Body language: The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service

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It's rare that a manga cover catches my eye.

That's not to say I don't like manga; there are several titles I regularly enjoy. It's just that a majority seem to employ fairly straightforward, pinup-style covers, with the main character(s) striking a fearsome/seductive/humorous pose. (Of course, I can say the same of a good deal of Marvel comics.)

It's a formula that obviously works, but it doesn't wow me. Sure, there are exceptions, where the cover is guided by a strong and obvious graphic-design sensibility: Lady Snowblood, and Chip Kidd's jackets for Vertical come immediately to mind.

I stumbled across another happy exception this week while perusing Dark Horse Comics' solicitations for June.

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Vol. 1, by Eiji Ohtsuka and Housui Yamazaki, is about five students at a Buddhist university who help the dead still trapped in their corpses to move on to the next incarnation. That nutshell description alone is enough to make me order the book.

But I find the cover just as interesting.

The designer -- I emailed Dark Horse for a name, but haven't received a response -- could've gone the obvious route, showcasing the ominous bird that serves as the delivery service's logo (Kurosagi means "Black Heron"). That would've been too on-the-nose, though. Instead, he or she playfully, and perhaps a little macabrely, uses a pattern for a paper puppet. Unassembled, it resembles more a dismembered corpse than a child's toy -- a fantastic image, considering the story.

The color palette, too, is a bit unconventional. Although the web image isn't that great -- you'll notice the terrible JPEG artifacting -- it's safe to say the designer opted for something other than a blatant blood red. Maybe it's a coral red, which holds particular meaning in Buddhist belief.

Or maybe it just looks good with khaki.

The logo is fairly nondescript and utilitarian; heck, maybe you can't even consider it a proper "logo." But as ... bland as it is, it serves as more than a simple label. It's here that the black heron comes into play; "Kurosagi" is the only word in the title that appears in black. "Corpse" is set apart as well, making me think coral is more than just an aesthetic choice.

I also like the enormous volume number, primarily because of my fondness for covers that use those "annoying" necessities -- issue number, UPC box, price -- as art elements.

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