Monday, August 3, 2009

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, vol. 1

The story: Five students at a Buddhist university, all peculiarly skilled in their own way, have found that their college experience isn't proving too useful in the "real world." When Kuro Katsuro, who can speak to the dead, meets Ao Sasaki, an entrepreneur of sorts, at the school's job board, he has no idea what he's gotten himself into. Soon, he's traipsing through the woods with several other odd characters and helping the dead with their earthly attachments.

Reaction: The opening pages are quite a shocker, as they feature a dead man, covered in flies, hanging from a tree. Suddenly, the dead man moves and is crawling along the forest floor. Just by using these first few panels, the reader is provided with a mystery and, if not completely disgusted, compelled to find out what's going on. I found myself doing just the same, reading through this book quickly. Even more interesting than the ensemble cast are the usually depraved people they encounter.

Deep thoughts: I thought it was interesting that the two women of Kurosagi have what would be considered practical skills while the men are the oddballs. The three men in the service include a corpse-seeking dowser, a guy who talks to aliens via a hand puppet and Kuro, who communicates with the dead. Meanwhile, the two women consist of an embalmer and Ao, the boss for all intents and purposes. I especially like that the embalmer is portrayed as a cute woman, but is unafraid of touching, disinfecting and preparing a dead body; it defies an easy-to-hold stereotype. Then again, Ao is a tough, profit-seeking boss, which plays to the bossy woman stereotype often seen in business. Their contrast is unique though and neither portrayal turns me off in any way, especially since their likability is hard to gauge this early in the series.

Artwork: Holding true to its seinen roots, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is realistic in its scenery and character design. Each character is unique not only in personality, but also in appearance. Of course, there are grotesque moments since the series involves dead bodies. And while there is some blood and gore that appears, it's not overdone. My only problem with the artwork is design of Makino, the embalmer. She seems to be built to moe-esque standards and looks younger than she should. While her personality doesn't match the appearance, it's a little off-putting.

The verdict: Highly recommended. Going into this manga, I didn't think I would like it nearly as much as I did because of the focus on death. But, it's dark humor and the mysterious nature behind it's main characters' gifts drew me in despite all that. While so many manga focus on the shinigami aspect of death, it's refreshing to see how real people, those that are still alive, deal with those who have passed. Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is available in the U.S. from Dark Horse.

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