Manga Review: No. 5 Volume One

No. 5 Volume One is an omnibus edition of the manga, which includes two volumes in one. The two volumes included in this omnibus were originally released by VIZ Media in 2002 and 2003.

No. 5 Volume One
Written by: Taiyo Matsumoto
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: July 20, 2021

The series takes place in a world where most of the earth has become a harsh desert. The Rainbow Council of the Peace Corps has a growing problem on its hands thanks to one of their members going rogue. No. 5, the rogue member, is part of a team of superpowered global security guardians and a top marksman. In addition to going rogue, he has kidnapped a mysterious girl named Matryoshka.

Over the span of several months, some of No. 5’s former teammates are killed while trying to track him down. They report to a man they refer to as “Father,” who wears a bunny suit. Yes, you read that right… a bunny suit. For some reason, in the later part of the volume, No. 5 suddenly goes to see “Father” after being on the run for most of it. Maybe No. 5 was trying to make a statement, but I just wasn’t picking up on it if that’s the case. I have to admit that the premise and the story for the series are a little hard to explain, because they’re both on the strange side. While this volume of No. 5 was an overall quick read for a release that runs a little over 300 pages, I don’t think I quite got everything out of it that I should have reading through it once.

According to what I saw on Wikipedia (so take this as you will), VIZ Media quit publishing this series after the first two volumes were released in the early 2000’s due to low sales. If this statement is true, I think I can see why this manga didn’t perform well initially in North America. Like I said, it’s on the strange side. Also, there were times that I had a little bit of a hard time following what was going on. The main thing I picked up on with this volume was that it was meant to establish the world and the characters that inhabit it. I’m not going to say it’s a bad manga, but it’s just not something I would normally go out of my way to read. However, if I get the opportunity to read future volumes of No. 5, I would be willing to read them in order to see if the series gets easier to follow and understand.

Admittedly, my only real familiarity with Matsumoto’s work is through the anime adaptations of his Ping Pong and Tekkonkinreet manga. However, as I saw the character designs in this volume, I could tell it was the same artist, because Matsumoto has a very distinct art style. It’s a simplistic style, which didn’t seem to translate well to animation (at least for the Ping Pong anime). The tone of the storytelling in No. 5 is similar to the tone of both Ping Pong and Tekkonkinreet.

After reading No. 5 Volume One, I think it’s something that would appeal to readers who are already fans of Taiyo Matsumoto’s work. I think it might also have an appeal to manga readers who enjoy quirky science fiction stories.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

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