To teach the value of life, the National Welfare Act places a timed nanocapsule in one out of every 1,000 first graders’ immunization syringes. On a predetermined date between the ages of 18 to 24 – with just 24 hours notice to the moment to death – a young citizen will die. Federal employee Fujimoto who delivers these ikigami, or death papers, initially struggled over the disturbing horror of his job, but by the beginning of vol. 3, even his supervisor notices, ” … he’s really made progress. … He’s made peace with it.”
His first delivery of vol. 3 takes him to the home of a local political hopeful, a woman campaigning in support of the National Welfare Act, insisting that “only strict National Welfare Education will preserve the security of Musashigawa Ward,” recently riddled with rising crimes committed by minors. Paying the price for her public ambitions, her distressed son has shut himself away in his room the last four years, abandoned by his dismissive mother and his helpless father. When the ikigami ironically arrives for her son, the mother is more than willing to use the situation to further her political campaign.
The volume’s second half focuses on a pair of siblings – a screw-up of an older brother and his much younger blind sister whom he promises he will get out of the orphanage and finally live together in a home of their own. Just before their happy reunion, the brother receives his ikigami, and decides the one thing he can do for his sister now is to leave her his cornea. In order to bypass her growing suspicions, he enlists Fujimoto’s assistance as well as the hospital staff in an elaborate ruse to restore his sister’s sight.
Fujimoto is deeply affected by the siblings’ plight. And his intense involvement gets him “severely reprimanded.” But he’s also buoyed by his own actions: “Your expression is brighter than usual,” a colleague notices. ” …[Y]ou acted on your own free will this time. I think it helped lighten your heart a little.” That lightness is merely fleeting as he realizes with grave certainty that “[t]here’s no way I’ll ever feel a sense of personal achievement … in a job where I deliver unhappiness to people. When I think of the lost hopes … all sense of worth is blown to bits.” How he will manage to continue such deliveries will have to wait until the next volume … patience is certainly not my virtue!
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2009 (United States)
Ikigami 3 © Motoro Mase
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.