The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Volume 11

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.

This volume offers a comparatively long story for this series, taking over 3/4 of the book. But it’s all good, as this is one of the better stories they’ve done, focusing on a little girl trying to ‘start over’ after supposedly murdering her mother and sister. As Carl Horn notes in the Endnotes, the story is loosely ripped from the headlines, riffing off of Nevada-tan and using a box cutter prominently. It goes in a different direction, of course, with the girl having some supernatural abilities.

The girl herself may be a minor weak point here, as she’s shown to be very calm and unemotional through the whole sequence. Of course, this may simply stem from the shock of seeing her mother killed in front of her, and then being arrested and convicted of her murder. (Speaking of which, that mother was absolutely badass, doing her best to protect her daughter while dying of a slit throat. Major props.) The girl has a natural distrust of people from that point on, and her abilities don’t help, as they tend to show her the dark underside of humanity.

We also get more political commentary, something you don’t necessarily expect from a horror manga. Sasayama tells our heroes the girl’s back story, and notes that the girl’s conviction was pretty much railroaded through the system, especially once the tabloid press got a hold of the story. A great line here, noting “Why do you think Japan has such a high conviction rate? It sure as hell isn’t because they’re *all* guilty.” Eiji Otsuka has used this series to advance his own beliefs many times, and the beauty of the series’ setup is that it never really feels out of place. And even when it turns into a long talking-head lecture, there’s always more corpses around the corner.

As for our heroes, they do a lot less this time around, mostly being there to find corpses and let events play out as they should. They get more to do in the other story in this volume, involving a miracle swimsuit that turns out to get into doping Olympic Athletes. Readers who dislike rats may wish to stay away here, though they’re mostly just rat corpses. I also cannot help but note that both stories featured Karatsu and Sasaki staying behind while the other 3 do the ‘leg work’. Usually Karatsu would have been right there with them. This is lampshaded when Karatsu notes that it’s nice hanging out here with Sasaki, something which causes her to blush. Is she trying to make her move in her best socially inept way?

However, really this volume of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is about Chihaya, the little girl from the first story. Her story runs the emotional gamut, and gives us plenty of gore (lotsa slit throats here) and eerie horror (page 142 is your creeeeeepy of the volume), but not in such a way that I was nauseated or wanted to stop reading. And the fanservice is higher here as well, with several pages of a bath scene, but it’s presented naturalistically rather than perversely, just like its corpses are. Really, this series is for fans of all good manga, not just horror fans. Everyone should be reading this. Highly recommended.

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Volume 10

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.

Also known as ‘the one horror series I read’, Kurosagi continues to deliver on the horror, yet also have intriguing plot, characterization, morality, and laughs.

The first two stories, comprising about 2/3 of the book, are stand-alones with no ties to the overarching plot, though the first may introduce a new semi-regular. Someone is going around town resurrecting recently dead corpses, which is only leading to new corpses, as the dead have revenge on their minds. There’s a very intriguing bit here where Karatsu is taken in for questioning regarding one of the murders, and the police essentially try to force a confession out of him even though they’re aware it wasn’t him. Shades of Law and Order-type cop shows.

The actual person behind all this not only has a tortured motive and murky ethics, but an old-fashioned afro, giving the story a nice retro look. (Really, so much of the times and places of this series are carried purely by the artwork and fashion – it’s not just about the corpses here.) In the end, we see him actually manage to save a living person, and the implication is that we may see him again.

Next up (after one of the best splash pages of the entire run, featuring the whole cast sticking their tongues out at us), we find the team in what appears to be Niigata, on the coast of Japan, a popular place for Russian emigres. (Thanks as always to Carl Horn’s expansive liner notes for pointing this out.) They’re supposedly there to help out an old colleague of Sasayama’s, whose marriage to a Russian woman is being held up by her guardian. This being the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, this leads to heroin smuggling, Korean boat people, and lots and lots of corpses.

Of note, by the way, this volume may set a record for least appearances of the female cast. Makino comes along with them for the last case (but doesn’t really do much), and Sasaki as always is there to be called and give intel, but it’s definitely a 3-person (and one puppet) volume we have here. We don’t even get the traditional shot of Sasaki’s nipples in a sheer top.

The last story is the only one to deal with the background of one of our heroes. Since we already know about Sasaki, Makino, and Yata’s pasts through previous volumes, and Karatsu’s is clearly meant to be one of the final mysteries, that leaves Numata. Helping a TV show that employs a psychic, they run into Numata’s old teacher, who taught him how to dowse for dead bodies. As the back cover notes, we actually get a rare shot of Numata taking off his sunglasses. (Spoiler: he has normal eyes.)

The last story ends on a downbeat note, with Numata sad and frustrated in the rain. I gotta say, for a series with as much humor as this one (albeit dark and morbid humor), there’s a whole lot of tragedy here. And as always, there’s some nasty gore shots and occasional naked woman shots. In this volume, it’s the same thing, with fanservicey shots of the corpse’s breasts. You get the feeling the artist is doing this on purpose to make people uncomfortable.

Not an amazing volume, just solid and dependable. One of the best horror series coming out these days, and I look forward to the cover design change for Vol. 11.