Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit (vols. 8-9) by Motoro Mase, translated by John Werry, English adaptation by Kristina Blachere
First thing first: although every volume offers possibly standalone chapters, to get the full narrative arc, you really need to read them all in order. [Click here to check out the rest of Ikigami.]
If you’re not yet familiar with this chillingly effective, utterly addictive series, the most important thing you need to know is that an ikigami is literally a ‘death paper.’ That aforementioned arc follows Kengo Fujimoto of the National Welfare Program who delivers ikigami to the next victim. Upon receipt, that recipient will die in exactly 24 hours. The random death sentence – originally administered via vaccine to all first graders – affects 71 out of 1000 citizens; the program is designed to teach “every citizen the value of life.” Death happens between the ages of 18 and 24, and the victim dies a national hero.
In volume 8, a young woman loses her lover on the night of their engagement in a horrifying accident. Her hatred for her lover’s killer is the only thing that keeps her alive; even when he receives an ikigami, she’s convinced that’s not nearly enough revenge. In the second half, would-be lovers are again thwarted by a death sentence, but not before the ikigami victim – who has finally achieved physical perfection – gives new courage to the childhood love of his life.
In volume 9, both victims cheated death early, only to tragically receive ikigami. A young nurse is appalled by parents who allow their premature babies to die because she, too, was born long before she should have been but survived to become a caring, accomplished adult who fights for other people’s lives … and now she can’t accept that she will have to die. A young man, who could have been a professional soccer star but for a horrible accident, might have never been born at all given his grandfather’s heinous war experiences, but now he’s dying seemingly someone else’s death …
Meanwhile, Fujimoto is having all sorts of doubts that can only get him in grave trouble, especially with Chief Examiner Kaga who is still watching his every move. He knows he’s even being followed just in case he makes a wrong turn – literally. His conversations with his older colleague Ishii do little to quell his growing anxiety. As he attempts to rein in his recurring personal crises of faith, the country is on the brink of war, with allies who aren’t and missiles that have already been fired …
A final volume apparently looms, hitting shelves in August. Will the good doc revolt? Will parents refuse to vaccinate their children? Who will succumb to thought-crimes; who will get caught? All that aside, the most important question of all is – knowing what he knows and after everything he’s witnessed – just what will Fujimoto do? The horror, the horror … of waiting!
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2005, 2013 (United States)
Ikigami 8 and 9 © Motoro Mase
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.