Mail, From the Artist of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service
Although it’s horror, I really enjoy The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, because it’s attractively drawn, and the twists in the stories give me something to focus on beyond the occasional gory or scary element. While I wait for it to return, I decided to check out the earlier Mail. It’s a three-volume series written and drawn by Housui Yamazaki, the artist of Kurosagi, and it’s got a similar “ghost investigator” premise.
The books, originally released 2006-2007, are out of print, but Dark Horse Digital has made them available at $5.99 each or $12.99 for the bundle of all three. That’s the avenue I suggest, since if you enjoy one, you’ll likely enjoy them all.
They reminded me of the classic suspense anthology comics from the 70s. Each story is stand-alone, tied together only by detective Akiba. He shoots ghosts with a special gun, Kagutsuchi, named after a fire god. The weapon dispatches the departed, affecting only the dead, which are sucked into his spelled bullets.
Most times, Akiba introduces himself and then the story, much like the horror comic hosts did back in the day. He often knows more about the situation than the haunted, whether from sources or research or mystical powers of his own isn’t specified. He’s the reassuring presence that keeps the stories from being too scary or haunting, since he can make things right and send the spirits away. Sometimes, he’s also an action hero, as when he needs to rescue a woman trapped in a haunted car or he rides a jet ski to rescue girls at a beach haunted by war dead.
The ghosts, when shot, sometimes expand before drawing in on themselves, reminding me of a ganglion or the aliens from Parasyte. The series is for mature readers, mostly due to nudity with a little violence. For example, the series opens with a nude photo shoot at a river, where they find a headless body. A later story in volume three features a woman who gets cell phone calls from a ghost, and since she’s first talking on the phone in the bath, she spends the whole story naked.
That first chapter feels like Yamazaki finding his way, as Akiba is more playful than in later installments, where more time is spent with the haunted. Sometimes, in later chapters, he’s little more than a plot device to rescue the living. A few chapters — the end of volume one and the beginning of volume three — give us insight into how Akiba came into this role, as he was once blind. (That second story is illustrated, since Akiba is sightless, with spooky white lines on black pages, a powerful effect.)
The title comes from the idea that spooky happenings are “mail from the afterworld”, that the strange stuff is a way for the dead to communicate. Later on, Akiba ruminates more on how ghosts have a very long time to hold grudges, as the stories turn more towards people who deserve to be haunted, as with the driver who runs down a girl and speeds away. The child’s doll, saying, “It hurts”, starts following him around.
Some of the ghosts are just childishly selfish, as when a deceased twin wants her sister to join her, or a girl is playing hide-and-seek with unwilling apartment building residents, or lonely women killed in a disaster want another friend. Sometimes the ghosts possess people, as when a vengeful woman attacks the baby of her crush and his wife.
There’s no real ending, just a last exorcism, or Akiba’s guest appearance in The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service volume 4 if you want to see more.