December 17, 2008
Hm, I didn’t realize this series was still running in Japan. Apparently volume 5 came out a couple months ago after a break of… three years? That’s a shame, I was hoping the story concluded in this volume.
There was definitely a shift towards more romantic stories. In particular, I liked the story of how Shinjyurou and Azuki met, which was a really long and sad story about Azuki’s grandfather and how Shinjyurou came to start his business in Japan. It seems that Azuki and Shinjyurou have always had a somewhat juvenile relationship, but we do get to see what it is that Shinjyurou likes about her so much. It was quite touching, and I liked the dramatics of the story after having gotten to know the characters so well. Actually, one of my favorite details in that story is the fact that Shinjyurou follows Azuki around on a loud, squeaky bike. It’s just one of those things that’s easy to imagine, and it fits perfectly into Shinjyurou’s slightly antagonistic personality.
There’s a couple stories which are only a few pages long. One of them I was not so fond of, if only because it did not contain any of the main characters. The other was a cute moment in the rain between Shin and Azuki, once again showing the great lengths Shin goes to in order to get close to Azuki (in this case, pretending he didn’t have an umbrella upon seeing her).
There’s two other long stories that don’t have a great deal to do with the main characters, but I liked both of them. One of them is about a famous pianist who does not get along well with his daughter and what it is that he can’t forget, even in an amnesiac state. The other is one I actually liked a lot more, which was a really great story about a woman who was sure she was going to die alone of cancer, so she requested the three-person team of Shin, his… manager (?), and a person skilled at dressing the dead for wakes attend her funeral, since nobody else will. It’s extremely sad, but with an excellent ending. It’s not so much that I didn’t see the ending coming, but I like this type of bittersweet story a lot, so I probably enjoyed it a lot more than I should have.
I still liked the continuous plot running through the last volume a little better, but I’m definitely quite attached to the characters now. I like the ones dealing with Shin and Azuki most, especially when they show Shin’s job contrasted with his crush on Azuki. But even the one-shots with minimal involvement from those characters are quite good.
I’m pretty well sold on Mitsukazu Mihara, I think. Embalmer was just dark and quirky enough to fit my tastes. Even if the story wasn’t quite right, I would have a hard time hating Shinjyurou in any context he appeared. He’s quite an excellent character, and it’s a shame his story isn’t resolved.
December 16, 2008
So, how long have I been reading manga now? Ten years? It’s taken me this long to get what I want: a manga about Pittsburgh.
So yes, Embalmer just shot way up my list for a superficial reason that means a lot to me. I grew up about an hour outside of Pittsburgh, just across the state line.
As a nitpicky point, there’s a part where Shinjyurou complains about his lack of mastery of the English language and the hard time he has with American slang. He doesn’t understand at first that “y’all” is a colloquial plural form of “you.” This is wrong though, because if you were in Pittsburgh, it would of course be “yinz” and not “y’all.” Know that everyone in this volume spoke in my head with a Pittsburgh accent.
Aside from the heavy dose of exciting nostalgia, this was actually a really awesome volume. The entire thing went through Shinjyurou’s past, from his disgust with his dad for spending more time with dead bodies than his family, his reason for the change of heart about the profession, his studies in Pittsburgh, and an internship he took in San Francisco. My favorite part about it was probably the way his struggles were portrayed in Pittsburgh, since he had to succeed in a highly competitive school with no textbooks and nothing to copy from notes while speaking very little English. This was much of the volume, and it made me like the character a lot more.
Of course, there was still the heavy-handed business of coming to terms with his dad’s profession, being disgusted by it initially, not understanding, and all that (or, as you prefer, n’at). It takes a lot to get his change of heart, and much of the first part of the book is spent on this. I didn’t mind too much though, it was a pretty good story, and at least I know the character well enough at this point.
This volume also scored brownie points for having a part where Shinjyurou and his Chinese roommate painted nonsense kanji characters on clothing and sold it to people who thought it looked cool. It just made me laugh so hard. I hope that somewhere there’s a reverse engrish.com for just that type of thing.
I liked this volume A LOT, but I don’t think this will necessarily reflect on how I will like the next volume. We’ll see, because now I know the main character really well, so maybe there will be some present plot-oriented stories, as opposed to this flashback voume.
December 15, 2008
I kind of like this volume, even though there’s not much plot progression. It’s going from one story to the next. I can see that the main couple is moving together. That’s fine, but again, I’m hoping a plot will spring up, because I’d hate to see the series just… stop rather than end.
Let’s see, what happened in this volume? I liked the stories well enough, they’re all quite good in their ways, if a little heavy-handed. The first one involved the main love interest, and was about coming to terms with death.
The second story was probably my favorite, it was about the main character as a kid trying to come to terms with what his father did and how it ostracised his family. He meets an older lady who tells him she’s an undertaker, and the two form a friendship. The lady turns out to be… well, she teaches him how to lie at just the right time, I guess, which is one of the quirks to his character that I like so much.
I also really liked one of the stories towards the end of the volume where he reveals that he lives like a slob just to get the love interest to come over and clean for him. He nearly breaks down after not being able to see her, and the mess in his apartment, made intentionally by him, is driving him crazy. It was pretty cute, and kind of intense in the way that Mitsukazu Mihara’s stories can be.
One of the more ridiculously heavy-handed stories in the volume was about a girl who wanted to compete with the main character by providing lifelike dolls of the deceased instead of embalming them. The story follows a woman whose son is killed that purchases one of these dolls and continues to take care of it as if it was alive. More stuff comes up at the end of the story about her family and her son’s death… just like it would have in Doll. Not having an entire volume of these stories shoving morals down my throat helped me appreciate it a little more, as heavy as it was, though.
I’ll keep on through the next two volumes. It’s not spectacular, but I like the stories well enough, and the art has its own style, even if I don’t particularly like the way people are drawn. Maybe the plot really will wind up just being the love story between the two characters. That’ll be fine, I guess, but I’m hoping it picks up a little more if that’s the case.
December 8, 2008
As much as I complained bitterly all the way through Doll until the end (which was amazing and worth it), I’ve gone back for more Mitsukazu Mihara several times now. I really liked both the one-shots I read by her (IC in a Sunflower and R.I.P.), and I recently realized that Embalmer was a series I’d heard about a long time ago. I picked up all four volumes on sale, so let’s see how this works out.
It has some of Doll’s bad habits, which I disliked for being extremely disturbing and moralistic and just boring and hard to read. This one is better, far less boring and violent and not really difficult to read at all, but it’s still more heavy-handed than I like. For instance, one of the stories, called “Narcissus,” is about a man who is so obsessed with his appearance that he basically disregards all attention paid to him as jealousy and dies when he apparently falls into the bath while looking at his own reflection in the water (the story is torn on whether or not his death is a suicide or an accident). Then the main character shows how good embalming actually is. A lot of the plot revolves him being sort of misunderstood as tinkering with the dead, with the end result of him providing beautiful wakes for otherwise mangled bodies.
I think this would be better if I could chase every volume with a volume of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, but alas, I cannot. The character in that volume who knows how to embalm is less of an outcast than the main character in this series. The point of contention is mentioned a few times, but the clients he gets never seem to have a problem with him.
The structure is basically that each chapter shows the life of a person who will eventally become a client of the main character. The main character gets some focus in that he has a romantic interest, but is also a sex addict and doesn’t like to turn his appetites on the girl he likes. It’s weird, but not as graphic as I make it sound, and he actually has a reason for what he does… sort of.
I like it well enough. I wonder if the plot will pick up and finish off as well as it did in Doll. Actually, I kind of like her plots a lot. There wasn’t too much in this volume aside from the one-shot chapters, but there will almost certainly be something that builds up as the series continues.