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IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT vol. 3 by Motoro Mase (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

March 27, 2010 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.  “Ikigami – The Ultimate Limit” is absolutely 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. 3

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 the third  volume, the main character 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 at home 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.

In volume five, Fujimoto starts to study about the legality of those fighting against the “Ikigami” and with his latest case assignment, it eventually pulls him in and eventually having to break a rule in order to fix a mess he got himself into.

“Episode 5: Life Out of Control” focuses on Kazuko Takimoto who is running for the People’s Party, Strict National Welfare Education!  Most of her life, she has been running for public office and her husband helping her through her political campaign.  For Kazuko, being in public office is all that matters.  So, for her son Naoki, both parents have literally abandoned him and every mistake or bad grade he has gotten in school, his mother has admonished him and threatening him that he is ruining her political chances.

And now, he is suicidal.  Having quit school, knowing that his own parents value their own careers over him, he wants to kill himself and end it all.  But on the day he receives the “ikigami”, instead of his mother worrying about her son, she wants to use his “ikigami” as a political platform instead to get a few votes.  Never caring about her son and only her career, Naoki is pushed to the brink of wanting to do the unthinkable.

In “Episode 6 – The Loveliest Lie”, Satoshi Iizuka and his sister Sakura have had a hard life since their parents were killed in an accident and Sakura losing her eyesight.  But now, older brother Satoshi wants to give a new life and take care of his sister and have surgery on her eyes, so she can hopefully see again.

But as Satoshi talks about how life is going great for him, the truth is that Satoshi is a criminal and takes advantage of people in order to make his money.  In fact, since his parents were killed, he was recruited at a young age by the underground and trained to work in a life of crime.

But when he receives an “ikigami” from Fujimoto, his plans have changed but his goal of his sister having eye surgery is his primary focus and he must ensure that it is done before his death.  The problem is, Sakura overhears Fujimoto presenting the ikigami to him and now his sister is unwilling to have the eye surgery.  Satoshi blames Fujimoto for ruining his plans for his sister to have surgery but in order to make things right, Fujimoto must go against a rule in his office to help Satoshi in order to make sure Sakura gets her eye surgery.

“IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT” vol. 3 is another excellent volume in the series.

These two stories are well-written and the first story dealing with child neglect and having terrible parents was handled quite well in this storyline.  While, the second story was quite interesting because Fujimoto crosses over the line and breaking rules because of the mess he put on a family (and an important surgery) due to him delivering an ikigami.  If anything, his role as an employee and delivering ikigami is starting to take its toll and you wonder if Fujimoto is descending into something that can really cause problems for him in the future as he starts to question his job more and more.

As for the manga series, from Mase’s character designs and artwork to the overall storyline, “Ikigami – The Ultimate Limit” is definitely a manga series that is worth recommending. It’s a serious manga series but just so captivating to see how people deal with death. Again, with four volumes I don’t know if the series will continue to present two stories and Fujimoto’s conscience of delivering the ikigami’s because I wonder if there is any conclusion to this manga series.

At first I wondered if Fujimoto’s conscience would help him try to stop the National Welfare Immunization but seeing his position and also, he’s not exactly the strongest of characters nor is he in a leadership role. I guess we”ll see where Motoro Mase will be taking the story in upcoming volumes but so far, the first four volumes are quite involving and just a gripping series.

“Ikigami – The Ultimate Limit” is highly recommended!

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