No.6 Ep. 4: Hodgepodge

“No.6” takes a moment to set the new stage and introduce Shion to the world outside his gated city. The result is a mish mash of an episode. As a result, I’ll just focus on a few of this week’s interesting but seemingly fragmented ideas.

Orientalism
The world outside No.6 is a lot more crowded and boisterous than I expected it to be. Its portrayal also strikes me as somewhat orientalist especially when compared to the aesthetic of the gated city. We have crowded dirt roads and outdoor merchant stalls. The low-ceiling architecture are loosely shielded from the elements by flimsy cloth strewn across the rooftops. Raw food are sold in the open, exposed to insects, germs and dust. Although the environment seems hot and dry, people look to be garbed from head to toe in cloaks and other assortments of heavy clothing. The imagery is reminiscent of a Western generalization of Northern Africa — somewhat exotic Moroccan.

As we progress through the episode alongside Shion and Nezumi, however, the architecture then shifts to a downtown Hong Kong-esque aesthetic:

When you compare the outside world to No.6, the difference is striking. Shion’s childhood home was sleek and futuristic, devoid of any real influences but a vaguely Western look. When Shion and his mother were exiled to “Lost Town,” the surroundings gained a little more character, but the style itself is still European — mostly rustic Venetian charm, I think.

So we thus have two worlds: one is traditional and homogenous and the other exotic and dangerous, right on down to the prostitutes and pimps (of indiscernible race, I might add) assaulting Shion in the alleyways. So I ask, then, when we look at the outside world, from whose perspective are we adopting? Are we the dispassionate observer from a God’s eye point of view? I don’t think so; I think we are behind Shion’s eyes.

I think this is how Shion sees his new world as opposed to someone like Nezumi. This somewhat explains the orientalist portrayal of the outside world. I also think this explains Shion’s (destined to be misconstrued or blown way out of proportion) comment at the end of the episode; he confesses that he finds himself quite drawn to Nezumi. Nezumi represents the exotic city — the Other — so for the moment, Nezumi’s mystique appeals to Shion who has always lived in somewhat of a milquetoast environment.

Takarazuka Revue
We learn quite a few things about Nezumi this week, but what I want to focus on most is Nezumi’s sex appeal and the fact that he’s quite a popular theater actor in the world of “No.6.” It turns out that ‘Eve’ isn’t Nezumi’s real name, but it is his stage name. For men to play female roles in theater isn’t historically uncommon, however; Shakespeare’s plays were originally done by all-male casts. Plus, women were banned from Kabuki plays some time in the 1600’s. With that said, I think Nezumi’s portrayal in the anime brings to mind the Takarazuka Revue, the all-female theater troupe in Japan, for several reasons. I’m not sure if this connection will amount to much in the bigger picture, but for now, I think it’s interesting.


The Takarazuka Revue

The otokoyaku, i.e. women playing the male roles in the Takarazuka Revue, stirred up quite a bit of a controversy with the Japanese public for having female fans. Putting aside the Shion-Nezumi relationship dynamic for a bit, it becomes quite apparent that Nezumi’s sex appeal plays on both genders, both in and outside of No.6. Essentially, Nezumi finds himself in the same dilemma as the otokoyaku. He assumes the role of the opposite gender, endears himself to both sexes and is thus stigmatized for, well, homosexual associations regardless of whether or not he might actually be gay. There are those like Rikiga who wish to take advantage of Nezumi’s appeal to other men for monetary gains, but judging by their exchange, homosexuality is seen as something dirty and sinful even in “No.6.”

(It’s worth noting that while Shion is definitely the more feminine of the two young menin general, he comes to Nezumi’s defense when Rikiga sullies Nezumi’s honor or dignity with insinuations. The oriental is often construed as feminine, something exotic to conquer and subdue. Nezumi’s appearance is slightly sexually ambiguous in itself. Just food for thought.)

Egalitarianism vs. pragmaticism
Shion’s naïveté is on full display when he tells Dogkeeper that everyone, including him and her, are on equal footing as human beings. For folks like Dogkeeper and Nezumi, however, they have internalized the social and economic differences between the inhabitants of No.6 and the outsiders. As a result, they believe Shion’s kind of thinking can get a person killed in the “real” world. This is just an observation, however. Although I predict Shion’s idealism will eventually win out in the end, who really knows how the anime will develop this particular angle (unless you’ve read the novels, which I haven’t).

Man vs. beast
It’s worth pausing for a second to interpret the struggle between Dogkeeper and Nezumi. It may seem as though the fight scene comes from out of nowhere (he did insult her “mother,” but most people don’t sic a pack of dogs on others for this particular offense), but thematically, it is quite consistent with the rest of the anime. In No.6, Shion couldn’t really feel alive until Nezumi came into the picture. Nezumi then saves Shion from his prison both figuratively and literally. On the flip side, Nezumi might be “too alive,” if that makes any sense. The outside world and its harsh conditions force Nezumi (and everyone like him) to live with an “every man for himself” mindset.

Shion’s introduction to Nezumi’s life, however, forces Nezumi to care for someone other than himself. More importantly, if Shion can convince Nezumi to help save No.6, he’ll get Nezumi to confront his own humanity and the entailing moral implications. In doing so, Nezumi does the right thing even when it doesn’t benefit him (i.e. Kant’s shopkeeper) — essentially, what separates us from the animals.

Again, this particular development involves the idea of synthesis. Shion’s former world is too rigid and controlled; on the other hand, Nezumi’s world is currently too selfish and cutthroat. Nezumi will naturally try to resist Shion’s influence as he’s done through this very episode, but the two will predictably meet somewhere in the middle, i.e. synthesis. By pitting Nezumi against Dogkeeper’s pack, the anime is establishing the idea that Nezumi has changed enough to the point that he’s already too different from the animals.

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12 Replies to “No.6 Ep. 4: Hodgepodge”

  1. Wow. I can’t believe the research put into all this. This seems very thought out. I reminds me of Michiko to Hatchin in a way. I dont get the sex appeal part though on Nezumi though.

  2. Well huh, I hadn’t made the connection between stage actor = trap prostitute. When it was said in the anime, I assumed he was being pimped to desperate No.6 women, but with his stage name being Eve, your version makes much more sense

    1. The way Rikiga said “I’m a fan” made it seem like he had the hots for Nezumi too. Plus, I’m more inclined to think it is the male officials who would want Nezumi’s services if we’re drawing from the real world for justification (see: congressmen found with gay escorts).

  3. I half-agree with your assessment: I think this is the 2nd-best episode so far (after ep. 1), but it’s still *definitely* a hodgepodge; it could’ve been better-made than it was. I’ll be back later with a justification but for now here’re some stray thoughts:

    The “Asian” part of the slums seems like a deliberate visual allusion to Tekkonkreet. If it isn’t just the background artists having some fun I’d assume it’s mostly in there to show the post-acopalypse world has a mix of everyone in it than .

    The Dogkeeper seems like a tsundere (for Nezumi) done right. She’s also one of the most enjoyable characters I’ve seen in ages; she’s not in a lot of scenes but in every scene she’s in she’s had a lot of nuance to her (essentially playing a part but wishing she didn’t have to). FWIW I’d bet she picked the fight b/c she’s mad at Nezumi for “picking” Shion over her (even if only for someone to whom Nezumi will show his caring, emotional side).

    On the topic of the Dogkeeper: more than most things I write what I’m about to say is just my opinion, but I think you missed the main thrust of the “egalitarian” conversation between Shion and the Dogkeeper. It’s about Shion’s naive egalitarianism up to the point the Dogkeeper asks him about the people in No. 6, but *that* question is just testing his naivety: one of the slum-dwellers’ main points of pride is that they’re better / more moral / etc. than the people in that evil No. 6; when Shion says they’re the same kind of people as the Dogkeeper, et al, he’s saying something gravely insulting to the Dogkeeper (and the other slum-dwellers). The Dogkeeper knows he’s just naive and doesn’t mean anything by it, but if his naivety doesn’t kill Shion the things he says certainly might. It’s analogous to the way that Nezumi keeps warning Shion about trying to help No. 6.

    The end sequences two crying figures — the city’s tower and then Shion’s mother — with just enough gap between the two to not be transparently obvious. Not 100% sure what it’s trying to do, but it seems as though the “city” starts crying right as Shion’s announcing he wants to live in the slums (crying over losing Shion? perhaps that’s why it cried in ep 1?) and then we see Shion’s mother crying tears of happiness because she knows he’s alive. Given that love for one’s mother — regardless of species! — is one of this episode’s major themes there’s probably something there.

    1. I think this is the 2nd-best episode so far

      I feel the narrative was cohesive in episode 1 whereas we kind of jumped around a bit this week. It’s certainly subjective — there’s nothing that says cohesion in the narrative is necessarily a good thing.

      The “Asian” part of the slums seems like a deliberate visual allusion to Tekkonkreet.

      “Tekkonkinkreet” isn’t quite as delineated. If all we saw was simply the slums, then I’d be inclined to agree, but we’re meant to draw a comparison between No.6 and the slums. If the post-apocalypse world has a mix of everyone, then why is it distinctively orientalist? There aren’t very many Western influences in the slums and vice versa.

      The Dogkeeper seems like a tsundere (for Nezumi) done right.

      I hadn’t considered the romantic angle. I dunno, I guess I didn’t see it. Won’t say I disagree with you; maybe I’ll just rewatch the episode.

      Shion says they’re the same kind of people as the Dogkeeper, et al, he’s saying something gravely insulting to the Dogkeeper (and the other slum-dwellers).

      At the same time, however, she seems to also be saying that she’s better than the people paying her to huddle with the dogs. So it’s not that I disagree with you, but I was just trying to imply some of the hypocrisy in her position.

      crying over losing Shion? perhaps that’s why it cried in ep 1?

      Now that’s a thought. I dunno, do we have any hints the city is remotely sentient? Even if it was, it could already tell what Shion wants to do? Why does it care about a single boy like Shion unless he’s a “special” character. If he is so important, you’d think the city would have taken better care of him.

      1. Sigh, wall-of-text warning.

        What I Liked:

        I’ll try to be concise on this. I agree that as a stand-alone 22 minutes of TV this episode is a hodgepodge and lacks a clear surface plot; no argument there. I suspect it’ll look a lot better — and its purpose a lot clearer — once the show’s finished and it’s being watched with less time between each episode.

        What I liked about this episode is it did a pretty clear .

        I also liked that it answered the questions it raised during the “egalitarianism” conversation, albeit subtly and a bit “out of order”.

        First, a pet peeve: I hate the type of lazy writing that relies on the audience’s preconceptions to produce the desired reactions. The “egalitarianism” conversation ran that risk: the audience is going to take Shion’s side, so the writers could’ve gotten away with not actually addressing the question (eg: without actually showing that Shion’s correct).

        The writers weren’t lazy, though: the point of this episode seems to have been to answer the egalitarianism question by chiming in in favor of Shion. It’s another example of presenting thematic content “out of order” and “spaced out”: show the answers before the questions, and splice other material between the answers.

        The Dogkeeper asks Shion 3 questions: (1) “her guests the same as her?”, (2) “Shion’s the same as her?”, and (3) “the people here (in the slums) are the same as the people in No. 6?”

        Each question actually gets at least implicit answers within the episode; the writers aren’t just coasting on our preconceptions here.

        (1)’s answer is the weakest, but it’s there: the Dogkeeper makes a big show of laughing @ the ridiculousness of Shion’s statement, but as she’s doing so her dogs perk up and do the canine equivalent of an eyebrow raise. Admittedly, this is the weakest link, so we move on.

        (2)’s answer would be heavy-handed if some scenes were ordered differently: Shion and the Dogkeeper both *violently attack* someone for insulting someone dear to them; Shion and the Dogkeeper both remain sentimental about their mothers (expected for Shion, a bit against the grain for the Dogkeeper’s ethics); (arguably) Shion and the Dogkeeper are both drawn to Nezumi.

        (3)’s answer would be heavy-handed if the “egalitarianism” conversation had happened first: the episode starts with Shion’s encounter with that prostitute; next up is Shion and Nezumi’s encounter with her pimps. Then we meet the “elite pimp”, who whores people out to the No. 6 elites. So, with respect to pimping-and-whoring–and, perhaps, predation–we’ve established there’s a sameness whether you’re in the slums or in No. 6.

        And, of course, there’s more: the “elite pimp” certainly *has* abandoned his convictions and is living a life he’d once have deemed immoral, but when Shion’s assault shocks him out of his stupor he makes what appears to be a sincere offer to look after Shion, motivated by the feelings he still has for Karan; even though he’s become a degenerate he can still be redeemed, and seems to want that redemption. Concurrently we learn that Nezumi seems to have previously been similarly “immoral”, and the “good” behavior we’ve seen from him is a recent development brought on by his connection to Shion. So, again, the essential similarity: slum-dweller Nezumi is hinted to have been a bad guy who’s now finding his redemption, ex-No. 6 “elite pimp” is a bad guy who wants his redemption; no faction has a monopoly here.

        As a stretch the Nezumi/Dogkeeper fight works out as another example: the slum-dwellers can complain all they want about big bad No. 6 and the ways it goes after them, but it isn’t as though they’re not doing a good job of tearing each other down, as well.

        That’s the way the questions raised seem to get answered. I suspect the loopy “plot” of this episode is a result of trying to space out the various “pieces” to put together as much as possible while still kind-of making sense.

        The other thing that I liked is it did a good job of tying up a lot of moral “loose ends”. In the first 3 episodes we’ve learned that Shion is a nice guy and No. 6 has a horrible secret, but we don’t actually know much about Nezumi or the slums. After this episode we can see Nezumi, too, seems to have some “horrible secret” (or at least dubious past), and his observed “good” behavior is a recent change for him; we also see that life in the slums is hard, but the people in the slums are neither abnormally “good” (which would be annoying) nor annoyingly “bad” (which’d be simplistic): they’re just normal people, warts and all, including Nezumi and the Dogkeeper.

        So, at a concrete level this is a weak episode. At a meta-level it’s pretty slick and you can almost see the way the it’s weaving together the moral fabric of the No. 6 universe and answering the questions it wants to raise; it also seems as though we’ve gone from being strangers in the No. 6 universe to roughly knowing the lay of the land (barring key details like Nezumi’s past and No. 6’s dark secret).

        Stray Comments / Follow-Ups:

        Tekkonkinkreet: the Asian neighborhood image you pulled out is a 1-off establishing shot, and the rest of the slums have that pseudo-Morocco vibe going on, which is why I figured it was a background artist having some fun. I see your point and it’ll be interesting to see if that’s how it’s actually intended.

        City Sentience: haven’t seen any evidence. IIRC EP1 gave the impression the “moon drop” might have some autonomy but that’s just an impression.

        Shion’s “specialness”: from this episode, I present the photo with the founders: http://i.imgur.com/mywgq.jpg . It’s a good example of slight-of-hand: the two “normals” over on the left are the elite pimp and Shion’s mother; the 6 “scientists” on the right are presumably the various founders; in the episode Nezumi latches onto the kneeling guy in the center — that guy! — but this picture seems to be saying something interesting about Shion’s mom.

        Speculation: Shion, Safu, etc., lack 1 or more parents b/c they’re the products of some No. 6 experiment, and that’s why they were allowed to live in Chronos. The idea that “No. 6 puts its experiment subjects and their families up in Chronos” would resolve something that’d been bothering me before: Shion’s mom seemingly didn’t have to work until after she got booted out of Chronos, but that seemed like some screwy economics.

        Jokey Speculation: perhaps Safu’s grandmother is her mother, perhaps prematurely aged by exposure to (earlier versions of) the bees? That’s truly a joke.

        Tsundere Dogkeeper: calling her interest in Nezumi “romantic” seems like a stretch, but I think if you generalize it to “wanting an authentic human connection with Nezumi” her actions in EP4 fit pretty well with some variant of this.

        Attack Motivation #2: the Dogkeeper implies that Nezumi was around when her mother died and that he was the one who sung her mother’s soul up to heaven, which seemingly meant a lot to her. Nezumi’s insult necessarily cuts a bit deeper than it would from a stranger.

        Egalitarianism: I think Dogkeeper’s hierarchy is Dogkeeper > typical slum dweller > her typical customers >> any of those No. 6 assholes (Shion excepted). When she’s asking her questiosn of Shion his answers start out being funny to her — who’d be that dumb? — but his answer about No. 6 crosses a line that should not be crossed. So it is about egalitarianism, but I think the nuance on her reaction to his last answer is to establish that lumping those assholes in No. 6 in with the slum-dwellers is something the slum-dwellers will not abide.

        Bodhi Tree Allusion: I can’t shake the sense that the way Shion’s positioned during the egalitarianism is a sly allusion to the “Buddha-under-the-bodhi-tree” motif. The visual similarities are nowhere near exact enough to be a lock, but there’s something about the tree, the pond, his positioning, and his tone of voice.

        Parting Comment:

        The more I see of No. 6 the more it’s reminding me of Darker than Black (DtB): similar narrative emphases and directorial techniques, similar strengths and weaknesses, but perhaps with a few lessons learned from DtB. I’ll save any detailed compare/contrasts with DtB until No. 6 is done, but No. 6 so far seems to be avoiding one of what I consider to be DtB’s major mistakes: many of the key moments in DtB come down to the characters making what’re for them difficult moral decisions, but there’s nowhere near enough groundwork to make those decisions’ significance as clear as it really ought to be; No. 6 seems to be more diligent about that groundwork, which is promising.

        1. To be clear, I never said it was a bad episode. I only wanted to imply that it was the least (relatively) enjoyable episode for me of the four that we’ve seen. Part of that might be due to the fact that as the series progresses, my interest overall will naturally wane, but I also think the lack of overall narrative direction contributed. But I see your point — every episode has been meticulously put together, but as much as we love the subtext in “No.6,” sometimes the surface plot matters and I thought this episode was weak in that department.

          I’m not sure I agree that Rikiga has any good to him yet. I think he’s quite a duplicitous character and I don’t really buy his concern for Karan or Shion by extension, but we’ll see. It’s just a vibe I’m getting.

          Tekkonkinkreet: the Asian neighborhood image you pulled out is a 1-off establishing shot, and the rest of the slums have that pseudo-Morocco vibe going on, which is why I figured it was a background artist having some fun. I see your point and it’ll be interesting to see if that’s how it’s actually intended.

          Well, that’s my point. Orientalism as a European art movement wasn’t just a fixation of the Far East. They were simply fascinated by any culture unlike theirs and this included Middle Eastern or North African aesthetics which would include the Moroccan inspired look in this episode. My point isn’t that the slums look Asian, specifically East Asian, but that it looks distinctively like a European stereotype of “the exotic East.”

          Attack Motivation #2: the Dogkeeper implies that Nezumi was around when her mother died and that he was the one who sung her mother’s soul up to heaven, which seemingly meant a lot to her. Nezumi’s insult necessarily cuts a bit deeper than it would from a stranger.

          I just don’t think this establishes enough to say that’s she’s a tsundere character, assuming that being a tsundere character means she has a crush on Nezumi.

          Bodhi Tree Allusion

          Hey, it’s possible. “No.6” isn’t shy with its references thus far, and Shion is the unbelievably idealistic goody two shoes. Of course, he did fly into a rage with Rikiga over Nezumi. I’m not very brushed up with Buddha’s story, however, to know whether or not he ever got violent.

          Darker than Black

          I must confess I never saw “Darker than Black” so I can’t really comment on this.

          1. If you’ve not seen it I’ll I’ll stop bringing up Darker than Black, but you can file it away as similar to No. 6 (in particular, it’s *extremely* meticulous). The interesting comparison will be if No. 6 winds up working as entertainment (text/plot) and art (subtext/thematically): DtB succeeds very well at the latter but doesn’t quite work as the former, and given the similarities in how both seem to have been written + directed there may be some lessons to learn. It’s also possible No. 6 could fall flat by the end, so we’ll just have to wait.

            Orientalism: now I get what you’re saying and it is interesting. That said, it’s at least worth pointing out that there are parts of the world that look surprisingly similar and might’ve been used to help draw that scene (Liberdade, Jalan Petaling, Glodok, etc.); it’s the Arabic signage that tips it over the edge into Orientalism.

            Tsundere Dogkeeper: if you watch her scene in this episode and pretend Shion’s another female she seems to be following the trope pretty close, but who knows. I kinda suspect that’s *not* what was in the novels, and the hints of jealousy got tossed in to try and make the assault seem more motivated. Who knows.

            My read on Rikiga is he would’ve legitimately taken Shion under his wing but later used Shion to try and buy his way back into No. 6. We’ll find out eventually I’m sure.

            1. There are so many anime with nothing going for them subtext-wise that even if “No.6” fails in the narrative department, it will have been at least fun to pick the show apart as it progresses. Oh, I’m not saying that “DEEPER MEANING” and “SUBTEXT” makes the anime good, but at the same time, it doesn’t hurt.

              As for everything, I think we’ve discussed the tar out of this episode. Nothing left but to debate over speculations (is Rikiga a good guy or not?). Let’s see what next week brings to the table.

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