Death Notice: Ikigami review (DVD)

Based on Motoro Mase's manga series, Death Notice: Ikigami, or simply Ikigami as per the original Japanese title, is the latest live-action release from MVM Entertainment, who until recently had mostly concentrated on bringing anime to DVD in the UK. But since the company began broadening its horizons, the subsequent films have often been less than appealing. Until now. MVM have struck gold with Ikigami: a tremendously original and emotionally engaging film with a human heartbeat.

Set in a dystopian Japan with an incredibly low crime rate thanks to its “National Prosperity” law, all the boys and girls in the country receive inoculations to begin their very first day of school. One in a thousand of these jabs contain a nano-capsule that will instantly kill those unfortunate enough to be injected at a specific time somewhere between the ages of 18 and 24, all in the name of sacrifice for the good of the nation and to preserve the true value of life in society. Those who carry the capsule are clueless as to their untimely demise right up until precisely 24 hours before they are set to expire, when they are alerted to their plight by a representative from an elite group, who brandishes a notice of their death, or “ikigami”. Those about to die are given free food, transportation and lodging so that they may have a 'comfortable' final day.

Following on from the basic principle of the film, Ikigami is split into three stories each strung together by a hesitant young man who has just begun his job as a distributor of death notices. His inaugural delivery is at the apartment of a young musician whose death coincides with his first big break performing live on television with his partner. His next jobs respectively involve the reclusive son of a prominent politician and the older brother of a blind woman whom he looks after. Each of these stories are deeply written and feature characters fleshed out enough that they become just as prominent as the ikigami deliverer who holds the film together. The same goes for the work of the stunning cast.

The disturbing Orwellian society depicted in the movie is bleak to say the least and is the dark catalyst for a great deal of emotion. The musician's final few minutes before his inevitable death gave me goosebumps and ultimately make for the most powerful scene in a terrific film. Death Notice: Ikigami is second only to Oldboy as the greatest manga adaptation that I've ever had the pleasure of seeing.

EXTRAS ? Only the original Japanese trailer and teaser.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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