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Open Lecture that Examines the Movie Ikigami
—What does it mean to live?—

Taking a commemorative photograph with students.

The Movie and Film Course is a Waseda University theme study (shared minor for the entire university) which invites intriguing guests who play major roles in the movie industry. These guests speak about attitudes and actions towards movies, as well as methodology and episodes. The special lecture "Ikigami: What does it mean to live?" was held at Ono Memorial Auditorium as part of the Movie and Film Course. Guest lecturers featured the staff and cast of Ikigami, which was released on September 27th. Some notable guest lecturers included Director Tomoyuki Takimoto, Motoro Mase, a comic book artist and writer of the original work, and leading actor Shota Matsuda. The auditorium was filled with students who discussed the meaning of living and reflected upon the movie's theme of "life".

The movie Ikigami is based upon a comic book series. The story is set in a fictitious world which believes that the productivity of society can be increased by implanting citizens with the fear and sadness of death, thus creating heightened recognition towards the "value of life". In this world, the "Law to Maintain a Prosperous Country" is invoked to automatically claim the life of young citizens between the ages of 18 and 24, with victims selected at a rate of 1 from every 1,000 citizens. Shota Matsuda plays the role of Kengo Fujimoto, a government worker whose job is to deliver government death announcements, commonly known as ikigami, to those selected for the honor of dying for the "prosperity of the country". Recipients of the ikigami are left with only 24 hours to live, during which time a variety of drama unfolds in the movie.

Special lecture: Ikigami

Following the preview screening of Ikigami, a talk show/discussion was held featuring the cast and staff of the movie. The MCs of this discussion were Kohei Ando, Professor at the Graduate School of Global Information and Telecommunication Studies, and TBS announcer Yuko Aoki. Both Professor Ando and Ms. Aoki also preside over the special lecture at Waseda. At the discussion, Professor Ando addressed participants by saying that "I hope that students can gain inspiration by listening to the discussion of our guests". Director Takimoto stated that "The story of this movie is unthinkable in reality, but still I felt some kind of realness in it. It seems to me that, due to a variety of problems, there are more and more people being abandoned by their country and by society. I saw such people, as well as characters whose hearts where shaken upon receiving the ikigami, as taboo subjects. I wanted to convert this realness into imagery for the movie." Also, Motoro Mase related the following episode regarding his idea for the original comic. "It was surreal to watch from the TV in my apartment the moment of people dying and the moment of buildings collapsing during the September 11th terrorist attacks. However, I felt that it was very strange that I had lost my sense of reality. I wrote Ikigami in an attempt to give shape to the sensation of living."

Students were active in raising questions and conducting a philosophical debate. Questions were posed regarding perspectives on life, death, and living, such as "What is the ideal way to live?" Also, real-life cases were raised that echoed themes found in the movie, such as the case of being chosen for jury duty and suddenly finding oneself in the position of judging another human being. Matsuda, who at 23 is in the same generation as the students, revealed the method he used to depict the internal uncertain of the lead character. "I stored up all of the everyday discomfort and stress that I felt upon hearing statement made by commentators on programs such as television news. I then took these feelings with me to the filming location and tried to combine my feelings with that of the main character". When Matsuda was asked his impression of the lecture by students, he answered that he himself had wanted to go to Waseda. Professor Ando replied by saying that "You're welcome to start studying here now." Matsuda replied with a smile and showed his interest in studying by saying "Now, I am really interested in all kinds of studying. I have bought and read a number of books regarding Jiro Shirasu, and I am also studying Chinese characters and English". He also called out to the students who were listening attentively by stating "I think that Japanese culture is wonderful and cool. I believe that Japanese people must place more emphasis on and speak out more about our culture. And I believe that Waseda students and staff are able to do just that".

Cast and staff discuss their feelings towards the movie.

Shota Matsuda (center) answers a question from Professor Ando (left)

Students asking questions.

*Shared Minor for Entire University (Theme Study) =http://open-waseda.jp/minor/
An education program consisting of intensive study of another theme separate from the curriculum of the school in which a student is enrolled. Allows students to go beyond the boundaries of their school and systematically study a subject of their interest from all subjects. (*excludes the Distance Education Program, School of Human Sciences)

Related URL

Graduate School of Global Information and Telecommunication Studies
http://www.gits.waseda.ac.jp/GITS/index_en.php?href=top_en.html

Official site of Ikigami The Movie
http://www.ikigami-movie.jp/index_pc.html