By Leroy Douresseaux
February 7, 2010 - 07:38
|Ikigami Volume 4 cover image is courtesy of barnesandnoble.com.
Rated “M” for “Mature”
In the near-future, the government of Japan has devised a novel, yet macabre way to motivate its apathetic and unmotivated citizenry. Each day, a civil servant from the Ministry of Health and Welfare delivers an ikigami – a death paper – to one randomly selected citizen between the ages of 18 and 24. An ikigami is a notification informing the citizen that he or she will be killed within 24 hours. The weapon of choice is an explosive nano-capsule randomly injected into select children during childhood immunization. This centerpiece of the National Welfare Act reminds people how precious life is.
In Ikigami, Vol. 4, Fujimoto, an ikigami messenger, delivers two more death notices to the “chosen.” In Episode 7 (“The Last Lesson”), Soichi Tamura, a teacher with a unique way of looking at unmotivated students, finds himself the brunt of a terrible plot orchestrated by Mitsuru Yoneda, a student Tamura considers a special project. When he gets an ikigami, Tamura decides to teach those of whom he really holds responsible for the plot a deadly lesson.
In Episode 8 (“A Place of Peace”), Naoko Seki gets an ikigami and decides that her husband Ryuta, who is heavily indebt and inattentive of his family’s needs, should not have custody of their daughter Mina. She begins a journey that she believes will save her child.
THE LOWDOWN: As I wrote of the previous volume, few comic books deal with science fiction in the intimately human way that Ikigami does. The amazing thing is that creator Motoro Mase creates emotions both extreme and subtle and plumbs the depths of humanity using graphics the way great writers do using words. Yet with pictures, Mase may very well surpass prose writers’ ability to impact readers. In “The Last Lesson,” page 56’s full page, close up illustration of Soichi Tamura transmits the teacher’s grief and rage in a visceral way. It may make the readers agree with his dreadful plot and feel his terrible pain in a way that will shock them.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Readers who cherish social science fiction and psychological dramas will like Ikigami.