What would it take for you to find inspiration in the little things in life, to appreciate the world and its people for its beauty?
Volume 3 of Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit by Motoro Mase (artist for Heads) follows two totally unrelated characters in two different stories. One is a high school dropout, the other a con artist, and the thing the two have in common are papers they receive from “The Ministry of Health and Welfare” notifying them of their deaths in 24 hours.
Why would the Ministry of Health and Welfare do that? To promote how precious life is and how important it is to be a productive, active member of society. Ironically, some of those served dead papers are productive members of society: “All citizens undergo national welfare immunization in the first grade. Because of a nanocapsule in some of the syringes, 1 in 1,000 young people will die sometime between the ages of 18 and 24.” This method of “improving society” would never be accepted in our world and, as exemplified in the first story of Volume 3, things could go very wrong.
Takimoto Naoki is a depressed, anti-social, self-harming young man. His mother, Kazuko, is a workaholic politician with a one-track mind: to win the election, no matter what it takes. His father, Nobuhiko, is a soft spoken gentleman who helps out with Kazuko’s campaign, though it’s questionable whether he truly supports her. Through flashbacks, the reader learns that Naoki was neglected by Kazuko throughout his childhood, resulting in his suicidal behaviour. The delivery of his death papers come as a shock, but not as much as Kazuko’s reaction to her son’s impending fatality. As the book warns, youths who receive death papers execute their “despair in unpredictable ways.”
The other story follows Iizuka Satoshi and his sister, Sakura, and is much sweeter. This is shown by the familial relationship of the Iizuka siblings, who were orphaned when they were children because of a car accident. Sakura also lost her vision, which led to a reliance on her brother. Satoshi doted on her and continues to dote on her; the story picks up with Satoshi announcing his purchase of an apartment so that he could be a full-time caregiver for Sakura. The joyful occasion comes to a bittersweet ending after Satoshi is served death papers. Unlike Naoki, Satoshi makes the best of his last 24 hours on Earth in order to make sure Sakura is cared for.
Furthermore, the light/dark difference in the storylines is reflected in the amount of black ink used on the pages. Naoki’s story is much darker both in nature and colour, and the artistic style is much more frantic, the panels much more crowded, especially when the reader sees Naoki in his room. Satoshi’s story is littered with full panels of cherry blossoms and other wonderful scenic views.
Other than the death papers, the only shared element of both stories is the letter carrier, Fujimoto, an employee of the Ministry of Health and Welfare whose job is to physically deliver death papers to the chosen few. The brilliance of the Fujimoto character is allowing the reader to see both sides of the coin: he struggles with his own morals about the national welfare system. It would be interesting to see how much he has changed between Volume 1 and Volume 3: did it affect him more at the beginning? When we meet him in Volume 3, he is more seasoned and his boss seems to think so too. But as the stories unfold, especially in the second one, Fujimoto still questions his own actions.
Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, Volume 3 (224 pages) is written and drawn by Motoro Mase, and is published by VIZ Signature. It will be available for purchase at your favourite book stores and online retailers on November 10, 2009. It can also be purchased directly through the publisher here:
Previous volumes are also available direct from the publisher or at your local book store.