The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Vol. 14

By Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki. Released in Japan as “Kurosagi Shitai Takuhaibin” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Dark Horse.

It’s been a long time since the last volume – two and a half years, in fact – even though the manga is still clipping along at a reasonable pace in Japan. Sadly, the reasons for this are the same reasons that we aren’t seeing Eden: It’s an Endless World or Translucent. Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service doesn’t sell well enough to justify its continuing expense. That said, Dark Horse are certainly giving it more chances than the other two (the potential movie rights help a lot), and Carl Horn talks about the Omnibus Editions coming out in the fall – specifically, that we should get folks to buy them if we want to see Vol. 15. Like corpse delivery, manga can be a cutthroat business.


What we get from this volume are 3 solid stories, all of varying types, which show us why this series is such a hit. The first is one that cries out to my Higurashi loving soul, as the premise is a corrupt politician who is trying to get a dam put in that will destroy a backwater town, and the dam protests that happen as a result. Of course, this politician is taking care of the problem in a more murderous way, the better to involve our heroes. What’s more important here is the introduction of a new sort-of antagonist, who has created an app that lets him find corpses and see their thoughts, and thus creates his own fake Corpse Delivery Service to lure out the real one. This series is fond of picking up plot arcs and dropping them, so I suspect he may not show up for a bit. He certainly makes himself known, though, casually solving the murder of Numata’s family just to show off.

The second story explains the title portraits, drawn in a simplified “western” style. We get a couple of chapters of what the series would look like transplanted to America, with a bit more snark and grotesqueries, but the same old horrible murders, this one of a couple with a fancy tattoo cut off of their bodies. It was cute, but honestly made the least impression on me, and I felt the comedy ending was a bit forced.

The last part gets back into the dangerous political waters this series is also known for – it’s courted controversy several times, bringing up stuff the government would rather the Japanese people forget. There’s no real-life comparison here, but certainly it’s a great example of bureaucracy taken to fatal extremes, particularly when up against a politician trying to cut down on wasteful practices. Ranou’s death is sudden and horrific, made all the more tragic by the fact that we actually meet and sympathize with her first – she’s someone Sasaki can intern for, so we know she’s respectable. She gets the last word, but sadly only in the way all the dead people in this series do.

This was a good, solid volume of the series that will make fans happy it came out. As for those who haven’t read the series – please, I beg you, get the first omnibus when it comes out this September.

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Vol. 13

By Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki. Released in Japan as “Kurosagi Shitai Takuhaibin” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Dark Horse.

I am pleased to report that this volume of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service has exactly what its readers look for each time around. There’s lots of grotesque set pieces which allow the artist to display a flair for horrible imagery. There’s wry and witty commentary between smart people. There’s genuine mystery, with our heroes being clever, and a nice use of synaesthesia as a plot point. And there’s copious endnotes from editor Carl Horn, explaining things like Karatsu’s Space Battleship Yamato reference and who Terry and Dory Funk are.

That said, there is one other development that not only surprised me but irritated me a bit. Not because of what the revelation was – yes, it sinks one of my ships, but given that this isn’t a harem manga I can deal – but because of its offhand nature. I am reminded of an earlier volume, when we saw a storyline end with Karatsu set on fire and an intense cliffhanger. Come the next chapter… and we’ve moved on, with nothing ever getting resolved. Here we see Sasaki and Karatsu get back from the Okinawa trip mentioned in the last volume, and for the most part it’s the same thing, except for that revelation. Which is laid out more to explain the deus ex machina of the story rather than for any dramatic tension. I do hope we eventually come back to it.

With all that said, it is an intriguing revelation, and also leads to some misdirection and amusement when we see Sasaki being sick and think it may be due to other reasons. Sadly, nothing quite so pleasant – it’s just the joys of being a woman. (KCDS is as blunt and matter-of-fact when dealing with periods as it is when dealing with corpses.) Sasaki also gets more to do than usual here, as she’s the focus of the 2nd case in the book, involving a jury trail where a man has already admitted his guilt. The jury system is still fairly new in Japan, and Carl’s notes help to lay out how it’s different from the U.S. The use of auras and synaesthesia manage to give it both a fantasy and realistic feeling, and the murder victims are both quite sympathetic.

Lastly, there were clearly not enough shots of nude women in peril in the series recently, so the final story more than makes up for that, combining a look at land redevelopment and harvest rituals with a good old fashioned psycho who likes to chop up young women. Luckily, the ‘karmic justice’ aspect of this series also makes a reappearance to give the reader someone to root for. Overall, this is a good but not great volume of our favorite cynical horror manga, offering some solid imagery and a few interesting revelations, even if the authors may not have figured out what to do with these revelations as yet. The series is still ongoing in Japan, so we may have a ways to go. Especially as I’m not sure when Vol. 14 is scheduled here. Fight on, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service!

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Vol. 12

By Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki. Released in Japan as “Kurosagi Shitai Takuhaibin” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Ace. Released in North America by Dark Horse.

It’s been a long, long wait, but it’s great to see a new volume of this horror/comedy/workplace series. The reasons for the long wait are many: first off, I imagine Carl Horn was quite busy, as he also edits all the Oh My Goddess and Evangelion titles for Dark Horse, and OMG was on a ‘speed-up’ release schedule. He also had Excel Saga 22 and 23 in there somewhere. But mostly I suspect it’s due to poor sales, as Carl admits in the liner notes. This is why the cover for Vol. 12 is now a normal manga cover as opposed to that cardboardey-feeling cover we had for 1-11. Luckily, the content inside is still excellent.

That cover image above comes without the little ‘Parental Advisory: Explicit Content’ sticker partially obscuring Sasaki’s face, but the sticker is most definitely needed, as this particular volume has explicit sex to go with its explicit gore. No, Karatsu hasn’t gotten it on with either Sasaki or Kikuchi – though he and Sasaki are absent from the last story for a “trip to Hawaii” that’s apparently in Vol. 13. Instead the first story deals with the dangers of virtual reality RPGs, and also trying to sell your identity – or buy another one. As you can imagine, when unscrupulous people get a hold of something shady that needs marketing, bad things happen. Note this is not only the most sexually explicit in the volume, with both sex and nudity, but it’s also the goriest – “Talk about loss of face!” is a grotesque pun here. It also has the most unpleasant of this volume’s villains. Luckily, she gets hers as our heroes make another of their grand entrances. And as a bonus, Sasaki gets to wear another ridiculously impractical outfit, even if only in VR.

The middle story was my favorite, even though I knew it would end poorly. It features a washed-out comic and a club hostess who meet cute, immediately fall for each other, and are basically adorable. In *this* series? You know how long they’ll last. That said, the adorable is there, and it’s refreshing seeing Eiji Otsuka writing the closest this series will ever get to romantic comedy. This story deals with both discorporation – the talent of the hostess girl – and the Japanese housing market, which proves to be as bloody and cutthroat as anything else in this series. It’s also a rather cynical take on the world of showbiz comedians, with the villains here giving off a very seedy, sub-Jerry Lewis vibe. It also has the happiest of the three endings – well, as happy as you’re gonna get.

Lastly, we have a story about a dollmaker longing for his dead sister, who passed away during World War II. Unfortunately, this also ties in with both Korean politics (which the authors have gone into before, possibly as it makes Japan very uncomfortable, and they love pushing buttons) and realdolls (complete with many creepy otaku and some cameos of dolls based on Ayanami from Evangelion and Yoko from Gurren Lagann). It’s the weakest story in the volume, possibly due to Karatsu and Sasaki’s absence (Makino is there but doesn’t do much, as per usual, but that does leave the bulk of things to the “goofy” characters), but not without merit, and has a morbidly cynical punchline. Plus there’s some more Makino/Yata ship tease, which pleases me.

For those wondering about the small fragments of plot that have been going through previous volumes, well, there’s none of that here. What we get is a strong horror manga, with dark veins of comedy and a few heartwarming spots (OK, very few). It’s a solid series that needs more love.