FlashBlack Manga Review#2: Life is Money

Good day everyone! I’ve once again managed to discover a truly interesting manga and this one surprised me because it was a Shonen series! I know that Shonen series can be deep and thought provoking, but to be quite honest…they’re not. Shojo series are more thought provoking than most Shonen series are. Most Shonen series typically revolve around fighting some nigh invincible evil force that just happens to pose an alternate opinion or challenge the beliefs of the protagonist. They often need to be dragged into the plot or inniate it by simply wanting to be the best…something or other that’s considered to be important in their world. Now this isn’t true of all Shonen protagonists, but it’s generally how most shonen stories get started. This story…is a bit of a mix of both of those. I present to you…Life is Money!

 

 

Written by Asaniji Teru and illustrated by Yaguraba Tekka, Life is Money is an…unusual manga to be considered a Shonen series. The story starts off with our hero Fukurokuji Meguru drowning his sorrows in beer at a night club. He’s almost thrown out after asking for a refill when some guy offers him another drink and asks why Meguru is looking so glum. Thus Meguru explains his situation. Apparently lacking any parents, Meguru is caring for his little sister who’s dying of a heart disease and needs a transplant. Transplants don’t come cheep though and Meguru began working to pay for the operation when out of the blue an organization appeared before him and helped him to raise the 100 million yen needed. Unfortunately just when things were looking up, the organization vanished, taking the money and Meguru’s credibility along with it so he’s now back to square one. After leaving the bar with this person, he’s advised to try gambling to earn enough money for the operation. Meguru is reluctant but walks away with the guy’s business card and told to call back should he change his mind. While working the next day, Meguru receives word that his sister has collapsed and that if she is to live, she needs a transplant as soon as possible. This prompts Meguru to contact the person he met previously to take part in this strange gambling event and he is quickly whisked away before his sister, Mawaru’s, eyes after promising to spend the following day, her birthday, with her.

Meguru then receives some disturbing news from his strange new friend. Meguru has been entered illegally into a game in which he’s not betting money but his life and then to make things worse now that he can’t back out, he’s informed that his sister’s recent collapse was staged by the man he’s sitting with. Meguru is taken to a hidden location where the “Nightmare Games” as they’re known as, can begin. He and nine other people have been gathered to compete against each other in a game of mental stability where having a nervous breakdown can lead to death. The players are to live with each other for a period of ten days and are given bracelets that measure their heart rate and “Emotional Instability” with amazing accuracy. When they reach a certain level of instability they die. Furthermore, each player is to roll a die and will be deprived of whatever sense the die picks for them for a certain amount of time. They’re given luxury rooms and accomadations and food to last the duration of the game but there’s a catch. Each player starts off with 50 million yen which will then increase by a certain amount per death of the other players. If half die, the remaining players walk out alive and with 100 million yen but everyone looses if more than half die. Physical violence is prohibited and the actions of each and every player will be monitored via security cameras but as the characters soon find out, there’s more than one way to kill someone in the Nightmare Game. Will Meguru come out on top or lose his mind and his life in an attempt to save his sister and whoever else he can?

Let me start off by saying this next. If you cannot handle deeply psychological series, this is NOT for you. If you’re looking for a standard Shonen series, this is NOT for you. Life Is Money is a strange and fascinating manga. The art style alone is pretty…umm well…it’s hard to describe the art style. The characters all stand out in one way or another and seeing as how there’s really only about 12 of them I doubt anyone will find it hard to remember who’s who. The style ranges from normal to BATSHIT BIZARRE! Though I guess that in a series that’s focusing mainly on the mental conditions of the characters, the artist is allowed to really go all out with some of the scenes. Life Is Money is also kind of graphic so if you don’t want to see someone’s eyeballs in someone else’s hands, don’t read it.

Oh where do I begin about my own personal opinions on this series? In my determination to break away from the standard Shonen series, I keep finding myself drawn back to it for some reason. That’s not to say that I don’t like Shaman King, InuYasha and Negima because I really do. It’s just that I’ve recently been looking for series that are a bit deeper overall and Life Is Money is just that. It’s very similar to the manga from my last review Btooom! Both series star male protagonists thrown into a sadistic survival game with other people and need to take the lives of the others around them to win. But Life Is Money is just so full of surprises it throws you for a loop. The characters are kind of what you’d expect them to be based on how they look and how they act but they’re not without their secrets and twists. When delving into their back stories, sometimes it’s hard to know who’s lying and who’s telling the truth, a fact that gets pointed out by some of the other characters. Also in a series like this where large sums of money and life are on the line, the characters start to get a little…anxious. Most aren’t in too much conflict with each other, but when conflict does arise, and it does, you can be sure that loyalties will be tested. Another great thing about this series so far is how much it makes you care about the characters.

I truly detest most characters with tragic back stories. To me, I think it’s only used to make a character sympathetic and therefore the author is manipulating the emotions of the reader and this especially true in stories where most of the cast has had some shitty childhood (like Naruto). In this series though, the characters don’t have exaggerated shitty back stories. Those who’ve had their pasts revealed generally were just victims of circumstance and they’re made to be believable which is what makes their personalities so much fun. Each person is pretty much shaped by their past or their profession or defining characteristic. When they start angsting and bitching, it doesn’t feel forced or contrived. It feels genuine and it makes you truly feel for the characters, especially considering what happens to some of them.

Life Is Money is exactly what I’ve been looking for along with Btooom! I highly recommend both series as they’re well written, entertaining and almost impossible to stop once you get started. Neither one is finished yet, so you can read them both and then just wait patiently for the next chapter to be released. I hope you enjoy them as much as I am!

 

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