Mihara is best known for her Goth-loli fashion and exploring the uneasy and increasingly intimate relationships between people and technology. With The Embalmer, she takes on a different kind of relationship: the dead and the living they leave behind. Shinjyurou Mamiya, a magnetic and brilliant medical student, has returned to Japan to practice the art of embalming, a practice generally considered unclean and barbaric. Mamiya, however, feels that embalming, if done artfully, gives mourners one last goodbye with the deceased, starting the living on the road to recovery rather than clinging to grief. With Azuki, his cute landlady and conscience, Mamiya manages to discover who needs his services most. The connections between life and death are potent, especially as Mamiya, ahem, releases tension with rotating lady friends after each embalming, satisfying the lust brought on by each close brush with death. The art is everything Mihara is known for: elegant, gothic, and a little bit unsettling. This first volume forces U.S. readers to take another look at our own mourning practices and consider how people can best come through loss and loneliness. The sensual shenanigans are offset by the tender compassion Mamiya shows both toward his clients and toward the people they’ve left behind, though thus far there is not enough sense of where the story is going to be sure how the meditations on death will become part of a greater story arc. The few scenes of seduction, given Mamiya’s urges, lend the title an definite older edge. Neither truly shojo or shonen, The Embalmer occupies middle ground in terms of appeal, though the emotional focus and dashing lead pull the title toward shojo.

The Embalmer, vol. 1
By Mitzukazu Mihara
ISBN: 9781598166460
Tokyopop, 2006

  • Robin B.

    | She/Her Teen Librarian, Public Library of Brookline

    Editor in Chief

    Robin E. Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. She has chaired the American Library Association Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee, the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee, and served on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She is currently the President of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table for ALA. She was a judge for the 2007 Eisner awards, helped judge the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards in 2011, and contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. She regularly gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime at comics conventions including New York and San Diego Comic-Con and at the American Library Association’s conferences. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.

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