The state, the individual and No. 6
ーWhat was behind the birth of "No.6"?
After the terrorist attacks in America on September 11, 2001, I did a lot of thinking about the relationship between the state and the individual. America is a big country where countless people live. And yet, in that large country, a small number of terrorists appeared and brought about such a huge disaster (lit: incident). Whilst I was thinking about the meaning of that revelation, the following question came to mind: what can individuals achieve against something so large as a state? I wanted to try asking myself that question by writing a novel (series).
And just at that time, I was invited to create a work under the YA! Entertainment label. On the one hand, I had this heavy theme - but I also wanted to write an interesting story, and I thought I'd be able to do that for an audience of young adult readers.
ーWhat was the first thing that came to your mind?
In most cases, when starting a story, the first thing I think about is what kind of characters I want to write about. From that, I start to see the themes and the story that those characters set in motion. But for "No.6", I started with the theme of "the state and the individual", which was slightly different from (how I began) all my other works. Expanding on that theme, I decided to write a story about an autocratic state crumbling and moving towards rebirth.
ーWhy did you set it in the near future?
With that setting, I thought that I'd be able to write what I intended.You might say that it's a sci-fi story set in the near future, but I didn't intend to write it as sci-fi.
ーWas there a model for the utopic city of No.6?
The suffocating atmosphere of No.6 is, I think, similar to that of Japan. (From the outside), Japan may seem like an ideal country: it has water and sewerage systems, public transport runs on time, you can get anything you want as long as you have money, and it even has social security. But despite all that, there are people around me complaining that "it's sometimes hard to breathe". I myself felt something chaining me down when I was a teenager, and I find myself wondering why, in this country, roughly 30,000 people take their own lives every year. Even though we are so blessed, why is living so difficult? To face that question, I needed a city that was extremely repressed.
ーSo that suffocating atmosphere you felt was the model for No.6?
I think you can say that, because with September 11, I felt a sense of suffocation as well. Wasn't there an atmosphere that made it difficult to say things like "I want to know what the terrorists are thinking", or "Are they really evil?" Even if you wanted to discuss it, I think there were many people who detached themselves from the problem, as if saying that "terrorists are different from us", or "it's something from another world". But I want to think about it without that detachment. (In the end), the struggle to prevent myself from being swept along by the thinking of those around me became the strength I needed to develop this story.
p.s. the following section, on Nezumi and Shion, has already been translated here. I'll probably try to finish the last three sections later today, before and after I see that final episode. Though I am wondering how in the world they're going to fit two entire volumes into one ep...