Based on a few positive words from Dorian over at (postmodernbarney), I decided to pick up several volumes of the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, a Japanese manga title translated into English. The books revolve around a group of students at a Buddhist university who are having difficulty transferring their recently acquired knowledge into steady employment. The likeable Kuru Karatsu, who possesses an inexplicable ability to communicate with the deceased, is the leader of the group. Other members include a skilled embalmer and a shy young man with a sock puppet more or less permanently attached to his arm. The sock puppet claims to be channeling the voice and thoughts of a space alien.
The group half-stumbles into a line of business tracking down and identifying dead bodies and relocating them to their final resting place. Kuru Karatsu is the key member of the group in this effort, as his task is to communicate with the corpses and find out what events lead up to death and where the body wants to be lain. There's not a lot of money to be made from this work because the group's "clients" are usually deceased, though the group does manage to come into some money sporadically. The downbeat nature of their work and their continuing economic dilemma are offset by the group's camaraderie, the charm of the characters themselves, and cleverly-written dialogue.
I was sometimes thrown off-balance by the mixture of horror content with an overall narrative tone that reminded me of children's fare. My mind frequently flashed back to memories of watching the original Scooby-Doo series while reading about the group's attempts to solve a new paranormal mystery. Although Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is labeled for adults, it seems like there's plenty of horror-inspired material for children these days, from Harry Potter to the Series of Unfortunate Events books to the Twilight series. Some of the drawings are gory, but are kids really scared by reanimated corpses these days?
I don't have regular contact with children, so I don't have much perspective on how deeply horror has penetrated kids media. I was surprised to discover while watching an episode of FlashForward this year that children's play after 9/11 included acting out the planes' crashes and their aftermath. Considering how horrific events have come to be interwoven in our daily lives over the last decade, it makes sense that even children would become desensitized to their depiction. Horror is simply the new realism.