Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Welcome to another installment of Manga in Minutes! Before jumping into the weekly review, here are a few manga related news items from the past week that caught my attention.
And now, onto this weeks Manga in Minutes review!
Raised in the privilege and luxury of No. 6, a seeming utopia, everything changed for Shion after he rescued a young fugitive named Rat. Years later Shion finds himself accused of murder and fleeing from the forces that control No. 6 with help from Rat. The duo find themselves caught up in the tangled web the rulers of No. 6 have weaved to maintain control of the city and its people! Conspiracy, secrets and more populate Hinoki Kino’s manga adaption of Atsuko Asano’s sci-fi novel series, No. 6!
On it’s surface No. 6 seems to be dealing with typical ideas and concepts that should be familiar to anyone who’s a fan of sci-fi stories. A futuristic paradise that’s secretly a totalitarian dystopia, where the lucky live in luxury while the rest eke out an existence in shanty towns. It certainly doesn’t feel fresh, but look beneath the veneer, crack open the cover and what you’ll find is a tale that focuses less on the sci-fi concepts and more on the character interaction. The series zeroes in on the relationship between Shion and Rat, and how their friendship changes each character, and how these changes ripple outward and affect those around them. The sci-fi backdrop informs the plot, but it’s the characters, their interaction that really drive the narrative forward. Shion’s contentious friendship with Rat is the philosophical center of the series, with the optimistic and naive Shion often clashing with the more selfish and ruthless methods of Rat. This clash is most obvious after the two embark on an intelligence gathering mission involving black mail and torture, a scene which serves to highlight their differences and opposing viewpoints, despite sharing a similar goal.
There isn’t much action in either of these volumes, but the artwork’s clean and easy on the eyes. Hinoki Kino does an amazing job on using the characters’ eyes to help differentiate the various characters from each other. The wide, innocent eyes of Shion not only gives us a good of who he is personality wise, but visually they’re very different from the cynical, jaded look of Rat or even the mischievous look in Dogkeeper’s eyes. There are brief moments were the series takes a slight turn into the horror genre that are pretty effective and look fantastic thanks to the light linework. The lack of backgrounds kind of hurts the idea that Shion, Rat and Co. are stuck living in a run down slum at the outskirts of No. 6. While the lack of backgrounds does help keep the focus on the characters and their emotional reactions, every time they’d talk about how dangerous and slum-y the area was I found myself wishing we could actually see how slum-y and run down it was. It just feels like a missed opportunity.
No. 6 certainly seems like an interesting character driven sci-fi series, and the slick art helps emphasize its emotional core. The clash of philosophies makes for a fairly engaging read, but I wish the sci-fi aspects had been played up a little bit more, as the setting and concepts feel fairly secondary at times.
No. 6, Vols. 3 + 4 are available now from Kodansha Comics. Review copies provided by the publisher.
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