(Picture: The cherry blossoms at Toyama campus today. The last episode of the series involved cherry blossoms and a Hanami picnic, which we unfortunately cannot do this year because of the virus)

“Memento Mori” is a famous old Latin saying that means “Remember that you must die” in English. I love this phrase and have thought of it as a motto of sorts ever since I learnt about it in Bible class in my first year of high school. Despite the fact that I am non-religious myself, I used to go to a Christian school for 6 years before university, so we had classes on the Bible and Christian thought once a week with a pastor as our teacher. To be honest, I didn’t care much for those classes; as a non-religious person I found it at times quite hard to understand and accept the concepts of the religion as fact, but this one really stuck and left a lasting impression on me. In fact, “Memento Mori” is not an idea unique to Christianity, and similar concepts are also fundamental to other religions such as Buddhism and Islam, proving that the art of acknowledging our own mortality should be something really important to all of us.

Meanwhile, personally, the past year has been very hectic and busy for me, as I have been settling into new environments, and I started doing all kinds of things that I had never tried before. I have slowly started to get used to my new life now, but at the end of last year, I honestly had no room in my head or my heart to reflect upon my actions and my life as a whole, and this motto of mine had also gone to the very back of my mind. It was around this time when I found out about an online manga series about a crocodile that, and reading through it really reminded me about this mindset of “Memento Mori”, and why I had thought I wanted it to be my motto for life in the first place.

      100-Nichi-Go-ni -Shinu-Wani(100日後に死ぬワニ, A Crocodile That Will Die in 100 Days) is an online manga series, written and illustrated by illustrator Kikuchi Yuuki. Each episode is in the form of a 4-koma manga or 4-cell comic, which is a popular style especially in newspapers and magazines. On December 12,2019 Kikuchi abruptly began the series by posting his first episode, which had a very mundane plot, with absolutely nothing special happening at all: it featured a crocodile dressed a pair of trousers, simply sitting in front of the television and laughing out loud at it for 4 cells straight, blissfully unaware of his fate. Under the fourth cell, in black hand written letters, were the words 死まであと99日(99 days until death). Following this weird but attention-grabbing, a new episode was posted daily on the account in the same fashion. Each episode is a little excerpt from the daily life of this crocodile, such as him meeting up with his friends, working his shift at his part time job, riding on the train somewhere, and so on, with the reminder of the date of his death on the end. Quite soon after the very first episode was posted, the series blew up on the Japanese internet and became an overnight success. And it soon became a national cultural phenomenon, even becoming a worldwide number one trending topic on the last day. I discovered the series at the end of December when I was checking Instagram, and I got really intrigued while reading all the posts that I had missed. When you look at one individual episode, it doesn’t progress much story wise, nor does it have much of a morale or meaning. Still, as I started checking on the crocodile on a daily basis, it began to feel like I was getting to know him personally. As a typical Japanese person around the character’s age, I found his traits and his actions very relatable and familiar, and near the end, it felt like he was one of my old friends.

There are other manga series that depict the daily lives of characters in a similar manner, but this one feels really different from those because of one principle that it has, which is the inevitable fact that the crocodile is going to die on a fixed date. As I read along each day, with every little moment of joy in the croc’s life, I got this bittersweet feeling of realization that this would come to an end really soon. Each time the crocodile looked forward to something happening in the close future, we were given the hint that in fact he would not make it, that he would not live to see the release of a new product he wanted, or to go somewhere he wanted to go to. It was so heart-breaking to see this person who I had grown to like on every single day, with the knowledge that he was going die very soon, and there was nothing I could do to stop it (It might seem like an overstatement for a cartoon character, but seriously, you should go and ask the entire Japanese internet.) Again, I have read manga in the past that focuses on a main character’s death, but because there were no other-worldly fantastical settings or flawlessly beautiful characters, the rawness was on another level with this. This relatability was what made the series so special and popular: everything was so genuine and believable, and it felt like there was a direct connection to the story and our own lives today.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, because it felt so relatable and closely connected to my own reality, the series made me reflect upon my own actions, and made me wonder if I was actually living each day in a way that I would like to live my last. It also struck me that although it could be me who dies today, but it could also be someone that I love, and I realized that I should be treating everyone in a way that I wouldn’t regret if it became the last time to see them. I tend to forget the fact that our time is limited, especially when I get busy and have a lot on my mind, but I think having this mindset is very important, especially nowadays with the coronavirus situation going on. The worldwide spread of the virus and the paranoia that comes with it is revealing who we really are inside, and sadly I feel like we are becoming more and more hostile towards each other, rather than being kind and considerate. Nobody could have anticipated this back when the series started, but coincidentally, it seems to have come and ended when we all needed it the most.

The series and the crocodile came to its end on March 20th. I’m not going to spoil the ending for you, but I can say it certainly did not disappoint. The manga doesn’t use any elaborate or complicated big Japanese phrases, so it should be quite easy to understand even for beginners in the language. Also, you can currently find every episode online at the Twitter and Instagram accounts of Kikuchi Yuuki, as well as the internet media ねとらぼ, so I really recommend you give it a shot if you haven’t read it yet. 100 episodes may seem like a drag, but trust me, it will be a good read, and a great opportunity for you to stop and think about how you should live each day with the end in mind.

 

H.S. (Student Staff Leader)