story by Eiji Otsuka; art by Housui Yamazaki; adapted by Carl Gustav Horn
published by Dark Horse; $10.99 US
The last corporation I worked at made a priority of installing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) on every floor and in common rooms, due to an unfortunate past incident with a worker who had a heart attack and passed away before emergency services could arrive. The company also provided training to interested employees, in conjunction with CPR instruction. I took it, and I was very impressed at how easy to use AEDs seemed (although I’ve never had the experience of using one for real, thankfully).
So imagine how surprised I was to see this volume of the corpse-talking series prominently feature a weird tweak on AEDs. The last few times the team has set out to find a body, before they can encounter it, suddenly, the “psychic dowsing” signals stop. Turns out that a bike-riding vigilante has super-charged a version of an AED and is using it to give his own version of satisfaction to the recently dead. Instead of talking to a body and taking them where they need to go to handle their final wishes, as the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service does, he zaps them and lets them handle their revenge themselves. It’s self-determination through technology, in contrast to the team’s more old-fashioned “let us help you” approach.
The conflict between approaches is made explicit early on, as the team attend an AED seminar. A government official who unofficially works with them poses this moral dilemma,
What if you came across a client who could still be resuscitated? Would you just stand around and wait until they were dead for sure?
That question isn’t really answered, but I’m not sure it can be. It just gets us thinking more about what these guys are doing and what it means. The particular victim in this case is a woman (rather disgustingly killed by falling onto an impaling object) who was taken advantage of by a host; when she could no longer pay for his company, he had no more use for her. (Conveniently, this allows for several images of her topless as she has to have the skin above her heart exposed.) Her mission, upon being reanimated, is murder. Things become even more interesting when one of the Kurosagi crew gains police attention for being involved in the death, and then later when a man decides to use another returned victim as an unpunishable killer. The second chance reveals unexpected family secrets and grudges.
The next story is based on an old folktale about a murdered monk that shows those who abuse the laws of hospitality getting punished. A young man can’t marry his Russian fiancee until her grandmother is convinced that his house isn’t the one from the tale, so the Kurosagi guys go traveling to check out the location. As with many other stories in this series, the situation becomes more complicated, with illegal immigrants and a dog joining the tale, although the conclusion is pretty expected once the parameters are established.
There’s a third story, that goes back to the media treatment theme that recurs throughout the series, about a television psychic and how he fakes his results. Numata also reveals his childhood and how he developed the talent of dowsing for bodies. That reminds me of one thing I appreciate about this series, with the various delays between volumes — each book contains complete stories. No leaving us with cliffhangers, having to buy another book to get the last chapter in a particular tale. That’s appreciated.