Eiji Otsuka / Housui Yamazaki – Dark Horse – 2013 – 16+ volumes
I’m having a hard time believing my good luck! Two volumes of this in one year! Magnificent. This is still one of my absolute favorites.
The cover story in this volume involves an ancient tradition of Goddess worship, where sacrifices were made to ensure a bountiful harvest. The gang finds a body cut up into pieces and buried in a field, where many strangely bountiful harvests grow in the center of the city. There’s also an ancient dogu statue buried with her, and the whole thing leads back to an archeological society, and to a whodunnit from there. It’s the setting and method that makes these stories interesting, though. While I do like Case Closed, rarely are the murder cases as tied into bizarre pop culture and ancient traditions as this. They are usually a bit more… material in nature.
There are two other stories in the volume. One actually lays a little plot down on us, which I was not expecting. When was the last time that happened in this series?! I could read this series forever and not care about running across an overarching plot, but the bits we’ve gotten are tantalizing. Especially since it will potentially offer an explanation for Karasu’s powers. This story touches on that in the most minimal way possible, but the hint of more will keep me looking for volume 14 every week. The plot-related story is inside another investigation that involves creeps that pick up girls looking… well, to stay overnight, except they also murder them sometimes. This one has an unusually tense and bloody ending.
The middle story was a court case that mostly involved Sasaki and nobody else. It (and the generous end notes) look at the Japanese judicial system pretty closely, and Sasaki and one of her fellow jurists feel their case isn’t quite as open-and-shut as it first seems. The fellow jurist bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Kazuo Umezu.
Basically, everything that I’ve loved about the series all along is still here. The black humor, the way the group’s strange powers work together to solve the murders, the awesome climaxes where the dead come back to life to torture their killer (in one odd case here, another re-animated corpse), and the plentiful end notes that provide pages of details on whatever is going on in the story. This still is one of my very favorites, and I’m still so happy that Dark Horse decided to continue it.
Eiji Otsuka / Housui Yamazaki – Dark Horse – 2012 – 15+ volumes
I am absolutely thrilled this came out. I almost gave up hope. I really didn’t want to, but it’s been so long since the last volume. It’s hard for me to believe this isn’t doing well, because it’s just so quirky and has the dry sense of humor and extreme violence that I could see appealing to an audience outside manga. I love it unconditionally.
There’s a very strange Second Life story to start the volume off. I had no idea how popular that simulation was. Sadly, I recognized the situation without even having to check the end notes. The gang does their investigating in the virtual world before tracking the killer down and confronting her with the body of a dead, broke, angry nerd whose face she peeled off. I missed Karatsu’s skill so much! The motive has to do with identity theft on a couple different levels, and was all kinds of creepy. I’m not sure if it’s because the story was genuinely creepy, or if it’s because I haven’t read the series in awhile and the inherent creep factor is registering more than it usually does. Also, bonus points to this story for having a panel where one of the characters walks in on two people having sex, and there’s an image, graduate-like, through the legs of the couple, with the silouhette bottom of the woman’s butt and the man’s penis framing the character’s face who walked in. Now that’s poetry.
Also, it was awesome when Sasaki makes accounts for everyone in Second Life, and Karatsu and the guys show up wearing jeans and a t-shirt and expressionless faces, while she looks like she does in real life, but better. Parts of the story take place in the game, which is… well, really interesting. Especially since most people are wearing rabbit masks.
The second story is about a girl who can astral project. She uses her powers to recruit customers to the host club she works at. One day, she meets a young man who shares her interest in making it as a comedy duo, so she quits her job, and the two of them get set up in a posh apartment where the previous tenant has died. Unfortunately, the boy’s old boss winds up needing the apartment, and the boy is murdered by an old co-worker. Sasayama (I missed him, too!) gets the Kurosagi group together to investigate the body, which has the girl’s astral projecting form hanging around it. There’s an elaborate revenge scenario.
This story was different for a couple reasons. The victim is alive most of the time, and the story was very character-driven, and more about the two comedians than the Kurosagi group and their investigation. It was a very strange story, even with a relatively normal plot like that, what with all the astral projection and the boy living in the apartments of dead people and whatnot. Plus, the ending wraps things up in a very Kereellis-like manner. I… liked it, despite its strangeness, but the Second Life story hit my creep buttons in a more pleasing way. Both were good, though.
The third story is pretty typical Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service fodder. Karatsu and Sasaki are away, which leaves Numata, Yata, and Makino to investigate a case involving a dollmaker, a murder, and his doll-ified sister. He is a maker of… uh, Dutch Wives, and apparently a very famous one. This story is also pretty great, but my favorite moment is a page at the beginning, when Makino gets upset that Numata has run off yelling about a corpse, and Kereellis asks her if she’s sure, because that doesn’t sound like Numata. On the same page, Yata suggests the three of them could have a case on their hands if he does find one, and Makino suggests she could embalm it and the three of them could stare at it for awhile.
Another thing I missed terribly were the end notes. So much knowledge, and I don’t care how relevant it is. The important thing this time around was that they explained how Dutch Wife came to be a slang term for a sex doll, which is something I’ve always wondered. So, mystery solved. Thank you, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. There’s also a footnote that explains QR codes, and Mr. Horn explains he doesn’t have a cellphone himself, going on to describe the unlikely scenario of the President in his war room demanding that the manga editor be reached. But the way the scene is described in the footnote, it’s easy to imagine that the part that came before that line might have had something to do with contracting Duke Togo. And really, there’s only a few ways to contact him. And there’s only a few people in the US that can rattle that kind of info off the top of their head. Just sayin’.
Seriously, read this series. Go out right now and start from the beginning. There really is no horror comic like it. The horrifying moments are grouped together, surrounded by interesting mystery plots and bountiful sarcasm and eccentricity. I keep hoping desperately that each volume will contain more about Yaichi, but no dice yet. Maybe volume 13 will. Dark Horse hasn’t solicited it yet, but… as long as it comes out!
Eiji Otsuka / Housui Yamazaki – Dark Horse – 2010 – 14+ volumes
Unusually, we see a little bit of Sasayama in this volume. The stories tend to spotlight a member of the delivery service, in most cases lately revealing everything about their background. Sasayama is a special case, since presumably we will find out about him in MPD Psycho. This story is about a troubled little girl he took in, and the crimes surrounding her life a few years ago and in the present. It’s a genuinely creepy story, and the motives of the little girl are pretty ambiguous almost until the end. Unsurprisingly, she possesses a kind of strange sight in one eye. It’s not… really the same as the various specialties of the Kurosagi group, but it is interesting, and she puts it to good use.
Also unusual is that the Kurosagi members don’t really play prominent roles in this story. It’s largely all the little girl, she does the investigating, gets involved in the incidents, et cetera. The story starts with Makino and Yata getting student teaching positions at the school in question and Numata getting a guard position. Karatsu and Sasaki appear periodically with information relevant to the girl’s case.
While this volume is definitely awesome, I’m still waiting for all the fun details about what happened to Karatsu several volumes ago, or the whole story behind him. I’m willing to bet that’s more of an “end of the series”-type revelation, but I’m still curious.
I’m also a little worried the series is moving away from the “Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service” as a group, since the characters are so clearly unsuccessful at making a living at what they do best. The scenes with Sasaki and Karatsu in the meeting room by themselves were particularly eerie.
While the story of the little girl takes up most of the volume, there’s a one-off case included in the back that… I don’t know, I think the bodies are zombies, and it has something to do with performance-enhancing drugs. It was everything you’ve come to expect from the series… creepy, a little funny, lots of science, pop culture, urban legends, and other stuff come into play, and with a fantastic walking dead ending. The gigantic, bloated rats were particularly memorable, and they didn’t even play a part, really.
I still enjoy this series as much as I did when I picked up the first volume. Even more, in fact. It’s one of my absolute favorites coming out right now, and I hope desperately that it’s popular enough that Dark Horse sees it through to the finish.
Eiji Otsuka / Housui Yamazaki – Dark Horse – 2010 – 13+ volumes
I am ridiculously fond of this series. It just has too many of my favorite things in it: black humor, horror, CSI-type situations, genuinely good episodic stories that teach you interesting things, and Kereellis. Kereellis is only in this volume a couple times, very briefly, but it does have everything else in spades. Including a nice little backstory for Numata. The shades were mentioned only briefly in that story, and I really enjoy how that detail was handled. In the story before that, his habitual wearing of sunglasses was taken to a new level, when he dressed in a fake shaman outfit and was still wearing them.
There were three main stories in this volume, with the Numata-focused story at the end being the shortest. The longest, clocking in at nearly half a volume, introduced another rival, of sorts, for the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service: a boy who can use a special defibrillator to bring the recently dead back to life long enough to carry out their last wishes. This story also takes a look at a recent trend to have defibrillators in public places and people who are trained to use them (like CPR training) in order to help those suffering from fatal heart attacks. Lots of interesting stuff at work in this chapter, not the least of which is the main victim in the story. I think the most important thing I learned is that they have Mr. Ed in Japan. The book opened with Numata singing a Kurosagi-themed version of the song from the show, that started with “A corpse is a corpse, of course of course…” EXCELLENT.
The second story moves the cast out to a small town, and uses a folk story about a traveling monk as its motif. The monk story introduces the chapter, and is quite nicely done in a completely different art style. The monk story is about the monk being taken in from a storm by a poor couple who offer him all the hospitality they can (warm meal, thin mat to sleep on), only to have the couple slay him when they realize that he has a lot of gold on him. The crime committed here isn’t exactly like that, but it was an interesting parallel to draw into the story. The main theme this time was a thinly-veiled look at North Korean immigration.
The third story took a look at Numata, the man who taught Numata to dowse, fake dowsing for the cameras, and Numata’s past. All interesting topics. The story goes unexpected places.
The wonderful end notes are included, of course, which are very nearly my favorite part. I have to stop myself from reading them before the story. They are very educational, and time time around I learned, among other things, that Jason Thompson may or may not resemble Peter Fonda.
I’m continually blown away by the writing, interesting subject matter, and subtle sense of black humor in every volume of this series. It is the best, and has yet to let me down. I love every page of it, and really wish it came out more frequently.
I reviewed this volume for the weekly Manga Minis column at Manga Recon, so you can check it out over there.
In short: buy it. Don’t make me come over there. It’s genuinely quirky, but in kind of a disturbing way I could see turning some people off. I mean, the jokes have to come at the expense of things like dead bodies, how bodies are found, dead people’s hobbies, or… you know, the characters themselves, who range from spirit-talker to embalmer to body finder.
There was no really long story in this volume like you’d normally find (when I say “really long,” I mean the format where there’s usually only two or so stories per volume), but I enjoyed the short stories immensely. I touch on them all in that review, but I’ll say it here too: the chapter at the end between Yata and Makino is strange, inappropriate, and oddly touching, three things that don’t really go together in any series aside from this one.
I actually wasn’t expecting this volume out so soon. I figured we’d need to wait a year between volumes now, but maybe we’re still a couple behind Japan. I certainly can’t complain about getting this series more frequently.
The first chapter alone reaffirms what it is I like about this series, mainly its sense of humor. There’s some really weird stuff going on as far as forensics and what kills people and how, but it’s the weird jokes and jabs it makes at its characters tha stand out the most. The first chapter isn’t that strong as far as its plot goes, but it’s almost like a re-introduction for the series. It opens with a campus club recruitment-type event. There’s one panel of Numata leaning against the recruitment table for the “Kurosagi CMM Club,” which stands for “cash money makin’.” The poster behind him on the wall goes on to elaborate on the qualities new recruits must have: like or have an interest in corpses, be able to speak to or see the dead, or have a special ability others do not. Obviously the entire area around their table is deserted. Despite their attempt to keep the recruits away (this is clearly a ruse so that they get the club funding from their school), a few people show up. Each of the regular characters then proceeds to upstage them in every way possible, from gristly details about embalming to insulting a gothic lolita type with a foul-mouthed puppet. After each ridiculous thing is said or done, there is a panel with their full name and job description, like a freeze frame in a movie. It is hilarious in context. Plus, I haven’t seen most of the character’s full names in awhile. Apparently Numata’s first name is Makoto. Also, Kereellis gets an intro too. His special talent is listed as “puppet (alien).”
The main story, as featured on the cover, is about marriages that take place after one or more people in the pair has died. It’s a pretty good story. It involves a rich wedding planner, some ghosts, a special shrine, a poor guy who gets caught up in things, some yakuza types, and Sasaki getting strangled by a ghost. More and more is implied between Karatsu and Sasaki. I don’t actually know if that’s going anywhere, or if either of the two is in on the implication. The fact that neither seem to be that into one another is just another feather in this series’ hat. This marriage story is also notable for having a suitably epic final scene.
The next story is also a couple chapters long and is about babies abortion, and midwives. I had a harder time with this story than the other two, mostly because it’s sort of unclear what’s happening until the very end, and even then, the explanation isn’t very satisfactory (or at least wasn’t for me). The fact that the spirits of unwanted babies who pass away enroute to the hospital through some sort of black hole are jumping into cadavers… well, you know, that’s sometimes all you need in a story, though, and it takes Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service to provide.
Also, since Castle of Cagliostro was compared to the final scene in the (copious) end notes, now I can’t ever read this series again without seeing Numata as Jigen. Great.
I get a great deal of pleasure from every new volume of this series, which may seem sort of twisted since it mostly deals in rather morbid topics. But the fact it has great stories coupled with its bizarre sense of humor makes it absolutely my thing, probably more so than Skip Beat, which I will rave about momentarily.
My enjoyment is enhanced even more by the extensive notes in the back of the book. If I haven’t said it before, let me say it again: this series has the best translation notes you will ever see. Ever. There will never be anything else quite like them. I usually read them first. Not only do they comment on a variety of things that are probably not necessary, but the end notes go on for a long time with things like specific directions to stores that are mentioned in the story, etc.
I was disappointed that the story did not pick up where it left off last time, which was with Karatsu on fire. The characters act as if this never happened. The first story is about a robot suit made to be a cross between Astro Boy, Mazinger Z, and a Gundam suit. The robot suit is eventually powered by a zombie who loves to play Nintendo. It was pretty entertaining, if not all that… well, dark or anything.
The second story is about a plastic surgery clinic fixing people to look like a popular Japanese celebrity who bears a strong resemblance to Audrey Hepburn. The patients are apparently having problems… hearing voices, and having little faces that speak to them appear on their ears. The Shirosagi people are behind this, and they manage to catch Karatsu’s soul and his friend Yaichi for the purposes of the women who wish to curse the two of them. There are earmice, and eventually earmen. It is entertaining, to say the least, but I can’t say I was entirely comfortable with the implications between two of the characters. This was probably the best story in the volume.
The final story was based (yet again) on the story of the Inugami clan. I think I just need to read the goddamn book, it comes up so often in these series. I liked this one a lot, especially the ending, which went for humor even while it was revealed who was being murdered and why.
Despite what I say about not liking what’s implied between two characters, I do like the way everyone plays their part in the series. The two girls wind up getting odd jobs for easy work, while the three boys are hired out to do hard labor like haul heavy tombstones. This is commented on extensively, and I would probably dislike it in any other series, except the jokes they crack about it here are just too funny.
Please read this! I think the next volume is coming out in January, but it breaks my heart to hear that the sales are not going so well. It’s quite fantastic.
I was so bummed when I found out this series was underperforming. How is this not popular? It’s literally the most intentionally funny horror series I’ve ever read. It’s also good for a good mystery and usually a gross-out, too. My roommate isn’t quite as enamored of it as I am, but he’s got poor taste. Every volume I read makes me fall in love with it a little more.
While I liked the first story, it was totally forgettable compared to the rest of the volume. This is saying something, because they run into someone with abilities similar to Karatsu, and there’s a post office body-shipping kind of plot going on. There’s also a joke which alludes to the first scene in MPD Psycho, which is the best scene in that series so far.
The next two stories are tied together. Numata gets an apartment for cheap when the landlord can’t rent it out due to a body being left to rot for a month inside. He’s kind of scared by a human-shaped stain on the ceiling, and that’s fair, because it’s pretty freaky-looking. After awhile, another body shows up and needs special counseling in order to talk, which means they take it to a psychiatrist and use Karatsu to converse between the psychiatrist and the body. There is a Kaspar Hauser reference, which I thought was awesome, but not quite as awesome as the psychiatrist who was willing to talk to the body. It turns out that there is a man wandering around, possibly undead, who may be killing people and may bear a resemblance to the spirit that lives with Karatsu. Any hints about that spirit are very welcome, and we get several allusions to it in this story (via a flaming body, among other things), and the short stories in the back of the volume.
The short stories in the back are set far into the past, leaving the current storyline on a severe cliffhanger. We find out a lot about a boy with scars on his face, but it’s unclear about whether he’s connected to Karatsu’s spirit or the villain from the last story.
All I know is that I’m ready to find out some major plot points about Karatsu’s spirit.
I love this series. I really genuinely enjoy reading each volume of it at this point. There isn’t very much forward momentum, but it is extremely entertaining, and the formula is just so weird that I feel it could go on like this for a long time.
There is a decidedly Egyptian bend to this volume. The first story is extremely detailed-oriented in all aspects of the burial ceremony. The corpse that is recovered at the beginning of the chapter can’t speak through Karatsu, and this is because the mouth-opening ceremony hasn’t been performed. There are lots of other cool details like that where I always feel like I learn something about the burial procedure when reading. In a later chapter, there is a lengthy explanation about how bodies can turn into soap in the right conditions, which apparently includes every embalmed body in the US.
In addition to the reappearance of the Nire Ceremony company, there is also an old woman who claims “the dead call out to her” who is hired on by Kurosagi and is apparently a professional funeral mourner. She can get everyone at a service to cry somehow, including the main characters. She apparently helped deliver a baby at one point too, which may be explained a bit later on in the series. We also get a little more of an explanation behind the ghost that appears behind Karatsu often, too. There’s also a new employee at Nire who has a prominent role… but he’s a little corny. He seemed to take an interest in Karatsu, so maybe he’ll be important later, too.
So I was traveling for the past two weeks and forgot to mention it in my last post. Actually, I was supposed to be in Florida for only a little over a week, but then I wound up in Indianapolis. Selling books on the road is a totally awesome job, and I love being in different places, but the traveling to and from wears me out a bit after awhile. I’ll be in Ohio again the next few days, but I should have internet access from there.
Anyway! Somehow, this series got much better in this volume. I was immediately impressed with the first story in this volume, which made fine use of the puppet-boy’s powers finally. He channels another… alien through his hand in a totally over-the-top story about aliens. I don’t want to spoil too much by telling you more of the details, but it involves monkeys as well as Russia and awesome X-Files-like UFO conspiracies/fake conspiracies, and I think I liked it a lot better than most of the other stories I’ve read in this series so far. Plus Kereellis (and they use his name, which I don’t think they have since volume one) really stands up for his host at one point in a really cute way.
The other stories are pretty gruesome, slightly more so than I remember some of the other volumes being. The last story stands out in my mind since it involves really freaky snail-parasites deforming humans and getting eaten by birds, but it was more weird than gruesome. Actually, it was gruesome just because bugs and maggots were discussed at length. Another story involved a “Body Worlds”-like show in Japan and the method by which the bodies for the show were procured. That one wasn’t so gruesome, but it was fairly in-depth and involved compared to some of the other stories. There was another story which introduced a character similar to the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (a detective for hire by spirits) who has a power of his own and finally brought into question the spirit that periodically appears with the scars across his/her face. I’m interested to see who that spirit turns out to be, but I’m perfectly content waiting through these awesome one-shots to find out.
The end notes in the back of this volume were better than they have been in previous volumes. There was one about springtime flower viewing that I was surprised to see, because I figured most people would be familiar with that custom. But this particular explanation was necessary, because not only did it plug the Dark Horse series “Hanami,” it also told me about what brand of cigarettes Lupin III smokes. Neither of these two things had anything to do with what was going on in the manga at the time (“Hanami” was marginally related, but it was definitely a far stretch). It was one of the longest and best translation notes I’ve ever seen in a manga, and there will never be another like it.
I’m sad that the chance to discuss Rowdy Roddy Piper in a translation note was passed over, though. I searched desperately for it when the reference came, but it just wasn’t there. I cried a little. Maybe it would have been too much after the Lupin III discussion. I can only have so much awesome riding on the back of an already overwhelming manga.