IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT vol. 4 by Motoro Mase (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

January 11, 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. Vol. 4 focuses on a teacher and a mother who can’t bare to leave her young child.   “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.






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 second 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 three, Fujimoto gets in trouble by trying to help someone who has received an ikigami.

In volume four, Fujimoto starts to wonder how his other co-workers especially his boss deals with their role at work but also feeling a bit of jealousy when he sees Dr. Kubo with a boyfriend.

“Episode 7: The Last Lesson” focuses on a school teacher named Mr. Tamura.  He’s a good teacher and cares about the kids and lives by the motto of “children can do no harm” and that the problems of these children are due to bad parenting and bad educators.

But in his class, Tamura has a student named Mitsuru Yoneda and how they are told that he runs the class from the shadows.  Part of the problem at Musashigawa Third Junior High School is that the principal, Mr. Kawashima does whatever the parents or board says and no matter what happens, it’s always the teacher’s fault.

But Tamura, being as confident as he is as a teacher, feels that he has done well.  Unbeknown to him is that the troublesome student Mitsuru can’t stand Mr. Tamura’s niceness and his motto of “children can do no harm”, so he hatches a plan with other students that will get him fired and ruin his reputation.  To make things worse, Mr. Tamura has been delivered an ikigami.

In “Episode 8 – A Place of Peace”, Yuta is a grown up 25-year-old with a young wife and daughter.  Unfortunately, the family is in extreme debt because of Ryu’s plunking of all their money towards his drift car.  It’s so bad that collector’s are calling and even threatening the family.  For Nao, the bright spot of their relationship is her young daughter Mina but she has severe asthma.  One day while Mina has an asthma attack, she needed to be taken to the hospital but her husband refused to have them in his car because his car is his escape from reality and also he removed the car seats for his racing.

Seeing how irresponsible her husband is, Nao gets further bad news when she receives an ikigami.  Knowing how her daughter needs her mother and how her husband is immature and too irresponsible to take of Mina, Nao must make a difficult decision on what to do with Mina.

“IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT” vol. 4 is another excellent volume in the series.

Now four volumes into the manga series, I’m not sure if there is an ending especially with Fujimoto.  I’m starting to think more and more that Mase’s inclusion of Fujimoto is to show how these employees who deliver the ikigami’s bare some suffering as well as they are literally the harbinger of death.

In this case, in volume four, Fujimoto learns how an ikigami had affected a good teacher in the worse possible way and in the second story, the difficulty of delivering an ikigami to a young mother with a child.  It’s absolutely heartbreaking but that’s how life is in this version of Japan.

Each story, there is a moral issue of how one spends their final day of life before they die but also how it affects the people around them.  This latest volume was the first that dealt with a mother and a child and no one wants to see a parent being taken from their young child but the ikigami has changed the face of Japan and even put some worry into the Japanese of not having children until after the age of 25 because no one knows who is going to die.

From Mase’s character designs and artwork to the overall storyline, this 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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