"Why are people so desperate to live? Isn't it unnatural that people who have not even been exposed to the danger of death should feel a desire to live?"
So muses 27-year-old former copywriter Hanio Yamada, who one evening imagines the print columns of a newspaper turn into cockroaches before his eyes and makes an attempt to kill himself by overdose, but later finds himself unexpectedly, frustratingly alive. Hanio is overwhelmed by the meaninglessness of existence and discovers himself dubiously blessed with an "after-life" he never expected. So he places an ad in a newspaper offering his own life for sale, happy to embark on any quest that might confidently result in his death.