This afternoon I read volume 3 of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service by Otsuka Eiji and Yamazaki Housui while sitting in one of my favorite neighborhood cafes. This series is another that reminds me that first impressions of manga series are not always reliable. I was not particularly impressed when I read volume 1 back in September 2008, but I really enjoyed volume 2 when I picked it up more recently. Volume 3 is also a treat. What I enjoy about this series is how it juxtaposes its gruesome mysteries of the week (read: corpses of the chapter) with an often sublime appreciation for the absurd. That love of absurdity is on full display here, when Numata’s dowsing leads the gang to some unlikely customers and when Yata grabs the nearest item at hand to defend himself against an attack. Just thinking of the latter episode makes me laugh and laugh.
And of course, there’s also Kere Ellis, Yata’s puppet, who I totally should have included in my list of scene stealers in manga. Kere Ellis is a classic example of the demonic dummy trope in fiction, and he has plenty of company in manga and anime. The TV tropes page linked in the previous sentence lists a few examples, and I’d also offer Ouran High School Host Club‘s Beelzenef as a comic take on the trope.
That said, I do hope that no one in the cafe looked over my shoulder while I was reading this one, because if they did, they might have gotten an eyeful. It’s hardly the worst I’ve ever seen in manga, but readers who are sensitive to gorey imagery will probably want to give this series a pass.
In other news, I’ve been catching up on One Piece, and for the moment I am actually current with the U.S. releases. Of course, the next batch comes out on April 6, so that won’t last long. You can probably blame the Straw Hat Pirates for the recent lack of regular content on this blog. Every time I tried to sit down and write a post, I would be distracted by a shiny new installment of One Piece, freshly checked out from the library.
One Piece is another series that I’ve liked better the second time around. When I started reading the series back in graduate school, I found it entertaining but unremarkable, so I quickly stopped keeping up with releases. And let’s face it: the slow pace of releases didn’t do the series any favors. Like most long shōnen series, it reads best in large chunks. Which is what makes the One Piece speed-up so wonderful for readers, though hard on book budgets.
Having read my fair share of Weekly Shōnen Jump series, I’m always interested in seeing how mangakas manage to spin the magazine’s motto of “Friendship, Effort, Victory” in their series. All three themes are central to One Piece, of course, but I must say that Oda does the friendship bit better than nearly everyone else. Though One Piece sometimes gets bogged down in setting up its arcs and then playing out its fights, it is fantastic at turning points, and almost all those turning points are driven by the bonds of friendship between the crew. As a reader, I have no defenses against those scenes where the Straw Hat Pirates, sometimes individually but often collectively, find their purpose and then head out to act on it, come hell or high water. One classic turning point early in the series is when Nami asks Luffy for help against Arlong. Volume 38 gives us another, though I won’t spoil you with the details.
I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the next five volumes of One Piece in April. Until then, though, the teetering stacks of library books on my table will ensure that I have plenty to read.