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IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT vol. 6 by Motoro Mase (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

August 10, 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. 6 focuses on Fujimoto who must decide whether or not he can trust the woman he cares about.  “Ikigami – The Ultimate Limit” is absolutely captivating with its well-done artwork and compelling storyline. A manga series that is highly recommended!”

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

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MANGA TITLE: IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT Vol. 6

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 11: Life Papers and Episode 12: The Truth Exposed. Even if I die, I leave something alive behind.

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 in volume 5, there are new revelations which can make Fujimoto a hero or will cause him great trouble.

The last volume concludes with Dr. Kubo, the woman that Fujimoto has taken a liking to telling him that she’s against the National Welfare Immunization.  But the problem is that there is no telling if she is working for the National Welfare Police and trying to trap him (because of his occasional thoughts against his line of work) or that she is really against the whole policy.

In volume 6, episode 11 titled “Life Papers”, a young man named Kazuma Yamazaki is trying to survive.  Having to live with an abusive uncle (due to his parents dying at a young age) for many years, Kazuma has finally managed to find ways to survive and support himself.

He may not earn a lot of money but at least he’s out of the house and away from danger.  Kazuma doesn’t have his home place to stay at, so he usually pays to stay at a 100 yen booth which has a recliner, Internet, TV and DVD player.  And while going on the Internet, he visits Akane’s Blog.  A blog site about a girl named Akane who was supposed to graduate college, pass the bar exam and become a lawyer but her family’s company has went bankrupt.  So, she has been trying to survive and stays at the K&M Ward, which happens to be the place where Kazuma is staying for the night.  And sure enough, he thinks he knows who the blogger is.

While the day is going as usual, Kazuma receives an ikigami via his cell phone with a message that he is to die at 6:00 p.m. tomorrow.  And now Kazuma thinks of how he wants to live his final day but he comes up with an idea, while noble, is against the policy of the National Welfare.  The plan is using the Ikigami (which stores, restaurants and establishments must honor and give anyone who has received a death notice whatever they ask for) and make copies and distribute them to those who need it and possibly find a way to help the blogger Akane realize her dream.

For episode 12 titled “The Truth Exposed”, Fujimoto has decided if he will either team up with Dr. Kubo and act against the National Welfare Immunization or to report her as a social miscreant.  Meanwhile, a television producer’s son named Michihisa Higuchi has been given an Ikigami and while Fujimoto had delivered him the notice, Fujimoto is held at knifepoint and  Michihisa wants to go on a live television to talk against the Social Welfare Immunization.  Will the government allow that?  Also, an unlikely person comes to the rescue of Fujimoto.

“IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT” vol. 6 once again hits a homerun with another wonderful and intriguing story by Motoro Mase and this time, a volume that features more on the Ikigami messenger, Fujimoto.

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”.  Fujimoto learns that the woman he has been fancying is anti-National Welfare Immunization and wants to recruit him.   The problem is that Fujimoto’s boss has warned them that there are people outside who will take his criticism as a sign of being a social deviant and thus he better be careful what he says in public.  For Fujimoto, the woman that he had cared for…is she really against the National Welfare Immunization or is she working for them and trying to trap him?  Fujimoto must make a difficult decision.

Meanwhile, the other two storyline is quite intriguing as one episode shows a person who is to die by ikigami trying to use it for a good, despite his actions being illegal and similar to volume 5 which shows people who are rising up to the occasion to go against the National Welfare Immunization, in this episode, we get to see an actual member of the anti-National Welfare Immunization reacting to his ikigami.  Very fascinating storyline, especially when you find out who will come to Fujimoto’s rescue during the hostage situation.

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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