Ikigami is one of the best and most original narratives I have ever read. It utilizes the serial nature of manga releases to blend together a series of what all could be a number of one-shot short story type narratives into a thirty six chapter masterpiece.
In a Japan where the Japanese government has enacted a policy of randomized killing in an attempt to remind its citizens of the value of life when life expectancy is very high and society is highly stable. Basically, in Ikigami, the Japanese government has every child injected with a device that could kill them. 99,999 people will receive a harmless injection but 1 in every 100,000 (that unlucky one!) will receive an injection with a device that will activate and kill them on a date somewhere between the ages of 18 and 24 I think. That means every person spends the first 24 years of their life playing a death lottery. For the most part people lives their lives ordinarily enough but Motoro Mase, the creator behind the manga, was very thoughtful in implementing little things in society that I find would be extremely realistic in the event such a society existed. For instance, there is a taboo on serious relationships and having children before you pass age 24 and enter the safe zone. There is actually a story that deals with a couple which breaks that taboo and runs into a shit storm of consequences because of it. All of which I found incredibly thoughtful and real.
Sticking with the trend of reality in a fictional world, which all good narratives have in some form or another, I found a richness in the stories of the people who received their Ikigamis. By the way, “Ikigami” itself means death note. And that’s what people who pop up on the register as about to die receive 24 hours before their time of death. People will of course react differently to the news that they will be dying in exactly twenty four hours. They have different circumstances in life, different personalities and as the story delves into, different opinions about the policy of individuals being required to die for national morale. Some people go ape shit and just want revenge. Some people do their best to take care of unfinished business before they are sacrificed. Others just shut themselves away unable to grasp the concept of certain death at a very specific time. It’s sad, it’s awesome, it’s insane. It’s ART! The cool thing about this story is that it primarily follows a low level member of the organization in charge of running the programs for Japan’s Ikigami policy. Literally the worst job ever. Hold up. It literally would be the worst job ever but since it is in a fictional story does it then require me to say that it is figuratively the worst job ever? I don’t know. What I do know is that the job sucks and takes an extraordinary toll on the life of this young man who is responsible for personally delivering the Ikigami kit which consists of an Ikigami card that allows you free reign of Japan on the day you die. You can do whatever you want for free except obviously commit crimes. Also, to add shit to the pile of the Ikigami delivery man he is also responsible for keeping people in line on their last day. He has to make sure that they don’t do anything that would hurt the public relations war that this policy has to fight. He is a normal guy doing a sucky job and that’s why I love his character.
There is a lot of other stuff that goes on in this story. All totally believable and compelling. This is one that I will eventually read again. The art and the story are so beautiful and rich. But I will need some time. This narrative leaves you with a lot of thinking to do if you are the thinking type and it leaves you with a lot of feelings to process. No Drake. LOL. Read and enjoy. Read and think. Read and marvel. Read it.