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Alive: The Final Evolution, Volume 1


Alive: The Final Evolution, Volume 1

written by Tadashi Kawashima, art by Adachitoka

When a person chooses suicide, those left behind go through a range of emotions: guilt for not helping a troubled friend, hope that they might find peace, anger at the path that led to such an end, and the loneliness that comes from the feeling that, whatever peace they may or may not have found, you will never get to see them again.

Taisuke is an ordinary student trying to help out a bullied friend, Hirose, and puzzle through his childhood friend Megumi's possible feelings for him. (Does she really like him? Does he want her to?) Everything changes when a girl leaps to her death right in front of him. Her face, blissful and smiling, before her dreadful impact with the sidewalk, haunts him, and he discovers he's even jealous of the finality of her choice. Then it turns out that her death is far from an isolated incident. All over the world, people are killing themselves by the thousands and no one can figure out why. Is it a cult? Is it mass hysteria? Or is it a "suicide virus," as some theorists claim? Taisuke begins to realize that there's something alien affecting him, but is he being pushed to help the people left behind, or is he unwittingly part of the group pulling them over the edge?

In Japan, suicide is a growing problem --- in the U.S., the suicide rate has been steady for over 20 years, but in Japan the suicide rate has doubled over the past 15 years. Part of that comes from the fact that suicide in not automatically a bad thing to do --- the samurai, after all, committed ritual suicide as a matter of honor, pride and loyalty. In today's world, though, the reasons for suicide are much less black and white, and the pressures on everyone from teens to senior citizens are mounting. This series does an intriguing job of exploring the reasons behind suicide and its appeal --- the blankness of everything being over and the elation that comes from making such a huge choice that is yours alone.

The deaths are brutal but are shown in the aftermath rather than in gory detail. Still, this is a grim premise, and the images can be shocking, making this exploration of our darker side not for the faint of heart. This is just the first volume, and a lot of questions are left unanswered. There's a sinister moment when it seems battle lines are being drawn between those who want to halt death and those who want to encourage the trend, and it's difficult to know where the story will go. This is a suspenseful and mysterious beginning to what could develop into an unsettling but impressive series.

Reviewed by Robin Brenner on July 31, 2007

Alive: The Final Evolution, Volume 1
written by Tadashi Kawashima, art by Adachitoka

  • Publication Date: July 31, 2007
  • Genres: Manga
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey
  • ISBN-10: 0345497465
  • ISBN-13: 9780345497468