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IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT vol. 1 by Motoro Mase (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

July 12, 2009 by  



“Motoro Mase’s ‘IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT’ definitely gives us a unique perspective on a alternate Japan where the government instills fear of death as a means to obtain a peaceful society.  Gripping, alarming but overall thought provoking and absolutely enjoyable!”

Image courtesy of © 2005 Motoro MASE.  All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT Vol. 1

STORY AND ART BY: Motoro Mase

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shogakukan, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC/Shojo Beat

RATED: M for Mature (Parent Advisory – Explicit Content)

Dear Citizen:

Thank you for your loyalty.  You’ve no doubt noticed that the world is a trouble place.  People are apathetic, lazy, unmotivated.  You’ve probably asked yourself WHY ISN’T ANYTHING BEING DONE TO STOP THIS SYSTEMATIC DECLINE?

Rest assured that measures are being taken.   Beginning immediately, we will randomly select a different citizen each day who will be killed within 24 hours of notification.  We believe this will help remind all people how precious life is and how important it is to be a productive, active member of society.

Thank you for your continued attention and your cooperation and participation…

Congratulations!  You have been randomly selected by the government…to DIE in 24 Hours!

Motoro Mase’s ‘IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT’ definitely gives us a unique perspective on a alternate Japan where the government instills fear of death as a means to obtain a peaceful society.  Gripping, alarming but overall thought provoking and absolutely enjoyable!

The manga series focuses on the character of Fujimoto who works for the government and his job is to notify people with an “Ikigami” notice that they will die within 24 hours.

The premise of the story is that when a citizen enters elementary school and receives their immunization shots, the National Welfare Immunization is given.  Among the immunization shots given to children, 0.01 percent of the shots contain a special nano-capsule.  About 1 in 1,000 citizens are injected with the capsule and when they are between 18-24 years old, the capsule ruptures on a predetermined date and they person will automatically die.

The Japanese government believes that because citizens never know who has been injected with the capsule, they all grow up wondering if they will be the one that dies and so, this forces the individual to take life more seriously and become socially productive.

Since the law for the National Welfare Immunization was passed, crime and suicides in Japan have fallen and the Japanese concern of birth rates have increased (note: In reality, Japan is concerned that their population is shrinking as many couples are not wanting to produce offspring and worry that Japan will not be productive in the future unless this is changed now.  Also, the crime and suicide problems of Japan have steadily grown).

In the nature that someone does die, their family of the deceased is paid a pension but if by any chance, the person who commits a crime after receiving their Ikigami, the family will be denied the pension but also will be liable financially towards the crime committed by the deceased and in effect, will be ostracized by the community and will be forced to relocate.

Also, if anyone voices their disdain publicly about the National Welfare Immunization, they will also be dealt with and will be injected with the capsule.

For Fujimoto, six months into the job and he’s starting to privately have concerns about the job that he’s doing.  Is this law working?  Especially when good people are dying because of the capsule?  Is it a fair law?

“IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT” is a manga series that has the reader learning of Fujimoto’s thoughts, especially having to deliver Ikigami’s to the people who are dying or delivering the message to the family.  We are then given a chance to see how a variety of people who receive the Ikigami are living their last 24 hours of their life.

For Yosuke, he was a man who was bullied severely by his fellow students.  Having to live with the pain, the anguish and literally, the scars of his torment from his bullies, after receiving his Ikigami, Yosuke has to decide how he will live his last 24 hours?  Perhaps some revenge towards the bullies?

For Torio Tanabe, the lead singer of the music duo Koma-Tsuna, we get to see his rise to fame as a singer and the challenges he had faced when signing with a major label and becoming part of the major group T-Birds.  But when things are starting to go great for his career, Torio receives an Ikigami.  With 24 hours left to live, how will he live his last day?

“IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT” vol. 1 was a manga I really enjoyed.

For the past few years, each time I read the news in Japan, we are seeing crime starting to grow, as with alarming rise in suicide attempts and fatalities.  It’s just a shocking part of Japan to read about almost on a daily basis.  And the fact that the Japanese government is trying to encourage people to reproduce and also having to deal with the current economic situation in Japan is just a major challenge.

So, “IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT” definitely shows the reader a “what if?” storyline on how the Japanese government would eliminate these current obstacles and that is by creating this National Welfare Immunization.

Although, the national immunization had been touched upon in the anime film “VEXILLE”, “IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT” vol. 1 doesn’t focus on the fight against the system but to watch the rookie government employee Fujimoto trying to learn more about the law and going through the natural process of whether or not this law is good or if its bad.  And even if it was bad, voicing your opinion really doesn’t get you nowhere.  But wondering if others that work with him feel like he does.

So, Fujimoto learns through the people he had delivered Ikigami’s to and how they are able or unable to deal with their final 24 hours alive.

For those wondering why this manga is rated “M” for Mature, there is a storyline of one of the people who receives an “Ikigami” and what he does in his final 24-hours is quite disturbing.  Expect to see a rape scene and violence and thus the M rating.

Overall, I found Motoro Mase’s artwork and character designs to be enjoyable but enhanced through the thorough storytelling.  This is an entertaining manga volume thus far and I can’t wait to read upcoming volumes.

“IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT” vol. 1 is highly recommended!

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