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Manga Review: Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit Volume 1 by Motoro Mase

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Viz takes on new, darker territory with Motoro Mase's Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit. In this chilling vision of the near future, Japan has become a bleak dystopian society filled with lazy, apathetic citizens who have lost any respect for hard work and for life. To counteract this, the government has instituted a rather odd program: in order to remind citizens about the value of life, one person is selected to die every day. The victim is given 24 hours of notice before they are killed by the mysterious injection capsules given to each citizen when they begin school. This notice is called an "ikigami," and it's Kengo Fujimoto's job to deliver these infamous "death notices" to victims.

This volume is separated into two "episodes" that chronicle two deliveries to different ikigami recipients and how these recipients live their final day.

In the first episode the world's concepts of death to appreciate life and prosperity and the ikigami itself is introduced. It's also hinted that the deaths are not as "random" as the government would like citizens to think. In the secondary story, the ikigami recipient deals with the trauma from his past, and decides to take revenge on those who wronged him.

In the second episode, the reader takes a tour of the plant where the deadly capsules are manufactured and learns the details behind their creation. Meanwhile, Kengo delivers an ikigami to an aspiring musician, who quickly regrets splitting up with an old friend over musical differences. This story is filled with twists and turns and delivers an amazingly suspenseful and thoroughly complex plot.

The artwork of Ikigami is one of the highlights of the manga. Rather than having exaggerated expressions or silly backgrounds, Ikigami embraces realism and gritty, detailed environments that compliment the story's overall feel perfectly. The shading here is absolutely extraordinary and the dialogue even feels natural in English, unlike many manga out there.

The concept is a very unique one for a manga, and tends to shun the archetypes associated with shojo and shonen manga. Ikigami moves into the world of thought provoking literature while giving readers a compelling ride. It's almost like a cross between the popular Death Note series and famous dystopian novels such as 1984 and Brave New World.

While the first volume barely scratches the concept's surface, it's a promising start to an exciting new series that will force readers to think a little harder about what they read – and what they would do if they discovered they only had 24 hours left to live.

Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit Volume 1 feels like a warm-up for something great to come in the future. The concept has plenty of potential, and I eagerly look forward to the next installment in this innovative series.

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