~written by Eiji Otsuka
~illustrated by Housui Yamazaki
The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is a horror manga series written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Housui Yamazaki, both of whom have worked on other horror-like manga--MPD Psycho and Mail, respectively. The first volume of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service was originally published in Japan in 2002, the English-language edition being released by Dark Horse in 2006. The series is currently ongoing and is available through volume fifteen in Japan; Dark Horse has so far released twelve volumes. I initially started reading The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service for two reasons. The series was first brought to my attention because the covers are so distinctive and striking and they caught my eye. But perhaps more importantly, I was already familiar with Otsuka's work on MPD Psycho (which interestingly enough, end us up crossing over with The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service) and wanted to read more of his manga. Because The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service was selected for August 2012's Manga Moveable Feast, I wanted to revisit the series.
Kuro Karatsu may not know it, but he is haunted or perhaps even possessed by a ghost. What he does know is that the dead can speak to and through him. After being roped into volunteering to pray for suicides found in the Aokigahara forest along with a few other students from his Buddhist university, Kuro discovers that he is not the only one with a unique skill. Makoto Numata, a tough guy with a sensitive soul, is a dowser. Except, instead of finding water, he is able to find dead bodies. The cute and petite Keiko Makino studied embalming and mortuary science in America, a profession with very little demand in Japan. Yuji Yuta is a relatively quite guy, but the alien he channels through a sock puppet is more than foulmouthed enough to make up for it. And then there's the mastermind Ao Sasaki who has brought them all together. She is determined to find a profitable scheme that will put all of their talents to good use. And thus, the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is born--a group of nearly unemployable students putting the dead to rest on their own terms.
Although I have read The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service before, I had forgotten how funny the series actually is. It's not so much a horror manga as it is a supernatural-horror-mystery manga with a heavy dose of a very dark sense of humor. Which isn't to say the horror element isn't an important part of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, because it certainly is. The series just somehow manages to be very good-natured about it, mostly due to the quirkiness of its cast and great dialogue. While the first volume of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service doesn't show the development of the group's friendship, it is obvious from their interactions with one another and their banter that they all get along well. I find their relaxed, nonchalant attitude when dealing with the dead to be very amusing. They act as though nothing is out of the ordinary. Sure, death is a natural part of life, but normally corpses don't move of their own volition. The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service doesn't let that phase them, though.
The first volume of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service collects four different stories. While the stories do make small references to one another and continue to reveal more about the characters and their histories, they all stand completely on their own. As might be expected from a horror series, many of the stories end up being fairly gruesome and rather disturbing. Although Yamazaki shows some restraint in the artwork, there is still plenty of blood and guts in The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. Frankly though, the gore and corpses tend to be less terrifying than most of the living that Kuro and the others end up having to face on behalf of the dead. The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is a strange mix of humor and horror--both psychological and grotesque--but Otsuka and Yamazaki make it work. The manga is entertaining, engaging, and has a great cast of characters. I really enjoyed my reread of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Volume 1.