story by Eiji Otsuka; art by Housui Yamazaki
published by Dark Horse; $10.95 US
If you’re curious about The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service series, which I recommend, but you can’t find the early volumes, try starting here.
Book 8 begins with that manga classic, the school club recruitment drive. Rei is a new student at the Buddhist College all the Service members attend, and she winds up at the group’s open call for new members. They’re billing themselves as an entrepreneurial “money-makin’ club” to get some kids interested. However, seeing each of the Corpse Delivery Service demonstrate their individual abilities in gruesome detail is quite frightening to normal college students, even those who think they’re far out, so the results aren’t what they hoped for.
In addition to re-introducing the characters to the reader as Rei meets each of them, the chapter is also very funny in its portrayal of typical student types and hobbies. My favorite was the gothic lolita who thinks she’s a spirit channeler. The alien puppet takes her apart in amusing fashion. Which led to me realizing that some aspects of this series (like what the puppet is, exactly) are pretty hard to explain accurately, but they’re easy to grasp when reading. So I’m spending more time telling you about the humor and horror than it would take for you to just read and enjoy it.
I also want to call attention to Yamazaki’s chapter openings. Each story, a few pages in, has an eye-catching double-page spread that could serve as a movie poster. The first has slivers of character closeups that perfectly shows their attitudes in one quick image, assembled in an edgy modern fashion. The next features Ao, unofficial team leader, marrying a skeleton as the others look on in varying states of consternation in a chapel. What an intriguing summation of how the group handles romance!
That’s the premise of the next three chapters, containing a story that starts with an art student who can’t find a job. (The underlying message of this series is sometimes “college students are poor and school may not help you prepare for the real world.”) He lives in a manga cafe and is temporarily helping out the Service members, who deliver a ridiculously expensive appliance to a stupid rich wedding planner introducing a new service: marriages for dead people.
There’s something brilliant about combining a funeral with a wedding, since they’re both reasons people often reunite with those they care about but don’t see any other time. The problem comes when only one of the partners is deceased, and the ghost really wants his partner. I think this is my favorite of all the Kurosagi stories so far, but then, I say that whenever I’ve read a new volume of the series.
The art continues to impress. The detailed settings and expressive characters put the reader right into the story. It’s easy to follow the mood and be sucked into the unusual experiences, with their undertones of heritage and legend. The realistic images help ground the more fantastic occurrences. In the ghost bride story, it’s neat to notice how the artist creates formal images of the characters that still look like them, so there’s a double layer of portrayal going on.
The remaining story in this book is also three chapters, about dead babies being left in a drop box set up to save unwanted children from being abandoned. A nurse at the hospital finds surprising commonalities with Kuro, in that they both have a connection to the souls of the recently dead. There are hints that she may return, which I look forward to — yet another reason to continue with the series. And one last trivia item: the always-wonderful endnotes mention, in this book, where Real Genius was filmed as part of a tenuous connection between the campus festival and the editor’s own college experiences. There’s also a short piece on the meaning of goth-loli fashion among the many fascinating cultural lessons. Overall, a stunning, enjoyable read.