What makes a good short manga? Most manga are written with the idea in mind to make them go on for quite a while, or even with a full set plot in mind, may go on for several volumes. In this case, Life is Money spans only 3 volumes, which is, in my opinion, the perfect length for this story.
Plot: Meguru needs 100 million yen for his sick sisters heart transplant. After being scammed by a group of people and outcast by people who believe he stole the money, he's desperate. So desperate that he listens to the sly words of a bar patron who
tells him of a high risk game that can earn him 100 million yen. With his deathly ill sister in mind (and more tricks from the bar patron) he agrees.
What follows is a game similar to one you could find in Liar Game, though instead of a deadly debt, there is literal life on the line. It's a mental game, if a player gets to stressed out, or breaks a rule, he'll be trapped in a mental prison and die. There are also other elements, such as cutting off a players sense to add to the challenge of the game.
It's a survival manga, not much more too it. But what follows is more interesting, an event comparable to the stanford prison experiment. At first it seems simple, all they have to do is ignore each other. But quickly the rules change after one of the player hogs the only food they were given and says he'll only hand it over if they agree to give him some of their winnings.
The plot progression is not the most interesting part of the manga. You could almost call it predictable in some aspects. What makes it interesting is the character development and how they react to scenarios.
Characters: Meguru is our protagonist, with a noble means for the money. However we no little of our other characters and why they are there. This is what makes the manga a great read. We learn more about who these characters are, why they're playing the game the way they are, whether or not they care about the winnings to begin with. Even Muguru who seems endlessly optimistic at first finds himself falling into a rugged Hell.
This is what makes the manga really interesting. We don't know who these people are but as we learn, people who we thought were simple or good quickly show a dark undertones to them or motivations that aren't exactly pure hearted. It's simple in that sense, exploring the need for survival and darker human motivations, but it does it all too well. Sometimes the characters can't help themselves. Other times their dark side is of their own free will.
I adore all these characters, be they good guy or bad guy, as all of them are written quite well.
The art: The art in this could get quite cartoony at times and very over dramatic. It only did it at times during high stress character moments. Not much else to say. Think Panty and Stocking, only slightly heavier anime tones instead of western
The bad: This series really shoves it's morals down your throat. I understand it being as short as it is, it needs to get it in somewhere and somehow, but it never does it quietly or subtly. It always decided 'OH, here's a good moments to comment on life and humans.' It never really flowed naturally and really hurt how much I enjoyed the ending of the manga in particular.
Life is Money overall: If you want a survival manga, I more recommend Battle Royale or Liar Game. However, if you want a manga that focuses on characters and you can really enjoy unraveling the layers of a person, then this a manga for you.
Everyone who reads manga or watches anime has surely seen a scenario like this. Money on the line, lives on the table: a fight to the death. That's what happens in Life is Money...but it's not how you imagine it. There's no physical violence allowed - so how do you kill? The truth is more disturbing than you think.
Quite possibly one of the most under-appreciated manga out there, Life is Money is truly a psychological manga, yet retains many shounen elements. There's a hero, a villain, an intriguing story, and interesting characters. Let's hear a bit about the story:
Meguru Fukurokouji is in need of 100
million dollars for an urgent heart transplant for his beloved sister, who could die at any point. Taking out a life insurance policy, he decides to become a martyr so his sister can live on. But wait. At the end of his rope and about to say his final goodbye to the world, he is approached by a man who offers him 100 million dollars. All he has to do is win a game, although there's a chance he might die. Then again, it beats his chances of surviving a 5 story drop from a bridge.
Soon he finds himself among ten others who are just as expectant as him. Black Tapia (the black - man? - with horns) appears and tells the group of the rules of the game they must play. Each player must survive a grueling ten days inside a prison complex. Simple, right? There's entertainment, a fitness room, even a relaxing music room. Everything seems great until they discover the other rule. In this prison, each player's heart rate cannot exceed a limit, or they will be subject to a "mental prison", a horrifying form of death.
In addition, each day they must roll a dice to determine which of the five senses they possess will be "disabled" for the day. Roll a five? You're not allowed to hear. Roll a two? You can't taste. Roll a six? Everything resets. It's a painful and grueling ten days in what can be described as no less than hell.
Art is, in general, good. Backgrounds are nice, but not great. Characters are also sufficiently detailed. All in all though, I have to say that the art just doesn't go above and beyond the necessary. That's all right though, as the story covers for it.
Character development is great. You get to see Meguru meet and interact with the other nine people and learn about each. You see him go from depressed to wimp to badass to hopeful. The weakness here is that some other characters are not as well developed, some not at all. Whereas you learn a lot about Meguru and his friends, you fail to learn barely anything about Black Tapia and 2-3 of the players. Although this is not exactly necessary, it would've been helpful to many readers.
Overall, a great and fun read. Even though it's short, it definitely shouldn't be missed by anyone who enjoys a good story. It's very under-appreciated, and it needs more popularity. Don't hesistate to pick it up: it's short and there's little commitment. I'm sure you won't regret it. Thank for reading and I'll see you in my next review.
In one line : When the work on the art biases my judgment.
With such a headline, things seem to be already settled. Yes, my enjoyment mainly came from the art. While "pretty" seem to be a sort of common criteria, I consider it to be a rather limited view. If art and beauty can go together, they aren't an outmust necessity. Art can also be about distortion, abstraction and symbolism. "Life Is Money" uses those aspects pretty well and has therefore this "different" feeling to it. And sadly, it is the only strong point of the manga.
Nothing much can be said about the story,
it is a rather typical story of "people brought up together to participate in a lethal game" and brings nothing interesting, different or new to the subject. Though it had potential, I didn't feel it was well developped or used, or that it even attempted to it. Putting it in perspective, it could be argued it's due to its lenght, but even the first chapters didn't seem to go too deep into it, despite promising premises of losing one or several of your senses.
The characters are even less mentionable. While I applaud one of them, I cannot say their personality and archetype wasn't written all over their faces right from the start, bringing close to no surprise to the various "twists" or events occuring. I would only want to kudo a devil-like chara, who I expected a few things from to only be denied and to raise an eyebrow at the main's protagonist sudden change of attitude toward the end. Let's not mention pairings as in 15 chapters, two charas get close enough to want to get married and have children together.
So yes, there's, overall, nothing good or bad to say about story and characters, except they are a good excuse for the chosen art style. It's a manga that misses an opportunity as with its art style it could have really brought something to the genre, which has a usually more conventional design. However, an art style alone isn't enough, the story/characters have to bring something as well, or, at least, be a little more than average.
(6 in the review, to tone down my biased judgment, but 7 on my list)
This story starts with the tradgic tale of Meguru sister in need of a $100 million for a hert transplant and how they money was stolen by those who helped him. After this event Meguru finds himself along with 9 others in a life or death game in exchange for money. Meguru is a verry kind person giving everyone a fair chance and helping those in need. This is a verry griping manga that will have you on the edge of your seat. I highly recomend this manga to all. Its definetly one of my favorites
PS: sorry for not going into too much detail
didnt want to give too many spoilers away + only 6 chaps are out so far