Title: No. 5
Author: Taiyo Matsumoto
Release Date: July 20, 2021
Publisher: Viz Media
Taiyo Matsumoto returns to the manga industry with No.5 Vol. 1, a Sci-Fi psychological experience where he continues his popular form of storytelling that challenges the reader to think more profoundly than what is given at first glance.
Unfortunately, where one of his most famous previous works, Ping Pong, shines in this regard, it feels as if No.5 drops the ball to seemingly haphazardly pick back up farther into the Volume. It isn’t that No.5 lacks structure as a whole, but the execution of the first volume seems to reach toward a trippy experience surrounded by mystery to hook the reader into the world & lore.
Matsumoto’s ability to create an interesting universe seems to be seamless, giving crucial lore, in the beginning, to set up the world. Still, it doesn’t help much with understanding the plot, characters, or purpose of the events of the story. As the volume progresses, it becomes easier to adjust to the almost sporadic scene changes, making them feel less random and more purposeful; however, it doesn’t answer any of the possible questions a reader might have about the setup of the world or even the main group involved: The Rainbow Brigade.
No.5 Vol 1’s art style changes multiple times but sticks to Matsumoto’s typical rough sketch style, much rougher than works such as Ping Pong or Cats of Louvre. It sometimes becomes difficult to recognize characters and even becomes a turn-off when dealing with characters of a particular demographic background within the story. However, the Sci-fi aspects shine with the artstyle allowing Matsumoto to break the mold using animals, both mythical & real, to show how uncanny the world of No.5 can be.
Beyond the confusion, it is clear that a message is trying to be relayed through No.5, giving the reader a choice between looking at the surface level of what is given or trying to pick apart the symbolism behind each page. The “Bigger Picture” of No.5 seems to purposely be left a mystery in volume 1, giving minuscule explanations through character interactions. Still, even these can be interpreted as simple coding for Matsumoto’s purpose of creating the story.
The drama within the psychedelic storytelling is linear in its structure while surrounded by missing context, making you feel unsure who to root for as the events unfold. This opens up opportunities for the reader to be confused throughout the entirety of the volume. However, a diligent reader should be able to pick apart the essential subtexts that answer questions while still leaving the reader in wonder of what the true purpose of the narrative is.
No.5 Vol 1 could disappoint those looking for Matsumoto’s usual form of storytelling, using psychology and maturity to bring about dialogue on the human psyche. Still, the story is unique, leading to a possible classic once the tale is completed. As it continues, the story may become more evident, increasing enjoyment and understanding, or it could double down on its approach.
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