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September 2, 2011

Bento Bako Bonus: Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit vol. 7

Title: Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit
Author: Motoro Mase
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volume 7 (of 7), $12.99
Vintage: August 2011
Genre: Psychological thriller

[Editor’s note: Your regular columnist is attending a convention this weekend, so please welcome Infinite Speech, who kindly consented to doing my Friday and Monday reviews.]

From the moment Kengo Fujimoto shows up at your door and hands you an ikigami, you have twenty-four hours to live. Kengo is an employee of the Ministry of Health and Welfare and is required to enforce the National Welfare Act by servicing individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 with these death notices. In the first grade an immunization shot is given and one in a thousand of them has a capsule that will end someone’s life. Those served are offered services to help with their final hours among several stipulations should they choose to lash out with criminal behavior.

In the first story we are introduced to Takkaki, a young man who has a love for photography and a great amount of respect for his mentor, Mr. Ikeyama. Takkaki wants to see Mr. Ikeyama’s camera store continue to do well, however, his mentor is very much stuck in the old ways and refuses to take a more modern approach. The two have a severe falling out which results in Mr. Ikeyama being hospitalized. Soon after, Takkaki is served an ikigami and the young man wishes to make amends while keeping the news of the ikigami a secret. The second tale focuses on B-Boy (Breakdancer) Katsunori, who put aside his passion for dancing to focus on his education. Time passes and he’s excelled at school, though his physical frame and his B-Boy skills have suffered tremendously. The day that he’s served his ikigami is one that has him calling into question not only his entire life, but his decision to give up being a B-Boy to further his education.

Upon noticing this is the final volume in the series, I was a bit skeptical about how much I’d enjoy it since I was coming into the story so late. [Editor’s note: It is and it isn’t. Wikipedia says it both has seven volumes, but also that it’s ongoing and up to nine volumes; I think it may be broken into separate counts due to it switching magazines and the Japanese publisher’s handling of the published volumes. And if I’m not mistaken, this volume’s cover states it’s the final volume.] Mainly because other than reading the review for Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit vol 6, this is my first experience with Motoro Mase’s work. It’s a good thing the first page does a nice job of setting up the overall premise of the series before the first story begins. Now, with both stories being separate from each other, the common thread that connects them is Kengo Fujimoto and what I’m assuming is the fallout from the last volume [Editor’s note: Meaning Kengo’s previous encounter with an anti-National Welfare faction a couple volumes back.]. This keeps it from being just a collection of short stories and gives this entire volume another level of depth. Which in my opinion is a bit more interesting than the two tales given to us. My only problem is that there is something very menacing and sinister regarding the Ministry of Health and Welfare that just isn’t explored enough here. By the end of the second story we’re left in the middle of Kengo’s investigation without any type of closure. Though I will admit that I could be missing something by having not read the previous volumes.

This reads like there should be a lot more coming after it, but this is volume 7 of 7 and we’re left wondering a lot about the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the NWA, and Kengo Fujimoto. However, as far as the two separate stories go, both of them are quite entertaining and forces each recipient of the ikigami to go back to what they abandoned, but with varying paths and results. Even with the abrupt ending I’d still recommend this series as it’s more than likely I’m going to go back myself and look up the previous volumes.

Infinite Speech

Review copy provided by Viz Media.



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