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Manga: The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service
"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.

Contains examples of:

  • Akashic Records
  • Americans Are Cowboys: Reina Gorn sports a cowboy hat.
  • Astral Projection: Nene in the stand-up comic plotline of Volume 12.
  • Back from the Dead:
    • Karatsu's ability allows him to temporarily bring the dead back to finish their business.
    • Nire employs a girl who can bring back the dead.
    • One story deals with another character who can do this (temporarily) with his Magical Defibrillator.
  • Badass: Numata.
  • Bald of Awesome: Karatsu.
  • The Bait: Yata, at one point. Also see Got Volunteered.
  • 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.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Some of Makino's outfits do this; also, see Ms. Fanservice below.
  • Bland-Name Product: Yata has a plastic lightsaber with a "Star Peace" logo.
  • 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.
  • Blinding Bangs: Yata's kept his shaggy bangs since he was a kid.
  • Body Horror: Shows up occasionally.
    • In part 4 of Vol. 4, a parasite causes people to develop massively swollen eyes and a compulsion to climb tall things so their eyes can be pecked out by birds.
    • In the last chapter of vol. 13, a man is turned into a tree in an extremely invasive manner.
  • Broken Pedestal: Numata's dowsing master, when he confesses that he knew where Numata's parents' corpses were all the time and didn't tell him for fear of the killers.
  • Brown Note: One episode concerns a sound that makes people want to kill themselves (entirely accidentally created).
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Shinuhe. Having burns is all well and good, but he apparently enjoys dressing like an Egyptian mummy...unless he actually is one.
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: It's all part of the service.
  • 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...
  • Captain Obvious/Understatement: The Mad Doctor, surrounded by the animated (and angry) corpses of his victims: "No... This isn't right."
  • 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.
  • Cool Old Guy: Sasayama.
  • 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.
  • Cover Drop: See Idiosyncratic Cover Art below.
  • Creepy Child: Mei in Vol.11, although she has a good excuse for it.
  • Cross Over: With MPD Psycho (through Sasayama) and Mail.
  • Dangerously Close Shave: The crew had a run-in with a psychotic hair stylist who knocked out his victims, locked them in his back room and amputated them limb by limb with his razors.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Practically a requirement to be part of the group.
    • It's suggested eventually that Sasayama's actually seeking out people with tragic pasts after enough experience with Karatsu and co., seeing as they tend to be the ones with supernatural powers.
  • Dead All Along: The 'ghost member'.
  • 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.
  • Dowsing Device:
    • Numata's pendulum, which works either on a ring or hanging from the rearview mirror of the Service's vehicle.
    • Numata's mentor used bent coat hangers, and this was the method Numata first learned. He uses it per his mentor's request to find his killer.
  • Driven to Suicide: Several of the service's clients are suicides, including their very first.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: See Fan Disservice.
  • Dumb Muscle: Numata is dense (and once punched out a moving truck's windshield). It's frequently noted by the others, especially Makino and Kereelis.
  • Due to the Dead: Giving the dead their due is what the service is for.
  • 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.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: Makino tends to go for this look.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Shirosagi Corpse Cleaning Service, which performs the opposite service of the main characters and appear to have hostile intentions towards them.
  • Evil Phone: Who knew insurance salesmen could be so deadly?
  • Eye Scream: Shows up in several different ways. The examples listed under Body Horror both feature exceptionally graphic examples.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • 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.
  • Five-Man Band:
    • The Hero — Karatsu (psychic)
    • The Lancer — Sasaki (most commonly the foil to Karatsu. Also the Team Mom)
    • The Big Guy — Numata (corpse dowser and muscle)
    • The Smart Guy — Yata/Kereellis (Yata is a nerd and urban legends expert, while Kereellis is good for the occasional alien-babble)
    • The Chick — Makino (embalmer)
    • The Sixth Ranger — (Yaichi, the ghost possessing Karatsu)
    • The Mentor — Sasayama, somewhat reluctantly
  • Furo Scene: A few of these, both for the guys and the girls. The one for Makino and Sasaki also serves as a bonding moment between them and Chihaya.
  • Gallows Humour: Obviously.
  • Generic Cuteness: Averted. Realism is the order of the day.
  • Gilligan Cut: When Karatsu sarcastically says that yeah, they could call the suspect in one story and ask to meet up. Cut to Yata finishing a call to the suspect. He agrees.
  • The Glasses Come Off: Numata — who is normally seen wearing Sunglasses at Night — takes off his glasses once in order to identify himself to his old master.
  • Hot Librarian: Sasaki is very attractive, very intelligent, and an extremely competent hacker.
  • Hot Scientist: A stereotypical blonde American entomologist, wearing a bikini, in the fourth volume. Still didn't compensate for the Body Horror in the same chapter.
    • For bonus points, said bimbo scientist is named Reina Gorn.
  • Human Popsicle: One chapter is devoted to cryogenics, and feature a few of these.
  • Idiosyncratic Cover Art: The tankobon covers all have two distinct features:
    • 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.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Except for his scar being on the lower half of his face, Sasayama's cousin looks exactly like him, down to the glasses, cheapness and using a cane.
  • Japanese Ranguage: Karatsu mishears Nire as Nile, but is quickly corrected.
  • 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...
  • Magical Defibrillator: One character uses a specialized AED to revive corpses.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Nene from the stand-up comedy arc. Then, her boyfriend is killed.
  • Manly Tears: Numata tends to do this a lot, or at least protests that his crying counts as manly tears a lot. But he also explains that the tears aren't manly if the emotion isn't genuine.
  • Meaningful Name: Mr. Shinuhe the embalmer and suspected mummy, whose name is composed of the kanji for 'death' and 'door'. As the translation notes, 'not foreboding at all'.
    • Seeing how he looks like an Egyptian mummy (or possibly is one), it might also be a reference to Sinuhe the Egyptian, a historical novel set in ancient Egypt.
  • Mega Nekko: Sasaki. She's even called this in the notes at the back of the English-language volumes.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Numata's dowsing master.
  • 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.
  • Moment Killer: Makino's walk with Yata is interrupted by him being dragged off to help with an obese corpse.
  • Monster of the Week: Revives this trope in the form of, "What's the story behind the corpse in this chapter?".
  • Ms. Fanservice:
  • Nausea Fuel: This happens in-universe when Yata tries to view some of Sasaki's pictures while eating. It...does not go well for him.
  • Never Say That Again: After finding a human ear in a magazine and discussing what to do next...
    Makino: We still don't have much to go on. What are we supposed to do? Play it by ear?
    Sasaski: Makino, please don't ever say that again.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Averted, especially with Reina and Sasaki.
  • 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.
  • Parental Incest: The villain of the very first chapter.
  • 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.
  • Powers via Possession:
    • Yata, who is a channeler.
    • Karatsu, who is possessed by a benevolent spirit.
    • 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.
  • The Psycho Rangers: The Shirosagi Corpse Cleaning Service.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • For starters, Numata makes many shout outs to classic shounen titles as a result of reading too much manga.
    • Yata also has a few shout outs to Star Wars, including a Darth Vader cellphone charm.
      Yata: (wielding a lightsaber) You'll find I'm full of surprises!
    • The one with the otaku-bot features the Dragonslayer, or at least a fragile plastic replica.
    • Later on, that same bot is labeled "03", noted in the Disjecta Membra for that volume as a reference to Unit 03 from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
    • At one point Numata references, of all things, Chick Tracts (specifically the "Here come de judge" line.)
  • Show Within a Show: The anime/manga Magical Maid Girl Mumume-tan, whose lead character Makino sometimes cosplays.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror
  • Start to Corpse: The second page of the first volume.
  • The Stoic: Sasaki. It's often lampshaded sarcastically by the others, and may be justified due to the medication she is taking to suppress her childhood trauma.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Numata. This being Kurosagi, there is a genuinely tragic explanation for why.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. Sasaki is still going to therapy for finding the corpses of her murdered family when she was eight. She's one of the saner members in the service.
  • Tontine: In volume 3.
  • Totally Radical: From a cryonics poster from the 80s: "HOT" is a term of art meaning "gnarly"
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: Sort of a stretched-out version. It's implied that having a Dark and Troubled Past increases your chances of developing weird powers, though it doesn't look like any one particular thing sets it off for anybody.
  • Undeath Always Ends: Karatsu's ability doesn't last for long, but usually long enough for the dead to do what they need to do to set things right.
  • Unfinished Business: The cast's profession is to help finish such business for the dead.
  • Valley Girl: Makino lets bits of the accent slip into her speech but not to the point where it hides that she's actually very intelligent.
  • Values Dissonance: In-Universe. Makino's specialty is embalming corpses, a perfectly common practice in other countries but getting her weird looks in Japan (where cremation is the norm) even from her teammates.
  • Ventriloquism: The suspected truth about Yata's alien, especially for Numata.
  • Very Special Episode:
    • 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.
  • Wax Museum Morgue: A very disturbing example. Makino almost becomes a victim.
  • 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.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Makino suggests marketing the suicidal song to people who aren't quite ready to take the final step. Sasaki is not amused.
  • Widget Series: The real-life "weird Japanese things" are almost as weird as the series itself.
  • Zeerust: The Habama cryogenics corporation, which ran a cryogenics scam in the eighties, had an ad that claims that by 1997, Manhattan will be a maximum-security prison, off-world colonies will be established by 2019, and the billionth Betamax will be sold in 2052.

HellsingCreator/Dark Horse ComicsLone Wolf and Cub
Kara no KyoukaiHorror Anime & MangaM 3 The Dark Metal
Kono S wo, Mi YoSeinenLady Snowblood

alternative title(s): The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service; Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service
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