Tag Archives: manga

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Digital Manga Publishing responds to questions about Tezuka World Kickstarter

So, DMP promised they would get back to their customers who had questions about the Tezuka kickstarter on the 28th of this month. Get back to them, they did. But some of their responses are making me uneasy still.

To summarise, I wrote a blog post in regards to the whole Tezuka World kickstarter and in it, I asked, in addition to other questions, the following:

  • Will they reexamine the 30+ volumes per Kickstarter plan if this Kickstarter doesn’t succeed?
  • Speaking of future Kickstarters, what will happen if this Kickstarter fails to meet the minimum? Will Tezuka Pro rescind the contract? Are we okay to give our money to future Kickstarters?
  • What guarantee is there that DMP will print the books that do make the stretch goals for regular customers? Will we get a chance to buy 31 volumes at standard RRP in the future?

The responses to these questions, which were also asked by Deb Aoki, Alex Hoffman and others, were both straightforward and somewhat evasive.

Will there be a sufficient print run to supply the market if the kickstarter gets funded?

If the first goal gets funded, there will be enough to supply books to the backers first and foremost…  depending on how much gets funded after the first goal, will determine the print run will be if any for the open market.

Please note: Books being distributed to the open market will be released one volume at a time over a period of 2-3 years vs. through the campaign you’ll get it all at once

So you’ll get your books on the open market but if we don’t make more than the initial goal plus change, then you’ll only get what? A few hundred? A few thousand? That doesn’t make any sense and means that people who can’t afford the prices of the kickstarter don’t have any assurance that even if they make the initial goal, that there will even be any open market copies.

What happens to all the books if the kickstarter doesn’t get funded?

We’re not sure at this time, it’ll depend on lots of varying factors such as Tezuka Production/Licensor, etc.

You’re not sure? Not sure? Did it even come up as a topic of conversation when you went to hand over money to Tezuka Pro? Did the idea that any one of these multiple Kickstarters could fail cross DMP’s minds when chatting to Tezuka Pro? Did Tezuka Pro even raise the issue? Have DMP themselves done so since looking at the pledge numbers so far for Tezuka’s World?

Are future kickstarters always going to be in big batches like this one?

It may or may not but regardless, we will rethink our overall kickstarter strategy in terms on tiers/stretch goals, etc, to meet the needs of our backers.

OK, now that just contradicts the reason DMP gave as to why they had to put together a bigger batch of titles. People readily paid for Unico and the rest of the earlier titles but, at the rate they were published, it would take decades to finish the whole catalogue. So, if this Kickstarter doesn’t work out, DMP will adjust their releasing schedule to suit? Thereby going back to the original schedule which doesn’t work? What about when DMP have a huge batch to get through again? Will they bring back their Tezuka’s World-style campaign and huge initial stretch goal?

Does the licenses expire? (licensing time-frame)

Maybe, it’ll depend on the outcome of this campaign and Tezuka Production’s decision on what to do next.

This is the one that sets off alarm bells for me. Something in the way it’s phrased suggests to me that Tezuka Pro’s contract with DMP is highly subjective on the success of failures of each Kickstarter. Does this mean that one KS that goes wrong could spell disaster? No, I don’t think so. Kickstarters are hard to judge and going into this, DMP can’t have oversold it to Tezuka Pro since there have been Kickstarter failures before, some involving “anime” projects. Do I think that one unfunded KS might mean Tezuka Pro looks elsewhere with their licenses? Oh, yeah, I do indeed. Which would be a major pain for DMP.

So here’s some new question for DMP based on their responses:

  • How many copies would be available to the general public if the Kickstarter made its initial goal and ONLY its initial goal?
  • Are you prepared to scrap the planned large batch Kickstarters if this doesn’t work and shift to a multi-campaign release schedule for the 31+ title goal per year for next year?
  • If you’re not going to scrap the large batch Kickstarters, will you give backers more advanced warning than 24 hours and more like a season or more that there is a campaign coming down the line that will be expensive to get every book?
  • Will Tezuka Pro support you if you shift to a cheaper per volume costing? That is, if you have to use cheaper paper and non-gloss covers, will they OK that?
  • Can we have advanced notice of the Kickstarter campaign page and see it in beta before it goes live? (Yes, this can be done, Animeigo and Anime Limited have done it). Will you adjust tiers with direct backer input while in beta?

Without meaning to sound cruel or come across as entitled, as backers, we’re entitled to know all the facts so the fact that we haven’t been asking more probing questions about these Kickstarters like the nature of the contract with Tezuka Pro, per volume costing breakdowns or an itemised bill charting how much the President of DMP spent traveling to Tezuka Pro says something about our level of trust in you, DMP.

Here’s a link to DMP’s actual post on the matter. Please, I would strongly urge people who are backing the project (I’m only supporting the project by $1, going back on my own word to not do so) and even those who are not to contact DMP on their Twitter or their Facebook pages and engage with them about your concerns or requests to do with this Kickstarter and future ones. We all want more Tezuka and DMP are the best shot at the moment for getting that.

 

 

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Tezuka, Kickstarters and all that Jazz

Why I can’t support this kickstarter and why I’m happy to pledge to future ones.

(Note: RRP is the same as MSRP and P&P is Hibernian English for Shipping and Handling)

Normally, I’d be lazy and not bother one wit to write about manga on my own website. You can tell with the amount of updates on the main page how wedded I am to keeping it up to date. But, a bee in my bonnet I have, and a bee in my bonnet I must address. I’ve been supporting Digital Manga Publishing with their Kickstarter projects for a while now having only missed out on the Swallowing The Earth project (I ruminate somedays on whether or not to pay the crazy marketplace secondhand prices). I like the idea of getting to read Osamu Tezuka’s work in printed form because he’s an important author and a great storyteller. His body of work stretches over decades and incompasses all genres and mediums. So when DMP decided that their Swallowing The Earth KS could give rise to more such ideas, I eagerly followed them. I’m the proud owner of Barbara, Unico, Triton of the Sea, Atomcat and I’m looking forward to their Captain Ken releases. But there is a seriously hard pill to swallow with their current project.

No Win Scenario

DMP want to print the following titles with this current campaign:

  • Birdman Anthology Vol. 1-2

As you can see it’s an impressive list, worthy of any Tezuka’s fans shelf space (please click the links to be taken to the amazing TezukaInEnglish site for more info on these titles). So we if work out the RRP at USD $19.95 for 31 volumes, that works out to be: $618.45. Great, a bit steep sure, but Tezuka fans could dig deep and find the money. However, when we look at the epic pledge levels list we find the following information for those who want the books and only the books:

UPGRADED Tezuka World Paperback Pack: e-Hug / e-thank you; Three Eyed One 13 Volumes; Rainbow Parakeet 7 Volumes; Wonder Three 3 Volumes; Alabaster 2 Volumes; Birdman Anthology 2 Volumes; Vampires 4 Volumes; Digital Books Of Three-Eyed One 13 Volumes; Digital Books Of Rainbow Parakeet 7 Volumes; Digital Books Of Wonder 3; Digital Books Of Alabaster; Digital Books Of Birdman Anthology; Digital Books Of Vampires

At first glance you think, wow. That sure is a lot of goodies (I’m avoiding the word swag) and I still get the physical books! It’s over $650 so there’s some bloat in there if you’re just after the books. Brilliant, a Tezuka fan’s dream come true! Hmm, not exactly. You see the initial goal of the Kickstarter is a staggering $380,000 which, to give some context, is some $360,000 more than the highest initial pledge level for one of their previous projects to publish Unico, Triton and Atomcat (which only was enough money to publish Unico). But it doesn’t stop being confusing yet. The $380k is only enough money to publish the first two stories, The Three-Eyed One and Rainbow Parakeet, physically and digitally and that’s it. If you want the next batch of titles, that will be another $95,000. Finishing it off, the remaining titles will be another $114,000. If you’re keeping count, that means to own all 31 volumes DMP must raise $589,000.

I don’t know if you’re aware or not but Osamu Tezuka is practically unheard of here in the English speaking world, outside of his fans in anime and manga circles. Despite being world renowned, in English, the most anyone would remember him for is Kimba The White Lion and Astro Boy, both of which had their heyday in the 1960’s, i.e. the distant, prehistoric past to most new fans of anime and manga. Every time someone tries to build Tezuka’s profile here,the campaign sustains for a while and then collapses under its own weight when the people involved grasp the sheer size of the man’s body of work. Even VIZ and Vertical who have licensed Tezuka’s work before only pick and choose his works. English manga publishers rarely attempt a long form Tezuka work except Vertical with Black Jack and Buddha, Dark Horse with Astro Boy and VIZ with Phoenix, to my knowledge. He simply doesn’t sell well enough to work in multi-volume works. Hence, when DMP announced they were going to use Kickstarter for their Tezuka collection, I was enthusiastic to say the least. So much so, I poo-pooed other people’s assertions that this would end in tears. “Never! There is a market for Tezuka, it simply needs to be sustained.” I said it as soon as I read the rundown of the campaign’s goals and stretch amounts and I’ll say it again: DMP have completely misread their plans for Tezuka in the English speaking market. They are making massive assumptions about their audience and how much they will pay in one go for Tezuka. They are assuming that people really want to read a 13 volume book from an author they’ve been told is good and that they’ve never read a translation of said story before. This is evidenced by the amount pledged for titles people really wanted against what they’ve levelled at backers.

Here’s the KickTraq.com backer numbers for Unico, Atomcat and Triton:

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Within the first five days of funding, it smashed through its first goal and went on to break all its other goals. Now look at the current data from KickTraq on Tezuka’s World:

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In the first five days, it has raised $21,000 of $380,000. If we were looking at percentages, Tezuka’s World has raised roughly 5.5% of its initial 100% in the same time it took Unico to get to 100% of its initial goal.

They are also assuming that the audience that tuned into the previous Kickstarters is growing. It isn’t. From Kickstarter’s own numbers: Swallowing The Earth, 194 backers. Barbara, 353 backers. Unico, 715 backers. Captain Ken, 451 backers. The core audience of Tezuka backers is not growing, merely leveling off.  They cannot sustain another project this year with such a high price tag. Captain Ken got $19,000 of a required 13,000, barely spluttering over the finish line. Between Barbara and Unico, Triton and Atomcat, DMP raised nearly $67,000 dollars and they were both launched within months of each other. If DMP, by some miracle, raises the minimum amount for the latest Kickstarter, together with Captain Ken, they will have raised roughly $399,000 this year for two projects which also launched within months of each other. The problem is not the amount of manga to be printed, it’s the amount of money being asked for. So what is DMP’s explanation for this high initial amount?

Land of Confusion

According to DMP President, Hikaru Sasahara, the high amount is due, in part, to the fact that they licensed the entire Tezuka catalogue which is some 400 volumes long. This huge amount means that if they proceed to kickstart all their projects with the same scale as Unico or Barbara, it will take over 40 years to complete this project. Therefore by adding in 30+ volumes per project, they can get it done in six years or so. But if we do some mathematics again, that means 30 divided into 400 resulting in 12 further projects after this one. Which, if they ask for the full stretch goal of $580,000, will result in a total of seven and half million dollars to pay for the whole lot. What’s making this harder to fathom is that now, DMP are stating that the higher RRP per volume on this project is because they are factoring in the cocurrent costs associated with the project. I need to stress this: these are not translation or editing costs, or they would have said that. These costs include travelling to Japan over a seven year period to meet with Tezuka Productions to acquire the rights to the Tezuka catalogue and localisation quality standards that Tezuka Pro are keen to have in place. Working in this manner incurs extra costs (overrun, changing printing costs etc.) so that’s added in. The flaw here is that DMP are adding in the things that they normally have to do in their day to day practices into the Kickstarter. Backers have to bear the cost of the boss of the company paying his own way to ask to publish Tezuka from the copyright holders and also for everything else that came along. VIZ, Dark Horse and Vertical didn’t suddenly ask for an additional 10 dollars on top of a RRP of $19.95 for their releases because someone’s airfare had to be recalculated back into the final bill. This means that if, again by some miracle, these books end up on the shelves of regular shops, the average customer will not be asked to bear these costs because Kickstarter backers have already shouldered them. Alex Hoffman did a wonderful breakdown of the cost per project for the earlier DMP kickstarters and the latest one. At the time, the “Just The Books” pledge level was $750. He set the costs of the new books at $14 per volume. Here’s one for Unico:
unico_costs

Now here’s the breakdown for the latest Kickstarter:
world_costs

The value you get out of Tezuka’s World falls through the floor. Remember this is just a costing. Number of volumes hasn’t been taken into account. So if we multiply the original $82 from Unico to make up to the $750 for “just the books” for Tezuka’s World, it goes into the $750 nine times. Multiplying that answer by the first set’s value of $6 means that you would have a figure of $54. A value of $54 would mean that using the original Unico levels of costs, we should receive books of a value totalling $696. But we’re not. Instead we’re asked to shoulder the bills of a manga company’s incurred costs, something that a new company might do but not an established publisher like DMP. Please note that since then, DMP have lowered the stretch amount for just the books to $650. To make matters worse, DMP are also hamstringing themselves with the proviso that if the stretch goals further up the list are not met, they will not publish in digital or print, the rest of the books named. To quote:

“If the 2nd or 3rd goal is not met, the print edition & digital edition books of those titles pertaining to those goals, as well as the related rewards made for those titles in those goals will not be produced, and will be excluded from the tier packages when rewards are sent out to backers.”

If you want to know just bad that sounds, here it is: if you pay the full $650 for all of the 31 books and the project only brings in the bare $380,000, you get twenty volumes of the first two stories valued at $280 based on the $14 RRP and DMP keeps the $370 left over. They can’t do it any other way because to do otherwise would lower the total amount pledged and therefore you wouldn’t even get the first two lots of manga. So, maybe we can go for a lower amount and just get the first two manga and make sure we get some manga without having to overpay? Hmmm, you might but only if you pay more. As of this post, the only lower physical tiers DMP are offering for just the first two books are: $420 for Rainbow Parakeet 1-7, Three Eyed One 1-13 plus digital copies of the rest or $360 for just Three Eyed One 1-13 plus goodie bag and finally, $250 for Rainbow Parakeet 1-7 plus goodies. Of the three, only the $420 tier offers real value. Assuming an RRP of $19.95, twenty volumes should cost $399, so that’s P&P taken care of. But $360 for Three Eyed One at $19.95 RRP turns into $259.35 and $250 for Rainbow Parakeet turns into $139.65. Now, I know what you’ll say: “If we just get the $420 tier, we’ll get the books and the digital copies of the others!” Yes, but if DMP doesn’t hit its further goals, you only get the books. Buyer beware is all I’ll say. On top of that, what happens to titles that don’t make their Kickstarter stretch goals? Are they put back into the pot, ready for another Kickstarter with a high initial goal? Are they given back to Tezuka Pro, unable to be sold, and would the cost of licensing a title that didn’t get kickstarted be passed on to another Kickstarter project down the road?

Finally, I must stress that the above figures had to be gleaned from what I consider to be the worst planned set of pledge tiers ever on Kickstarter. There are a staggering 32 tiers, for pity’s sake! I want some books not tune up and customise a car! And DMP have, since I’ve been pledging to their Kickstarters, had this annoying gimmick of putting the pledges, rewards and levels on a slick spreadsheet for you to read and find out which tier and reward is right for you. On this project they have crossed a line to create some seriously real customer confusion. When you see the first of the spreadsheets, you click on them to enlarge them but are instead taken to the DMP website for a full breakdown. Here’s what you get:

first spread sheet

second spread sheet

third spread sheet

fourth spread sheet

There are four spreadsheets to read! What does any of this mean? It’s a mess showing not only the tiers and the rewards but also the goodies options. This is broken up here but on DMP’s site, it’s all stacked on top of one another. “Who cares about the goodies, you’re trying to sell Tezuka manga, not start a franchise!!” is what I want to scream. Where are Tezuka Pro telling DMP to rein it in with all the goodies because the people buying this stuff are existing Tezuka fans, not new ones. They don’t need gimmicks, they just want the books. While I’m here, with the knowledge that there are six, count them six, people working on this full time, I don’t feel any safer with my money in DMP’s hands for this. Lastly, because it’s been bugging me since he said it and I’m Irish and we can’t leave things well enough alone, President Sasahara said that he had been negotiating with Tezuka Pro to publish the whole back catalogue for the last seven years. If he had a mind to publish all that and since Kickstarter didn’t come into existence until 2009, by what method was he planning to introduce Tezuka to the market? Since DMP recognised that Kickstarter was the only way to get Tezuka into the hearts and minds of readers, that means that in the beginning Sasahara must have envisioned the publishing schedule being traditional. Ergo, if the KS schedule would have taken 40+years, a traditional one would have taken longer. The higher costs in the Tezuka’s World campaign have been justified as necessary because they can’t wait 40+ years to finish it at the KS pace they had set. So why did they even think about getting the license if at the time they set out to do this, the means to more easily self publish the books didn’t even exist, thus making a prolonged publishing schedule a foregone conclusion ?

The Long And Winding Road

After all this, how do I feel? Angry and disappointed but not upset. DMP is a business and as a business are not required to give customers advanced notice as to their plans. The problem for them is that Kickstarter at its heart is a collaborative effort between the campaign runners, the backers and the fans. So by using Kickstarter, they are giving up their right to arbitrarily change the pricing structure on future releases. By doing so, there’s no guarantee that they won’t add more costs into the mix. I am categorically stating I believe them when they say they are necessary. But for someone who doesn’t understand the way the publishing world, Japanese business or how a business in general works, this might look like either DMP or Tezuka Pro are making sure the bills are getting paid before the backers are being served. This sends out all the wrong messages and creates a sour attitude that will strain future Tezuka Kickstarters. Currency fluctuations and higher costs within any industry are a given but adding in the cost of flying to places, schmoozing Japanese executives or suddenly finding out the licence holder wants better quality in the releases are not. This is what DMP are projecting to backers. This is toxic. They need to reassess what the goal of this Kickstarter is. If it’s to bring Tezuka to the masses, they are failing. If it’s to act as a clearinghouse for Tezuka works nobody’s heard of and that might not be all that great, that’s the message fans are getting. They need to say why these titles above all others, why now and why this price? Fans don’t want to know about how money was spent talking to Tezuka Pro or unforeseen costs. If something’s more expensive now, prove with a video why it is. Don’t just say Tezuka Pro wants higher quality releases, show the backers. DMP have put out five updates to the Kickstarter page, three are tier updates and two are clarifications about the costs of the project. Clarifications are good, they sort out a lot of the mess. But by not clarifying the following, DMP is making trouble for itself:

  • What guarantee is there that DMP will print the books that do make the stretch goals for regular customers? Will we get a chance to buy 31 volumes at standard RRP in the future?
  • Will there be physical books only tiers, devoid of goodies, in future Kickstarters?
  • Speaking of future Kickstarters, what will happen if this Kickstarter fails to meet the minimum? Will Tezuka Pro rescind the contract? Are we okay to give our money to future Kickstarters?
  • Will they reexamine the 30+ volumes per Kickstarter plan if this Kickstarter doesn’t succeed?
  • Will they spread out more Kickstarters with lower minimum stretch goals over a year to allow people to finally choose the titles that they want rather than being forced to take stuff they don’t?
  • If digital printing only requires translation costs and storage costs, does their contract with Tezuka Pro allow them to seek smaller amounts or other crowd funding platforms to make sure that at least digital copies exist of Tezuka’s work?
  • Can someone be put in charge of the pre-launch Kickstarter campaign, like Anime Limited has done, to gauge what fans do and do not want in the campaign when it does launch?

I love DMP at the end of the day for trying to tackle Tezuka at all, even with these missteps. I respect that they are trying to adjust to a new type of model and scale of project. I buy copies of Kimagure Orange Road as they come out digitally from DMP, they’ll always have my love for that. I can’t support this Kickstarter as it is too flawed to work and this was a problem from its inception. The bad communication and huge assumptions made have contributed to a poisoned attitude among existing fans who backed their earlier efforts meaning this Kickstarter probably won’t succeed and that makes me sad. I like being able to point people toward DMP’s kickstarters for Tezuka and know that they are getting works by a master storyteller. I too, like TezukaInEnglish states, I will feel the need to complete my Tezuka manga collection. If it takes longer to get there along, like the header says, the long and winding road, I’m happy and stand ready to assist DMP in every way.

EDIT: I’ve added a chart to show the various Kickstarters, their initial goals and the pledges that came in.

A Bride’s Story, Vol.2

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.

A Bride’s Story, Vol.1

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.

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?