Murciélago, Vol. 1

By Yoshimurakana. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Gangan. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Christine Dashiell.

Before I get to the actual review, please be advised that when you see the Parental Advisory warning on the cover, it’s not kidding. This series is explicit in both its sex and violence, and in particular those who don’t like gore would do well to avoid it. It’s also another one of those “everyone in the cast is a sociopathic monster” series, where empathy is really hard to come by and you simply have to shrug your shoulders and read it as if it was a Woody Woodpecker cartoon. Once you do that, you’ll realize just how much fun Murciélago is, particularly its mass murdering protegonist, Kuroko. Though I also have to warn you that if you also read One-Punch Man, Kuroko will remind you much of the time of a busty female Saitama.

The premise is that Kuroko is on death row for, well, murdering so many people, but is offered a job by the government as a killer-for-hire to take out the really difficult to capture psychos. Since this will allow her to do whatever the hell she wants legally, she agrees to it straight away. She’s partnered with Hinako, a high school girl (though her normal personality reads more like a ten year old) with an insane ability to drive her car anywhere, including across cityscape roofs. Together the two of them take on an ex-wrestler whose drug habit has led him to a murderous hallucination-driven rage, and some really unfortunate robbers who try to hold up the restaurant they’re eating in. Along the way we also meet Miyuki, a seemingly innocent young girl who somehow ends up roped into Kuroko’s world. Seemingly probably being the right word, though we don’t have much beyond one evil grin yet.

One other thing that bears mentioning is that Kuroko is a lesbian, something we see very explicitly throughout. We meet Kuroko scissoring her lover, the book ends with an online date that turns to sex pretty quickly, and she’s all over every single woman we meet in the book, though Hinako thankfully doesn’t seem to really react to it much. It’s rather refreshing to see a lesbian in mainstream manga portrayed as this blatantly sexual, and I’m sure the only reason it can get away with it is that Kuroko is the “antihero” sort of hero, and is therefore allowed to be as outrageous as possible. That said, honestly the best part of this manga may be the way Kuroko moves and reacts. She seems to be made entirely of limbs at times, does what has been dubbed the “SHAFT head tilt”, and her facial expressions are worth the price of the book alone.

Basically, if you enjoy over the top violence and action with a strong female lead, and don’t mind that everyone in this world except for one rookie cop is completely looney tunes, Murciélago is right up your alley. Fans of Black Lagoon should also enjoy it, though Black Lagoon attempts to have a moral center that Murciélago never bothers with. Great gore-filled fun.

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