“The body is but to the soule as a clogge tied to the legge.” – James Cole (1629).
Kuro Karatsu is a shaven-headed student at a Buddhist college with few prospects. If he has one gift it is this: whenever he touches a dead body he can hear the last wishes of the deceased. He volunteers to be part of a group looking for the dead, his boss being a woman named Ao Sasaki, head of the campus volunteer group, hacker and all-round technological know-all.
Also working in the group are Makoto Numata, a dowser who uses his skills to locate the dead; Keiko Makino, who studied embalming in the USA; and Yuki Yuta, who claims to channel a foul-mouthed alien intelligence via a glove puppet. Together the five students are able to investigate the death of a suicide victim in a rather horrifying case which sees the corpse reanimating and taking its revenge on someone it hated in life.
The one upside in the case is that they find a lottery ticket on the original corpse, which turns out to be winning ticket. Ao decides to use the winnings to set up their own business, designed to fulfil the last wishes of those who have died. The company is The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, “Kurosagi” meaning “black heron”, a symbol of delivering death as opposed to the birth-delivering white stork. Together the five members use their skills to fulfil the wishes of the dead, as well as solving some crimes on the side.
In terms of the content of this manga collection, I feel that Eiji Otsuka’s writing is stronger than Housui Yamazaki’s art. At first it felt that the art was slightly dodgy, especially in the depiction of Ao’s appearance, but after the first chapter the art certainly improves and by the time you have read through all three volumes of this collection, it feels as if both are on a par with each other. At times the art is pretty frightening and gruesome: appropriate enough for a horror manga. There are not just reanimated bodies, but all sorts of different kinds of killings and mutilations, such as people’s eyes being cut out, or people committing suicide by slicing a meat cleaver through their own head.
The writing style of Otsuka is also enjoyable. Most of the time the stories are told in individual chapters, although the second volume is all one single story. Admittedly there are times when you feel the manga is a bit dated (see one story set around the time of the Iraq War where the company records a song onto a Minidisc), but there is plenty to get your teeth into. If you do not understand some parts, then this manga has an extensive list of info at the back of each volume, ranging from sound effect translations, to information on the chapter headings which are all named after Japanese pop songs, to other cultural aspects.
However, perhaps the most notable aspect of the manga is the cover. I know people say you should not judge a book by one, but the covers of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service deserve a mention. Designed originally by Bunpei Yorifuji, the front cover of this collection, like the stand-alone volumes previously released by Dark Horse, is made out of cardboard. It does feel nice to hold.
This collection make good reading: a lovely feel when holding it, mixed with stomach-turning violent images and at times good humour make this manga worth investigating.