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Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service [A Review]

The Father of Manga Shock-Gore-Horror

Eiji Otsuka, father of MPD Psyhco, is a bit of a crazy dude. Since MPD’s conception more than 15-years ago, Otsuka has become the most iconic in the shock horror manga scene. Aside from defining a manga genre, he has widely influenced anime, film, and written horror in both the East and the West. Otsuka is, by definition, a mad genius.

In MPD Psycho’s first volume, you meet Detectives on the case of a chain of gruesome murders. All beautiful women, all missing the tops of their heads. As the story unfolds, MPD looks into the eyes of the serial killer as he cuts off the tops of girls heads, exposing half their brain, and plants a flower in it. He keeps them alive and [slightly] conscious as he divulges his perfectionist ideals. As he reaches into the final lap of his plan, he buries them sitting underground, exposing just the flower.

MPD became so infamous, Japan even made it a TV show. But now was the hard part for Otsuka. Now he would have to out do himself. As he pushed on in the MPD series [which is still syndicated in both Eastern and Western markets], he realized, “What better way to out do myself than to create a new shock gore story?” And so it was done.

Finding its Feet in America

Since Kurosagi’s beginnings in 2002, Otsuka crossed over to create another shockingly horrific gore manga series entitled, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. Widely popular within the horror circuit in Japan, mild success has struck past its homeland. Dark Horse Comics knew it would be a challenge to sell this style to American audiences, but took the chance anyways.

In August 2006, Dark Horse released the first book for American audiences. It niche product in a niche market of a niche genre; this was not the way to start off a series. But, somehow, the niche market began to rumble. With the likes of Naruto and Bleach taking popularity and becoming the next-generation’s DBZ [Dragon Ball Z], the timing may have been just right. This was the period of transition for Otaku. The DBZ generation was grown-up now and in need of something more, well, adult.

Slow Ride

Manga is not popular in America. Remember, Manga is a niche market for America; further proving how widely varying Eastern and Western culture differences really are. Manga and anime magazines and channels hit their peak between 2000-2004 only to shut their doors in an almost total loss. America is not the land to sell adults “adult cartoons.”

Now in it’s 7th year on Western shores, Kurosagi reaches its 13th book — while Japan received #16 back in July 2012. Dark Horse is in no hurry to translate the books either. As a book that has received only the smallest of buzz in the Western market and translations being costly and lengthy — Why should Dark Horse rush it?

Kurosagi is not a series for the faint of heart. Taking their cues from their genre originator, Kurosagi is meant to make you feel uncomfortable.

Meet the Delivery Service

Kursagi Corpse Delivery Service is the name of the story and the name of the story’s business. While attending a Buddhist college, struggling [and gifted] students begin a  club. The purpose? To find, recover and assist the departed in their beyond-the-grave revenge.

  • Kuro Karatsu, our story’s main character, has the ability to speak with the departed’s soul.
  • Ao Sasaki, the brains, is a hacker as well as the groups guiding light.  As one of the few members with any real savvy or sense, she is given the groups leadership title and spends her time researching the soul’s requests.
  • Makoto Numata, the locator, uses his pendulum to find “clients” spread about the city of Tokyo and Shinjuku. A lovable moron type, Numata is the comedy portion of the group.
  • Yuji Yata, the quiet guy, walks around with a puppet on his hand. Why? Well, because it’s possessed by an alien, of course.
  • Keiko Makino, child-genius who spent her teenage years studying embalming in America. As embalmers are a rarity in Japan due to the nature of their work and the necessity in Japan, Makino works with handling the bodies; figuring out why and how they got where they were in the first place.

Each character brings a whistful and much needed sense of comedic tomfoolery in a generally horrific story line.

The Newest Story

Each chapter in the 16-book series tells of anther tragic story. A love gone sour, a suicide pact, a young girl’s rape and revenge, an idol obsession, an ancient curse. Each told as only a genius like Otsuka could; beautifully and poignantly sick and addictive.

After the 13th-book, however, I begin to wonder if Otsuka has lost his touch or if maybe it’s grown repetitive.

As the series changes its tone with the tenth iteration, we learn more about the cast themselves and begin to take odd turns in their relationships and connections. Don’t get me wrong, we need connections in our stories, but this isn’t one of those that’s necessary. Kurosagi is the kind of series that just needs to keep it’s cast consistent, which has also been lost more recently as the main character, Karatsu, is made to be more quiet, serious, “hip” and “edgy.” I find myself more distant from the main-character’s way of acting and thinking and look at him like an aging man who’s trying to hard to keep that youthful flair.

Creating unnecessary connections between the main cast feels lost. I find myself speed reading through chapters that attempt to veer away from the usual murderous creativity and adult-Mystery Incorporated style. I don’t know if I really want to know my character’s anymore than what I learn from their interactions with each other and their “clients.”

Other than the attempt to deepen the story’s characters, book 13 revitalized the series for me. It seemed like maybe Otsuka’s creative juices began to slow, but 13’s first story really breathed a necessary amount of life back into the gruesome world; setting it’s place at my table of top-five favorite chapters in the series.

As an Asian Horror Otaku, I can honestly say that Kurosagi is a must-buy, must-read for any fan of the Asian-Gore scene. 13 renewed my love with the series, as well as convince me to reread the books [which I never do]. Overall, if you haven’t started the series, you should. And if you have, but not 13, you should.

Score || Series: 89/100 || Number 13: 85/100

[Editor’s note: This was not an easy article to find appropriate images for. We try our best here at Another Castle to keep things as PG-13 as humanly possible. This wasn’t an easy article to review for in that aspect. Please note that, if you were looking for gruesome image examples surely only suitable for a more mature audience, please visit the Kurosagi Tumblr. Secondly, Manga and Anime are not a category of nerd that we should be bootlegging. Kurosagi is pretty popular on the online readable Manga circuits and, if we want to continue seeing them, please stop reading them online. That was my soapbox, thank you.]

@Jen

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Categories: Manga, Manga Reviews

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One Comment on “Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service [A Review]”

  1. 02/19/2015 at 5:02 PM #

    Reblogged this on Rice Cake.

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