by Satoko Kiyuduki
published by Yen Press; $10.99 US
Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro can be a bit clueless. She wears a large hat and black overcoat while carrying her own coffin, filled with bats, on her back. (She resembles a Pilgrim mortician.) Then she wonders why the locals in the village she passes through mistake her for a vampire.
She doesn’t bother to explain herself, a trait that extends to the book itself. Everything’s vague — her intent, her motivations, how some situations are resolved — perhaps because of the format. The book collects 4-koma strips, consisting of four panels arranged vertically. That format is more often used for comedy (such as the popular Azumanga Daioh) than supernatural quest adventure. I’m not sure the combination works, because it makes for choppy, abrupt storytelling. Just as I got interested in some of the situations, they ended.
This book is just over 100 pages, but in order to give the strips enough room to be readable, the pages are bigger than the usual manga size. There are occasional color pages, too, which are standouts. Also strong are the cute characters, especially the two cat-eared children with an unusual mystical background. They work together amusingly, and the humorous dialogue is appreciated.
Overall, I don’t recommend this book — it’s forgettable, even just after closing the cover. Those interested in melancholy death elements with an adorable overlay might enjoy it more.