"Just your ordinary, everyday delivery men". From the bottom and up: Karatsu, Sasaki, Makino, Numata, and Yata/Kereellis.
"Listen, Mr. My-karma-is-oh-so-spotless, we're running a business here, not a charity. Did you check the corpse's credit?"
The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is a Black Comedy horror manga written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Housui Yamazaki.Answering an ad for volunteer work for extra credit, five students of a Buddhist university meet up at Aokigahara Forest, a real-life suicide spot. Kuro Karatsu, the viewpoint character, appears normal, but the rest are slightly...unusual. Ao Sasaki runs an internet chat room for people who like to share pictures of corpses. Makoto Numata can use a pendulum to dowse, but can only find dead bodies. Keiko Makino is a licensed embalmer in a country where close to 100% of bodies are cremated. And finally, Yuji Yata constantly wears a hand puppet that he believes is possessed by an alien called Kereellis.As Karatsu decides that he doesn't really want to get mixed up with these weirdos, he turns to leave...and finds a corpse has crawled up behind him. His secret's out — he can talk to the dead and listen to their last wishes. Sometimes, the dead come to him. When the events caused by the dead man's testimonial have all finished, Sasaki gets an idea: There's not much demand for what the group can do amongst the living, but there's always dead people. Some are bound to be grateful, in the folding-cash way, for what they could do for them—generally by giving the group permission to sell their belongings (after all, it's not like they'll need them anymore).Thus is created the concept of the Psychopomp For Hire, and so begins a dark, gory, squicky, yet frequently funny exploration of death and dying in Japan, and quite a few horror tropes as well. It's interesting for its episodic style - apart from the characters' back-stories and the arc regarding the origin of Karatsu's powers, each chapter is self-contained. The realistic art style and top-notch translation makes it something definitely worth reading, for those with a strong stomach.
Bandage Mummy: Shinuhe's standard getup. He's even written Egyptian burial prayers on the inside of his bandages. It's unclear whether he was just horribly burned, or if he is an actual Egyptian mummy brought to Japan in the Edo period and brought to life by Nire Ritual—he has claimed both as explanations for his getup.
Blessed with Suck: Pretty much the entire company, which is the reason they stick together. Their skills are very useful, but at one thing and one thing only (namely, working with corpses) and the idiosyncrasies that accompany their skills pretty much renders them all completely unemployable in any other sectors.
Karatsu can talk with the dead. While this makes him the linchpin of the 'Corpse' part of the Kurosagi Delivery Service, it has given him alienation issues.
Later in the series another character shows up who has the same ability, albeit more limited.
Came Back Wrong: The first Nire storyline has a girl that can revivify the recently dead, but not very well. They turn into vengeful zombies, which usually doesn't come up, given what Nire actually uses the bodies for...
Chronic Hero Syndrome: Karatsu, the medium. Whether he does it out of curiosity, boredom or the goodness of his heart, he just can't seem to abandon a penniless corpse in need. This is a frequent source of exasperation for Sasaki.
Sasaki comments in the first volume that the reason the restless dead come to him is because he's "a guy that can't say no." For all that he's a cynical wiseass, he's astonishingly compassionate.
Cluster F-Bomb: Kereellis, Yata's alien-possessed hand puppet, is very foul-mouthed; the others' language can get salty at times.
The Coroner: Given that the protagonists work outside the law, they obviously don't have professionals to rely on. Makino (as an embalmer) usually fills this role in regards to the plot, but for professional aid they usually have to pull Sasayama into the case.
Deadpan Snarker: The entire cast apply sarcasm liberally, though Kereellis is by far the worst.
Death Equals Redemption: Sasaki believes in this trope, dismissing out of hand the need for the corpse of the man who murdered her parents and sister to apologize. This feeling may not be genuine when she says it, although she and her sister do legitimately forgive him by the end of the story arc, mostly because it's revealed that he only killed her father, and someone else killed her mother and sister.
Demonic Dummy: Well, more 'foul-mouthed alien' than 'demonic', really, but Kereellis qualifies, if only because he seems to be able to do things that normal ventriloquist dummies can't. Although we're still not sure if it's not just a combination of Yata's powers and some dissociative mental disorder.
Demonic Possession: A ghostly one, to be specific, and also fairly benign. Karatsu is haunted by a scar-faced spirit called Yaichi, who gives him his powers to bring the dead back to life and seems to be devoted towards protecting him. The little girl from Shirosagi is also possessed by a similar ghost, and it is implied in volume 13 that Sasaki may be as well.
Dysfunction Junction: So far we've one whose entire immediate family (except one sister) was murdered, one who lost his sister and both parents to a murder-suicide and barely survived, one whose mother committed suicide in front of her, one whose parents and older brother 'disappeared' (and later discovers where their corpses are buried, but is unable to retrieve them) and the Blessed with Suck entry above. His parents are probably dead too.
If someone is naked or nearly so, the chances are really good that he/she is either dead or in mortal danger. For instance, Makino's first nude scene is as she's being prepped to be vivisected for a plastinated corpse exhibition.
Sasaki bathing Chihaya (who's in her early teens) in one of the Furo Scenes below.
They all feature pics of the group that follow a theme. For instance, on one cover the pics are digitally blurred. In another all the members are shown as kids. In another, they're all hand puppets just like Kereellis. The one exception is Karatsu, whose pic never changes.
They all feature a diagrammatic illustration of the theme of one chapter within that particular tankobon.
Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The chapters are all named after obscure Japanese rock and pop albums and songs, with the chapters of each book usually being united by theme such as a common artist.
The Imp: The hand puppet through which Yata talks to the aliens.
The Lab Rat: Makino, occasionally, due to her embalming expertise.
Laser-Guided Karma: After helping their first suicide victim and (with his permission) taking a lottery ticket from his corpse as 'payment', the group discover it's a winning ticket. It turns out to be just enough money for starting capital for the service, and the group continues to do their good deeds for promises of karmic payoff. Several villains also get defeated in a very karmic manner.
Long-Lost Relative: Volume 13 brings a series of these out of the woodwork, implying that not only is the creepy little girl in Shirosagi somehow related to Karatsu, but Sasaki is apparently his half-sister.
Magic Plastic Surgery: The criminal conspiracy in Volume 12's MMORPG arc specialises in this. Just don't ask them where they get the replacement faces from...
Million to One Chance: The evil insurance agent has learned how to manipulate the odds to make this a method of murder. So naturally his Karmic Death involves such an unlikely event.
Misapplied Phlebotinum: A young scientist invents an invisibility suit and uses it to sneak into women's locker rooms so he can watch them undress. At the end it's admitted his perversion actually saved the world from having invisible spies and assassins running around, so it's mostly a good thing.
No Periods, Period: Inverted. One chapter reveals that when Sasaki is in her cycle, Karatsu can't access his power. The Shirosagi group appear to be wanting to use this for sinister purposes.
Not Using the Zed Word: They don't ever call them that, but what else would you call it when the dead start moving? They have used it jokingly.
Older Than They Look: Jenny Kayama, Sasaki's professor. She looks as young as her student, but she's actually Sasayama's age.
Parental Abandonment: All of the Kurosagi crew, except possibly Karatsu, suffer from this in one form or another. In volume 11, it's hypothesized that having your parents die violently when you're a small child increases your chance of developing odd abilities.
Peek-A-Boo Corpse: Endemic. You're reading along, then all of a sudden STIFF OUT OF NOWHERE.
People Puppets: A villain in volume 13 has access to a device that lets her take control of people's muscles by remote control. She uses this to kill or enslave her victims.
Perpetual Poverty: They're good at what they do. They aren't that good at doing anything else, which means they have to resort to odd jobs when the bodies dry up.
Potty Failure: Shown graphically for some of the victims of the People Puppets villain above. Being forced to stand in one place for 16 hours straight will tend to lead to that.
The girl in Shirosagi, who is possessed by a female spirit who is connected to Yaichi in some unrevealed manner.
Psychopomp: In addition to acting as this in general, the Service's symbol is kurosagi, the black heron that takes souls to the land of the dead. Chapter 3 references both this and the white stork that bring souls into the world of the living.
Psycho Serum: Volume 11 has a short story about a serum that contain viruses used in gene therapy. It leads to buildup at muscle mass but screws up your circadian rhythm and makes the recipient go into a deathlike sleep during daytime.
Red Right Hand: What with his business suit, scar running across his head and missing leg, the Kurosagi crew's first reaction to Sasayama is to assume he's Yakuza. He's an ex-detective.
Revenge: The female spirit possessing the girl in Shirosagi is pissed at Yaichi for some reason, and their scheming is mainly to trap him so she can avenge herself on him.
Sadist Teacher: Played with in the school arc in Vol. 11. The vice-principal is a nasty, shouting, stereotypical Sadist Teacher, but the gentle, forgiving, principal is a serial child murderer.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Karatsu was about to do this when he heard about Yata's alien-channeling hand puppet, but then the puppet exposed Karatsu's talent.
Ship Tease: In-story. As the story goes on, Sasaki gradually shows more and more of an interest in Karatsu, leading the others to wonder if there's something going on between them. The readers learn later on that it's not what it seems—Sasaki suspects a connection between them, and eventually learns that they are half-siblings.
Disjecta Membra - the section in each English volume that translates the SFX, and which doubles as Useful Notes for Japan's writing system, culture and history. The 1st volume's, for instance, covers Aokigahara Forest, Pac-Man, what's considered an 'old' building in Tokyo and Japan's construction industry, folklore, Buddhist altars, old manga, Easter Eggs in the story and emergency numbers.
The manga itself tends to be fairly well-researched as well and provides mostly correct information (with a few embellishments) on many diverse topics, ranging from Egyptian funereal rites to the use of AAVs as a (potential) form of doping in sports.
Kurosagi addresses Japanese social ills like suicide or the justice system in several chapters. Goes with the territory, since the main characters' job is to clean the skeletons out of the closet, so to speak.
Kikuchi's introduction arc addresses abortion and infanticide.
Weirdness Magnet: Sasayama has a reputation for this, especially in his last job. He's able to get away with — and help the corpse delivery service with — a lot of unusual things because people know that weird stuff just happens to him.
Widget Series: The real-life "weird Japanese things" are almost as weird as the series itself.