Shaenon K. Garrity (shaenon) wrote,
Shaenon K. Garrity

New Smithson and Li'l Mell!

Smithson be here:

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 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) 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:
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Dr. Slump
Your and My Secret
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
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
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
OMF Special Event: Top Ten Lines from the Excel Saga manga
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
Comics Underground Japan
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

Tags: being awesome, li'l mell, overlooked manga festival, smithson

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