Title: Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit Vol 7
Author: Motoro Mase
Reading Level – Older Teens
May Contain Spoilers
Episode 13: Photo of the Deceased
Episode 14: The Dream I Tried to Make Come True
If I quit now, my life itself would become a lie.
Sorry about the lame synopsis; Viz really went all out with this one!
This is an engrossing and very thought provoking series. I remember when I first heard about it, way, way back in 2009, I didn’t think it sounded like something that I would enjoy. Death letters? Dying for the social good? Two years and seven volumes later, I realize that I couldn’t be further from the truth. This title is very unique, and I don’t think the publisher is doing enough to promote it.
Each volume has self-contained vignettes as the lives and deaths of those chosen to receive death letters are examined. Ernest, hard-working Fujimoto works for the government, and it’s his job to deliver the ikigami to the intended recipients. After getting to know Fujimoto, I wonder how he can get up every morning and head into the office. He has a grim and thankless task. He sees first hand the reaction of those chosen to die for the greater good, and after delivering one death notice after another, he begins to wonder. He begins to question whether the death of these young people, one in a thousand, is fulfilling the goals of the National Welfare Act. Do people truly appreciate life with this awful death lottery continuing to take place? Does the government truly believe that the deaths of bright, young citizens accomplishes a greater good?
Fujimoto delivers two ikigami in this volume. The first goes to Takaaki, a young photographer just starting to spread his creative and professional wings. I was completely absorbed in this story-arc. Taka is nuts about photography, and has been since he was a child. He befriends the owner of a photo studio, and after getting to know the couple running it, he is tagged to take it over when they retire. This was interesting to me because I love taking pictures, too. Taka and Mr Ikeyama have a falling out because of a disagreement over the importance of digital photography. The discord between old and new technology touched a chord in me. Mr Ikeyama doesn’t believe the qualities of digital stand up to film, and he refuses to compromise and sell any digital equipment. His business suffers as a result, and Taka, fresh from college, sees the value of embracing the new technology, if only to keep the business afloat. I enjoyed the interaction between the characters here; you can tell how much they all care for each other, but one difference of opinion threatens their relationship, which as been built over the years on mutual trust and respect. The ending of this arc got to me – it was emotional and intense, and it kept me enthralled to the end.
The second half of the book didn’t have the same hold over me, because I didn’t feel connected with Katsunori. All he wants to do is breakdance, but he puts his dreams on hold to study for his college entrance exams. His father has waved a mighty tempting carrot in front of him – if he gets into a respectable university, his father will add a dance studio to the cram school he runs, and Katsunori can teach kids how to dance. Studying for the exams has not be easy for him, and Katsunori has been miserable since he gave up dancing. Now, he’s received a death notice, and he wonders bitterly what the point of his sacrifice has been. This story arc made me realize, yet again, that tomorrows are not guaranteed, and if there is something you want to accomplish in life, you had best do it now.
Fujimoto’s confusion and doubt about the National Welfare Act is growing, and this plot thread is so compelling! His department has been under intense scrutiny after Nanako Kubo’s rebellion, and the added pressure from the thought and behavior examinations have him on edge. The more he is quizzed on his belief in the National Welfare Act, the less he is convinced that it is producing the intended results. I wonder how long he can keep up his submissive demeanor. I’m starting to worry about him, because he is losing the ability to hide his true feelings, and he is confronted with a moral struggle every time he has to deliver another ikigami.
Review copy purchased from Rightstuf