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The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (vol. 13) by Eiji Otsuka, art by Housui Yamazaki, translated by Toshifumi Yoshida, edited by Carl Gustav Horn

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service 13For someone who eschews horror films, I sure am addicted to (certain) scary manga. Devoted groupie that I am for the Kurosagi team, I just hope the series isn’t ending anytime soon! For anyone new to the series, rather than starting at (unlucky) #13, might I suggest catching up by clicking here.

In this latest volume, psychic Kuro Karatsu and hacker Ao Sasaki return from a beach vacation (yes, together, but it’s definitely not what you – or the fellow Deliverers – think!). They’re immediately summoned to the morgue because it’s quickly filling with lifeless male bodies that each happen to be wearing matching cartoon-character caps. The corpses have suddenly stopped talking to Karatsu, so dowser Makoto Numata and channeler Yuji Yata (and his alien sock puppet Kereellis) need to help Karatsu find a mysterious schoolgirl whose powers are literally out of this world.

Sasaki takes the stand in the next adventure, playing lay judge in a murder case. As the body count goes up, she has only the late poet Arthur Rimbaud and a handful of colored pencils to provide answers from beyond. In the volume’s final undertaking (couldn’t resist), the three male Deliverers (plus alien Kereellis) are hired to clear an overgrown urban park, but what should have been an afternoon of menial labor turns into quite the nightmare ceremony.

As always, do NOT skip the endnotes … how else will you find out about Indy (as in Indiana Jones)’s literacy challenges, that Ezekiel 4:12-13 reveals the food of the chosen people is not exactly manna (“sh*t sandwich,” anyone?), and so much more? We need to sooo appreciate the translation-into-English team for enlightening our Kurosagi experience every time! Thank you, thank you … and now may we have some more, please?!!!

Readers: Adult

Published: 2012 (United States) Continue reading

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The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (vols. 11-12) by Eiji Otsuka, art by Housui Yamazaki, translated by Toshifumi Yoshida, edited by Carl Gustav Horn

I don’t know how I never noticed before, but Kurosagi comes with a “Parental Advisory | Explicit Content” warning sticker (volume 11 had it on the outside plastic shrink-wrap; volume 12 got more serious and placed it on the actual book!). True enough that some of the images can be quite disturbing, but I’ve definitely encountered more mature content in titles that are classified “Young Adult.” That said, we old folks can keep Kurosagi our own scary secret.

Before reading further, you might want to catch up by clicking here. The better alternative, of course, is to first read all the previous volumes yourself. While each has stand-alone investigative adventures, you’ll need to start at the beginning to get the fascinating backstory on the Delivery Service team – psychic Kuro Karatsu, corpse dowser Makoto Numata, hacker Ao Sasaki, embalmer Keiko Makino, channeler Yuji Yata with his alien sock puppet Kereellis – and their sometime employer, ex-cop social worker Sasayama.

Also, even if you usually skip footnotes/endnotes, I’d highly recommend you don’t throughout this whole series. In volume 11, for example, you wouldn’t know that the first delivery – in which Sasayama sends the team to an exclusive girls’ school where they meet a student with a violent past – was “inspired in part by one of the most notorious Japanese crimes of the last decade,” unless you saw endnote 114.4-5 which provides creepy details including references to the University of Nevada and Christian Slater. And, in volume 12, you’ll need the endnotes to fully appreciate the Japanese/North Korean context in the Service team’s encounter with a famous dollmaker who lost his younger sister to a firebomb during World War II.

Other adventures involve genetically doped swimmers (timely for those facing post-Olympic withdrawal), online gaming prisoners, and a young club hostess with quite the special talent. How the team solves and survives each fright-fest makes for shuddering, hair-raising fun; lucky for us, the corpses stay on the page … for now. Can’t wait for volume 13 – haunting shelves come December.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2010 and 2012 (United States) Continue reading

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The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (vol. 10) by Eiji Otsuka, art by Housui Yamazaki, translated by Toshifumi Yoshida, edited by Carl Gustav Horn

It’s true, it’s true once again … good things come to those who wait and indeed, after what seemed like way too long (including multiple emails from Amazon warning of delivery delays first because of the snowpocalypse and then apparently because of warehouse glitches or some such), I finally got volume 10 (whoo hooo!!).

Uhm … and not to whinge again, but that final page came way too fast. I tried to make it last by doling out sections, but that lasted one overnight, alas. Now apparently I’ll need to wait until August for my next fix. Will I last?

Volume 10 opens with Kurosagi regulars – psychic Kuro Karatsu, corpse dowser Makoto Numata, hacker Ao Sasaki, embalmer Keiko Makino, and channeler Yuji Yata with his alien sock puppet Kereellis – sitting in a class about AEDs (automatic external defibrillators) as a favor to their ex-cop social worker/sometime employer Sasayama. Their usual help-wronged-corpses-to-their-final-peaceful-rest mission gets interrupted when corpses suddenly start disappearing, as if they literally came back to life and walked away … turns out what they learned in that AED class proves useful after all, when they meet an ex-killer with super-AED capabilities.

Next up, the team travels to a small seaside town to deliver a retired police dog to his ex-partner and chase down a centuries-old legend of a murdered monk, only to get embroiled in a drug smuggling/illegal immigrant plot filled with … well … a lot of corpses. Then they get sent to be advisors for a reality television show starring psychic mystery solvers, only to run into Numata’s Master Azuma who taught him all the secrets of dowsing for lost souls. Tragedy strikes (more than once) and Numata’s past as an orphaned 6-year-old is revealed, how he got that way, why he always wears dark glasses, and a posthumous letter that takes him to a faceless building alone. Good thing it’s pouring rain …

One last thing … even if you don’t usually read endnotes (although you really should with this whole series, because not only do they offer some helpful insights, but they’re also just downright entertaining, too), make sure to read the final note in this volume …

Click here to check out volumes 1-4, and here for volumes 5-9.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2010 (United States) Continue reading

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The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (vols. 5-9) by Eiji Otsuka, art by Housui Yamazaki, translated by Toshifumi Yoshida (Taylor Engel and Toshifumi Yoshida, vol. 7), edited by Carl Gustav Horn

Kurosagi 5.9

It’s been almost two years since I first discovered this series (vols. 1-4) and they certainly haven’t lost any of their chilling zing! I don’t remember that they came with a “Parental Advisory | Explicit Content” warning sticker before, but they certainly do now, so I’m taking out the “Young Adult” from the reader category. So kids, these are NOT for you! Sometimes, life just isn’t fair …

… which is certainly the case for most of these not-yet-soulless dead whom the dedicated staffers of the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service – psychic Kuro Karatsu (who has protective spirit Yaichi attached to him), corpse dowser Makoto Numata, hacker Ao Sasaki, embalmer Keiko Makino, and alien channeler Yuji Yata with his sock puppet Kereellis – must help to their final rest. As students enrolled at Chiyoda Buddhist University, the team spends most of the time trying to make money … unlike many of their fellow students, they don’t have posh family temples to graduate into and must make their own careers.

In spite of being regularly called upon by Sasayama, an ex-cop who now works in the Social Welfare Office, who needs the team to find the next of kin for anonymous corpses that land in his office, the team still has to resort to taking odd jobs like moving headstones, testing robots, and professional mourning to keep themselves out of the red.

Competition out there is tough! The sinisterly mysterious Shirosagi Corpse Cleaning Service – ‘shiro’ means white, which makes them the ‘white crane’ service to Kurosagi’s ‘black crane’ service! – keeps showing up at the most inconvenient times. And even the local post office is making money from the dead, pre-arranging corpse deliveries for suicide victims before they make their final departures!

From mummies to cryogenic frozen heads in vol. 5, hidden children to Jack the Ripper in vol.6, a long-lost beauty icon to a desperate filmmaker’s assistant in vol. 7, after-death matchmakers to airplane crash survivors in vol. 8, and a crazed fan to a World War II survivor in vol. 9, each of the corpses have horrific tales to tell … and the Kurosagi team somehow manages to find them peace, one way or another.

Each volume dovetails into the next (which will make you only want to keep reading more, more, more). Each volume also ends with some of the most informative, entertaining ,and enlightening endnotes found anywhere on this side of the living: “It is suggested the reader not constantly consult this glossary as they read through, but regard it as supplemental information, in the manner of footnotes, or perhaps one of those nutritional supplements, the kind that’s long and difficult to swallow.” But oh so good for you, so definitely not to be skipped.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2007-2009 (United States) Continue reading

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The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (vols. 1-4) by Eiji Otsuka, art by Housui Yamazaki, translated by Toshifumi Yoshida, edited by Carl Gustav Horn

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Four fabulous volumes (the fourth just out) about a mismatched clan that makes up the fantastically talented Kurosagi (“black crane”) Corpse Delivery Service. Five unemployed Buddhist university students band together to help corpses find eternal peace, so to speak.

Numata finds the dead, Karatsu talks to the dead, Sasaki hacks any necessary background information about the dead, Makino preserves the dead, and Yata channels an alien voice that speaks through a handheld sock puppet that is often the lone voice of reason.

Irreverent dark humor – with plenty of gore, so don’t read it late at night – fills these addictive volumes as the fivesome help suffering souls find everlasting closure.

Review: TBR’s Editors’ Favorites of 2007,” The Bloomsbury Review, November/December 2007

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2006-2007 (United States) Continue reading

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