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Friday, October 10, 2014

Retrospective Review: Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service GN 1

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service volume 1
Authors: Eiji Otsuka, Housui Yamazaki
Dark Horse Comics
208 pages
'Your body is their business!' Five young students at a Buddhist university, three guys and two girls, find little call for their job skills in today's Tokyo... among the living, that is! But all that stuff in college they were told would never pay offyou know, channeling, dowsing, ESPgives them a direct line to the dead... the dead who are still trapped in their corpses and can't move on to the next reincarnation.
Content/spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for some of the plot points in the first volume. Review also discusses the more dark/twisted aspects of Kurosagi, including dismemberment, incest, assault, suicide and death. Read on with caution.
Re-reading the first book of this ongoing Eiji Otsuka horror series is like playing a game of How Absolutely Macabre Is This Series, Really? and losing every time. Somehow, through the fog of memory, I forgot how far Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service goes in showing what kind of explicit and horrible ways people can kill other people, the unending ways it finds to illustrate the darkest, most desperate side of humanity.
Not the kid with the talking hand puppet, though. I'd never forget Yata and his crude backtalking puppet who can channel the dead. But in this book, Yata seems almost normal compared to the cases that the Service investigate every chapter.

Kurosagi Delivery Corpse Service is based around one of my favorite tropes, that of bringing together unlikely but linked together people that eventually become an unconventional family beyond definition. It's why I love One Piece and LOST and Shingeki no Kyojin and Getbackers and yes, Kurosagi. There's a broody channel for the dead and his puppet (Yata), a punk dowser (Numata), a bald headed psychic (Kuratsu), a pigtailed embalmer (Makino) and their money hungry photographer leader (Sasaki).
They're not the perfect family – they clash, they fight, they bicker, but they work together and, in the end, get things done. It just so happens that the things they bond over and work on are incredibly bloody and gory. The family that solves the dead's problems together stay together in this series.
Kurosagi CPS doesn't mess around with how screwed up a lot of these cases are. The first one, which looks like a simple suicide case, ends with a father stealing her dead daughter's body and stripping her down before molesting her corpse because incest. In another case, a man is killing people and sewing various limbs together to create the perfect body. I won't even get into the man who can calculate people's deaths like he was wielding a Death Note, only with five times the precision.
Not every chapter involves gross people doing questionable, gross things because they can – there's a chapter involving a mythical field and abandoning old people near death that has a bittersweet surprise ending – but it's a dominant theme. As much as KCPS is about death, it's also about the lives of deeply flawed human beings and what they do to hold on to their troubled lives. The antagonists believe so deeply that what they're doing is right that they can't see how wrong it all is, whether it's the father who is assaulting his daughter or the man who kills innocent lives to create a beautiful body.
There's only one way to confront these kinds with what they've done, and that is in the form of Kuratsu, who apparently harbors a spirit of vengeance that can literally bring the victimizers face-to-face with the remains of their victims. I believe this scarred spirit that lurks over Kuratsu's shoulder is addressed in latter volumes, but for now it is simply his quiet menacing companion of justice who lacks explanation.
Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is a stellar horror manga, because it balances violent deaths with unnerving reflections upon the actions of human beings that we'd rather pretend never happen. The whole thing is carried by the ragtag crew of the KCDS, who stay cynical but well-humored in the literal face of death. It starts out episodic, but the potential for further story development is immense—and, if memory serves correct, the series becomes more invested in individual character narratives with each passing volume.
So if you need a bloody good read for October that has badmouthed puppets, adorable embalmers, dead bodies in unfortunate places, vengeance spirits in traditional Japanese clothing, and people who can stay sarcastic in a field of dead bodies, Kurosagi is your read. Just don't walk by any cemeteries afterward.
Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is currently running in the Japanese seinen manga magazine Young Ace. Dark Horse Comics is publishing the seriesin English up to volume thirteen. Unfortunately, they haven't released a new volume since December 2012. If you like the series, please buy the books and then tell Dark Horse you want more! It's technically still licensed, just on a staggered release schedule due to sales.