Ikigami Vol. #04 - Mania.com



Manga Review

Mania Grade: D+

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Info:

  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translation Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 17 and Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 12.99
  • Pages: 240
  • ISBN: 978-1421526812
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Ikigami

Ikigami Vol. #04

Ikigami Vol. #04 Manga Review

By Greg Hackmann     March 25, 2010
Release Date: February 06, 2010


Ikigami Vol. #04
© Viz Media

Volume 3 hinted at some changes in the way Fujimoto carries out his job -- does Volume 4 follow through?

Creative Staff
Writer/Artist: Motoro Mase
Translation: John Werry
Adaptation: Kristina Blachere

What They Say
Congratulations! You have been randomly selected by the government...to DIE in 24 hours! Featuring: Episode 7: The Last Lesson & Episode 8: A Peaceful PlaceCan a death messenger have a peaceful life?

The Review!

I think it's now fair to say that Ikigami is stuck in a rut.  Once again, Mase's sci-fi morality tale brings us a minor variation on the same pattern that the series has followed since its inception: one arc involving an ikigami recipient seeking revenge, and another filled with unnecessary sentimentality.
 
In the first of these arcs, the imminent recipient of the next Ikigami is Soichi Tamura, a teacher whose entire educational philosophy seems to stems from his motto "children can do no harm".  (From how many times he repeats some version of this catchphrase during the opening chapter, it should be no surprise to reader that he's shortly to become the next Ikigami victim: being emotionally one-dimensional is seemingly a requirement for Ikigami status in the revenge-centered arcs.)  The episode opens with Tamura losing his job over false accusations of peeping in the girls' locker room; being the push-over that he is, Tamura decides to wait for the situation to clear itself up rather than turning in the student who framed him.  Of course, Tamura's "plan" quickly falls apart when Fujimoto shows up to deliver his death papers.
 
As is standard for Ikigami's odd-numbered episodes, Tamura responds to the news by going on a violent rampage against his perceived tormenters, starting with the principal who demanded his resignation.  Tamura intends to end his rampage by killing off the mother of Mitsuru, the student who framed him, only to be stopped by a completely absurd emotional turn in the narrative.  The story heads into an absurd string of emotional breakdowns and dramatic epiphanies -- while I've got nothing inherently against that sort of thing, context is everything, and Ikigami's super-serious tone doesn't lend itself to overdramatized silliness.  Instead, the finale plays like a fumbled delivery of some Big Important Message (which in retrospect is neither as Big nor as Important as the series seems to think it is).
 
The second story arc deals with a young family living on the brink of financial collapse due to the husband's financial irresponsibility.  The thematic "hook" throughout story is the husband Ryu's obsession with drift racing; besides taking out shady loans to indulge his hobby, he goes as far as barring his wife Nao from driving his prized sportscar to the doctor when their daughter suffers an asthma attack.  Given the series's fondness for killing off sad sack characters, I was kind of surprised that Fujimoto shortly showed up to deliver papers ... not to Ryu, but to Nao.  Regardless, the sappy direction the narrative followed from the point wasn't much of a surprise; Nao speeds away in Ryu's car with their daughter while Ryu tries to track them down, having finally decided to shape up and abandon his hobby for his daughter's behalf.
 
Even though Viz's promotional blurb for this release talks about the personal lives of the Death Messengers, don't come in expecting Fujimoto to suddenly play a major part in the lives of the Ikigami victims like he did last volume: his role in this volume is just about as low-key as ever.  There's a minor, almost throwaway plot point about one of Fujimoto's coworkers being seen with her boyfriend, but almost nothing comes of it in this volume.  Where (if anywhere) Mase plans to go with this development in future volumes is anyone's guess.
 
In Summary:
As with the last volume, I'll give Mase credit for building a premise that I desperately want to like ... it's too bad that it's still being squandered on a mediocre, and increasingly repetitive, execution.  The one-note characters and B-grade melodrama probably would've fit well in another series that was aware of its inherent goofiness; here, the unintentional absurdity just clashes with the series's totally serious undertones.  Skip it.



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