Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit Vol. 5

By Motoro Mase
240 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

I’ve noticed more and more that in this day and age where we have long-form stories running in comics, books, television series, and anything else you can imagine, audiences seem less inclined to jump into the middle of a series. I know I’ve been equally guilty of that problem, and so when I received a copy of Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit Volume 5 in the mail, I decided to put it to the test and see how well it would read considering that I’d never read volumes 1-4. As it turns out? I must have picked the right series of which to jump into the middle, because I had a blast.

Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit has a creepy premise, where in the future everyone in Japan is inoculated at birth with a capsule. Then, randomly, every day someone is slated for execution and notified within 24 hours that their capsule will activate at a specified and kill them. The idea is to keep people motivated, because you never know when it could be your last day on the planet. Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit‘s main character is a man who delivers these death notices, or ikigamis, to the 0.1% of the population between the ages of 18-24 that will eventually be activated. Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit Vol. 5 has two stories in it, each running three chapters and following the same basic premise. The first chapter introduces the execution target in their every day life, then the remaining two chapters are how they deal with the news of their impending death. Since the premise is spelled out at the beginning of the book, that’s all you need to hit the ground running.

There are numerous flaws with the premise of the book, of course, but Motoro Mase clearly understands that and uses Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit in part to examine those problems. The second story deals with one of those issues, where someone uses their ikigami delivery to start taking revenge on his fellow classmates in a cruel and sadistic way. After all, if you’ve only got 24 hours to live, why not go for broke? The ikigamis in general are tied into becoming "national welfare heroes" by reporting "social miscreants" to the government, and it’s a nasty "turn in your neighbors" society where we see a level of fear and paranoia rising up over the country. And while Mase shows us how people who use their last 24 hours for ill are punished by the system, it doesn’t stop the fact that people can still attempt these things; the problem with the idea of the ikigami is being shown to the reader loud and clear. On the other hand, though, the opening story in Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit Vol. 5 shows the positive side (such as it is), with an artist struggling with the two-faced nature of his family’s business finally being able to break free and create as he wants to, as well as try and inspire others. It’s a strange story when you consider that this isn’t someone who comes to this revelation because of an illness, but rather due to state-sponsored random execution, but it does hit its points.

Mase also has a subplot moving forward around Fujimoto, the delivery man of the ikigamis that we see in both stories. It looks to be following up further the idea of the flaws in the government, and while it’s a slow burn through this volume, because of the nature of the series it’s nice to see some sort of continuing storyline at all. Still, Fujimoto is a little bland, which is something that also holds true for Mase’s art. It’s not bad by any stretch, but there’s nothing particularly exciting about it. Carefully crafted characters, smooth lines, sparse (but present) backgrounds… it’s a completely average style. Still, Mase understands anatomy and movement, and that puts him ahead of the game of a lot of other artists.

Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit Vol. 5 was a nice reminder that one can still jump into a new series and not be utterly lost. Even though there are only two volumes of Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit remaining, I’m curious enough that I’ll probably take a look at them. It’s an interesting premise, and Mase’s following through of the nasty situation he’s created has piqued my interest. The fact that he’s able to do that around the two-thirds mark of the series is a definite mark in his favor as well as the series. It’s good to see someone remember that you need to appeal to new readers at all stages of a series.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

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