Sunday, August 8, 2021

REVIEW: Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit (manga, vol. 1) by Motoro Mase, translated by John Werry

Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit is dystopian psychological fiction. It's licensed by VIZ. I bought this volume used.


Content warning for this volume: on-page bullying and rape.

In this version of Japan, there's something called the National Welfare Act. In elementary school, all children are vaccinated against various diseases. Some of the injections include a special nanocapsule that eventually comes to rest in the child's pulmonary artery, where it ruptures on a specified day and time, at some point between their 18th and 24th birthday. No one knows who has a capsule inside them, and the goal is to make citizens value their lives more and increase their productivity. Any citizens who object to this system are immediately injected with a capsule.

Fujimoto has just started working as a messenger, one of the people whose job is to deliver ikigami, death papers. These are given to citizens 24 hours before they're scheduled to die, so that they may better appreciate their last 24 hours. The families they leave behind will be given a bereavement pension, unless they choose to spend their last 24 hours committing crimes, in which case there is no bereavement pension and the family must pay large fines as compensation.

This particular volume features the delivery of two ikigami, one to a man who was bullied so severely when he was in high school that it derailed his entire life, and one to a young singer/guitarist who has lost sight of what's really important to him in his quest to become famous.

I don't know what I think about this series. The art was good, and the stories were fairly interesting, but I'm not entirely sure what the author is going for. On the one hand, it was clearly a horrible system that didn't make people appreciate their lives any more than the average person who could die at any time from a non-nanocapsule-related incident. People died, and it was senseless, and sometimes they harmed other people on their way out, despite the whole "your family will be ostracized and have to pay for your crimes" thing. On the other hand, in both ikigami incidents so far, the characters were depicted as managing to achieve something worthwhile in their last moments that they probably wouldn't have under other circumstances. Were readers supposed to view the system as beneficial in some way?

Fujimoto struggled with his job as well. He saw the harm his ikigami deliveries could cause, and he had to deal with people's grief and rage. He couldn't openly criticize the system or even talk about his concerns without risking being killed, so the only person he'd cautiously mention any of it to was his boss, who'd learned over the years to look at the bright side of ikigami.

Will I continue this series? Maybe, if only to see whether the author does something more with it than make it a bunch of standalone ikigami delivery stories. It's definitely not the kind of thing I'd want to binge read, though, so interlibrary loan and its periods of waiting might actually be a good thing this time around.

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