For many years if someone asked me if I liked manga or anime, I would answer that I didn’t (as I also mentioned also in my post about Japan Sinks 2020). Although I had enjoyed watching Majo no Takkyūbin (魔女の宅急便) (Kiki’s Delivery Service) (Miyazaki, 1989) in classes when learning Japanese at university, and have enjoyed some other Studio Ghibli offerings over the years, I would tend to avoid rather than choose to watch most anime. And I never picked up manga at all. But of course to say that you don’t like manga or anime is much like saying you don’t like books, movies or music – the reality is that you need to find the right one for you. For me, the right one is Kurosagi Shitai Takuhaibin (黒鷺死体宅配便) (The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service) by Eiji Ōtsuka and Housui Yamazaki.
The summary about the manga on Wikipedia says the following,
The series deals with the exploits of five young graduates of a Buddhist college, all of which have a special skill, some of them supernatural and/or involving dead bodies. Most notable is Kuro Karatsu who has the ability to “speak” to the recently deceased and hear their last wishes. On this basis the group forms a business venture to fulfil said wishes in hopes for compensation. However, because corpses do not always die of natural causes or accidents, the group often encounters criminal activity or such compensation is unattainable.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kurosagi_Corpse_Delivery_Service
Essentially this manga is an adult, Japanese, Scooby-Doo.
I first came across the manga when I was working on my book Dealing with Disaster in Japan. From time to time I did keyword searches for ‘JL123’ and ‘JAL123’ on Amazon to see if there were any books that I had missed. One time I came across the English translation, by Dark Horse Manga, of Volume 8 of Kurosagi Shitai Takuhaibin. Within the translators notes there was a comment about a particular scene being based on the JL123 crash. I decided to get a copy of the book and both check the notes in more detail and the original imagery itself.
The parallels are certainly there with JL123. Having checked this section of the book, I then decided to read the rest of the book and loved it. From there I not only got the original Japanese version of this volume, but decided to get all the Japanese and English versions of all volumes. Although I haven’t kept up to date with all volumes (and I think they’ve stopped doing the English ones), I plan to keep the collection going in the future.
I have included Kurosagi in some of my teaching in the past and also in a research presentation (about which I may do another post), but that is far as it has gone so far. I would like to do more research about it, but have yet to find the angle to do it from. I don’t want anything I do about it to merely be an excuse to talk about my favourite manga – there are far too many articles, chapters and books like that in academia already. I’d be happy to hear some suggestions.
I have managed to get a passing reference to Kurosagi into my novels, however. In Tokyo 20/20 Vision, there is mention of a black heron – this is a reference to Kurosagi. There is a further influence of Kurosagi in my novels, but that’s something to discuss another time (or perhaps just leave readers to work it out for themselves – albeit they may not be aware where the influence came from).
Although Kurosagi continues to be made, as far as I can tell it’s not widely popular or known. This means that there doesn’t seem to be much (any) in the way of merchandise. At the very least I’d like to get a Kurosagi cap (as one of the characters wears) – but having seen some of the merchandise available related to other manga, I could imagine getting other items if they were available. Then nobody would ever believe me if I say that I don’t like manga!
For further details about Kurosagi Shitai Takuhaibin, see the Amazon page.