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Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, Vol. 1 (v. 1) Paperback – May 12, 2009
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
From Publishers Weekly
The government is randomly selecting one person a day to die so that citizens will value life more. The victims are told 24 hours ahead of time with an ikigami, a œdeath paper. Fujimoto, the main character, is tasked with delivering these messages, a job which brings him into contact with various lives and causes him to question the plan. The art is clear, gritty and direct, presenting the disturbing stories plausibly. Shadowing makes the expressions, often aimed directly at the reader, more powerful. Ikigami recipient Yosuke was abused as a kid by his peers, which made him resentful. At first glance, he seems like no loss, but how much of his lack of potential is his fault? Who made him a victim, and shouldn't they be the ones to die? Is revenge any comfort? The question of how you'd live your last day if you knew ahead of time is a powerful one; to put the question within the context of building a more obedient, productive society is devilishly clever. This must-read manga is especially recommended for fans of Death Note ready to move on to a less fantastic exploration of the idea of predicting one's demise.Â (May)
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About the Author
Motoro Mase was born in Aichi in Japan in 1969 and is also the artist of /Kyoichi/ and, with Keigo Higashino, /HEDS/, which, like /Ikigami/, was serialized in /Young Sunday/. In 1998, Mase’s /AREA/ was nominated for Shogakukan’s 43rd grand prize for a comic by a new artist.
Top customer reviews
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It's a system that is completely unrealistic - but the stories contained in the manga are what really shine. Each person is given 24 hours notice via 'Ikigami' in order to spend the last hours with family or finishing up projects, tying up loose ends, etc... The family is then given a stipend from the government after the victim does their duty and does not descend to criminal acts in the last day. The first story arc is a story about such an individual seeking revenge on those who bullied him in his past.
The individual stories are great - but it's the art that really pulls everything together. Mase-san using shading VERY well. The use of contrast works very well. The entire series has a lot of dark areas which lend to the overall mood and theme.
Overall I give the series a five star rating - it has been a very interesting read. I highly recommend checking out this great manga.
The premise is that the government believes that in order for its citizens to value life, a portion of the population should be killed. All children are given vaccines upon entering elementary school but 1 in 1,000 children are injected with a nano-capsule that will eventually kill them between the ages of 18 and 24. The story follows Fujimoto as he embarks on a career as a messenger of death. You will see his struggles and attempts to justify what he does.
Every volume includes two episodes; each follow the last 24 hours of a person’s life. What captured my interest is that Motoro Mase explores people’s reactions upon receiving the death papers and actions following that until death. Every character has different personality, background, and dreams that will no longer be fulfilled.
In their last moments, some people really rise above and become the best they can be while others decide they’ve got nothing to lose and commit crimes and seek revenge. I have become a huge fan of this series and have read 5 of the 10 volumes. To be honest, I cried reading some of the stories…
After reading the title, you might assume Ikigami is a sort of spiritual successor to Death Note. After all, there isn't much difference between 'Death Note' and 'Death Paper'. But the titles are where the similarities between the two start and end. Where as Death Note relied on a supernatural notebook of death that could kill anyone with ease to power its story, there's nothing mystical about the papers with information about deaths written on them in Ikigami. In fact, the papers are no more than normal, everyday paper handed out by civil servants.
You see, Ikigami is set in an alternate universe where Japan is ruled by fear, similar to the setting of Battle Royale. At the start of school life, every child is immunized against various diseases. However, because of a law called 'The National Welfare Act', 1 out of 1000 of these vaccines contain something else - something that makes a person die at a predetermined date between the ages 18-24. After being immunized, the truth is then revealed to the students - the truth being that not everyone will make it very far into their adult lives.
The National Welfare Act is a very well thought out law. The victims of the law are told only 24 hours in advance to limit the damage they can do, and if those who are destined to die break the law in their final hours, their family is took to court, made to pay a huge fine, don't get their bereavement pension and, finally, they're ostracized by society.
All of the above, combined with the citizens being told to reveal the names of social miscreants to the authorities, means no-one can do anything about the law. To be a good citizen, one has to accept that - no matter how illogical - random people getting killed is for the good of the country because it forces people to value life. Really, nothing changes for people until they're told they're going to die, and all it achieves is creating a society of sheep who only know how to follow.
The story is told from the perspective of Fujimoto; a civil servant whose job it is to hand out the papers of death 24 hours before death. Known as a 'Messenger of Death', he's a man who sees no value in his work but does it anyway. To begin with he struggles to handle the weight of revealing to unsuspecting people that they're going to die, informing them their deaths are for the good of the nation (when he doesn't actually believe it), but the more he does it the easier it becomes. His role is to be the observer, and the reader is supposed to feel the same as him about what's occurring.
But, really, even though Fujimoto is there for the reader to connect with, Ikigami is basically a collection of three chapter shorts. So far (up to the end of volume three), every story has lasted for three chapters, and each story has differed from the one that came before it. Though the series opened as most would expect after reading the description - with a fairly typical tale of a man who suffered severe bullying during his high school years - since then there's only been one other revenge story. There's been a story about staying true to oneself and valuing friendship over fame; there's been a story about a worker at an old peoples' home getting a woman, who mistakes the worker for her late husband, to walk again; and there's even been a story about a brother tricking his blind younger sister into having his corneas transplanted into her just after his death. The huge amount of variation between each story, and the circumstances of each new set of characters, has prevented Ikigami from becoming stale.
My biggest fear right now is that, eventually, Ikigami will become stale, though. At this moment in time I can't see Ikigami failing because the art is near enough flawless - showing the natural ugliness of humans (rather than there being a super model cast) and being very detailed - and the stories have all been emotionally moving for differing reasons. But every author only has a set amount of ideas, and sooner or later (assuming it isn't destined to go on forever!) Fujimoto is going to have to become more than just an impartial observer. Honestly, it's hard to see how and when the series will end at this point, so it's hard to determine if the high level of quality on display in the opening three volumes will remain throughout. Only time will tell.
For now, all I can say is that I own the first three volumes, have the fourth pre-ordered and have put Ikigami into my manga top ten list already. With so few volumes out, and Viz releasing the volumes in larger than average, Solanin sized volumes, no manga collector has any real excuse for not assisting me in trying to make this relatively unknown series into one with a much larger fanbase.
If you've become disillusioned with anime/manga because of the vast majority being childish and are in desperate need of a title aimed at adults to reignite your interest, Ikigami might just be it.
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