Kuro is a wanderer, carrying only a coffin just her size strapped to her back and accompanied by a smart-mouthed bat named Sen. When Kuro and Sen find the lab of a dead professor, they end up rescuing two young cat-girls, Sanju and Nijuku. Having to take care of children is an adventure Kuro never planned for, but she’s determined to learn as she goes.
Anyone who’s read Azumanga Daioh will be familiar with the 4-koma (four panel) style of comic. In Japan, these comics usually read top to bottom, but they can also be laid out in a square that reads top to bottom on the right column and then top to bottom on the left column. Kuro’s story is laid out both ways and, despite the relatively different format, is still easy to follow from panel to panel. In fact, Yen Press has done a nice job in producing this book, from the oversized edition which makes it easier to read the smaller panels to the color pages sprinkled throughout the book.
Kuro is an enigma and remains so throughout the entire book, even though we are given glimpses into her life, hints that seem to say that more will be revealed in later volumes. She is a thoughtful character and even though she’s pretty quiet, she is someone with whom readers can sympathize. Sanju and Nijuku are in full-adorable-manga-style, but Kiyuduki manages to make that more a feature of their youth than simply having them be cute for cuteness sake. Sen is another character who could be grating, but walks that fine line and manages instead to be more of a shoulder on which Kuro can lean.
The plot itself meanders a good bit, which might annoy some readers, but which I felt was fitting for a story about a wanderer. Various sub-plots come together and then move back apart throughout the book in a fluid fashion that was almost soothing. I’m not sure where Kuro or her story are going, but I am eager to join her for the next leg of her journey.
Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro, vol. 1
Yen Press, 2008