Title: Suicide Island
Artist: Kouji Mori
Serialized in: Young Animal
Translation: Unlicensed in the US.
Review Status: Incomplete (4 Volumes/ ? Volumes)
I discovered this manga years ago, when I first started getting into manga. Months passed with no update, so I figured it had been dropped by the scanlators. And eventually…I forgot about it. Thankfully, some spare time recently meant I rediscovered this title, and I’m thrilled to see that it just kept getting better! Best described as a cross between Ikigami and Cage of Eden, Suicide Island takes a dark theme about premature death and makes it a celebration of life.
The premise is simple: with all the suicide attempts happening in Japan, the government decides to give them an option to decide if they really want to live or die. Signing a paper that gives the government leave to destroy their citizenship and absolving them of any further responsibility for their lives, a group of people wake up on an abandoned island, where they truly have to make a decision on whether they’re going to eke it out, or die like they wanted. With no food, water, or medicine, some people decide to go right away. Others, never having really seen the effects of death before, are horrified and decide to try and survive. They don’t really have a choice–a sign lets them know if they try to escape, they would be considered tresspassing in international waters and could be shot on sight. There’s no going back.
This story follows Sei, a young man who didn’t have anything to live for. Waking up on Suicide Island and seeing the horrors of death firsthand, he’s shocked into realizing that isn’t really what he wanted. The rest of the survivors are mixed, some wanting to live, some scared of what might come and killing themselves in the first few nights, others continuing to live by preying on the rest, thinking nothing of the next day.
Going into the practicalities of what’s needed to survive in such a place as well as into the internal politics, Suicide Island makes it clear that things aren’t going to solve themselves. Only by working together do these people have a chance of making it. They learn and share skills like fishing and making salt, harvesting crops left over from the previous inhabitants, and with Sei’s valuable archery skills, they might have a chance at making it through the winter. At the same time, those who don’t care one way or another cause a lot of internal strife as the others try to figure out how to deal with them. Do they support them, or fight them? Some want the leeches to die, while others don’t see the point in taking their lives since there are few survivors as it is.
Sometimes, nothing can be done to prevent violence. Tempers flare, as well as fear, and fighting takes out some of their numbers. Without medicine and treatment, some of the smallest injuries have the potential to be life-threatening, and even indirectly causing death can weigh heavily on the survivor’s minds–especially Sei, when he defends himself and inadvertantly causes someone’s death.
The issues they faced when attempting suicide don’t magically disappear, either. Each and every person still bears all the mental scars and instability from when they came, in some form or another. Building bonds helps ease the pain, but they still need to fight to keep living. Watching Sei find his own will and desire to live is an intense story, slow but definitely interesting to read. In many ways, he becomes a rock that others rely on in turn. That’s sometimes the best part of the story. It’s in many ways a classic man-into-the-wild, just with a few twists to the trappings. Yes, I am thinking of My Side Of The Mountain when I say this, but it’s true–he finds himself on the island, and with his little doggy pal become an integral part of the society they’re forming.
This is a very interesting read. Definitely not for the kids, but really has a strong message about life and it being worth living at the end of the day.