Manga-ka: Motoro Mase
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: May 2010
Synopsis: “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 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! Featuring Episode 9: The Writing on the Wall, Episode 10: Honor and Duty. …where does a death messenger go on a date?”
What would you do if you knew you only had 24 hours to live? This question is one that has been asked over and over again, both in fiction and otherwise. Because of this, it would seem to be an unoriginal concept; however, in Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, Motoro Mase proves that it’s an idea that can still be taken in diverse and thought-provoking ways.
As a reviewer here, one of my greatest challenges has been to look at a book from the middle or end of a series’ run and give it a fair review, despite having little to no familiarity with the volumes that came before it. This is the case with Ikigami but for this particular series, I found myself able to understand everything quite clearly, even without any previous knowledge. This is because the stories that make up the majority of this volume are stand-alone, featuring casts of one-off characters connected through the story of the main character, who is actually featured very little. In most cases, episodic storytelling ends up being more “monster of the week” fare and generally not something I’m a fan of. Ikigami is an exception to this though as it shows how all episodic storytelling should be done.
The main character, Kengo Fujimoto, is an ikigami deliveryman who goes about his job with a fair amount of doubt, something which could get him into trouble with the all-controlling Ministry of Health and Welfare. However his story is not the focus of this volume; that honour is given to two characters who receive ikigami’s from Kengo: Yukimasa Tsutsumori and Ikuhiko Sugita. Both are young men who have led lives dominated by their father’s expectations but, when they receive their notices, both have incredibly different reactions. Each story takes up one half of the volume and is told over several chapters, which allows both these two characters and the supporting cast to become developed.
Even though these characters only appear in their one story, the audience cares about them and is invested in their lives and, especially, they upcoming deaths. As well, their stories serve to further establish the world in which the manga is set and also put the main character in situations that allow for his continuous growth.
One thing that helps this volume tell its stories so well is the art, which is exceptional when it comes to demonstrating the various emotions the characters feel. There is also a high level of detail in each panel, which is particularly showcased in the first story, where graffiti plays an important role and the manga has to show art within its art. The only flaw is that there are times when the character designs are not distinct enough to tell everyone apart but most of the time this is not an issue as character names are given repeatedly.
The only other complaint I have is that in this volume the dystopia is a bit heavy-handed, with very little shades of grey. But overall it is an excellent story and leaves the reader wanting more and so it comes highly recommended.
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Book provided by Viz Media for review purposes