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Kuro Kuratsu is something of a slacker, a student in his last year of university who has no idea of what he wants to do, can't land a job, and can't seem to get too excited about any of it. However, he's also enrolled in a Buddhist university and is the descendant of priests and shamans. When he responds to a call for volunteers to say prayers over suicide victims in the Aokigahara Forest (also featured in SDK!), several of the other volunteers end up witnessing a special power that he tries not to think about either: he can speak to the spirits of the dead. It turns out that several of his fellow volunteers have odd abilities or skills too: gangster-type Numata can dowse for hidden dead bodies with a crystal on a string; mop-topped space cadet Yata claims to be channeling an alien intelligence through his glove puppet (either that, or he's a frighteningly perceptive ventriloquist); kewpie-doll lookalike Makino has trained as a U.S.-style mortician (unusual in Japan, where most dead are cremated); and self-appointed group leader Sasaki, in addition to being bossy and organized and having a nose for money, is a skilled internet researcher and something of a hacker. When Kuro discovers that the corpse they're about to help move has a special request, the five of them are launched into a grisly murder mystery. And when they get an unexpected payoff as a result, Sasaki uses it as seed money to start the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.

This is not a series for the squeamish. It features lots of dead bodies - not always intact - as well as heinous, often sexual crimes, and nudity - not always very good-looking nudity - is frequent. But it also has tons of deadpan humor, insight into current Japanese culture, and unexpected little grace notes, such as the rather rough-hewn but very compassionate priest who shows up in the second story. For the most part, like Mushishi, each "chapter" is a separate short story, although there are a few longer tales that take several chapters to conclude. The part of me that liked police procedurals when I read mysteries is really getting into this grimly playful manga. And the extensive notes at the end - not just sound effects, but also cultural and political notes - are a real plus.

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, vols. 1-3 (review)

Some of the characters develop more than others. Yata, the shy channeler, has a longer tale that highlights his quiet infatuation with a girlish young lady who is not what she seems. And although Kuro is the main viewpoint character, Sasaki often serves as the reader's proxy, especially when she's using the Intarwebs for research. (This also gives the artist a chance to show her lounging around in her unmentionables, which I find oddly pleasing, because she's not really very skinny ... wow, fanservice with a girl who has a realistic build!) She also gets to star in the oddly spooky final tale in vol. 3, where she, least mystical member of the team, comes face-to-face with the unknowable. But all of them are fun - even cutely spooky Makino, who gets the least face-time with the readers - and I have a liking for tough Numata, who's not nearly as tough as he seems. (Makino knows that too - she calls him "Numacchi.")

But be warned - it is very grisly.

Now that I think of it, this was a singularly appropriate manga to blog on All Souls Day ... !


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 2nd, 2007 02:31 am (UTC)
I have nothing useful to say except that I love this series. :) I've read the first volume of the other series the mangaka did - Mail - which has some of the same elements in it, but isn't, IMHO, quite as accomplished and misses a bit of soul. Although it's got some genuinely creepy panels in it. :D
Nov. 2nd, 2007 06:53 pm (UTC)

Yeah, you and sanada are the only other people I know who are reading it! I'm looking forward to finding out more about Kuro's familiar spirit. I've started working on an icon for Kuro but it's taking some work - there's no color art to work from so I'm mucking about hand-coloring the first good shot we have of him, sitting in the forest, headphones around his neck, palm to cheek.

Nov. 11th, 2007 01:11 pm (UTC)
Well, this sounds fascinating enough that I've got it all wishlisted, so if I have any luck Mooching perhaps I'll be able to catch up with you all sooner or later!
Nov. 11th, 2007 05:43 pm (UTC)

You'll know it when you see it: it has completely distinctive covers in a different style than any other manga. And I keep finding it carefully sealed in plastic bags, like they're afraid that the nudity and raunchy crimes are going to creep out ... .

Nov. 11th, 2007 06:55 pm (UTC)
Probably the publishers/booksellers covering their asses, since unlike dedicated comic shops which tend to have the more extreme stuff off in a separate grownups-only section, manga's typically got innocent kiddie fare and fairly violent/gory/sexy titles shelved side-by-side. I remember the last volume of Fake, wherein Dee and Ryo FINALLY end up in bed, came shrink-wrapped -- and the sex scenes in that were really not even all that explicit.
Nov. 12th, 2007 02:50 am (UTC)

Hee ... yeah, the shelves at Borders just have a generic warning about "may contain adult content," but most of what they mean can't compete with Kurosagi's battered, nude corpses. And for once I can almost agree with the censorship: grisly evidence of violent death should be considered questionable content, while two half-undressed young men kissing shouldn't!

Nov. 3rd, 2008 03:38 pm (UTC)

(Yes, I am from California, why do you ask?)

I'm going to have to check this out. Any idea how hard the Japanese is? (I know there's a translation.)
Nov. 3rd, 2008 05:13 pm (UTC)

I'll ask my partner-in-crime sanada this evening, when I can get to my home e-mail account. She does translations/scanlations, and she's the one who put me on to this series, so she should be able to tell you!

Nov. 4th, 2008 02:32 pm (UTC)

OK, she says she hasn't seen it in Japanese and is not even sure what magazine it's in, but that although it's likely to feature some odd vocabulary, it's meant as a seinen series and so it should have furigana. I hope that helps!

Nov. 4th, 2008 03:21 pm (UTC)
Cool beans!

I think it switched magazines and is in some weird one or something.
Nov. 5th, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC)

Hee! I'm only just beginning to understand the wild, wild world of the actual manga proper, as opposed to the tankouban volumes!

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


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