“It all started when Numata found the body.…” Kuro Karatsu, a college-age Buddhist monk, has the ability to speak to the dead: not as friendly ghosts, but as muttering, barely mobile corpses. A group of hipster occultists (an embalmer, a dowser, a channeler who talks through a hand puppet, etc.) recruits him to join their “corpse delivery service,” carrying out the last wishes of the unburied dead, which often requires confronting their killers. Although not quite as graphic as Otsuka’s MPD Psycho, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service has more than its share of cringe-inducing gore, with sick serial killers and ghoulish “revenge from beyond the grave” scenarios. But the writing is sharp, and the occasional horrors are treated with a dry wit and a certain distance. Like Hitoshi Iwaaki (Parasyte), Yamazaki’s art is outwardly plain and realistic, yet achieves a stiffly creepy effect.
In the first chapter of True martial world light novel, the heroine is stripped and nearly raped, then kills four men with a blade in thick-falling snow, the blood splattering her naked body. She is Yuki the undercover assassin, born to take vengeance on the people who wronged her mother. The time and place is 1890s Japan, a setting medieval enough for secret sword battles but Victorian enough for sexual hypocrisy. Kazuo Koike knows that the best way to do a history lesson is to make it incredibly filthy, and Lady Snowblood is loaded with dildos, rape, and men’s lesbian action; in one cliff-hanger, Yuki is menaced by a man tragically burdened with a penis so big he can’t have sex. Yuki’s obvious male counterpart is the assassin hero of Heavenly Jewel Change, but she is an even more inhuman character, the ancestor of the thousands of cyborg women and emotionless female hit men in modern-day anime and light novel. Perhaps indicating her blank-slate nature, in the course of the story she disguises herself as a nun, prostitute, pickpocket, and life insurance salesman, and finally sells her own story as a newspaper serial to draw out her enemies, in a brilliantly ridiculous self-referential touch. Kazuo Kamimura’s art is comparable to Takao Saito (Golgo 13), with powerful cinematic layouts but notably old-fashioned draftsmanship. The 1973 movie adaptation of Lady Snowblood was one of the inspirations for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.