Ikiru is poignant and directly profound through contemplating life’s meaning in Watanabe’s dealings with mortality. Watanabe is an old-aged bureaucrat whose life was obsessed with work until discovering he has terminal cancer. Whereas Ikiru takes its time in reaching Watanabe’s revelation of his terminal cancer, audiences are told at the beginning. Audiences being aware of this made Watanabe’s mundane office environment extremely bleak. Firstly Watanabe and his colleges are unresponsive at a joke by a younger, immature employee and a montage of citizens being moved around from department to department regarding their queries. Ikiru firmly establishes Watanabe’s routine occupation as somber which is emphasised in Watanabe’s acknowledgement of his terminal cancer, that he had wasted his adult life.
Ikiru‘s theme of morality became significance in Watanabe’s reactions to his impending death. He rejects his bureaucrat duties and becomes engaged with his human desires. Wantanabe disappears for days at a time drinking and reminiscing about his past as one memorable scene showed him singing an old love ballad to the stunned silence of those around him, reflecting Wantanabe’s realisation towards death. Watanabe also becomes infatuated with Toyo, a younger employee through her quirkiness giving him revived senses of youthfulness. Yet this soon flames out only emphasises Watanabe’s loss of time. These scenes in Ikiru relate to Watanabe’s notion of “a protest of my life up to now” provoking internal questions of morality and one’s use in life.
From protesting his life to giving it meaning, Watanabe becomes the catalyst for long-standing plan for a children’s park which had previously been ignored by his department. Watanabe’s determined vest to complete the park before his death continued to emphasis Ikiru‘s profound message regarding life. Once Watanabe has passed on and his achievements are recognised, his former co-workers say “compared to Watanabe we’re just trash”, consolidating Ikiru‘s profoundness for life. It is this message which audiences should take away from Ikiru.