Despite its creators’ uncomfortable fixation on naked female corpses, Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki’s Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is a fun and–at times–genuinely terrifying read.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept, here’s the basic rundown: When a bunch of unemployed Buddhist university students find out that one of them–Karatsu–can speak to the dead when he touches their corpses, they decide to do the sensible thing and monetize their skills by ferrying dead bodies to wherever it is they want to go. It’s a weird enough premise that it could almost be the basis for a sitcom if they weren’t always running across serial killers and the occasional shambling, maggot-infested Zuvembi.
As it stands, it’s still pretty funny–when it isn’t grotesque and terrifying–and one of my favorite new manga series. To be fair, though, I’ve got to admit that I prefer Yamazaki’s other work, Mail, which is essentially what would happen if every episode of The Twilight Zone ended with Rod Serling kicking in the door and blowing the bad guys away with his magic pistol. Gunplay aside, though, Kurosagi holds up.
And it’s in the latest volume that it hits new heights with the best story since that flashback where a psychic orphan kicked the ghost of Jack the Ripper in the face. Why?
Because this is the one with the Zombie Robot Cosplayer.
So here’s how it goes down: Being perpetually strapped for cash–because the recently deceased, as it turns out, don’t always have the spending money to throw around at nosy spirit media–the guys from the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service take a second job delivering tombstones, which, as you might imagine, is backbreaking labor. Fortunately, they’re able to speed things up a bit when they run across these guys:
A team of enterprising young scientists who–as enterprising young scientists are apt to do in the wonderful world of manga–have created a robotic exoskeleton.
Incidentally, their argument over the nature of robots is part of a pretty great joke that I didn’t get until I hit the footnotes at the end. They spend their time debating over whether the word “robot” in pop culture represnets a commonplace tool used by humans (like in Gundam), a unique and super-powerful artifact (a la Mazinger Z), or an autonomous human-sized artificial intelligence (i.e., Astro Boy), with each of the scientists named after the creator of their particular favorite. That’s the charming Miss Tezuka there in the middle.
Anyway, point is they made an exoskeleton, complete with what appears to be a hollowed out Metool from Megaman:
Sadly, the robot suit doesn’t work out so well, but helping out with the tombstone delivery does give them the chance to acquire some mysteriously unnamed “components” in a bit of what we in The Biz refer to as “slapstick foreshadowing,” and the next time they show up, there’s a missing cadaver and a robot that no longer needs a human pilot riding around inside.
You can probably see where this is going.
What you might not know, however, is that they’re controlling the robot with a Super NES.
Not only that, but they’ve hollowed out the corpse’s brain and replaced it with an SNES, programming him through an overwritten Super Mario World cartridge that, for some reason they can’t quite figure out, still makes him jump like he’s going after coins.
The actual reason, of course, is that the body they’re using the power the robot is a hardcore video game fan, and contact with the greatest system of the 16-bit era causes his restless soul to rise once again and hunger… for games.
Exacerbating the situation is the fact that they’ve brought ZomBot to a multi-story shopping center full of video games, anime and manga, and before long…
And to complicate matters even further–officially reaching a Cary Bates-level rigamarole–the robot gets its mitts on a copy of Die Die Zombie-Kun–game about a zombie whose goal is to consume the flesh of the living–and goes to town. Fortunately, everyone’s able to get away before he whacks them with his plastic replica sword, although much like in real life, nobody’s able to tell that anything’s really all that amiss, since they can’t detect any difference in scent between rotting flesh and the crowd at the convention.
Anyway, as is so often the case in these matters, the solution is provided by a judicious application of professional wrestling, the ghost gets exorcised, and we all learn a valuable lesson:
Never bite off more flesh of the living than your cybernetic jaws can chew.