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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
New Smithson and Li'l Mell! 
18th-Jan-2008 11:16 am
Atagoul
Smithson be here:

www.smithsoncomic.com

Of course I don't manage to get to the lesbian sexual tension until, like, a week before putting the comic on hiatus. That's so me.

There's a new Li'l Mell, too. You know who is not making good life decisions? Sergio.

Oh, and Andrew's got a new installment of The Chronicles of William Bazillion up! This is such an excellent plot development. Bonus points to anyone who can work out the common factor between all the clones.

I've also got a new "All the Comics in the World" column up at Comixology.com. It's about Marty Links. Not only that, but Jason Thompson's new Comixology column, "Manga Salad," just debuted. Go read it!

Tomorrow, this Saturday, I'll be doing my Artist in Residence at the Cartoon Art Museum from 1:00-3:00 PM. If you're in the area, stop in, watch me drawing Skin Horse strips, buy Narbonic books, and enjoy the museum and its currently perfect lineup of shows.

Okay, on to the Overlooked Manga Festival!



As I said last week, I'm planning to suspend the old OMF for a while. But I promise it will return! There's simply too much overlooked manga out there for me to stop reading and commenting. Every time I think I've reached the end of the list, a few more manga fall out of the sky and whack me on the head. I've got a duffel bag of old Tokyopop manga from Jason Thompson. And a box of new Dark Horse manga lying around the Viz office. And strange war manga. And more Tezuka. And on and on...will the manga never stop?

Next week, I'll start running the wonderful reader OMFs I've received over the past week. If you've got a favorite little-known manga you'd like to talk about it, write up a paragraph or two on it and send it to narbonic (at) sbcglobal.net. But first, I've got one last manga I want to talk about.



I've got to thank Carl Horn for introducing me to The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service at Stumptown this year. As it turns out, while I've been nattering away about overlooked manga, Dark Horse has been quietly publishing a manga exactly tailored to my personal tastes. It's awfully nice of them, and even nicer to send Carl to let me know about it.

The Kurosagi ("black crane") Corpse Delivery Service is a small business formed by a group of students from a Buddhist college who possess unusual, if grim, abilities. Our hero, Kuro, is a bald young fellow who can talk to the dead. Numaki is a dowser, but his dowsing rod only finds corpses. Makino is a professional embalmer, an unusual skill in a country that usually immolates its dead. Ao is the head of the group and a computer hacker. And Yata is a "channeler," although he only seems to be able to channel the mind of a single self-proclaimed, foul-mouthed space alien who speaks through a hand puppet Yata wears at all times.

Together, they locate abandoned corpses (of which there are a surprising number), commune with them, and deliver the dead to their preferred final resting place, for a fee. How dead people are supposed to pay for this, or anything, is one of the recurring problems the Kurosagi Delivery Service faces.



I'm not the kind of reader who's impressed by gimmicky characters. I get enough of that in webcomics, where people are constantly pushing me to read some unfunny thing that "you HAVE to love, because one of the characters is an ANGRY ZUCCHINI who works as a HITMAN and likes PLAYSTATION, and isn't that ORIGINAL and BRILLIANT?" No, it's not original and brilliant. A regular old human being with an interesting, well-written personality would be original and brilliant. Wacky gimmicks are easy.

That said, I must repeat: ONE OF THE CHARACTERS CHANNELS A SPACE ALIEN THROUGH A HAND PUPPET HE WEARS AT ALL TIMES. I'm not saying you have to love that, but it's pretty hard not to.



Anyway, Kurosagi is a horror comic, in kind of the same way "Scream" was a horror movie, or "Buffy" was a horror TV show. That is, it's smart and self-aware and full of pop-cult references and weird little factoids. Writer Eiji Otsuka likes to show off just how damn clever he is by mixing two offbeat elements no other manga writer would think of into a single story. A story about crop circles and mummified chimpanzees. Professional mourners and a serial killer who targets depressing blogs. The urban legend about the bride kidnapped from a dressing room and turned into a circus freak and the Japanese version of the "Bodyworlds" corpse-art exhibition. The Rape of Nanking and soap people. And so on.



Most volumes consist of two or three self-contained stories, although some ongoing plotlines develop over the course of the series, particularly the mystery surrounding Kuro's personal history and the frightening but apparently benevolent ghost who seems to be watching over him. There's an even balance of humor and horror, with lots of nasty gore. As with most horror manga, you may want to avoid this title if you don't like seeing flayed corpses and eyeballs being scooped out of people's heads. Just saying.



The translation is fantastic. It's more than just another labor of love by editor Carl Horn, who always goes that extra ri: it's Carl Horn working with translator Toshi Yoshida, thus bringing the two greatest forces of the universe together to create the ultimate English-language manga. Carl includes copious notes in the back of each volume to answer all the questions you might have after reading the manga, and probably several dozen other questions you'd never think to ask.



I love horror manga, oddball cultural detritus, and funny characters who talk smart, so this is basically my perfect manga. Thank you, Carl! And thank you, manga, for sometimes, just sometimes, doing something just for me.



Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Basara
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Dr. Slump
Your and My Secret
Phoenix
Kekkaishi
Wild Act
Knights of the Zodiac
The Drifting Classroom
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 1
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 2
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 3
OMF Special Event: Great Moments in Manga Baking
Shout Out Loud
Monster
Swan
Warren Buffett: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor
Sexy Voice and Robo
OMF Special Event: 2006 Overlooked Manga Update
The Four Immigrants Manga
Gerard and Jacques
Ode To Kirihito
Bringing Home the Sushi
Banana Fish
Skip Beat
OMF Special Event: The Greatest Manga Magazine in American History
Cyborg 009
Anywhere But Here
To Terra
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
Doing Time
The Walking Man
Sugar Sugar Rune
Parasyte
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators
Mariko Parade
Golgo 13
Ricca 'tte Kanji!?
Pure Trance
OMF Special Event: My Legacy
OMF Special Event: An All-Star Tribute to Carl Gustav Horn
Guest OMF by Jason Thompson: 888
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
Tekkon Kinkreet
Yakitate! Japan
Flower of Life
Domu
OMF Special Event: Top Ten Lines from the Excel Saga manga
Nana
What's Michael?
OMF Special Event: Jason Thompson Presents the Top Ten Best Worst Manga, Part One
OMF Special Event: Jason Thompson Presents the Top Ten Best Worst Manga, Part Two
Aria
Comics Underground Japan
Yotsuba&!
Slam Dunk
Moon Child
Chikyu Misaki
Bambi and Her Pink Gun
Ten Awesome Long-Out-of-Print Viz Manga, Part One
Ten Awesome Long-Out-of-Print Viz Manga, Part Two

Comments 
18th-Jan-2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
Bonus points to anyone who can work out the common factor between all the clones.

I'd only know if I was right if I saw clones of Danny Kaye, Johnny Cash, John Denver, Florence Henderson, Vincent Price, Lynda Carter, Hal Linden... and on and on to Roger Moore.
18th-Jan-2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
You may be onto something...
18th-Jan-2008 09:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, no.

I see now.

You have a dark and tangled mind, sir.
18th-Jan-2008 09:49 pm (UTC)
Roger Moore, Omega, Great Destroyer, Ender, Ruiner, Bringer of Emptiness and Doom!
19th-Jan-2008 12:28 am (UTC)
*shakes head*

If only it were just that.
19th-Jan-2008 05:26 am (UTC)
I can't begin to guess what marks this particular subset of that august grouping, but I suppose I'll find out soon enough.
11th-Jul-2008 02:23 am (UTC)
You gotta have refraction. You gotta glimpse everything intermittently through squinted eyes. Squint, you lousy potboilers.
19th-Jan-2008 12:02 am (UTC)
Can you even clone Mummenschanz?
19th-Jan-2008 12:11 am (UTC)
The better question is, faced with cloning technology, how could you resist?
19th-Jan-2008 05:23 pm (UTC)
Photobucket
19th-Jan-2008 05:02 am (UTC)
Don't forget Alice Cooper!
19th-Jan-2008 03:53 pm (UTC)
yes
18th-Jan-2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
Directed here by telophase, but I must say that the Corpse Delivery Service looks like it's worth checking out. Nice and morbid.

I take it that Our Hero is bald because he's a monastic novitiate?
18th-Jan-2008 11:18 pm (UTC)

Indeed he is! There's a great panel where he's checking out the campus job boards for "General" and "Monk."

There aren't a lot of jobs for monks.
19th-Jan-2008 08:07 pm (UTC)
True enough! Where can one find this beautiful, beautiful crack?

also here from telophase.
21st-Jan-2008 07:27 pm (UTC)
Pretty much everywhere. Amazon's got it, for instance.
9th-Oct-2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
« Older   Newer » comment what they said who said it Yeah, you’ve got it pretty much right there.
18th-Jan-2008 10:13 pm (UTC)
Apropos of nothing, I just wanted to say that I loved your and Andrew's story in the latest Marvel Holiday Special. The Santa-Nel is sheer awesome.
18th-Jan-2008 11:19 pm (UTC)

Thank you so much! Andrew was the one who started calling it the Santa-nel.
18th-Jan-2008 10:20 pm (UTC)
Hi! Surfed in from telophase's blog and you've convinced me to pick up The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service today after work. I've already called ahead and had the first four volumes put in my file.

Thank you!
18th-Jan-2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
This manga is made of pure awesome. Thanks for bringing it to the attention of those who have not yet basked in that. :)
18th-Jan-2008 10:49 pm (UTC)
That sounds like a great book. I might have to actually pick that one up, now that I have a job.

You're probably still planning on doing Firefighter Daigo, eh? No sense in me writing it up, right?
18th-Jan-2008 11:21 pm (UTC)

Actually, would you be interested in doing Daigo? The main reason I haven't covered it yet is that, I swear, Viz only has about half the volumes in its library. How am I supposed to get anything done over there?
18th-Jan-2008 11:52 pm (UTC)
I'd love to. I only have volumes 6-17 and 19 on me right now, though. Scans from any other volumes will be tough to get ahold of. I really should bother my Chicago friend to return my manga... :/
18th-Jan-2008 11:08 pm (UTC)
Hollow Fields. I stumbled across it after going through a link chain on Wikipedia. It's an awesome steampunk-ish manga with a school for mad scientists and a girl who finds herself there by accident and figures, hey, the posh single room she's being offered is nicer than the 20-girl dorm in the school she was supposed to head to. It's a good school. Except for the fact that the worst student every week goes to "detention" and never returns.
(Deleted comment)
18th-Jan-2008 11:21 pm (UTC)

Sure! You've probably got a couple of weeks.
19th-Jan-2008 12:55 am (UTC)
Wow, that *does* sound like a good manga.

Some of us are professional writers and *never* get to the lesbian sexual tension. Count your blessings.
19th-Jan-2008 01:39 am (UTC)
A friend bugged me until I read "Corpse Delivery Service" and I'm glad they did - nice to see an original twist on zombies and ghosts.The zombie snails story was actually based on a freaky real phenomenon which impressed me.
19th-Jan-2008 04:53 am (UTC)
I love this manga-I anxiously await the volumes to come. You can also check out MAIL as well-it's done by the same artist-and is about an exorcising detective. It also crosses over with Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service later on.
20th-Jan-2008 10:23 pm (UTC)
Hurrah, somebody else who loves Kurosagi...! (here via telophase.) I was hooked from the panel where Karatsu crosses himself because he can't remember the whole sutra :)

As an aside, is "Karatsu" *really* pronounced "Carrots"? I'm not a Japanese speaker at all, so only have very sketchy pronunciation guidelines to go on :)
21st-Jan-2008 06:10 am (UTC) - Misogynistic?
You've convinced me to check this out. I guess what had me worried is the other big horror title by the same author (but diff illustrator) MPD Psycho was a bit too graphic for me--and I thought I had a strong stomach. But then I read a blog review that basically called the author a misogynist (largely based on Psycho) and pointe dout how nearly every graphic murder was a sexual case involving women and it left a bad taste in my mouth--even if I didn't look into his works to see if any of this concern held up...
21st-Jan-2008 07:23 am (UTC) - Re: Misogynistic?
I haven't read MPD Psycho yet, but I didn't notice this as a particular trend in Kurosagi. At least not more than in any monster/killer-of-the-week type suspense series, where sexy young women are regularly victimized...
22nd-Jan-2008 03:33 am (UTC) - Re: Misogynistic?
That's pretty standard for this genre anyway--as you imply. I found the links to what I read--first is a really well written piece by blogger Ryan Day comparing Kurosagi (which he loved) with Psycho, at http://metamorphostuff.blogspot.com/2007/10/will-real-eiji-otsuka-please-stand-up.html which addresses some of this. I found the link thanks to a reply on another blog where the original critic, "Kethylia", called Psycho and its author deeply misogynistic http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2007/10/29/manga-mondays-with-kethylia/ . (While I see where she;'s coming from I know she's leveled the same criticism at many other manga titles in the past, like Ode to Kurihito--another one where I get where she's coming from but its context and era make me give it more leeway)
(Deleted comment)
21st-Jan-2008 07:25 pm (UTC) - Re: www.william-bazillion.com

Looks okay now. Try refreshing your cache.
22nd-Jan-2008 10:51 am (UTC)
I'm not the kind of reader who's impressed by gimmicky characters. I get enough of that in webcomics, where people are constantly pushing me to read some unfunny thing that "you HAVE to love, because one of the characters is an ANGRY ZUCCHINI who works as a HITMAN and likes PLAYSTATION, and isn't that ORIGINAL and BRILLIANT?" No, it's not original and brilliant. A regular old human being with an interesting, well-written personality would be original and brilliant. Wacky gimmicks are easy.

And you add unusual bravery to the reasons to admire you, by posting this right after starting "Skin Horse" (where, it seems, that zucchini character could fit in quite well... except for, I guess, the fact that it doesn't have an obvious Oz tie-in).

I should mention here that I love Skin Horse. Leo is probably my favorite character. I'm a bit sad that I'll probably never get to read his web comic.
24th-Jan-2008 09:33 am (UTC)
And you add unusual bravery to the reasons to admire you, by posting this right after starting "Skin Horse" (where, it seems, that zucchini character could fit in quite well... except for, I guess, the fact that it doesn't have an obvious Oz tie-in).

Hey, I never said I was a good webcartoonist.

23rd-Jan-2008 04:16 pm (UTC)
Its awesome to see someone cover Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. I would be really happy if at least a few of the seinen titles that manage to slip through in the Naruto flood hooked enough readers to stay afloat. It is also nice to read a horror comic that is not based entirely in Judaea/Christian superstition but Buddhism (for those of us horror fans raised in Eastern Faiths).

I see a number of my favorites on your list of past titles. Thanks for writing about these overlooked titles!
29th-Jan-2008 04:02 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
A few days after reading this I stopped in at the comic shop and noticed that they had all five volumes. Next to the Big Book of Bone, best 60$ I ever spent! Thanks, Shaenon :D
10th-Mar-2008 08:26 pm (UTC)
Late to the party, but just wanted to say that I recently ran across Kurosagi and picked it up based solely on remembering your article (and the panel with Yata's handpuppet there). Loving it so far, thanks!
1st-Apr-2008 01:45 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
Interesting blog!
Marco M. (http://www.mellart.com)
7th-May-2008 04:54 pm (UTC) - Cool text.
Anonymous
omg.. good work, dude
22nd-Aug-2008 03:51 am (UTC)
Anonymous
I picked this up based on your recommendation and, in addition to being very good, it made me see, in action ,why Carl Horn is as great as you say he is. While his adaptation was excellent, what really convinced me was that the FX glossary lists "pakiii" as being "sound of a bolt falling through glasses at terminal velocity into eye socket".

Clearly, Carl Horn is a god among men.
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