“KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE, VOLUME 14” (Comic Book Review)Book and Comic Reviews,Books/Art/Culture,News Svetlana Fedotov
After a nearly two and half year wait between volumes, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service volume 14 finally hits US shores later this month. While many may fear that the wait would spoil the expectation, the newest arrival is just as good as the previous volumes. While definitely a horror comic, KCDS has always focused more on exploring Japanese death rites and fulfilling the last wishes of the dearly departed, and volume 14 expands on this premise as the five central figures go about finding fresh bodies and bringing them home, wherever it may be. It’s an exceptional piece of philosophic horror from our friends across the ocean and is an easy gateway for those who wish to read Japanese manga but prefer a more mature work.
Volume 14 opens up with our rag-tag group of deliverers running into another corpse delivery service, one that looks remarkably like them, even down to their trademark looks! After following online urban legend tips, they learn that the other team has not only been picking up corpses on their turf, but doing some shady deals on the side. Determined to find out what these rivals are really up to, they begin to track their movements, only to find themselves in the middle of something much bigger than they thought. The second story takes a break from all the seriousness and instead changes the titular characters into their American counterparts, having the now zany kids solve the mystery of the skinned corpses in the trash cans! Zoinks! The final story asks the age-old question of what does a headless corpse that can only speak in binary have to do with a museum of torture? The answer is technology! What does it all mean? The crew is trying to figure out itself and if they don’t hurry, their boss might be the next person on the chopping block.
One of the great things about KCDS is that despite the its heavy subject, the writer Eiji Otsuka finds a great balance between the celebration of life and the loss of death. Whenever the team picks up a body, it’s always with mix of black humor and moral reflection, reflecting the attitude that many in the death industry possess. Eating a meal in one panel and picking up a body in the next is part of their everyday life and listening into them squabbling about how to get money from the dead only drives the point home.
Speaking of humor, the middle tale was an interesting side story to the usual work, and pokes a bit more fun not only at the comic, but at the cultural differences between US and Japan and even at Otsuka’s other manga, MPD Psycho. In combination with the artist Housui Yamazaki, the crew is shrunk and cartooned into Bruce Timm/BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES-style animation and set loose on LA, picking up bodies while sporting such names as Pete Tanaka and Jose Donoso. Perhaps it’s a commentary on how America views other cultures or just a nod to the ’90s tubular era of multiracial diversity, but either way, it’s fun to see their take on Western culture.
One of the more unique aspects of this manga is that, unlike many other manga works, the art and writing are done by separate people. As mentioned, Housui Yamazaki didn’t only do the Americanized version of the comic, but does the standard style that prevails throughout the entire volume. He is also the artist for the entire series and has done a fabulous job of perfect consistency during the run. The art is subtle and less anime-esque than what a lot of readers associate manga with. Lacking big eyes and sparkles, it in fact speaks more to the diversity of manga in its native land than what we get here. Even the gore is more subtle, which actually adds to its unnerving nature. Yamazaki aims for a more anatomical approach to his dismembering, adding fine details to freshly removed brains and blown away limbs.
A great series that can be read at any volume, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service welcomes readers new and old with its 14th volume. Just don’t be surprised when than body you buried in the backyard comes back looking for revenge.