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DVD Review

DVD cover

Death Notice


Starring: Shota Matsuda, Koji Tsukamoto, Riko Narumi and Takayuki Yamada
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 15
Available 07 March 2011

In a not too distant future Japan enables their prosperity law, which requires that every child be inoculated. Every one in a thousand of the inoculations carry nano-tech, which in twenty-three years will burst a vessel in the heart, killing the recipient. None of the children know who carries the tech, but an hour before their death day they are served an Ikigami, a death notice...

Death Notice: Ikigami (2008 - 2 hrs, 13 min) is a dystopian science fiction film, directed by Tomoyuki Takimoto, based on an original manga, written by Motorô Mase. The film represents an excellent adaptation of a manga.

One of the strange things about the film is its central premise; apparently the idea of randomly killing one in a thousand of your young people will make the rest better citizens, with a greater value on their lives, is fundamentally flawed. It would be more likely that young people would become less civic minded knowing that they could drop dead any time between the ages of eighteen to twenty-four. Maybe there is something in the Japanese psyche which would accept this as a reasonable premise of a film, after all, given that it is random, what is to say that you’ll not kill off another Mozart or Einstein.

Ignoring the dodgy central idea, Ikigami is a very darkly moving film; we are taken through this depressing landscape by Kengo Fujimoto (Shôta Matsuda), a civil servant whose job it is to deliver the death notices, through him we are presented with three stories of doomed youth. The first is a young man on the cusp of stardom as a musician, who coincidently has his big break on a television show, the same day he is destined to die.

Each of the deaths which he is involved in brings him to question the fundamental purpose of the Prosperity Law. Initially he just wants the deaths to be more meaningful, he does not see that it is enough that the state provides a pension for the surviving relatives, or that the recipients of the death notice have the agreement of the government to do pretty much anything, on their last day, at the states expense. As the film progresses, this quite unassuming young man move from a position of uncomfortable questioning to outright defiance of the state.

The second person to die is the son of a prominent politician, who is running for re-election supporting the Prosperity Law; whilst his mother’s first reaction is to use her son’s imminent demise to further her own career seems farfetched. It is only when we, as the audience, discover that she had previously been convicted of thought crime and adjusted by the state, does her strange position become understandable.

Now you have to get the hankies out for the third story, which is designed to twist the heart out of your chest in its blatant attempt to have the whole audience in tears. The story involves a blind young woman, who lost her sight in crash which killed her parent, now grown she lives in a home for the blind, hoping one day to get a transplant, which would bring her sight. If I add that she has a brother who has worked hard to rescue his sister, I guess you can see where this is going when the brother gets an Ikigami.

Although, some of the ideas were dodgy, or borrowed from other sources, the whole steered just this side of absurd to present a moving, dark tale, which will stick in your mind.

The disc has only a couple of trailers for extras, though the presentation of the film is good with a nice print.


Charles Packer

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