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Final Day of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service – End Of Line

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.

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Overview 9-12

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?

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Overview 5-8

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?”

 

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service v01 057

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Overview 1-4

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.

I really enjoyed the pace set up by the first volumes of the series. While none of the first volumes are connected to each other, having an almost anthology feel to them except that the cast is the same, the second volume deals exclusively with Sasaki’s childhood and the events that shaped her adolescence. I like this but I don’t think it needed to be a recursive thing in one volume. Other characters have some of their stories fleshed out over a much longer and better paced speed. Of the characters, Sasaki in these volumes is my favourite. She sports a mix of world-weariness and friendly ruthlessness. Now that might sound weird but Sasaki sometimes can’t believe how stupid Karatsu and Numata are sometimes and doesn’t wait to tell them. But she doesn’t put them down for being idiots, rather that she’s come to expect and accept it from them. In terms of ruthlessness, she can cajole, threaten or leverage anyone of anything to help the group. She however doesn’t ever indicate whether she would carry out said blackmail. Karatsu really is the glue that holds the squad together, figuratively and literally. Sasaki forms the company around Karatsu’s channeling ability and he’s usually the peacemaker within the group, especially around Kere Ellis and Numata. Yaichi is the silent ghostly protector, primarily of Karatsu (who he is, is not revealed at this point. As our introduction to the world of KCDS, the first four volumes serve as a taster rather than a proper introduction to the series. Sure, we meet the characters and yes, we understand the parameters of the story. But not enough is revealed to begin with and if truth be told, I prefer this kind of story.

When the gang gets together, it’s not really shown how they all got there. And even after four volumes, I might know about Sasaki’s childhood but I can still be surprised by her phobias. Likewise, the growing importance of Yaichi who hangs around Karatsu still isn’t really resolved by volume 4 (spoilers: it’s not even resolved by volume 12!). The best way I can describe the storytelling structure is as follows: the characters react and act around the plot events. However, we get little bits and pieces about them and their backstories as we go along. Please note though, only Sasaki’s story is explored here. The others start to get fleshed out in subsequent volumes.

The stories behind the people the company serves (and the recipients) vary greatly with each volume. The father in the first volume in “Less Than Happy” is just…vile. Really, when the full horror of what he’s done is revealed, the authors work is done. I saw coming but still it’s hard to stomach. In “Magician of Lost Love”, we are in full EC Comics mode with the delicious serial killer setup. With an innocent off-screen voice over, we see the killer at work and then the snap twist. In the third volume, “X+Y=Love” we find ourselves in that strange mental places people find themselves in with a Japanese rerun of The Most Dangerous Game.

Artwork wise, I think the run of the mill artwork in the book is competent and smart. It’s nice to look at but it’s not really polished. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, far from it, it gives a stability to the flow of the book. Where it really excels is the depiction of bodies being reanimated and doing the usual things reanimated bodies do: i.e. getting revenge. It’s got an EC Comics vibe to it where you often see the evil person/antagonist’s view of the approaching horror and it’s great. Yamazaki’s best trait is the way he depicts the expressions on people’s faces. An eyebrow here, a stunned look there, it’s all very well suited to break the flow (no pun intended) of gore and blood. Curious thing about the books, each cover, front and back, have thumbnails of the gang. Only Karatsu’s doesn’t change. It’s an interesting choice to isolate Karatsu like that, no explanation given.

The best thing about Kurosagi, outside of the actual story, is the exhaustive liner notes from Dark Horse editor Carl Gustav Horn. I mean, they go into real small detail (sound FX, meanings behind conversations, the fact that a lot of the chapters are song titles), getting into the meat of Japanese culture and the lifestyles of people and it also rambles into his own opinions which are great.

Kurosagi isn’t for the faint of heart nor is it for people looking for ultra-cute stuff, you won’t find it here. The characters are doing a messy job and they have as much fun as you can hauling around stiffs. It has a wonderful sense of respect for the dead and complete irrelevancy for the societal do’s and don’ts that just get in the way, don’t ya know? With 12 English-translated (beautifully done by Toshifumi Yoshida) volumes with more to come (hopefully, right, Dark Horse?), it’s a welcome jump into a nice, horrible little horror.

Point of interest: I’m a big fan of macabre horror, especially from Western literature. People like Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft (whom I had known about for years but only read very recently) really capture the essence of the dread that awaits the unwary. These are tales where the author (or someone the author knew) usually is the one sucked into the horror. The way the poor unfortunate is dispatched is always fun. So that is one aspect of KCDS that is really fun to read because it’s the same. People are killed, dismembered, drowned, set on fire, choked and those are just the victims. The authors are not indifferent to the suffering of their victims, it’s just they have an equal view of violence. The perpetrators seem to get worse punishments than their victims. But then, their perpetrators usually fall into two categories: the ones who just get killed and the ones who really have a number done on them. I really don’t feel all that sorry for either group. But the way in which the gang in KCDS after the first couple of chapters don’t seem to be fazed by having to hold back an out of control dead guy or nearly being drowned in a freak flood is neat and refreshing. By contrast, the other people they encounter who witness this stuff with them have more in common with the aforementioned New England horror crowd.

Wandering Son Volume 2

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Wandering Son Vol.1 was an eye-opening read for me, full of opinions and options I had never considered before, and that I’ve already watched the series means nothing to how much I’ve enjoyed the manga. The first volume serves as a reintroduction to Nitori and Takatsuki, the young boy and girl who wish they were the other’s gender, and for those who’ve never seen the series, will not confused or disheartened. Looking at volume 2, we are presented with a new dilemma: now that I know how I’d like be, there’s the world to deal with. If Vol.1 was a masterclass in people not wanting to accept the status quo within their own minds, Vol.2 shows the uncertainty of the waiting world. The way that Nitori and Takatsuki fumble forward with no plan is painful and endearing. They know the two of them are better together but there’s the problem of dealing with classmates, family and teachers. It’s not easy and well done to Takako for not short-circuiting the process. It’s not easy writing characters in distress but it’s wonderful to read it. If you can recognise the character’s pain and sympathise despite your differences, it proves you’re human and so is the author.

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