No. 5 (Vol. 1) by Taiyo Matsumoto, originally published in 2000, navigates a complicated political landscape within a post-apocalyptic world. But don’t expect a coherent plot, especially if you’re not familiar with the mangaka’s previous works. This manga, an omnibus of the original first two volumes, will be available on July 20th from VIZ media.
I received a free ARC of No. 5 (Vol 1) from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Most of the earth is now a desert. A superhuman security guardian, known as No. 5, has defected. The Rainbow Council of the International Peacekeeping Forces aims to have him and his accomplice Matryoshka captured. The other guardians set off to do just that.
Even though this is my first time reading a manga by Taiyo Matsumoto — whose other works include Sunny and Tekkonkinkreet — I’ve been warned about his intended chaotic storytelling. Reading the first volume of No. 5 feels like wading through a dreamlike state. You don’t know much about what’s going on, but you’re in it for the ride. After waking up, you can only remember a part (if not all) of that dream. That’s been my reading experience.
From the first chapter, I encounter the setting and characters with minimal exposition. The guardians are on their first mission to hunt down the legendary elk called Ashiro. Then number 5 commits an offense and defects. The guardians hunt for him and Matryoshka (and yes, Matryoshka does resemble a Russian doll). The story shifts from one character (or group) to another, with worldbuilding references and terms in between chapters.
Matsumoto excels in surrealism and utilizing an atmospheric art style. No. 5 is an ambitious work that explores complex themes like climate change and human nature. The manga contains an interesting story structure worth getting into.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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