The world is a cruel and confusing place for Mayumi. At the age of thirteen she lost her parents in a car accident. Unable to deal with the overwhelming sadness, hatred, and anger, she only wished she could stop feeling altogether.
Then, five years later, her sister becomes the first target of an incredibly bizarre incident. The victims in this incident lose a body part, without blood loss, after receiving a text message simply indicating the specific body part. The texts appear to come from Mayumi's sister's ex-boyfriend Kanno, but he claims to not be the culprit.
Mayumi works with him to solve the case, but is he truly innocent? Or is the crime related in some convoluted way to the suicide of Kanno's fiance years ago? Or is it related to an unfinished AI program he was writing which may have broken free? And even if this incident is resolved, will Mayumi ever be able to truly heal emotionally amidst the pointless cruelty of the world?
You normally don’t expect to see parts of a human body swimming in a bottle in a shoujo manga, do you? You usually don’t think it will deal with AIs, vengeful dead and body horror. And maybe it better stays that way. As far as experiments go, this seems to be a failure, while I respect the attempt and can’t help but admire the art of this manga. Neither love story nor mystery plot emerge unharmed from their collision.
The rating of 5 takes a lot of my goodwill this time. Personally, I feel insulted by some elements of the plot, but there’re two thing that
don’t let me sink Motto, Ikitai to the “definite no” level.
The first is the art. Yuki Andou’s talent for cinematographical panels remains as strong as ever, and the style is something I haven’t seen anywhere before. It’s comic style meets manga. Google “comic style” and open “pictures”, this manga has everything you’ll see, only in white and black – dynamic linework, lush monochrome spaces, dotted halftones, words and art merging, panels used as a camera filter (dividing one scene or merging two). No little ornamental details here, no background flowers. Occasionally the author experiments with ink, silhouette lines, black and white art. The attention to composition makes many of the panels worthy to be framed for some “comic style in manga” exposition. The covers are simply stunning.
The art is confident, plastic, beautiful, but maybe also sort of self-serving, it often feels like the art takes its own needs above the needs of the story. I don’t blame it – it’s obviously stronger – but for the sake of individual panels feeling complete it loses the flow sometimes and drowns relevant details.
The second is that the plot has interesting ideas, and maybe some readers won’t be as annoyed as I was…Different people – different pet peeves and bullshit thresholds.
If we tentatively separate the plot from the characters’ interactions, the idea for the story looks very promising – it has runaway AIs, “ghosts”, complex pasts hiding losses and shady science, cyber terrorism, suspicion, complicated love. I was curious about the secret behind the events until the end. For a big fat shameless red herring in the first volume, there’s a neat twist near the end. Too bad that the characters are very slow on the uptake, and I fear that maybe technobubble isn’t all that good.
The characters though, and the immediate writing… As I’ve mentioned, I was disgusted by the end. Basically what I experienced is a stereotypical shoujo heroine with her manic love needs trampling on a potentially good mystery and my feelings. The protagonist has a serious case of “I know he did nothing wrong, because I like him”, and the problem with this logic is – NO YOU DON’T. (By the way Doctor Du Ming is a work I highly recommend on the matter). And to make the matters worse, the one she wants to “save”, despite not having any business to do so, is potentially involved in events that make a lot of people suffer. But our heroine is so up her own ass that she treats people losing limbs solely as something that it’s oh-so-horrible look at for the biggest part of the story. She exists in three modes – sulk, cook, blindly "save" men.
Not that she or any of the characters come out as life-like or wholesome because of the many gaffes in writing, ranging from small, like when the heroine says that her sister always have had a bad taste for men and then proceeds to throw her on an ex-boyfriend of her sister, to glaring, like when after the aforementioned event her sister is completely removed from the story, or very serious, like when our character starts by saying that she is afraid to fall in love and then in one scene she notices “oh, it’s love” and immediately after is ready to sacrifice everything and everyone for her chosen one. The heroine is shown to relive the events of the day when she lost her parents, yet at the end it turns out she hasn’t made even basic conclusions.
I can’t say that Motto, Ikitai is any good at depiction human psychic or showing inner motivations. The heroine declares that she sees something in the men that she meets, but it isn't supported by anything else in the manga besides her words.
Motto, Ikitai touches on many subjects I am highly interested in – questions of self and suffering, moral and love, revenge and sin, guilt and redemption, dealing with trauma, separating sheeps from goats. But interesting topics need all the more care. For me, Motto, Ikitai read like a music peace, when some notes are perfect and carry you away only for the next to fail and others to turn into the terrible screech of a tortured instrument. Traumatic.
(By the way, I like to start my texts in eye-catching ways, but I know that shoujo technically doesn’t have to follow conventions. Shoujo can be different, it’s just that here it broke logic together with the mold, lost its stride without the trope clutches. Also I want to point out that this manga is a collaboration, the story was written by Yoshi.)
All in all, I don’t know whether to recommend this manga or not. The art is good, the unusual idea is commendable, but the execution is highly flawed, at least in my eyes, and I don’t think that I can be fully mistaken in this case. Check this out if you’re curious, study and probe it, but by all the good in the world, don’t swallow the story without critical thinking, there’s poison and, well, shit, mixed with the pretty.