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IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT vol. 2 by Motoro Mase (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

September 3, 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.  Vol. 2 is heartbreaking but also captivating with its well-done artwork and storyline.  A gripping manga series that is definitely worth recommending!”

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

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MANGA TITLE: IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT Vol. 2

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.

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.

In the first volume, we got to see how various people react after they have received an ikigami.  Some who try to exact revenge and others who try to make things that were wrong, right again.  But most of all, we see a young man named Fujimoto who started on the job and has concerns about the job he does (delivering ikigami to people) and seeing how various people have responded to the the program and also to see how co-workers behave because of the program.  He often wonders if this law is working?  Especially when good people are dying because of the capsule?  Is it a fair law?

In volume 2, Fujimoto continues to think about his position in his job but also believes he is a “harbinger of death” but it starts to creep into his personal life because he must remain on call and making sure the people who are receiving the ikigami (or their family members) are there when delivered.  So, much that his girlfriend is upset at him for his dedication to the job.  But such outburst can lead to her death and the only way he can protect her life (since any public comments against the “ikigami” program is illegal) is to literally break up with her and possibly not get into any relationships.

The first person focused on volume 2 is a man named Takeshi Katsumura who works for a media production company for years and has waited for the time to get the recognition he deserves in order to become a director and now he is given a chance.  Katsumura is somewhat of a mess.  He takes a drug known as ateromin which is known to extend life but other drugs to help him do his job.

Katsumura lives with a woman named Kazusa Teranishi, a woman who loves Katsumura more than anything but will do what she can to hurt him because of his drug use, and hoping her sharp words will prevent him from doing drugs.  Even if it means destroying his stash of drugs.  But life changes for this couple when Fujimoto comes and delivers an ikigami.

The second person the second volume focuses on is a young man named Takebe who works at a nursing home and is known for his work in helping the elderly, especially a woman named Mrs. Asakura.  She has not really talked, nor walked for many years but her time with Takebe has shown quite a bit of improvement.  As for Takebe, he is determined to help Mrs. Asakura walk again and has big dreams of becoming a certified nursing care worker.

Takebe is a young man that has given so much into his work and has big dreams but what happens when Takebe receives an ikigami.

“IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT” vol. 2 is another excellent volume in the series.

Part of the enjoyability of the series is how Mase is able to create this character development for a person who receives an ikigami and makes you so involved in their storyline and then makes you think of how the ikigami affects an individual.  It’s one thing when a criminal or delinquent receives an ikigami but when a person who is so good with people receives it, it’s definitely heartbreaking.

In fact, both storylines are quite heartbreaking as one deals with a loving couple who have their own set of problems but how tragic that storyline ends is quite surprising, while the second is just a storyline that makes you witness a person who is so kindhearted and one that truly doesn’t deserve an ikigami but yet, tries to come face-to-face with it.

What is more interesting is to see how Fujimoto is slowly starting to question his job and if the ikigami does help society at all.  It’s definitely going to be interesting to see how future volumes turn out.  So, far “Ikigami – The Ultimate Limit” has been gripping but definitely captivating.

From Mase’s character designs and artwork to the overall storyline, this is definitely a manga series that is worth recommending.

“Ikigami – The Ultimate Limit” is highly recommended!

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