By Leroy Douresseaux
Aug 12, 2006 - 13:53
Comic book fans are well versed in the strange and the unusual, but they will find THE EMBALMER to be one of the most morbid fictional reads of their reading lives. It’s the work of Mitsukazu Mihara, considered by some to be the queen of “Goth Loli” manga. Goth Loli is short for “Gothic Lolita,” – a fashion trend in which girls and young women dress in the style of porcelain dolls with an emphasis on Victorian style. Some American readers may already by familiar with Mihara through her manga, Doll.
The title character is Shinjyurou Mamiya, an embalmer in a nation, Japan, where his profession marks him as an outcast engaging in something that is considered unacceptable and unclean – altering a corpse. Volume 1 is made up of five short stories, most of them tragic tales of death in which the deceased ends up in Shinjyurou’s hands. Shinjyurou’s self-stated goal is to take a corpse and use both the artistic and scientific skills of his profession to make the body look as it did at the peak of health – to make the body look as if the deceased is merely sleeping.
Mihara smartly makes the reader invest in the lives of the deceased and in the emotions and grieving of the loved ones. It gives each story a heart-rending bump to go with the overarching edginess that pervades this entire volume. All the stories are united by a semi-romantic sub-plot involving Shinjyurou and his landlord’s granddaughter, Azuki.
In spite of the quality of these stories, I can’t say I’d read this again. However, Mihara’s art is similar to American comic book art in terms of line, shape, form, and texture, and she’d certainly find a place in indie circles. Goth fans and readers looking for something way out there will certainly find some measure of… comfort in The Embalmer.
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