Monday, November 30, 2009

Jmovie review: Ikigami

In an alternate reality/not so distant future, Japan enacted the 'Maintenance of national prosperity law' whereby upon entering school all children are given a nano-capsule injection. Upon reaching the ages of 18-24, 1 in 1000 of the capsules will be activated randomly and they person will die. Matsuda Shota plays Fujimoto, an ikigami who is the bearer of death. The ikigami presents the sacrificial citizen with a card marking his/her death in 24 hours and the card allows the person free lodging and food. The family of the sacrifice is then granted a government pension and if the person commits a crime within the 24 hours, the pension is used as compensation.

Why such a law is enacted in Japan is never explained. However, because such a law exists, crime rate and suicide rates in Japan experienced a significant reduction. The belief is that such random killings force the public cherish their own lives. However, the government has a draconian attitude towards the preservation of the national prosperity law. Speaking out against the law is a thought crime and perpetrators are sent for reeducation. It can be assumed that Japan experienced a crime wave and suicide rates of such horrible proportions that such a law was forced to be enacted as a response.

The important thing is not why the 'Maintenance of national prosperity law' was enacted but what stories can be told from it. We have the main story Fujimoto going about his job as an ikigami and the effect it has on him and stories about 4 different people who are chosen to die; a former victim of school bullying, an up and coming singer, a hikikomori and a brother of a blind sister.

I would have loved to see an argument about the morality of such a drastic measure. If crime and suicide really reached epic levels, would the sacrifice of a few justify the saving of many? Of course the answer is that an innocent person should never suffer for the wrongs of others but it would have been a fun argument.

I've seen that nurse in doramas before...

Ikigami is more about exploring the value of life and the cost of a random death on family and friends. The singer story was really good, especially the song and performance. I really liked the ikigami boss' comment that maybe was the fact that the singer was about to die that aspired him to greatness. I love it when movie ask hard questions.

You interested in joining Crows Zero 3? You'll make a good nemesis for Oguri Shun.

The brother of the blind girl story is pretty melodramatic and its something we've seen before. Good thing this is not a Korean movie so they didn't milk it as much. Good to see Yamada Takayuki and Narumi Riko playing bit parts. I guess my cynical side is loathed to admit that the movie succeeded in doing what it is designed to do, move the audience in a story about the value of life. I really like how the ending is sort of open ended while hinting out how things will turn out. Its saying that the beginning and end doesn't matter as much as exploring the middle of the story.

Big thanks to 8thsin for subbing this movie. He always picks good movie and I wholeheartedly recommend this movie.


Anonymous said...

And a big thanks to you for reviewing it and thus bringing attention to this movie to the rest of us.

The plot looks interesting enough, and Narumi Riko san has always been one of my favorite j-actress.

Will certainly check it out.

joey said...

i also have watched this n find it interesting. it's like deathnote + bokura no yuuki minman toshi (old dorama, if u know) with government replacing kira and 24-hours-free-logdging,food,transportation-card instead of deathnote. no L though~

Anonymous said...

I've seen that nurse in doramas before...

Akiramike said...

Nice death note anology except the killing is random.

Wow, the nurse has been in a lot of shows. I think she was a nurse in Little DJ.

bframe5 said...

Great movie.

If I remember correctly, in Tanabe's room you'll see a Death Note poster on his wall.

Pleasantly surprised to see Igawa Haruka as the doctor. But, I wish she'd star in more dramas...

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the great review and suggestion.
I just began watching the movie.
The scene where the old guy explains "The Law" remind me of the "Introduction Movie" of from Battle Royal.

Anonymous said...

I watched this movie last night with my Japanese wife. I loved it! The movie has a spellbinding and pervasive orwellian theme of an evil unleashed but brilliantly disguised as a boon for both the individual and the wider society much like our childhood inoculations against deadly diseases. The child may cry and struggle at the sight of the needle but the wise Doctor and parents know it is for the child's greater good. The blind girl episode was very beautifully done and the actress is gorgeous.
Two huge thumbs up!