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IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT vol. 5 by Motoro Mase (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

August 8, 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. 5 shows us how Fujimoto’s conscience may prove to be dangerous and also to see the rebelliousness of people against the National Welfare Immunization law. “Ikigami – The Ultimate Limit” is absolutely captivating with its well-done artwork and compelling 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. 5

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: You’ve no doubt noticed that the world is a troubled place. People are apathetic, lazy, unmotivated. You’ve probably asked yourself, “Why isn’t anything being done to stop this systematic decline?” Well, you’ll be happy to know measures are being taken. We, your government, have decided society needs a wake-up call. So beginning today, we will randomly select a different citizen 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 productive, active members of society. Thank you for your attention and your cooperation and participation in this new program.

Contains Episode 9: The Writing on the Wall and Episode 10: Honor and Duty. Where does a death messenger go on a date?

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.

The first four volumes of “IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT” have shown us how the Ikigami has affected many lives and how people went on to live their final day in their life.  Some who wanted to share their final moments with love ones to those who wanted to destroy others.

Also, throughout the manga series, we have seen “the messenger” Fujimoto starting to question his job and the morality of the “Ikigami”.  Is it all wrong?  How does he really feel about it?  The problem is that the mere discussion or questioning against the National Welfare Immunization is illegal and can land him in big trouble.  His boss has been quick in preventing of discussing his thoughts about the immunization and his job because of the ramifications Fujimoto may face.  But this time around, in volume 5, there are new revelations which can make Fujimoto a hero or will cause him great trouble.

Volume 5 begins with “Episode 9 – The Writing on the Wall”.  Graffiti has become rampant in Tokyo and a mysterious graffiti artist known as F.K. is known as the king of graffiti.  His artistic and creative style on top of his speed is appreciated by those who enjoy looking at his creative work.

But behind-the-scenes, the life of FK is a facade.  Yukimasa is the person behind FK and when he was younger, his dreams was to become an illustrator but due to family obligations, his family have discredited his dream and is forcing him to become heir of the painting business.

But when the economy started to tank in Japan, the family business came up with a plan.  Using Yukimasa to put his creative use of becoming an artist by putting graffiti throughout the city while people would contact the family business to paint over it.

For Yukimasa, he despises having to do this but the family has dictated how his life was to be run and that he would be an heir to the family painting business.

But when Yukimasa receives an ikigami, his emotions run high as he feels that his family has taken his life from him but also the government via the ikigami.

So, with his final day of life, Yukimasa wants to make sure that he makes his final day memorable.

Meanwhile, as for the messenger, Fujimoto… Fujimoto is once again talking about his concern about the ikigami and the result of what happened on Yukimasa’s last day. But as public citizens including government officials are to do their job by reporting on other people who may be deemed as “social miscreants”, will Fujimoto’s continuing discussion lead his co-workers to report on him?

For “Episode 10 – Honor and Duty”, the story focuses on the son of a higher up in the National Welfare Police. Ikuhiko is known in his class for his support for the National Welfare Immunization.  He preaches it to his classmates but everyone knows that the reason Ikuhiko does so is the pressure put on him by his family in which his father and brother are from a proud line of officers, while Ikuhiko’s grades are not up to par.  Ikuhiko wants to make his family proud but when a classmate snitches on a “social miscreant”, the whole class treats the student as a hero and Ikuhiko becomes jealous.

But Ikuhiko receives an ikigami and to his family, to receive one is a heroic honor for the pride of the country.  But when Ikuhiko starts to learn about how his fellow students feel about him, Ikuhiko wants to report his fellow students as “social miscreants”.  What will happen when the students begin to fear for their lives that Ikuhiko may report them?

Meanwhile, Fujimoto meets with Dr. Kubo who begins questioning his loyalty to the National Welfare Immunization program.

“IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT” vol. 5 is another excellent volume by Motoro Mase.

Especially now that the storyline is showing more progress into the life of Fujimoto and learning more about what happens to government officials who begin questioning their job role and also what happens to “social miscreants”.  The two stories are very interesting because as the previous episodes have dealt with how people deal with them receiving an ikigami but how they would live their final day, we are now starting to see the rebellious side of people who are against the immunizations let alone against the National Welfare Immunization program.

There is so much fear in this alternate storyline of Japan of people afraid to speak out against it in fears that their life may be over, it’s interesting to see episodes that touch on this subject and to see where it will take Fujimoto in the next volume.

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 and compelling manga series but just so captivating to see how people deal with death. And definitely a unique storyline that anyone can get into and really enjoy.

“Ikigami – The Ultimate Limit” is highly recommended!

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