Cover Image: No. 5, Vol. 1

No. 5, Vol. 1

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Member Reviews

Well, that was weird.
It worked for me, though. Occasionally, I like a story that doesn't hold my hand and help me find my way through it. A story that I get plopped down into and have to figure out as I go along, letting it wash over me. This is that kind of story, and as such is not going to be for everyone, but I enjoyed it.
The basic story is set in an undetermined future where the Earth is mostly desert, and the peace is kept by the Rainbow Brigade, a group of created super-soldiers, each with different talents. For reasons unknown, No. 5 has gone rogue, killing his comrade No. 9 and possibly kidnapping a strange woman named Matryoshka, who all creatures seem to love, and who eats constantly. I say possibly kidnapped because she seems pretty happy to be traveling with No. 5 and doesn't seem "kidnapped" to me, but I can't be sure. The leader of the Rainbow Brigade sets the other members after him, and we get back stories and side stories about the members that come across him. The end leaves many questions- why did No. 5 go rogue? who is Matryoshka, and why is she with No. 5? etc, and hopefully things will get clearer in Volume 2. The art is fabulous, filled with fun little details (M&Ms still exist in the future, good to know), interesting landscapes, and futuristic eye candy. Read this when you want to feel like you're having a strange dream that you're in no hurry to wake from.

#No5Vol1 #NetGalley
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Back in 2001, surreal manga artist Taiyo Matsumoto began his sci-fi thriller No.5 in Shogakukan magazine. The Tekkonkinkreet creator’s series lasted all of two volumes before its English release was terminated, but Viz Media is having another go at it this year with an omnibus edition. Volume 1 ($22.99) packs in the first nine installments of the surreal series, in which superpowered guardians known as the Rainbow Council protect the world under the banner of the Peace Corps. But No.5 has gone rogue for reasons unknown, kidnapping a mysterious woman named Matryoshka and systematically killing off his teammates. Matsumoto’s fluid art style and surreal storytelling rope the reader in unawares, pulling you through multiple events before you have a chance to get your bearings. There are pauses to get you back on track, but the whole strange cycle kicks off immediately after. It’s a breathless, beautiful, bizarre series; one you have to trust-fall into, but that is rewarding once you let it carry you along.

(As reviewed in Sci-Fi Magazine, Fall 2021 issue)
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I love Matsumoto’s work so the moment I saw this I wanted to read it. No. 5 is a surreal manga where you cannot separate reality from illusion. This isn’t your standard Shonen or Seinen. Taiyō Matsumoto goal was to create a piece of art. 

The storyline starts off confusing but the more you go through the eccentric world that Matsumoto created you start to understand the story more. Matsumoto really created a piece of art and not a manga. If you are looking to read from an artistic perspective check this manga out. 

Thanks to VIZ Media and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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First and foremost, I must state how grateful I to even be able to read a translated version of this manga. First published almost twenty years ago, this is a dream come true for long time fans of Taiyo Matsumoto as I’ve read in reviews and tweets and other online exchanges. I was very excited as I never got around to reading any Matsumoto’s work which includes Cats of the Louvre and Tekkonkinkreet--and thought to myself--”Oh! This can be my gateway book! This can be where I start!” Look...with that being said, I don’t think this manga was for me, despite loving dystopian flavored work and actually being a fan of experimental looking/unconventional looking manga.

What do I believe? One that is a beautiful, heart wrenching and provoking story that lays within the pages of this volume of manga. Did I get lost in the sauce trying to make sense of it several times? Yes. Do I appreciate Viz taking a chance and reprinting this even if it isn’t a book I’d buy at first glance? Most definitely. Other than preserving older manga (not THAT old but still, I don’t think it could have been pubbed here even ten years ago) This manga is outside the ever popular shonen manga machine.

A crisis that has forever changed the world, a group of outsiders tasked with important duties, one of them that defies rank and duty and defects…the artwork alone makes this book worthy of seven out of ten stars or for netgalley’s star reviewing system: 3 out of 5 stars. From the hybrid animals to the lovely locations of mountains and seasides and complicated villages and cities--the artwork makes the world building lover in me excited. It is the narrative that is hard to follow with a cast of so many characters--it is hard to keep track of who is really important outside the main cast of the Rainbow Council of the Peace Corps. I’ll pick up Sunny and Cats of the Louvre to read and come back to this series once more volumes are pubbed to try to wrap my head around the unfolding story of No. 5.
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I couldn’t even finish this manga. It was too confusing and I had no idea what was even going on. The art was interesting but ultimately I just couldn’t follow. Usually I love manga from Viz so this was a rare miss for me.
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Unlike anything else you'll find on the bookshelf.  Strange, thoughtful, and full of intensity.  The writing and imagery of this manga send the mind to new realms,
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Forward Is the Only Direction We Have to Take – No. 5, Vol. 1 [Manga]

But Why?

Mangaka: Matsumoto, Taiyou 
Publisher: VIZ Media
Genre: Sci-Fi, Seinen, Thriller
Published: July 2021 - Ongoing

In a far distant future, most of the Earth has turned into a barren land of desert. To maintain peace and prosperity among the public, the Rainbow Council of the Peace Corps is formed. However, their best member of the team, No. 5, a top sniper and leader of the No. 5 platoons, has gone rogue. With that, every other Rainbow Council member is out to hunt him down along with his mysterious companion, Matryoshka. The real question would be, why did No. 5 betray the Council?

--- Spoilers Ahead ---

Discussion Time

This series is something. The artwork Matsumoto displayed in this work is odd, but in an exciting manner that made us think this is a western style of manga, but it is not at the same time. The story, world-building and the concepts the characters discuss could be related to things we experienced in real life. Before we get into the review, can someone select Mambo No. 5 from the jukebox back there? No? Okay, fine, we will begin.
Why You Should Read No. 5

1.	Za Warudo

We know this isn’t a JoJo series, but hear us out. The way Matsumoto drew this world is super intense, in a good way. The darkness, lighting, shadows, dirt and animals make it feel like they are drawn traditionally with different sets of brush strokes, for each one of them gives life to the characters, objects, and surroundings.

2.	Building Blocks

The story felt a bit confusing at the starting point making us wonder as to where the story was heading. But as you progress the story, pieces of information begin to fit each other one by one and makes the pacing feel just right and how the world works will all make sense to you.

3.	Tactical

The way No. 5’s fight against other numbers of the Council are logical and sound if you think about it. Every other number, along with their followers, are specialized in certain areas. We have witchcraft, animals, strength, marksmanship and everything else. Despite that No. 5 has gone rogue and trying to kill members of the Rainbow Council, he still possesses the discipline to not involve or kill civilians, so mad respect to this character. 

Final Thoughts

No. 5 is an exciting series that reminds us that other art forms can be used to express the story the author has in store. Nature and the world has a lot to offer to provide guidance and provide profound, meaningful life advice to appreciate the things we have. The reason behind No. 5’s actions remain a mystery for now, but such efforts could be due to the hidden agenda the council has in mind. If you like a sci-fi setting that took place in a post-apocalyptic desert world where an ex-professional sniper gone rogue to hunt other members of the council while having a vacation(?) with his companion, you might like this one.

By. Nobodies17
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A surreal thriller set around a council of superpowered peacekeepers as they struggle to contain their former comrade, the deadly marksman No. 5, and maintain their public image as the protectors of the world. 

No. 5 is a tour de force of Matsumoto's pure talent as creative visionary, somehow giving you everything you could have ever wanted, and leaving you wanting more. His ability to form coherent worlds and characters from surrealist settings and designs makes No. 5 one of the most unique manga and comics experiences out there. This is an absolute essential for fans of Matsumoto and manga the world over.
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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.
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A long while ago I watched Tekkon Kinkreet, an anime film which is based on Taiyo Matsumoto’s Tekkon Kinkreet: Black & White. It was a visual treat (if incomprehensible at times), and even though the art style was rough and wildly inconsistent, it was a great film to watch. I can see the influence in his recently re-released No. 5, which does have the same inconsistent art style and a strange premise that I want to continue to read, even if it goes over my head the first time around.

In No. 5, the world is kept safe through the superhuman Peace Corps, with the Rainbow Brigade running the military through 9 different officers. Unfortunately for them, however, No. 5 (the character) has defected and efforts to retrieve him have fatal results, as seen with No. 9’s almost immediate death. He has the mysterious Matryoshka in tow, an otherwise normal woman with whom No. 5 has a connection. This omnibus chronicles the hardships that No. 5 has to endure in a fight for freedom against former friends in a strange world.

I went through this omnibus twice and determined the plot is rather simple, but unfortunately the art style doesn’t have a cohesive theme to it. I can see the narrative significance to this; it’s as if every officer has their own unique style which is reflected within the chapter’s art. However, it largely works to the narrative’s detriment rather than benefit. That said, it’s not an easily digestible read and if you’re not willing to pick it apart, you might end up disappointed. (It’s somewhat telling that the original American release of this series got cancelled after two volumes.) I think the audience for this type of avant-garde experimental manga is there, and I’m definitely excited to see future volumes, but this one is hard to recommend unless you’re really into the sci-fi stylings of Matsumoto.
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Visionary and richly imagined, No. 5 Vol. 1 by Taiyo Matsumoto paints a dystopian future where Earth is now mostly desert and an elite group of engineered superhumans called the Rainbow Brigade acts as international peacekeepers. However, when a member of their group, No. 5, goes rogue and runs off with a mysterious woman, the other members try to hunt him down.

I think I need to start off by saying, this is not a straightforward read. This is a surreal, phantasmagorical fever dream. I found myself having to reread the first volume multiple times for me to start piecing the story together and to figure out what the heck I just read, but the payoff is profoundly rewarding.

Matsumoto poignantly dives into heavy themes like climate change, human nature, and social responsibility. It’s a tad early for me to gauge, but I have a feeling that we have a who watches the watchmen sort of deal on our hands.

To top it off, the artwork is dripping with atmosphere and charm. The psychedelic, almost 70s-esque art style perfectly matches its eccentric cast and the dream-like quality of the story.

Lastly, I do want to point out that, although this is my first-time experience with the series, this is technically a reprint since Viz had earlier published the series in the early 2000s. I’m glad to have finally discovered this series though because it’s one bizarre, fun romp that I look forward to continuing.
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Interesting art and premise.  Each character looks different and everything on the page is intriguing and unique to look at..  It is not my usual type of story but... I think it will be interesting to others.  I think it will make your GN collection more all-around... inclusive?  Definitely will order this for the adult collection.
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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.
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This is a beautiful fever dream of a manga. I will read anything Matsumoto creates for his panel and page layouts alone, but this volume also includes interesting fantastic art, an intriguing post-apocalyptic society, angsty super-soldiers, and almost no backstory whatsoever making the plot and world interesting puzzles to try to figure out. Did I understand everything? Heck no! Was it a dizzying thrill ride? Heck yeah, and I can't wait for the next volume.
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Taiyo Matsumoto is a hit-or-miss creator for me, and I feel like this was more of a miss. Taking place in a dystopian future that has overtones of <i>Animal Farm</i> mixed with elements of insanity, the story portrays humans as the instruments of their own problems. That's hard to argue with as a premise, but the story's unfolding feels more convoluted than it needs to, and on the whole, the volume left me going, "huh?" while still somehow appreciating the way that it gave me a headache.
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I want to like this series more than I do because there is so much going on to keep track of. An assassination of one high-ranking member leading up to persecution of several more by a traitor; the leader of this high-ranking organization being suspicious; an older official in a bunny costume seemingly having connections with all parties, especially the traitor at large. All of these wonderfully detailed and stylized moments get muddied in its execution and arrangement. The action and event taking place can be hard to follow, especially in its, at times, nonlinear storytelling. For instance, an exquisite mural-like display of all the high-ranking officials showed the assassination of No.9. It takes a lot of effort and piecing together for the reader which may be a great experience. It can be rewarding to go back and see the connections from previous and future chapters (notably of the lineage of the traitor in question, No.5). 

Perhaps I do not have the patience to do most of this, yet I cannot deny its style and presentation are qualities I look forward to. While I cannot say much on the character motivations nor traits, the series certainly has intrigued me to look forward to the next installment
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In No. 5, Vol 1, the Peace Corps Commandos are an elite caste of superhumans on a future Earth. Their first mission is to shoot the mythical elk, Ashiro. Meanwhile, sharpshooter number 5 is romancing his superior’s wife. He runs off with her. The superior sends his staff to kill number 5 and return his wife. First, number 9 fails to capture number 5 before being killed by him. Number 5 is then targeted by number 8. And so on.

The plot is the nobles of ancient England squabbling among themselves for land, riches, and women. However, it is set in the far future when Earth is rebuilding. I needed more world-building. There was little explanation of how the Earth reached this point and how survival in this culture has changed from our own (or the middle ages for that matter).

Another issue was that the characters had no personality other than a one-word description—number 8 was a teacher and number 5 was a sharpshooter. I didn’t really care what happened to them. Also, the wording is pretty anti-religious about civilizations having to invent a higher power. It’s very Marxist. Some readers may find that offensive.

I usually never give out only 1 star ratings due the author and artists taking the time to write the book. But this book was a confusing mishmash. So, unfortunately No. 1, Vol 1 earns a 1 star from me.

Thanks to VIZ Media and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Viz Media for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Taiyo Matsumoto combines rich storytelling and detailed art in No.5, Vol. 1. I was excited to hear Viz planned on rebooting this series after its original print run in the early 2000s, and I'm glad I was able to read this copy. The text is a little dense at times, and it took me longer than expected to read through the first part of this volume, but once I got into it, I enjoyed it very much.
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This is too avant-garde for my tastes. The plot was hard to follow and while some of the art is gorgeous, I can’t care for the plot when I had no idea what was going on.
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I had difficulty following the plot. The art was good, much more loose art style than I'm used to in manga. I'm sure it has its reader and maybe I read it at the wrong time in my life.
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