Today we tackle the awesome Cyber City Odeo 808. Today we have Michael from Prede’s Anime Reviews helping review my favourite Yoshiaki Kawajiri OVA. Check out my review of the show on Anigamers and Michael’s take on the title on his blog. Apologies for the audio problems. Also, if you feel like cringing, listen to my original podcast about it, all those years ago.
Before we begin the review for A Bride’s Story vol.2, if you would like a better grasp of the book’s characters and it’s setting, please read my review of volume one. For returning readers, thrills and adventure abound!
Amir’s journey continues with Karluk and it’s time for the problems with her family to come to a head. While outside the village, Amir and Karluk come face to face with her brother, cousins and uncle. Of course, her family think Amir will just come home. Fair play to Karluk, because he stands up to them despite being completely outnumbered. This is a different Karluk than the previous volume. He, once he realises what their intentions are, just stands in front of Amir, protecting her. Too bad he gets overwhelmed, though it turns out alright in the end.
Amir is the focus totally in this volume. I know that the series is supposed to be about Amir but Mori focuses on Amir and her feelings in this volume. I feel sorry for her when she realises her sister is dead. After she hears that from her brother, she just stops dead in her tracks. After it’s all over, Grandmother Eihon simply comforts her and in one line puts a protective cloak around Amir. For Amir, I try not to think how it felt to hear such news. I have all brothers so I’d be destroyed if anything ever happened to them. Plus if thinking about her sister wasn’t enough, her brother and cousins return to the village to take her back. The entire village goes to repulse their scheme but I focused on was Amir. Poor girl goes through a gamut of emotions. One one hand, its her family and she doesn’t want to upset them because she loves them. But if they loved her in return they wouldn’t be doing this to her. So as the town rallies against the Halgals, she sits in her home with Karluk, fidgeting. Should I go help the villagers? Should I help my family AGAINST the villagers? I can tell she’s thinking those things thanks to Mori’s direction in those scenes.
Pariya is a girl that I’m curious about. Younger than Amir, a bit brasher, yes, but still I see traces of Amir’s character DNA in Pariya. She sits, in many ways, in a tighter noose than Amir. Amir is older than a new bride should be but she lives her life as she sees it and is happy being with Karluk. Pariya isn’t able to find a husband because people perceive her as being cheeky and not marriage material. I know in our day and age that sounds strange but in her world, that is a virtual social death sentence. So I hope that Amir takes Pariya under her wing and helps her to blossom. I don’t mean I hope Amir helps Pariya become acceptable to her culture, I mean I hope that Amir shows Pariya the parts of her character that she hasn’t had a chance to discover for herself.
I’ve noticed that Amir’s character could be perceived as a very subservient person. The way she tends to Karluk’s every need and the way she and the other women do, and I hate this term, “women’s work”. But this behaviour is part of their culture so I can’t say that this is anomalous behaviour. The men in this story who are part of Amir’s new clan treat their counterparts with dignity and respect. They do speak of other clans as being totally disrespectful of the women in the clan. Indeed, Amir’s sister was sent to such a clan. I guess what I’m trying to say is that in every society there are complete wastes of space and then there are good examples of the male gender. So, Amir is lucky to be in such a loving group. She shouldn’t have to feel “lucky” but that’s the world she’s in. Her family loves her for being her and that’s all that matters in the final analysis.
Kaoru Mori’s art continues to draw me in and I like where she takes me in terms of narrative structure and art design. Read the part where the women of the clan explain their family patterns in the embroidery they sew. As you see the fine work on Mori’s art, you also get a sociology lesson. We in Ireland have ways of passing memory from generation to generation so I feel a resonance with Amir’s people in their ways of doing so.
A Bride’s Story continues to plumb new depths for development and emotion. Try it yourself, you might be surprised.
I’ve decided to tackle A Bride’s Story because the fourth volume’s release is only three months away and more people should be reading it. Now, I’ve spoken before about A Bride’s Story but hey, it’s not a bad thing to keep talking about it.
Set in the Caspian Sea region in the 19th century, it follows Karluk, aged 12, and his new bride Amir, aged 20, as Amir joins his clan, the Eihon’s, and their new married life together. Along the way, we realise that Amir’s family wants her back and decides to do anything to get her back. We also get slowly introduced to Karluk’s family through Amir’s eyes. I missed Kaoru Mori’s previous manga, Emma, so I wanted to pick this up from day one. While the setting is different from anything I’ve read before, the story simply picks you up and carries you with it.
First and foremost, the story is such a layered affair. It’s about two people being newly married, that’s what you tell people. But it’s also about the family that lives with them, the clan they’re in and the society they’re all in. Initially the family, Karluk’s mother and father, struggle to find common ground with Amir as she’s a little unsure of herself and wants to make a good impression but she’s such a gentle spirit so after some early mishaps, they treat her as part of the family. This is demonstrated completely succinctly when the Halgal clan (Amir’s family) decide to get her back when another of their family who was married off dies. Their logic being that while that family member (Amir’s sister) is dead, Amir is still alive. Of course, they thought the Eihon’s would be a pushover and just hand Amir back. After they are rebuffed, they go away but their threats will not (note: Amir and Karluk are not present for any of this and the Eihon choose not to say it to them). They come across as seeing this as necessary for this clan’s survival. It’s literally nothing personal. The Eihon clan, however, see it as personal because they have recieved Amir into their lives, have become family to her and now her family just turns up and says “Er, sorry. We need our sister back. Deal’s off.” So this is an affront to them. Interesting dilemma, I think. Amir’s age is constantly brought up by her new family and strangers alike (always out of earshot, you understand?) as being a hindrance to the newlyweds having a big family. I keep having to remember that this is not my world, not my morality so statements like this must be viewed in the context of the time and place it’s set in.
Amir’s character is different to Karluk’s. While she clearly loves her husband, because he is so young, he sometimes gives the impressions that he feels she minds him like a mother. He, for his part, tries to treat her as his wife but that age gap makes his task difficult. People are always looking at him with something akin to pity which he must be able to pick up on. But then, we see him watch Amir as she does things like hunt with a bow and arrow or sing while she sews and his expression makes him look older than he is. Such little things make such a complex relationship as theirs make a smidgen bit more sense but not completely explain everything. That would ruin too much of the mystery for me.
I wanted to avoid for as long as from talking about the art in this book for fear of gushing too much about it. In a word, it is amazing. Mori’s art is elegant, and moreish, as in you want more of it! The detail is costumes and patterns is great with the two page spreads being of particular note. But the little details, they are worth it. Like the old carver in the village and young Rostem, talking about carvings and houses and architectural structures (I’m paraphrasing here), we see the detail in the man’s work. Or the fox that Amir tracks and kills. Just before Amir strikes, the animal snaps its head around and the detail in the creatures face is astounding. The images in the book are good enough to be photos, they are that detailed.
One warning before the end: this is a very slowly paced book. All the details I’ve mentioned take time to unfold, so if you’re going to it looking for an instant fix, forget it because it’s not here. Instead we have an excellently researched, beautifully drawn and written by a person clearly in love with her subject matter. The main characters are compelling and their world is intriguing and complex. I would put it onto any reading list.
And with that, the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service MMF comes to an end. I can’t tell you how nervous I was hosting this and how much I worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish it. But with, as the saying goes, hard work and guts, we pulled it off. I wish to thank everyone who contributed to it and who give of their time and writing skills to make this the success it is.
I had to postpone the KCDS Feast in April because I was going to be squeezed for time and I asked to do it in August instead. OK, great! August! Now, I still had only about 4 volumes around May and spent the early summer buying the remaining ones and then had to make sense of them all. And as I read, I found that I missed reading it. If nothing else, it’s made me a more careful reader. Usually I read manga and think “THIS IS GREAT!!!” and then not wonder why it’s so great. With KCDS, I had to read and re-read the same volumes over and over again. I hope I’ve communicated what I’ve learned about the books, successfully. So, now that that’s out of the way, let’s wrap this up with our last links of the MMF
Finishing up our adventures are Jenn from the By The Mochiko?! with volume 3, volume 4 and oh, I dunno, 5,6 and 8! Ash Brown from Experiments in Manga takes a look at Makino, the team’s embalmer and a comparison with The Embalmer, I look at the last overview of volumes 9-12 and Jason Yadao looks at the series in general but looks at volume 1 and 2 specifically.
I also want to especially thank Ed Sizemore for his encouragement, Matt Blind for his pointers and Alexander Hoffman for his advice on the structure of the archive.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone who read our posts and commentaries and who sent in feedback. This is what the MMF is all about: a bunch of people with a passion for Asian graphic novels wanting to let more people know about what is so awesome, cool, creepy, annoying and sublime about them.
Now, the archive for KCDS is permanently shelved on my site now, if anyone wants to look over it. I’ll be cleaning it up into some kind of proper order soon and I’ll be adding a recommended list of the blog posts I found the most insightful during my research for the MMF in the coming days. Thanks again, everyone.
- End Of Line.
If you’ve just started reading this month’s MMF then I would suggest reading my brief overview of the series beforehand as I explain the setup of the books. Also, if you’d like more information on volumes 1-4 or 5-8, please see my reviews of them.
And as I reach the end of the available volumes of Kurosagi, I’m sitting here, wondering what exactly have I learned from this batch? Well, it’s for certain that our heroes have settled into their roles and the situations they find themselves in. When the gang help a local cop in a coastal town solve a series of crimes and the inevitable massacre of the bad guy at the heart of the matter, they advise him to not write up what he just witnessed. Before, they would have avoided working with the police for fear of what the police would ask of them. Here, they are pretty laid back about it all. Another thing that surfaces is the back stories of both Numata and Makino. Makino’s is only really told as a side piece and Numata’s is kinda bleak. But like the others, they share a similar thread in that the key that holds all the kids together is that they all lost their families when they were young. Sasaki even mentioned the fact to Sasayama that he seems to bring together people with this type of background. But maybe Otsuka is speaking through Sasayama when he replies to her that she’s reading too much into it. Is it a coincidence or not? It’s not told at this point. Also, the eleventh volume’s bulk is taken up by one of the better continuous arcs. The story starts off with a simple idea of a girl who carries a boxcutter around and ends with a paedophile’s psychic essense being devoured by a giant mental projection of a marsupial. Yeah, it’s that wicked.
Other things they tackle in these volumes are the pop idol who’s a complete bitch in real life, an invisible man corpse (no, that’s really what happens), a VR/Second Life and a side story about a couple of kids who find each other only to have tragedy strike. In many ways, the scenarios on display here hark back to the days of pulp sci-fi where the idea on display didn’t necessarily have to involve big things. The hook is all you need. So, if they want us believe that there’s a guy cycling round zapping everyone who recently died so they can finish up their affairs, OK, I’ll buy it. Otsuka and Yamazaki make their creations relatable rather than believable. This distinction is important: if they were believable then you’d be asking yourself why is raising the dead to help put their affairs in order, believable? Relatable makes them seems like you could know them, have lunch with them, go shopping with them, etc. On the flip side of things, the concept behind the books has to be believable rather than relatable. Seriously, if you knew that raising the dead was the same as going through a customer query with a customer in McDonalds, then it kind of takes away the mystique of the whole thing, no? But if you knew that while the idea is far fetched, if the authors present the facts of the case in, at least, a scientific way then you’re in and it would take a serious jumping of the shark for you to un-buy the idea.
One thing, and it’s a minor thing that my screenwriting cap won’t let me let go of, is that after twelve volumes, only one other person has outright mentioned that they knew of the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and what they do. Now two other groups, The Nire Company and the Shirogani Service knew about them but they work in the other industry so it’s logical that they should know about them. But this is the 21st Century, for pity’s sake, something like the KCDS should be, I dunno, public knowledge. If not on a public level, then the internet should be awash with people asking questions about them. Yes, I know, Japanese culture values privacy but still the chatrooms should have said something by now. It’s the only niggling point I can find with the whole setup of the books.
Finally, I’ve learned that horror can be fun as well as scary. As I’ve said before, there’s an almost EC Comics/Twilight Zone sense of irony at work here. People who have had their dead face ripped off for profit, only want to shag the person who betrayed them, dripping blood and all. Drug runners who use Chinese and Korean drug mules to make drops using the sea is dragged to the beach and out of sea. And so on. At this stage, I look forward to the hammer falling on these edjits as much as the chapter’s setup and execution.
Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service continues to go from strength to strength, building the mythos behind its characters, expanding its scope and delving deeper into the whole idea of death and how you deal with it once it happens to you. As long as we continue to buy, enjoy and pass on this series as recommendation to our friends and fellow Netizens then I’m pretty sure we stand a fair chance in seeing it to the end. I commend these volumes to you in the hopes that you too will read them and come up with your own likes and dislikes about it. Let me know, eh?
If you’ve just started reading this month’s MMF then I would suggest reading my brief overview of the series beforehand as I explain the setup of the books. Also, if you’d like more information on volumes 1-4, please see my review of it.
Moving swiftly into this second bunch of volumes, the gang get their first clues as to Yaichi’s identity and we also see the Nire group in here for the second time. All the while, they go from client to client trying their best to not either get arrested or dead. The Nire Group are interesting. Initially they came across as complete bad guys (and to be frank, reanimating a dead convict who’s already been executed by the state only to have someone kill them again is sick) but as we learn about them, we realise that Nire himself is simply a driven man, not a vindictive one. But Mutsumi, his adopted daughter, has a similar talent to Karatsu and used it to her own ends. These ends aren’t evil in themselves but I dare you to face down a finger-chomping, zombie cat and not poop your pants. Also, the appearance of Shirosagi Cleaning Service is evil personified. It’s one thing to profit from another person’s misfortune, resulting in their death. It’s another when you keep profiting from them after they’re dead. They turn up again later in the series and they just ooze a “We is the bad guy!” vibe. I’m glad that they’ve turned up in the story. Other than Sasaki’s origin story in volume 2, the book has shied away from doing continuous stories and as a result doesn’t have a arc, per se, to follow. So having recurring villains is the next best thing.
I’ve learned something about the title while reading these volumes. There seems to be a double standard going on in terms of nudity. I’ve already seen Sasaki naked from the waist up and in this bunch we see Makino naked, albeit from a distance. And yes, in this batch we do see full frontal male nudity but not from the male cast members. So, it’s OK to see a nondescript corpse’s yoo-hoo but not Yata’s, Karatsu’s or Numata’s? Hmm, it’s kinda one sided, don’t ya think? It’s a minor gripe in an altogether great series but still it niggles at me. Oh, I should bring up Tooru Sasayama, the social worker who used to be a police detective in Otsuka’s MPD Psycho, and who appeared in the first volumes but I forgot to include him on my first review. He’s a bit of a curmudgeon but he really does have a good sense of honour about him. He’s forever giving the kids (as he puts it) terrible unpaid jobs but in the blink of an eye, is cursing them for costing him money (main bone of contention is unidentified bodies have to be paid for by the local prefecture, i.e. Sasayama’s). Also, we are being deliberately misdirected about the origin of Yaichi, the spirit that rests around Karatsu. One origin is set in the mid-twentieth century, another is turn of the twentieth century, yet another is that one of the Shirosagi Cleaning Service’s people has similar scars. They can’t all be the same person so what is going on here? I don’t know but I hope this doesn’t turn into a Darth Vader moment, that’s all I’m saying.
I’ve no real problems with this batch of volumes. The gruesome is consistent (never thought I see myself writing that) and the little bits and pieces we are discovering about the characters are coming along nicely. I really can’t say why I like it. I think it’s a mixture of a few things: the gore done in such an EC Comics way, the fact that the cast aren’t all that fazed anymore, the people they meet are just people plain and simple, the equality of death is shown, the overarching Buddhist system of Karma in action when the wicked are punished for their transgressions and the irreverent way the authors put Japan in the dock in each volume.
The series continues to impress me and I can’t recommend a better book for grown ups who like their blood and guts along with a monthly dose of humor and snark.
Point of interest: another great cog in the machinery of the book is the black, black, comedy on display. You can’t help but chuckle at the way some of the antagonists get their comeuppance. Again, (and I’m really not trying to labour the point here) the EC Comics vibe is really strong when it happens. The cast almost have a collective “Oh, dear. Whatever shall we do to help the poor git?” look on their faces when the poop hits the fan for the chapters antagonists. Also, the way that the one-liners, great comebacks and delivery is presented is stellar. I can’t count the amount of times I laughed and then checked myself because someone had been brutally murdered (they deserved it, of course). Also, the cast is in the joke, while initially scared by what they see, by the third volume they actually can use the scrapes they’re in to their advantage. Just watching Numata and Karatsu coming to a halt and staring in slack jawed amazement as a corpse gets up and whales on an evildoer is great. The end of the chapter dealing with the cyonics swindler still makes me laugh. I feel that the authors are saying to me “Hey, if you can’t laugh at this sort of stuff, what can you laugh at?”