Content Warning: This is a review of an extremely graphic horror manga. I will not be including any pictures from the work itself, but it will be necessary to describe some of the more gruesome situations that the characters find themselves in. If you’re sensitive to topics such as death, murder, and suicide, then you might want to give this one a pass.
So with that out of the way, here’s the first installment of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Volume 1. It’s a gruesome, morbid take on the very real issues that college students face. The story follows five students at a Buddhist college in Tokyo, Japan. Their spiritual training has not prepared them for traditional employment, so they need to make do. They start their own business to transport dead bodies that contain souls unable to move on to the next life.
Each of the characters has their own ability when it comes to interacting with the dead and running their business. Karatsu can speak with the dead when he physically touches them. Numata can find a corpse through dowsing, or divination using a pendulum. Yata speaks with extraterrestrials through a puppet. Makino is a talented embalmer, a skill that is rare in a country in which most people get cremated. Sasaki is their leader, handling payment from their clients and finding them new jobs.
The first volume follows four “deliveries”. After the group meets during a volunteer event performing rites for suicide victims in Aokigohara, they find the body of a man who had promised to commit suicide alongside his girlfriend so that they could be together in eternity. Next, they find the body of a mummified old woman that wished to be “disposed of” in the old way, since her family couldn’t afford another mouth to feed. Third are the corpses of a serial killer that sews women’s bodies together to form the “perfect corpse”. Finally, there’s the body of an insurance agent’s victim.
Each of the deliveries provides an interesting view into attitudes towards death and dying. Each of these bodies had died in a way that left them with regrets that the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service needs to help resolve. It handles serious topics with an extremely dark humor, but also with respect. It’s equal parts horrifying and strangely relatable. Eiji Otsuka has a background in anthropology, and it shows through his use of folklore and character psychology. Both the protagonists and antagonists are interesting to read, and every line feels like it’s something that is going to be important before long. Admittedly since I’m reading a translated version of a work originally published in Japanese, it’s possible that I’m missing a good deal of the nuance. Still, I think the first volume of the series is a good foundation for the rest of the series.
The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is certainly not for the faint of heart. It’s graphic, it’s gruesome, it’s what you would expect from a horror and then some. Housui Yamakaza’s illustrations leave little to the imagination when it comes to death and its effect on the human body. If you have the stomach for it, it’s a wild ride.