Eiji Otsuka/Housei Yamazaki
If C.S.I. Was written by a Japanese horror writer you'd get The Kurosagi Corpse delivery service.
The series, written by Eiji Otsuka, with artwork by Housei Yamazaki, and currently being published by Dark Horse, follows a group of students from a Buddhist university as they utilize their unique talents to help lay to rest the souls of those who have died due to one thing or another and cannot pass on – and all of these talents get utilized during the four chapters of this first volume, from dowser Numata to teenage embalmer Makino and the double act of channeler Yata and his ....less than eloquent hand puppet. Along with group leader Sasaki, whose own contribution is to sell photos of bodies on the Internet,the gang constantly search for leads for their next jobs.
For me the star of the show has to be Karatsu – a trainee Buddhist who's main talent is the ability to commune with the dead - and at times of need become a channel for what looks like Frankenstein’s monster in a Japanese shrine priests uniform. Their connection isn’t revealed in this volume, but plenty of hints are dropped suggesting that karatsu is not doing this purely out of charity.
Each of the cases in this first volume follows roughly the same pattern – the group discover a body and, after determining their identity and what they wish for in order to pass over, try to orchestrate solutions for their “clients”. The deceased award them in a kind of karmic payback – they even have their own delivery van!
After the first chapter, which involves the suicide of a pop idol and a boyfriend who gives new meaning to the phrase “love from beyond the grave”, we are treated to three, non-connected stories, which span a spectrum of the bizarre – mummies in a portable altar, to finding a body comprised of several different people – to the more straightforward (?) cases - beating an insurance fraudster who can predict the time of your death!
The artwork of this series is graphic in its portrayal of the bodies – from the first hanging, decaying body of chapter one, to scenes of a fridge full of body parts in the third chapter – Housei Yamamzaki pulls no punches with his depiction of the victims, confirming the need for this series to be published with a plastic wrap and parental advisory warning – this series is not for the squeamish!
Overall from this first volume, I’d say that in its current format I can see potential for success with this series, an opinion backed by the fact that this is published by dark horse comics - a company not known for picking flops. However I could see that, without variation in plot line or character development, even the shock value of this series might not be enough to keep this series going.
If nothing else, the manga proves that karmic payback’s a bitch!