I really like science fiction and I don’t think I own any manga that qualifies as that. I guess Dark Dai is a comedy, horror, science fiction but that’s as close as it gets for me. I was hoping that No.5 would open up a whole new genre to explore.

I guess I could always pick up some mecha manga. For some reason, I never think of that. I guess it’s because to me mechs always look so impressive when animated. It’s a pretty big draw… This said I’m all for trying new things if anyone has suggestions

Why I Picked up No. 5

Aside from being labelled as science fiction, and really before I even knew that, No. 5 has a great cover. Well, the cover gives away the sci-fi influence. It’s a really good cover. The composition is fun, the odd-looking characters surrounded by seemingly giant rabbits just captured my eye. Oh, and the version I have has all the lettering on the cover in oil slick holo. That’s pretty impossible to resist.

Official Summary

A science-fiction thriller set in a powerfully imagined multicultural future landscape that resembles the current Middle East, NO. 5 is the latest work from the acclaimed creator of BLACK & WHITE, Taiyo Matsumoto.

No. 5 battles against the forces of the Rainbow Council. In a world that has become 70% harsh desert, the Rainbow Council of the International Peace Keeping Forces, a team of super-powered global security guardians, have a growing crisis on their hands. No. 5, one of their own and known within the council as their top marksman, has left his post and gone rogue.

It’s up to the other guardians to track him down–but No. 5, with his mysterious companion Matroshka, won’t go down without a fight.

My First Impression

Uhmmm.

What I liked

A lot. First of all the art is fantastic. It’s probably not for everyone but if it’s for you, you’ll not find much similar out there. I adored it. I would recommend it as an art book regardless of the story if it happens to be your thing.

No. 5 is what happens when a manga has little to no exposition. You are thrown into the middle of a story, with tons of characters, in an unfamiliar universe. Nothing is explained. You just have to infer everything and try to pick up context clues along the way.

Now, this may in fact be a negative. And I will speak about it again in my drawbacks section, but it also has a lot of advantages.

For one, it makes you think. No, 5 is the type of story that forces you to really engage with the narrative if you want to understand what’s going on and follow along. And it doesn’t help that the character designs and art style are so funky that you don’t always recognize someone from one chapter to the next. For those that do get into the story, this particular writing style becomes very engaging.

There’s a good sense of purpose in volume 1. And by that, I mean that while I was reading it, I got the distinct impression that the author had a complex storyline already all figured out in his head and every scene was leading somewhere specific. This isn’t always the case at the beginning of a series. Even when authors do have a good idea of what they want their plot to be, the first volumes can feel a bit scattered as the series is finding its footing. In No. 5, everything seemed deliberate.

Although the details remain very vague on purpose, the universe of No. 5 is rather expansive. If you enjoy worldbuilding there is an impressive amount of it in just the first volume.

Any drawbacks?

Sometimes, No. 5 felt a little artsy for artsy sake. There were certain elements that were odd and striking but simply didn’t integrate as well into the whole.

Moreover, because the story is told with so little exposition and nothing is established, it can get frustrating. In the first chapters, the readers are asked to go along with cryptic conversations, from characters who are complete strangers in a universe that is not explained in any way. If you are not in the mood for that, I can see it becoming just annoying.

There’s also something that’s very personal to my experience. The story isn’t very happy. In essence, we follow a man who is now killing all his former associates and friends. We don’t know why exactly. We do have a superficial reason but not his motivation or why that reason put him in this particular situation or anything. And well, it left me a little depressed. I was sad for these characters. Matryoshka brings in a bit of occasional joyfulness but for the most part, this is a story about unhappy people.

Let me make this clear, the fact that the story is a bit of a downer is not a bad thing. First, it’s extremely interpretative so I figure another reader might not have the same experience. And there is a lot of action. But even if everyone thinks it’s a depressing tale, that in and of itself doesn’t make it a bad manga. But I read the manga to fall asleep and I didn’t really like getting bummed out just before bed. As such, even though there are a lot of things I really liked about No. 5, I decided not to continue buying the volumes for now. I might change my mind though.

Conclusion

If you are in the mood for a somewhat artsy science fiction drama with really unique art, then I think you’ll have a though time finding better than No. 5. And the book itself is actuall pretty nice. The first volume is thick and has a lot of material. It looks great on a shelf!

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