[Half-assed review] No. 6, the novel

No._6_novel_vol_1

The cover for the first volume. (Source)

Name: No. 6

Volumes: 9

Author: Atsuko Asano

Officially translated in any other language? No 😦

 

You called me, and I listened. I reached out, and you caught my arm. I opened the window so I could meet you.

That’s our truth, Nezumi.

 

At long last, I am done! After three weeks of reading the novel during my lunch breaks or before napping in the office, I have finished No. 6, the novel!! *evil laugh in the background*

I watched the anime first (I think last year?) and until now it’s stuck on my mind. After watching the anime, I immediately read the manga (as in right after watching it). Now I am fulfilling my (long overdue) promise: to make a review of the novels.

I have reviewed the anime and manga versions previously. You can read them here if you’re interested: link

This review/blabber is going to be long. Sorry not sorry.

I got the copy from Nostalgia on 9th Avenue last year, and they have made a terrific job of translating the novel. And I’m really grateful for their efforts. Kudos!

Why read it only now? Because I was an idiot, still clinging to the hope that there is an official English translation that I can touch, smell and ogle at in my bookshelves (I prefer physical copies). I decided to finally take the plunge and read it when I found out that there is no official translation yet.

Since it’s No. 6 and I’m very biased about this work of art (isn’t it obvious, this is the second review I’ll be making just for it!) I was so sure I’m going to love the novel. And oh boy, I did fell in love. Really hard.

Translation

When I was still scrounging the interwebs for details on how I can get my hands on a physical copy of both the manga and the novels, I decided to read some reviews on Goodreads on the side. I’ve read some comments that the translation was done amature-ly since it mostly consists of short sentences, the switching between the different POVs were confusing, blah blah blah. I felt bad after reading those comments.

I don’t know any other language besides Filipino (my mother tongue) and English (my second language). I do not have a near-native grasp of the English language: the puns, nuances and the grammar still confuses me sometimes (and it doesn’t help that I’m an introvert and not so good with small talks). But despite these shortcomings, I can attest that the translation is good and very much understandable. Nor I did find the switching between POVs confusing.

With regard to the short and clippy sentences, I’m guessing that it’s not the translator’s fault. We need to keep in mind that this is a Japanese novel; it is understandable that their grammar works quite differently compared to English, hence the sentences are arranged that way. I wouldn’t want a more “fluid” translation if that will sacrifice the content and original form of the work. I’d rather read a work that is translated as closely as possible, with only minor adjustments in the grammar and basic sentence construction.

Besides, translating a novel is a huuuuuge task. How many of us can manage it while doing real-life stuff, sacrificing hours just to finish this, with no compensation except for “Thanks”? I might understand the motivation for doing this: they love the novels, they wanted to polish their Japanese, and the like. Those are perfectly valid reasons. Actually, they can just keep the translation to themselves if they really wanted to, but they didn’t. I do not know the translators personally, nor I am affiliated with them; I just keep in mind that without hardworking people like them, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy Japanese manga and light novels without waiting for years (or even decades), as a huge percentage of light novels DO NOT get translations.

The translators were able to give the work a personality of its own. It may not be perfect, but they were able to tell the story quite nicely.

Flow of the story

One of my major gripes about the anime is “why the heck it’s so short?” (remember, it only has 11 episodes), especially when the opening song is starting to grow on me. I even had it on loop especially while I’m traveling or I need to be extra focused on the job (it does not help that I’m kyaaa-ing and gushing while listening to it lol). I still get goosebumps whenever I watch the opening, sheesh.

But when I finished reading the novel, it dawned on me that the number of episodes was pretty sufficient, considering that they even added some scenes that were not part of the original novel. The scene where Shion went to the theater to see Nezumi perform is actually from one of the side-stories. One volume is roughly equivalent to one episode, though it does not (of course) follow it chronologically or 100% faithfully, but that’s fine.

Minor differences

Physical characteristics of the erm, characters. One of the most striking is Shion and Nezumi’s appearance. Though not really very drastic, images are much more powerful for most people as it retains longer, compared to when you only read the material. Especially if you read the manga and/or watched the anime first. I didn’t even notice it myself until I was looking for the novel’s translations, partly because the manga and the anime are pretty similar with their depictions of the characters. It also does not help that there were no illustration in the novels.

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See the differences? (Source)

Locations. Characters aside, the West Block was shown how anime portrays a depressed area: beggars and shoplifters everywhere, with a meat vendor on the side, arguing with another vendor on the opposite side of the street, you know the drill. If you have seen an anime that takes place in the market or poverty-stricken place, you’ll understand what I mean.

What surprised me is how really gritty the West Block feels like in the novel. It feels like I was actually in the place, walking alongside with Shion and wondering at all the sights and sounds, and poverty, which is the exact opposite of No. 6. You can almost smell the stench, feel the heat, see the grime. The author was very effective when it comes to world-building as she pours out detail by detail what the world of No. 6 was.

Major differences

Karan. When I was watching the anime until the part where Shion and Karan were kicked out of Chronos, the only thing that goes through my head is: what was Karan thinking about the whole shebang? Aiding a criminal is a serious issue. Does she trust her son so much that she never questioned him? As far as I can remember, there was NO scene in the anime where she confronted, or even at least asked Shion for a reason why he did it.

In the case of the novel, her character was fleshed out more in the novel: we knew that she never missed their life in Chronos, never hated their life in Lost Town. She felt grateful and proud of Shion when he passed the exam and they were relocated to Chronos, but she never regretted when they were kicked out. She truly believed that her son has a valid reason for helping out a wanted criminal that night.

That’s why she chose not to question him much about that incident. But she had asked him once about Nezumi.

“So what’s this Nezumi? Who is he?”

“Huh?”

“It’s someone’s name, isn’t it?” She had thought because of the tender way her son said the word. Nostalgically, lovingly, at times strained–it even carried a tone of longing. He would definitely not use that tone of voice to call a regular mouse or rat.

“Did you get your heart broken by that person?”

“Never. What are you saying, Mom?”

“Well, it sounded like that.”

“No it’s not like that. You’ve got it all wrong.”

It was then that Shion would become unusually agitated, blush crimson, and do things like drop his spoon. Yes, she remembered it now. Nezumi…

If this was real life and I was Shion, I could have gotten a mouthful from my parents. They would definitely regret it more than me. Guys, let’s be realistic here: a guaranteed education (even post-grad studies), a promising job in the future, a posh place to live in, who wouldn’t want that? In this harsh reality we live in, you’d be considered an idiot if you let that kind of opportunity pass, or even let it go, if you already have it.

That is why I think Karan and Shion were brave. Not everyone can help someone in need knowing that the end result would take away all their privileges and material comforts in life. In this world, it’s hard to move around without money.

Other characters’ time to shine. In any anime, unless it’s 25 episodes and up, you don’t expect the minor characters to be fleshed out more thoroughly. Gone were the days where almost all characters in the series will have their moment, or even a single episode dedicated for them so we would know their background and motivations in life, and how they have met or ended up joining (or hating) the main character.

Since we only have 11 episodes in No. 6, the story only focused on the three main characters: Shion, Nezumi and Safu (or mostly Shion and Nezumi). In the novel, minor characters such as Rikiga and Inukashi were given extra “screen time”. We now know Inukashi’s motivations for living; saw his (her?) disdain for Nezumi, and yet cannot truly hate him, especially now that Shion was around.

Heck, even Getsuyaku (the guy who got paid by Inukashi to change the settings of the cleaning bots during the Holy Day) has a backstory: only in the novel we will ever find out that he is Lili’s stepfather.

Some scenes. In the anime, when Shion and Nezumi successfully released Safu from her imprisonment, Shion suffered injuries and died. As the walls came tumbling down around them, Nezumi did not leave him, and instead sang a song for him. He was revived by Safu/Elyurias. This NEVER happened in the novel.

Overall atmosphere of the novel. Compared to the other two media, the novel tackles the story far more seriously. Heck, even the author’s introductions and closing statements are serious too. You can truly feel the heaviness of the scenes, especially when they are already inside the Correctional Facility. You can truly feel the horror Shion felt as he climbs up to the top of the prisoner’s room by climbing over piles of dead (and almost) dead bodies. Looks surreal to most of us who never experienced the horrors of war, genocide or other nasty stuff, but I swear I was almost shaking while reading those paragraphs.

Nezumi and Shion’s relationship

How others see Nezumi. In the anime, Inukashi and Rikiga describes Nezumi as an opportunistic, heartless, and a sneaky bastard. In the novel, well…it’s the same, and multiply it ten times. That’s how nasty he is.

How Nezumi treats Shion. Nezumi calls Shion a “natural” (airhead), and they have arguments almost all of the time, whether about trivial or serious matters. In the anime/manga, it just looks like two friends bickering about. In the novel, you feel the tension underneath it. You feel how cautious Nezumi is around Shion.

Nezumi’s feelings. Nezumi is scared of Shion. While deep inside his heart he wanted to be with Shion and keep him safe and happy, he’s scared of getting too close. After all that has happened to his life, Nezumi is clearly traumatized, and four years is not enough time to move on. Ever since he escaped from the Facility, he’s been living on the edge, fighting to keep on living. You really can’t blame him why he’s so guarded towards everyone. Just ask any psychologist or psychiatrist. However, this trauma greatly affect not just his outlook in life, but most especially his relationship with Shion. I can say that his attacks, whether physical or verbal towards Shion, is clearly a form of abuse.

When they managed to get inside a secret tunnel inside the Correctional Facility and were walking towards the caves, Shion expressed his honest feelings towards Nezumi. He interprets this as a confession of love. But despite his fears, he acknowledges these feelings and silently thinks that he feels the same towards Shion. With this confession of love towards each other (though he did not acknowledged Shion’s feelings right there and then), we can say that it’s not too late (though it’s really hard) for Nezumi to put his guard down and open his heart for Shion.

Shion’s dark side. Nope, he’s not joining Darth Vader. But after reading the novels, it dawned on me that we only saw a glimpse of his true personality in the anime.

He is not as airheaded as the anime shows. He can be very passionate at times, and cruel and evil if needed. Just like how he tackled Rikiga when he started spewing not-so nice words to Nezumi, or when he shot to death a person in the Correctional Facility to save Nezumi. It is apparent that he harbors such negative feelings before, but he never really acted upon it, except during those times when Nezumi’s life is in danger.

When Shion shot the guy to death in the anime, he looks like he’s possessed. But in the novel, it’s clear that he knows exactly was he’s doing. He never even felt remorse towards the act. All he knows is that Nezumi’s life is in danger, and he is willing to stain his hands with someone else’s blood to save him. And Nezumi saw all of this. No wonder he’s very afraid.

“[…] Shion, you’re right: I was too caught up with No. 6 to see you clearly. But it’s not always like that. Sometimes–just occasionally–I feel like I’ve been able [to] catch your tail, grasp a piece of the human you really are.”

“And that’s when you want to kill me.”

“No, that’s not it. I don’t want to kill–rather..”

“Rather?”

“I might be even–afraid.”

“Afraid? What do you mean?”

Nezumi lapsed into silence. His lips moved slightly.

Monster.

Was that the word his thin, shapely lips had moved to form?

Monster.

He is the only one who sensed this scary side of Shion right from the start. It shocks him so much because he cannot see any possible motivation for the act. He had killed people before just to be alive, but Shion, who grew up being loved by his mother and raised in such a secure and protected environment as No. 6, cannot possibly harbor such dark thoughts. That’s what Nezumi thinks. He doesn’t want Shion’s hands to get stained, just like him. He wanted Shion to remain a natural airhead, a little weird, but honest and caring deep inside, just like how he saw him for the first time.

Shion’s voice. Throughout the novel, Shion is very vocal of his feelings towards Nezumi. One of the most kyaaa-inducing moment in the novel is during their parting, when he tried to make Nezumi stay. I nearly fainted from too much fangirling.

“Nezumi, the world means nothing to me without you, nothing.”

A finger hooked on his chin, and yanked it upwards.

A set of dark grey eyes were right in front of him. […]

“Nezumi, I’m serious –”

Their lips overlapped. It was a searing, but gentle, passionate kiss.

“Was that a…goodbye kiss?”

“A vow.” Nezumi smiled. “Reunion will come, Shion.”

Conclusion

This is getting waaay out of hand, I need to wrap this up.

The end truly broke not just my heart, but also the hearts of fujoshis and fudanshis around the world. But to be honest, I like how the story ended. No matter how much I wish the two of them would embrace each other tightly after the kiss, then they would hold hands and walk back to the basement, and live the rest of their days happy and in love, it’s not yet the right time.

The trauma he experienced is nothing to be belittled. Nezumi must learn how to open his heart first and fully trust Shion. He must learn how to accept everything that had happened to him, no matter how hard, and move on from the hate and anger that he had kept in his heart all these years. That way, he might stop hurting Shion, physically and verbally.

Shion needs some growing up too, as he needs to learn how not to let other people’s words get through him so easily. While Nezumi was saying a lot of bad things, all he did is to accept it most of the time and realize how weak he was. This is fine every now and then, especially if you need some self-reflection, but too much can be a bad thing. Sometimes he fails to realize that Nezumi is becoming abusive, and he is just encouraging that behavior.

Calm your tits, guys. I’m not against their relationship, ok? I want them to be together reaaaaally bad. The two of them still have a lot of growing up to do, especially Nezumi. They’re still young; they’re only 16. Once they have overcome their negative feelings and thoughts, when they meet again, their relationship and how they treat each other will be a lot better. I just wish we are still around to see it though…

Just like what happened to Seven Days 6 years after it was published, I am hoping that the author will soon give us a glimpse of Shion and Nezumi’s marriage, er, reunion. Though in the side stories three years had already passed and Nezumi still hasn’t come back, I’m pretty sure that he will go back and be with Shion once again.

 Nezumi, I’ll keep waiting. No matter how many years it takes, no matter how old I get, I’ll keep waiting for you, right here, on this land.

Nezumi, I’ll keep waiting for you.

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “[Half-assed review] No. 6, the novel

  1. Pingback: Light Novel Notes (September 2016) | English Light Novels

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