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The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Vol. 1

Review

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Vol. 1

 

In Japan, cremation is king; dead bodies lack a place, lack respect. So do college students without job prospects, a category that main character Kuro Karatsu finds himself lumped into. Luckily for Karatsu, he comes across a way to help himself and corpses in Japan. The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is the solution, the idea of classmate Ao Sasaki, a hacker and the leader of the group.

 

Aimed at catering to the needs of the deceased, Kurosagi employs Karatsu, who can speak with the dead; Makoto Numata, a corpse dowser; Keiku Makino, a young embalmer; and Yuji Yata, who is able to channel aliens through his sock puppet. Together, this strange and almost hopeless band takes the cases that the rest of society turns a blind eye to, bringing the dead to where they need to be. It is an interesting mix of mystery and slice of life, horror and comedy, as the Kurosagi group tries to do right by their clients while hoping to make money on the side.

 

And really, this is a story about people trying to find a place, trying to find relevance in a world that does not value what is not useful. As college students without useful skills, the group stares at not being able to eat, to live. As corpses, the group’s clients are ignored, dumped, and abused. The corpses are, in many ways, lost souls that the group feels obligated to help, in large part because the group shares a similar fate. Each member is isolated, rejected by society, and only in Kurosagi can they find the connections that make their lives meaningful.

 

This theme is developed well through the four stories told in this volume, from the old woman whose body was locked in a shrine and tossed in the garbage to the women who are cut apart and sewn back together by a deranged killer. These stories are not just about delivering bodies, but are instead about giving voice to the corpses, giving dignity to the dead. With their abilities, the group delivers a certain justice as they deliver corpses, even if not every case pays well. The tales take a very episodic approach, no doubt a symptom of being originally published as four distinct stories. But they all work well together, each exploring different aspects of the theme.

 

This is, however, a very adult manga, with striking and graphic depictions of violence and nudity. These scenes, though shocking, are a further examination of the theme, and the artist forces the confrontation with the corpse, with death, instead of dealing with these things off panel. For a series filled with corpses, there is nothing glorious in the violence, nothing exploitative. The violence, the nudity, the horrific scenes, all are effective in not shying away from showing uncomfortable subject matter. The art is detailed and expressive, the characters all distinct, and the corpses capturing the horror of death. It accentuates the parallels between the corpses and the main group, both trying to find their place in a world that does not seem to want them.

 

And in the end this manga manages to bring the reader face to face with both the corpse and the strange group of characters that deliver them. It also leaves enough mystery to promise more complications in future volumes. Each character is only introduced here, established but not explained fully. Their stories are left for another time, and there are a number of mysteries, like what force is helping to guide Karatsu, that this manga wisely steers clear of. As a first volume it provides a tantalizing taste of horror and humor, a firm first step into what promises to be an interesting and challenging series.

Reviewed by Charles Payseur on April 25, 2013

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Vol. 1
by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Manga
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Dark Horse
  • ISBN-10: 1593075553
  • ISBN-13: 9781593075552