“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.
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.
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 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.