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A chilling dramatic series about Shinjyurou Mamiya, an embalmer in a nation where men of his profession are viewed as outcasts engaging in an unaccepted and unclean practice. For Shinjyurou, it's just a job. But in doing it, he's gained an understanding of death, and more important, what it truly means to live...
死化妆师 死化粧師 Balsamista Balzamovač Shigeshoshi The Embalmer
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A lot of depth an emotion went into writing these stories. The strong point of this series is the story telling. Though things start a bit slow, the stories become really good. Definitely worth the read. I hope the series somehow gets finished, since Tokyopop looks like it's going down.
More of a Concept Manga
Mitsukazu Mihara is great at spinning dark, emotional stories. This manga is no different in that respect. She always spins a good tale.
However, the very subject matter of this manga is its very downfall. Not because it deals with death or embalming or the treatment of corpses (as others have said, the point is continually made that embalming (and thus, these stories) are more about the living), but because there's no element of surprise. Every story starts out in a different way, but you know they're all going to end in the same way - someone's going to die and be embalmed.
Maybe that says something about life itself. I have high enough esteem for Mihara's work that I'm pretty sure it's meant to. Our stories may all be different, but they're all going to end the same way. It's a deep and profound thing to express in a manga... but it doesn't necessarily make for the most riveting of reading material.
Also, American readers might find the subject matter a little awkward at times. Again, not because of the corpses and constant death - but because in America, embalming isn't a particularly taboo or interesting job choice. The almost fangirlish reverence for the embalming profession is almost... awkward. Sort of like fangirling about plumbers or accountants.
However, this cultural difference is kind of fascinating in itself. In that vein, the "Japanese foreign student in an American school" chapters were really interesting. It's interesting to see a Japanese person's perception of the experience. I found it fascinating that Mihara mentioned how fast English is spoken. I've always thought Japanese was spoken ridiculously fast by native speakers, so it's eye-opening to find out they feel the same way about our language!
All in all, I would say that this is almost a concept manga. If you can suspend the need for plot twists and turns and just take it as an artistic statement, it's really quite beautiful.
Also, I feel that the 4 scanlated/licensed volumes do a decent enough job of conveying the story. It would be great to see the next two volumes, but the 4 we have available don't leave you with a cliffhanger that will have you denouncing Tokyopop for dropping the license or offering scanlators your first born just to get the next volume uploaded
TL;DR: For conveying a deep/sensitive issue beautifully and artistically, this manga is superb. For fun reading material, it's a little below par. Also, don't let the incomplete scanning/licensing hold you back. The 4 available volumes do a decent job of telling a complete story.
Very good, very intriguing
Spoiler (highlight to view)
To start off, for those who say this may be awkward for an American reader, I, a resident of the US, must say that that is not true at all. In fact, the embalming in this manga is very chic in comparison to actual embalming id est most people don't look as nice as some of these character in the manga do after death. But I love the turn the mangaka makes on embalming (as I have for the twists in all of her other works), and I like how it is shown more as an art than a medical procedure in this story, and the emotional depth behind the process.
All of the stories are slightly dark (especially because they all involve death :) ), but I find that, at the end of most of them, I felt good about life. They were all very touching stories. And, yes, you know the story would end with someone dying and being embalmed (or turned into a doll), but the emotions felt in each story and how it reaches the end was different in each one. "It's not the destination, it's the journey," or, "It doesn't matter where you're going, but how you get there," prominently display this point.
The romance was good too. I love mangas where the main guy tries desperately to keep his hands off the only girl he really loves. So poignant, so bitter sweet...-continues reciting dramatic lines- I love it!
... Last updated on June 18th, 2010, 8:22am
Hmmm...I see that this series didn't recieve well with the commentators. Well, I've read a few of the manga-ka's other works and found them to be...creepy and vile, but at the same time, interesting. This manga, however, was somewhat different. Sure, the story holds a creepy sort of atmosphere in it as in all the other works, but I like the little romance that goes on the background, sort of like a background music that helps the audience fit in with the mood of the story. It's not strictly shoujo, but I'm sure it's a love all the same. Needless to say, the love the "embalmer" has for the girl makes it even charming to for me, and I like how the creepiness and horror is somewhat muted in this story. After all, when you've tasted enough horror and strange and terrible things in manga, it's somewhat nice to read one that also has a more "typical" style of love in it. (I'm probably not making a whole lot of sense, but it's hard to explain).
BTW. I think it'll be interesting to know that this manga is also a Japanese drama. Maybe this manga will be more enjoyable if you watch it on screen and read it.
Decent start but gets much better later on.
The beginning of the series is only decent but once you get past the first half or all of vol 1, it gets way better.
Not so great
Maybe this is interesting for Japanese readers, where embalming is something special but for Western readers this manga is mostly just boring. And if you subtract the embalming stuff, it is a run of the mill Josei manga.
It was just bad.
I don't see why this got so many high ratings. Granted, I only read one volume but I was not the least bit enticed to read any more of it. It didn't seem like it was going anywhere, and the little stories in the first volume were simply not compelling enough for a dramatic series.
There are few mangas in the world that I give a 10...
..And there are few mangas in the world I'd think of purchasing.
I love the mood of this, I love the dialogue. The romance element is a major part of the story but at the same time it's not - it exists in the periphery and threads through each volume in subtle ways. I disagree with those who say this manga is 'boring' (though of course, this term is mostly a matter of personal taste). I also disagree with those who say that this manga gets formulaic in that there is no more surprise at what happens - we know that there will be an embalming at the chapter's end. But I argue that the surprise isn't the embalming act - rather, the embalming act is the common element that ties each chapter together. The surprise lies in the stories each chapter contains, the lives of the particular character that chapter focuses on (I especially loved chapter 10 in volume 2 in which Shin and the son with the drunken father are paralleled - heartbreaking and powerful).
True, this manga is about embalming and death but moreso about life, and the different lives explored in each chapter are what makes it poignant, urgent, surprising and uplifting in a strange way.
I'm an American reader but I've yet to find this 'awkward' or alienating. More like riveting, emotionally-moving, sophisticated. It's pretty educational, too, so I think readers could just welcome the experience of learning an aspect of a different culture. I don't find it creepy at all, either, perhaps because the term 'creepy' connotes 'illogical', to me (ack, that doesn't make much sense but... an example of a manga I find creepy is "Oujitachi wa Izonsuru" because of the art style and the characters' actions/reactions are so illogical for their personalities.) This manga is beautiful because despite the 'morbid' subject matter, there is a very human element. If I have to pick one theme that summarizes this manga, it would be 'love.'
EDIT: The mangaka has an effective way of using panels for maximum impact. Lovely.
... Last updated on June 21st, 2012, 8:22pm
Darn it, I cried!
Only from the fourth volume onward though. Up until then the story is rather episodic and not that great (and the main character badly needed dumping for a while.) But after that...
It you're interested in embalming, this is probably a great manga for you. It's obvious that the author did a whole lot of research. On a purely informational and technical level, it's pretty fascinating.
In terms of storyline it's really predictable and kinda repetitive. Every story: embalming is for the living. it's a noble way to help people deal with their grief. k, sure. That's fine for a one shot, but for several volumes? Development please!
Probably I read as far as I did because Shinjyurou's hot and watching him get all seedy with various trashy ladies is vaguely amusing. He's not so enticing that I'm holding my breath for the next release.