Takeda is diagnosed with cancer and feels that he has nothing to live for. Hopeless, he decides to end his life. But when he is about to hang himself, the phone rings: the police have just found the corpse of his daughter, Sawako, who disappeared more than 14 years ago. Under Japanese law, the statute of limitations for murder only lasts 15 years. Takeda has only six months left: six months to live, six months to find his daughter's killer and deliver him to the authorities. After 14 years of silence and obscurity, the family ties are reborn...
It’s rare for a manga to elicit such strong feelings from me, but Seizon-Life succeeds with its ruminations of filial responsibility, love, and the search for truth and understanding, for redemption.
Redemption even if you've only got six months left to live. Takeda is told this and is wracked with fear and guilt. Guilt because his wife died of the same illness in the past and he realises he wasn’t there for her enough at the time. Now that he feels the same unrelenting fear of impending death, he feels disgusted with himself, with his past behaviour to his family, his deceased wife
and his deceased daughter.
His long-lost daughter has not given up on him however, as once her corpse is found buried under a parking area in Nagano prefecture, the police phone Takeda to inform him, just as he's about to hang himself in despair.
In bearing witness to her skeletal remains and facing head on the shame of his previous inability to be a decent husband and father, Takeda takes it upon himself to use up what little time he has left to find his daughter's killer. There is irony and fate at play, with there being six months left till the statute of limitations on the crime being lifted, the limit being 15 years.
Takeda can’t rely on the police who don’t have the motivation to go all out on a case almost 15 years old with no leads. He begins the long and arduous journey himself by starting in the untouched bedroom of a daughter he never really knew as well as he should have, for clues as to where she disappeared to one day 14 years ago.
During the story, a cop in charge of the soon-to-be closed case serves as a foil to Takeda. Not being an irritable barrier but more like a voice of cool logic that only a seasoned and tired detective could have, he plays devil's advocate to Takeda's discoveries, forcing him to wake up to the idea that simply identifying the killer won’t be enough, he will need concrete proof in order to avenge his daughter. Another cop, Murai, joins Takeda’s mission and provides a good partner as they navigate their way through procedural details to dig underneath clues, lies and red herrings.
Seizon is so brilliant because not only is it another example of the manga form’s wide range of variety by exploring an interesting and worthy theme from the viewpoint of an ordinary character with no cynical manga-selling abilities or traits, but because it’s a great race-against-time thriller. With Takeda's condition deteriorating rapidly, time is crucial, being hospitalised is unacceptable, he must catch the killer before the legal deadline and before he becomes unable to function coherently.
So Takeda in a sense becomes the lead investigator for the most part of the story, retracing his daughter’s steps 14 years ago, following small leads, persisting, following the path she took, to see everything she saw and feel everything she felt.
Takeda's mission to find his daughter's killer is more about getting to know his daughter for the first time in a long while, and in that to find redemption for his neglect of his family in the past. When he begins to interview people about his daughter in the beginning, he feels that they're talking about a stranger, but chapter by chapter he reconnects with her.
So it’s only in the prolonged aftermath of her death that he truly understands who she was. It’s too late naturally, but in a sense it’s not, because dealing with deceased people, giving them funerals and discovering the truth behind their deaths is more to benefit the living. The dead are dead. The living have to live with that. Funerals aren’t for dead people; they're for the ones who are still alive.
Takeda's vengeance is not for his daughter's sake, but for his soul, it’s his final duty as a husband and father. The manga isn’t utterly perfect, as there is an air of predictability about it, which is both fine on one hand and unwanted on the other.
On one hand you can understand one outcome of the story, and on the other you might wish the author had written another outcome a different way. Regardless it’s not enough to detract from the story and it’s consistent with the theme of striving to survive and to keep on living no matter what the odds, as demonstrated courageously by Takeda and his daughter.
The art of the manga is reminiscent of Katsuhiro Otomo in the clean and detailed designs of background settings and characters, none of which look overly cute or beautiful but are grounded in more realistic tones. The main protagonist is just a regular middle-aged man and the story is populated by more characters in their thirties, forties; a wide variety of types overall.
It also feels like a Naoki Urasawa effort, although unlike that excellent author's epic thrillers, Seizon isn’t too convoluted to keep up with, at a lean 3 volumes it proceeds at a good pace and wraps up before becoming too over the top with twists and revelations.
The only revelation you need to know about is Seizon the manga itself.
LifE / Seizon -LifE- / Whatever other names exist for this manga is a hidden gem. Sprung from the brains of Noboyuki Fukumoto (Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji) and Kaiji Kawaguchi (Eagle), this is a short but sweet story of avenging your loved ones in a race against the clock(s). With an intense (if a bit fantastical) plot, engaging artwork, and solid characterization, this makes for a solid weekend read.
[Story - 8]
The story follows Masao Takeda's journey to finding the killer of his daughter from 14 years ago as he deals with the effects of cancer. This is admittedly a simple premise in itself, but the way
it's told is rather captivating - Takeda goes out of his way to find evidence of the crime and the killer's identity both with/without the help of law enforcement. Along the way, he's met with barriers such as the Statute of Limitations and the inevitable passing of time. While he does overcome them in unbelievable ways sometimes, I found that the way the story was being told allowed for suspension of disbelief to be done easily. The pacing is rather tight due to the small volume/chapter count, which makes the story all the more heart-pounding as there are no sluggish parts whatsoever + both the clock and the chapters tick down to a predictable, but nonetheless well-told and heartwarming, finale.
[Art - 9]
The artwork is rather stylish (late 90's manga), which helps the character designs stand out even more. They each have their own distinctive facial/body features and wardrobe, and the various expressions they make convey multiple layers of depth successfully.
The background/setting details are INCREDIBLE - perhaps I should have expected this because this is a crime/mystery drama, but it was pleasant regardless. These settings are all distinguishable from each other, and have many details crammed in, both for narrative and flavor text.
[Character - 9]
The characters can be a bit cliché, but are easy to immerse yourself in. Takeda's grief over the loss of his family + the cancer diagnosis makes his desperation to solve the crime even more enthralling - he may be a bit more brainy than expected, but again, I found that suspending disbelief was easy with the way he was characterized.
There aren't many other notable characters in this story, unfortunately. Detective Murai is a Good Cop who has his AHA moments, but he isn't as noteworthy as Takeda - the rest of the police department is barely worth mentioning. Sawako (Takeda's daughter) doesn't get fleshed out a lot, but you can definitely feel her absence with how many people knew her even 14 years later, along with her intellect and internal struggle. The antagonist is.....weirdly characterized - while he is a bit of a surprise, and is rather intelligent himself, his motive for the murder is really hard to decipher. Whether it was out of vengeance towards Takeda or a curiosity of what it's like to kill or something else may never be known (at least to me).
[Enjoyment/Overall - 10/9]
Nonetheless, this was a fun read! It's well executed in spite of its nitpicky flaws, and makes for a good weekend read thanks to its short span and narrative. I'd recommend reading this if you like mystery thrillers, especially ones that don't drag!
I’m a sucker for emotional farewells, revenge stories, and mystery solving. Is it any wonder then that I like Seizon-Life? It hits all the points.
Takeda is a man who succeeded greatly at his career, but he lost just about everything else. He lost his daughter over a decade ago, he then lost his wife to a disease, and now he himself seems on the verge of losing his own life to cancer in six months. He admits, though, that even before he lost those things, he didn’t really care for them. All he ever cared for was his job.
Just when he was about to give
up and throw even his life away, he receives news that his daughter’s corpse had been found and that the statue of limitations on her murder will expire in six months. Believing that this is a heavenly signal from his daughter, he decides to go look for her murderer when even the police had given up. In the process, he might learn more than just about the murder.
Seizon-Life’s strongest point is that it’s an exciting read made all the stronger by its short length – meaning it doesn’t drag on and the progress moves at a steady pace which easily keeps readers’ interest.
It does require a significant suspension of disbelief, especially when you consider that the crime was committed 14 years ago yet the primary method Takeda used to search is to ask people for information from their memories.
Nonetheless, the story’s mystery aspect helps to keep you interest and Takeda does come to be endearing and one sympathizes with him. Thanks to that, an already short but exciting story becomes that much more short and exciting because I found that, by the end, I didn't really wanted it to end just yet.