Kuroko Koumori is the kind of woman who’d give Dexter a run for his money. Hired on as a State Sponsored Executioner, Kuroko enjoys her gig as a killer of killers and employs her favored sadistic streak against criminals deemed too extreme for ordinary incarceration. Partnered with a young schoolgirl named Hinako, the two indulge themselves in the delights that brighten their day. For Hinako, it’s doodling, hamburger steak, and ice cream. For Kuroko, it’s sex, violence and more violence.
Murcielago follows the exploits of Kuroko as she cleanses Tokyo of its criminal element. “Murcielago” is Spanish for “bat” which is a fairly close description of our heroine. Kuroko is dark and mysterious, with long flowing black hair to match her personality. She has the sharp, creepy smile of Assassination Classroom’s Koro-sensei and the disaffected detached look of Saitama from One Punch Man. Another notable hallmark of Kuroko’s personality is her sexuality. Kuroko is an out lesbian who enjoys flirting and having sex with other women. She’s also a fan of pornography, as her apartment is constantly littered with adult films and magazines.
Reading through the manga, I never got the impression the Kuroko’s sexual orientation is played for as a joke or a wink/nudge for the male gaze. She displays a cool confidence—in between bouts of violent bloodlust—about herself as a woman and despite her eagerness for sex, she doesn’t come off as being written strictly to satisfy a male audience. Some may balk at her behavior, but by the end of the book there is no doubt that she’s the kind of woman who gets what she wants.
Volume one of Murcielago is a collection of non-linear, non-connected cases Kuroko and Hinako work on. Our first introduction to their style of crime fighting involves a failed wrestler whose steroid addiction causes him to experience a rapid increase in body mass and muscle at the expense of his sanity. This crazed, Hulk-like man has been wandering the streets killing innocent people who he hallucinates are his former rivals. Other stories include the pair foiling a robbery by a pair of young men looking like they stepped off the set of Pulp Fiction. The last third of the novel involves a murder party, where the aged patriarch of a mansion invites criminals to participate in a deadly game. As revenge against the criminals that plagued him early in life, the wizened old man commits a slaughter, leaving Kuroko and a small contingent of survivors to find a way out alive. The Murder Party arc ends as oddly as it begins, leaving the resolution of the story for another volume. This left me feeling unsatisfied. As disinterested as I was in the story, I still want to know how it ends. There are two bonus stories at the end of a book, one functioning as a prequel to the story and the other a lighthearted romp through casual sex and Internet dating.
I really liked the artwork of Murcielago, even if the characters have a tendency to look like amalgamations of other popular manga character design. Kuroko’s look is different from the rest which allows her to stand out from the crowd. The manga’s action sequences are really pleasing to look at as well, showing a strong attention to detail without overwhelming the reader with too much artwork (which can often be distracting). There’s a lot of blood spilling out of pages, as limbs are repeatedly chopped or sliced off. Bodies are ripped, torn, sliced, crushed, and obliterated. If the manga’s sex scenes weren’t enough to ward off readers, the fountains of blood and loose teeth are likely to do so.
Murcielago is a violent action comedy that’s well drawn, well written, and features a character that feels well rounded and complex despite her outwardly pervy nature. She’s likely to win fans of readers who prefer their female characters to kick butt and look good doing it but without gratuitous fan service. If one can look past the silly violence and sex, they’re going to find a comic they can really sink their teeth into.
Murcielago, vol 1
Yen Press, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 17+