The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service
Written by Eiji Otsuka, Art by Housui Yamazaki
Dark Horse, 208 pp
Rating: 18 +
The 13th volume of Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki’s horror comedy, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service has arrived. The duo delivers three more tales involving the reoccurring antagonists, the Shirosagi group, a look at the layman judge trial system, and more.
For those just joining us, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is a horror comedy set in contemporary Japan. It follows a group of down on their luck college students, all gifted with unique abilities or skills which aren’t terribly useful in modern Japanese society, but when used in conjunction with each other they prove to be a fairly capable team. Well, calling them capable might be an overstatement. This five and half man group consists of: Sasaki, the brains of the group and a capable computer hacker: Karatsu, the group’s resident corpse whisperer: Numata, a dowser who can only locate corpses: Makino, an embalmer: Yata who’s actually got no remarkable skills to speak of aside from the fact that he’s the host to the team’s “half man” member: Kerellis, a sock puppet that may or may not be an extraterrestrial intelligence living in Yata’s left hand. Together the group locates corpses and attempts to grant them their last wishes, in exchange for a payment which they usually get stiffed on.
The three stories in this volume are interesting for a number of reasons. The first one being the return of the enigmatic Shirosagi duo who haven’t appeared for quite some time. They’ve had previous encounters with the Kurosagi group and it’s been implied that the duo have some grudge or connection with Karatsu. Well, that long running mystery finally gets answered in this volume, though it’s one of those answers that merely raises more questions. While I absolutely adore the series, even if it’s just the Kurosagi group wandering from one insane situation to the next, it’s fantastic to see some movement on this lingering subplot. The second is that we’re given a look at Japan’s lay judge trial system, which is just fascinating to behold. It’s not something I’d been aware of before, but the second story in this volume touches upon it, and the idea and background of the lay judge system is expanded upon at length in editor Carl Horn’s copious annotations in the back of the volume. Beyond these plots the characters are written as well as they’ve ever been. The comedy is quirky and fast and it blends in beautifully with the horror elements to create a highly enjoyable read.
Yamazaki’s artwork is rock solid as usual. He might not be terribly flashy but his artwork is clean and clear. The panel to panel flow is easy to follow, eschewing the more energetic, dynamic and often times messy and confusing visuals that are sometimes associated with manga. Indeed, there are almost no borderless panels, images bleeding into other panels, panels consisting only of text and the like. Don’t let that fool you though. Yamazaki tightly controls the visual flow and pacing to wonderful effect, placing splash panels exactly where they need to be for the most effect. His clean and clear style lends the more horrific moments, which often occupy the aforementioned splash pages, a certain frankness. When a corpse turns up it’s usually depicted in much the same manner as anything else, with the same clean artwork and matter of fact manner as the casual conversation scenes or comedic scenes. The result is some disturbingly graphic gore in places, which merely serves to remind people that as light hearted as the series can seem at times that it’s not for the squeamish.
The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is probably one of my favorite series and it’s something I always look forward to reading whenever it comes out. The slow release schedule means we’re getting about two volumes a year, if that, but I honestly find it to be worth the wait. While volume 13 isn’t exactly a good jumping on point, it’s still an enjoyable read and a pretty important volume for the revelations it contains.
Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Vol. 13 is available from Dark Horse Comics.