His Job Is To Deliver A Message

His Job Is To Deliver A Message

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
MVM Entertainment 

Release date: March 7th 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 133 minutes

Original language: Japanese with English subtitles

Director: Tomoyuki Takimoto

Cast: Shota Matsuda, Koji Tsukamoto, Riko Narumi, Takayuki Yamada, Akira Emoto

In a not-too-distant future, Japan is the greatest country in the world. Suicide and crime rates are lower than ever and the growing economy compares to no other on the planet.

This was accomplished by the introduction of the “National Prosperity Law”, designed to remind citizens of the value of life. On their first day of school, Japan’s children are inoculated; one injection in a thousand contains a lethal nano-capsule that will kill the recipient sometime between the ages of 18 and 24.

Death Notice: Ikigami

Kengo Fujimoto (Shota Matsuda) is a civil servant whose job is to deliver death notices (the “Ikigami”) to the chosen ones, 24 hours prior to death, so they can make the final day meaningful and say goodbye to loved ones.

His first delivery is to a struggling musician who chose fame over friendship. When he receives his death notice, it leaves him wanting to reconcile with his best friend.

The world of Death Notice is one of a dystopian future where the state targets the young, and while it happily shares certain elements of other well known films like Logan’s Run (1976) and Battle Royal (2000), I find it has enough steam to run on its own.

Death Notice: Ikigami

There is a strong sense of melodrama throughout and it’s used very effectively; not only to oppose the state, but to support it too. It’s also uses contrasting themes, such as Kengo’s clean work environment and the more colourful and grittier scenes of his delivery trips, to its advantage, further heightening his conflict.

Politically, the movie is thought provoking with questions left unanswered. It is fascinating that they put extreme right rule in the context of democracy, but it begs the question: to what extent is this society democratic?

Death Notice: Ikigami

There are elections. The mother of Kengo’s second victim is a politician whose campaign is based solely on the necessity and effectiveness of the National Prosperity Law. She is the conservative candidate, but her rival and their campaign are never shown.

Since opposition to the National Prosperity Law is considered “thought crime” (another reference to Orwell’s 1984), it is important to see a liberal political point of view in this context.

The media and the press are shown to be free to report on the victims of the law and their often dramatic final hours (in fact the tabloids seem to love the subject), which implies lack of censorship. Does the majority of the public accept the concept of national prosperity? Have they looked at the facts and figures and thought this law was an acceptable sacrifice? Are they deceived by false propaganda? Or perhaps they are merely intimidated by an iron fisted police state?

Nevertheless, Death Notice remains a thought provoking and engaging story with superb cinematography, beautifully executed scenes and characters which were easy to relate to.

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