What would you do if you knew you only had one day left to live? Would you get mad? Be shell-shocked, or become overwhelmed with grief? Would you try to live it up before the end, or try to settle some old scores? In Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, a new seinen manga series by Motoro Mase from VIZ Media, two twenty-somethings are forced to answer this question when they receive an ikigami or death notice from the Japanese government.
They say you can only truly appreciate life when you've come close to death. The fictional Japanese government featured in Ikigami takes this thought to the next level... perhaps a few steps too far. How? By randomly selecting citizens to die as young adults and only informing them of their fate when they only have 24 hours left to live.
This high-concept, semi-sci-fi story focuses on the unlucky souls who receive these "death notes," and their rage, pain, regrets and attempts to redeem themselves before the inevitable sends them to the great beyond. At the same time, Mase goes to great pains to explain the elaborate bureaucracy necessary to make this far-out scenario seem almost frighteningly plausible.
Read my review of Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit Volume 1, which is due out from VIZ Media in May 2009 and see what this realistic yet unrealistic morality fable has to offer, even to grown-up graphic novel readers, Vertigo comics fans and The Twilight Zone watchers who think they don't like manga.
Ikigami clocked in at #15 in my 20 Most Anticipated Manga of 2009 list, and is one of many exciting new manga from VIZ that's out now or coming soon this year. Check out the VIZ New Manga Preview Gallery for more manga worth waiting for.
Also, check out the official website for the live-action movie version of Ikigami starring Shota Matsuda and sample some of the trailers and photos from this 2008 film. It's all in Japanese, but it's worth a look because it'll give you a quick taste of this macabre and melodramatic manga morality fable. If you prefer an English-language take on this, check out IMDB's Ikigami movie page (warning: spoilers ahoy).
Image credit: © 2005 Motoro MASE