If Tim Burton and Yuichi Kumkura (King of the bandits Jin) teamed up to create a manga series I reckon it would end up as something like Shoulder a Coffin Kuro.
The first volume of this series, written by Satoko Kiyuduki, and released in the UK by the manga publishing newcomer Yen Press, follows the travels of a young girl called Kuro who travels from place to place with the titular coffin and a wisecracking bat call Sen – if you’re a fan of Kino's Journey you'll get into this easily.
Although it’s never revealed outright as to why she is travelling, throughout this volume there are references that reveal that her travels are not voluntary and that not only is the colour of her clothes connected, but so is the purpose of her coffin…
If reading this reviews gives you the impression that you'll be in for a self absorbed Emo-fest, take heart as part way through the series she discovers (and becomes the reluctant “owner”of) Niju and Sanjuku, two what could be best described as “mini catgirls” whose more innocent perspectives bring light to what could easily be a dark and depressing series.
The book uses the 4 Koma format (4 panels read from top to bottom, and common in Japanese newspapers), moves at an engaging pace, and spans a number of plots, from her revealing conversations with a not so wicked witch, to making ends meet through music, and then helping an old man who can’t stop fibbing to discover the one truth he could never find...
The artwork, though exaggerated at times, didn't distract from the story, and indeed some of my favorite pieces were the stand alone, unconnected pieces that separated each chapter. It was these, above all others, which most reminded me Tim Burton's Nightmare before Christmas.
What struck me as intriguing was the Japanese translations names of the main characters – Kuro (meaning “black”) matches her dark clothing and often dark outlook of the world. The only current mystery is the reason behind the names of the two mini catgirls Sanju (30) and her sister Nijuku (29)
Maybe a mystery to be solved in the next volume..?
If you’re a fan of Kino's Journey, and like the slightly twisted art of Mr Burton's works, or even if you’re just looking for something to enjoy during your coffee break, then this series is for you.
Personally, I’d have gone for a backpack!