashi (Dog-lender) because she rents dogs out to homeless folks to keep them warm on cold nights.
And most importantly for me, the story and the mystery about No. 6 are given equal billing with the boys’ developing relationship. It’s like it’s a story about queer characters that doesn’t entirely focus on their being queer?! Which is basically my favorite thing ever?!? Regardless of any minor faults the plot might have had, I feel like all the BL anime I’ve ever watched pales in comparison to this one, because it actually had a conflict and a story and something at stake besides whether boy kisses boy in the last episode.
If you like dystopian thrillers and lots of background puppies, I recommend you give No.6 a try. It’s a quick, refreshing break from monstrously long anime like Fairy Tail or the standard Shounen Jump fodder, and it’s a shame that it’s pigeonholed as BL (a genre with far too many flaws for me to count) just because of the genders of its love interests.