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The Embalmer (死化粧師 Shigeshōshi?) is a manga series written and illustrated by mangaka Mitsukazu Mihara. It was originally published serially in the magazine Feel Young, and later released under the Feel Comics label by Shodensha. The Embalmer is licensed for English release by Tokyopop, and four volumes have been released. The company Hanami has released five volumes in Poland. A 12-episode live-action drama adaption called Shigeshōshi was produced and ran on TV Tokyo, Aichi Television Broadcasting, and TVQ Kyūshū; it was later released in a boxset by the company VAP. Two CDs containing music from the series were released in November 2007. A 6-episode WEB show was produced as a spin-off, originally released on the TV Tokyo web page for Shigeshōshi and later as part of the Shigeshōshi boxset.

The Embalmer follows the life of Shinjurou Mamiya, an embalmer in Japan. Traditionally, cremation is the usual technique reserved for the dead, and, as a result, Shinjyurou faces discrimination for his line of work. Shinjyurou also feels the need for warmth after his job, and constantly has sexual intercourse with women to fulfill his desire. However, he refuses to have a romantic relationship with Azuki, a woman he loves. The Embalmer separates each chapter into separate stories surrounding Shinjyurou's experiences as an embalmer and the effects these experiences have on his life. Mihara found inspiration to create the series after a friend died and she began to research embalming. The series has received relatively positive reviews from Western critics, and the first four volumes have sold cumulatively over 300,000 copies.

Plot

When Shinjyurou was young, he lived on a military base with his mother, a Japanese woman named Nozomi, and his father, an American named Dudley. Dudley was an embalmer and lived under the belief that corpses were still people and deserved proper respect; however, Shinjyurou gradually began to dislike him, feeling that Dudley didn't spend enough time with his family. After failing to be present when Nozomi died, Dudley fulfilled his promise to be with her in her final moments by embalming her; Shinjyurou witnessed the process, but remained in denial that Dudley had truly loved Nozomi. Though accepted into a medical school, Shinjyurou transferred to an embalming university in Pittsburgh after his father had died from stepping on a mine in the Middle East. Dudley had not been completely restored, and as a result, half of his face was missing.

Shinjyurou becomes roommates with a Chinese student named Chansoo "Chan" Lee, who had taken an interest in embalming, despite his parent's wishes. Shinjyurou has trouble at the university due to his lacking in English language skills, but with help from the dean, Susan Garret, he is able to graduate as the valedictorian. Shinjyurou later interns at an embalming agency in San Francisco under a man named Peter Rabbit, who shares the same principal as Dudley and talks to corpses while working. Shinjyurou eventually returns to Japan and meets a priest who allows him to practice in his church and gives the church to him, provided that he does not change the exterior. Shinjyurou develops feelings for the man's granddaughter, Azuki, and they grow closer. However, he refuses to become involved with her romantically, and sleeps with multiple women because he craves the feeling of warmth after he works. Shinjyurou works adamantly to make corpses retain their original, living appearance to allow relatives and friends to say a proper farewell. Through his work, Shinjyurou is also able to help others come to a better understanding about embalming and death.

Characters

Shinjyurou Mamiya

Shinjyurou Mamiya (間宮心十郎 Mamiya Shinjūrō?) is a skilled embalmer and protagonist of the series, who has romantic feelings for Azuki. While living with Chan in America, Chan often asked if Shinjyurou could work on someone he loves; he finally decides that it is something he fears, and pledges to never embalm Azuki.[1] He realizes the importance of giving farewells to actual bodies, which affects his views and his embalming.[2] In the live-action series, Shinjyurou works as a janitor at a hospital, with only Renji and the hospital director knowing he is an embalmer to avoid discrimination. When a body is sent to be embalmed, Renji sends him a text message calling him to a church where he performs the embalming. Masato Wada portrayed Shinjyurou in the live-action drama.[3]

Azuki Natsui

Azuki Natsui (夏井アズキ Natsui Azuki?) is the Shinjyurou's landlord and granddaughter of the man who gave his church to Shinjyurou. She denies any romantic feelings for Shinjyurou, but cares for and trusts him. Shinjyurou's embalming indirectly allowed Azuki to realize the importance of saying farewell while the deceased is still whole. After her cat, Tamala, was found dead, Azuki went into denial and refused to see him, against Shinjyurou's advice. Shortly after, the daughter of a woman embalmed by Shinjyurou visited and thanked him for allowing her to give a proper farewell and find closure. With this in mind, Azuki holds Tamala's body and mourns. In the live-action series, Azuki is a nurse who works at the hospital with several other nurses and Koyuki. She slowly begins to have feelings for Shinjyurou, and is the first of the nurses to find out that he is an embalmer. Shinohara Mai portrayed Azuki in the live-action drama.[3]

Renji Kobayashi

Renji Kobayashi (小林恋路 Kobayashi Renji?) is Shinjyurou's friend and the funeral coordinator. He first met Shinjyurou while they were both in medical school, after a student comments that others line up to copy Renji's notes. Renji reveals that he will take over his parents' mortuary, and that he feels grateful that his parents allowed him to choose his profession. In the live-action series, Renji offers people who have lost loved ones a chance to have a "magician" restore the deceased to their past appearance before death. He protects Shinjyurou's identity and is revealed to be a friend since school. Shugo Oshinari portrayed Renji in the live-action drama.[3]

Shouko Koyuki

Shouko Koyuki (小雪宵子 Koyuki Shōko?) is a doctor who falls in love with the hospital director that informed her about embalming and his principals as a doctor. After he is diagnosed with carcinoma, Koyuki proposes to him and plans to have him embalmed after his death. However, since he had never sent in the marriage certification forms and as no relative was present to give permission, he wasn't embalmed. In the live-action series, Koyuki is a no-nonsense doctor and is the first to learn of Shinjyurou's true profession. At first, she dislikes embalming but later realizes its importance when her fiancé, the hospital director, dies. She is portrayed by Sayuri Kokusho in the live-action drama.[3]

Mitsuru Natsui

Mitsuru Natsui (夏井満 Natsui Mitsuru?) is Azuki's hard-working brother. In the manga, he works at a confectionery company, developing candy. When they were younger, Azuki and Mitsuru's father died and Mitsuru promised to become a candy-maker and be Azuki's male role-model. He greatly dislikes Shinjyurou as a result of his protectiveness towards Azuki. In the live-action series, he is an energetic and comical street musician who is given a tip by Shinjyurou. When he meets him again, Mitsuru complains that the tip was only a penny. Shinjyurou proceeds to tell him that he gave him "Lincoln", a metaphor postulating that Mitsuru would go on to accomplish great things. Shinjyurou tells him they are now "brothers" and thereafter Mitsuru constantly shows up at his apartment, often with food. He later rents an apartment next to Shinjyurou so he can move away from Azuki, who is constantly scolding him about his future. In the live-action drama, Mitsuru is played by Igarashi Shunji.[3]

Production

The Embalmer was inspired by the death of a friend of Mihara.[4] Due to the poor scheduling of the funeral, Mihara felt that she wasn't given the opportunity to give a proper farewell.[4] Mihara also commented that she felt embalming is "a technique well suited to Japan" because people "often have very little time" to say goodbye.[4] Due to the event, Mihara began to investigate embalming and at one point talked to an embalmer.[4] She noted that she "couldn't help but be impressed by restoration techniques" used during the process.[4]

Media

Manga

Written and illustrated by Mitsukazu Mihara, The Embalmer was originally serialized in the Japanese Shodensha magazine Feel Young.[3] The first four volumes were serialized between 2002 and 2005,[5] and the series resumed in the January 2008 issue of Feel Young, released in December 2007.[3] The first tankōbon of The Embalmer was released in Japan by Shodensha on July 25, 2003 under the Feel Comics label.[6] Currently, six volumes have been published in Japan, with the latest volume released on November 7, 2010.[7] On July 26, 2005, Tokyopop confirmed the release of an English-language version of The Embalmer,[8] and the first volume was later released on August 8, 2006.[9] Currently, four volumes have been released in English, with the fourth released on August 14, 2007.[10] The Embalmer was also licensed by the company Hanami for release in Poland under the title Balsamista; currently, five volumes have been released.[11]

Volume list

<tr ><th rowspan="2" style="width: 4%;">No.</th><th colspan="2">Japan</th><th colspan="2">North America</th></th></tr><tr style="border-bottom: 3px solid #348017"><th style="width: 24%;">Release date</th><th style="width: 24%;">ISBN</th><th style="width: 24%;">Release date</th><th style="width: 24%;">ISBN</th></tr> <tr style="text-align: center;"><td id="vol1">1</td></td><td> July 25, 2003[6]</td><td>ISBN 4396763050</td><td>August 8, 2006[9]</td><td>ISBN 1-59816-646-8</td></tr><tr style="vertical-align: top; "><td colspan="5">
  • Embalming 1: Sleeping Beauty
  • Embalming 2: The Old Man's Watch
  • Embalming 3: Narcissus
  • Embalming 4: A Love Without Embrace
  • Embalming 5: Sweets Memories

</td></tr><tr style="border-bottom: 3px solid #348017; text-align: left;"><td colspan="5">In "Sleeping Beauty", a friend of Azuki is killed in a car accident, thus ending her chance at performing in the ballet "Sleeping Beauty" and marrying her fiancé. Through Shinjyurou's embalming, her fiancé is able to see her whole and beautiful before kissing her farewell. Shinjyurou's first job as a professional embalmer is explained in "The Old Man's Watch"; an old man allows Shinjyurou to embalm him when he dies, understanding the importance of practice as he repairs watches. He wants to protect one clock in particular which reminds him of his friends, but it is planned to be replaced by a digital one. He keeps it from being torn down until 10:08, which he claims is when the clock looks its best. He dies soon after, and Shinjyurou turns the man's watch to 10:08 before placing it on his wrist. "Narcissus" tells the story of a man who deeply thinks of himself as beautiful and above others. He drowns after falling into a bathtub while staring at his reflection, and Shinjyurou is given the instructions to make him beautiful. In "A Love Without Embrace", a sick man is unable to see his wife and child, who often draws him pictures. After he dies, Shinjyurou embalms him and has him embrace a picture of the child that the child had drawn. "Sweets Memories" introduces Azuki's brother, who promised to be a male role model in their father's place, and whose protectiveness towards Azuki leads him to dislike Shinjyurou. He falls ill and quickly recovers, and Shinjyurou inwardly confesses that he could never embalm Azuki because he fears embalming someone he loves.</td></tr>

<tr style="text-align: center;"><td id="vol2">2</td></td><td> March 8, 2004[12]</td><td>ISBN 4396763174</td><td>December 12, 2006[13]</td><td>ISBN 1-59816-647-6</td></tr><tr style="vertical-align: top; "><td colspan="5">
  • Embalming 6: The Road Home
  • Embalming 7: Liars
  • Embalming 8: Pandora's Box
  • Embalming 9: The Miracle of Nothing Happening
  • Embalming 10: The Freedom of Loneliness
  • Embalming 11: Match Made in Heaven

</td></tr><tr style="border-bottom: 3px solid #348017; text-align: left;"><td colspan="5">In "The Road Home", Azuki's cat Tamala runs away and returns to his past home, where his previous owner who had abandoned him, had lived. Azuki goes into denial, but after the daughter of a woman embalmed by Shinjyurou arrives and speaks of the peace she found after seeing her mother one last time, Azuki accepts Tamala's death and holds his body. "Liars" details Shinjyurou's first love, who told him that her father was an undertaker and wanted her to be one. Shinjyurou is able to connect with her, but she soon reveals she had lied and her father was a police officer; however, Shinjyurou believes that they are both liars, remembering that he had lied about various injuries inflicted by students. In "Pandora's Box", a couple is given a doll to remember their child, who was too severely damaged to be embalmed. The dollmaker Tsubaki argues that dollmaking is superior because people have something that lasts forever. However, the mother of the child begins to treat the doll like her own, which leads to her finding out that her husband had had an affair with her best friend. The mother proceeds to kidnap her friend and husband's child. Shinjyurou relishes Christmas in "The Miracle of Nothing Happening", despite facing criticism from a woman for his profession, because the day is usually a busy time for embalmers. "The Freedom of Loneliness" details a son's wish to break free from his father and locate his mother; however, she refuses to treat him as family, and he realizes how lonely he is. "Match Made in Heaven" reveals the doctor Koyuki's past, in which she tried to marry the hospital director when he became sick and was doomed to die. She planned to embalm him after, but found that he did not send in the marriage application, and therefore she was not able to give permission for the procedure.</td></tr>

<tr style="text-align: center;"><td id="vol3">3</td></td><td> January 27, 2005[14]</td><td>ISBN 4396763514</td><td>April 10, 2007[15]</td><td>ISBN 1-59816-648-4</td></tr><tr style="vertical-align: top; "><td colspan="5">
  • Embalming 12-14: Shinjyurou
  • Embalming 15-19: The Embalmer

</td></tr><tr style="border-bottom: 3px solid #348017; text-align: left;"><td colspan="5">After the death of his father, Shinjyurou decides to transfer to an American university and become an embalmer, since there is no place to learn the profession in Japan. While he had previously hated his father's profession and felt that he had no love for his family, Shinjyurou realizes that he had been wrong, and realizes the importance of embalming after seeing his father's corpse. He finds a roommate and takes classes, but realizes that his lack of English skills will hurt his chances. Despite this, he gets several books on embalming and studies often. He becomes roommates with a man named Chan, who often asks him if he could ever embalm someone he loved; Shinjyurou cannot answer this, and later learns that Chan's inquiries stem from when his brother's embalmer had done a poor job, causing the body to start decomposing by the time the funeral was held. After his first practice embalming, Shinjyurou realizes the happiness of finishing and knowing the family members will be happy. He is advised to never forget the feeling, as it is an embalmer's greatest reward. Shinjyurou passes his final exams and graduates from the university as the valedictorian, and interns in San Francisco under a man named Peter Rabbit. Peter talks to the corpses while working, and describes it as listening to them. He later commends Shinjyurou as an embalmer who can also "understand" the corpse. Shinjyurou eventually leaves to return to Japan, and meets Chan at the airport; Shinjyurou asks him if he could ever embalm a loved one and, taking Chan's long silence as a "No", agrees.</td></tr>

<tr style="text-align: center;"><td id="vol4">4</td></td><td> December 8, 2005[16]</td><td>ISBN 4396763727</td><td>August 14, 2007[10]</td><td>ISBN 1-4278-0140-1</td></tr><tr style="vertical-align: top; "><td colspan="5">
  • Embalming 20: Gate of Flowers
  • Embalming 21: Gothic Lolita Complex
  • Embalming 22: Sandcastle
  • Embalming 23: In Out of the Rain
  • Embalming 24: Unforgettable Bond
  • Embalming 25: A Rose that Never Dies

</td></tr><tr style="border-bottom: 3px solid #348017; text-align: left;"><td colspan="5">Upon his return to Japan in "Gate of Flowers", Shinjyurou meets Azuki's grandfather who allows him to work and live at the church, on the condition that he keeps the outward appearance the same because he had promised Azuki that she could have her wedding there and he would walk her down the aisle. The man is later diagnosed with Alzheimer's and often grabs hold of the nurse's hands. After he dies and Shinjyurou waits in a hallway, he realizes that, in his mind, he was trying to walk with Azuki on her wedding day. In "Gothic Lolita Complex", a girl named Aria distances herself from her friends and plans her own suicide. She wants to never grow old and look beautiful, so she asks Shinjyurou to embalm her. He refuses and allows her to come to the funeral of a young tennis player; Shinjyurou explains that embalming is meant to make a corpse natural and for the benefit of family. Later, Shinjyurou checks Aria's website, where she had posted about her desire for death, to find that the message had been removed. In "Sandcastle", a man steals the embalmed body of his deceased wife, seeing that she looked alive. Renji helps to calm him and retrieve the body, and later speaks with Shinjyurou on how people continue to love, even after their loved one dies; he compares this phenomenon to the creation of sandcastles. "In Out of the Rain" details a small experience Shinjyurou has with Azuki when they take shelter from the rain; he enjoys it and wishes the rain never to end because it keeps them together. "Unforgettable Bond" is the story of a daughter of a famous composer, who lies to her peers about how her father treats her, telling them he spends time with her and composes music in her name. After her father is involved in an accident, he loses his memory but keeps writing music notes on walls; after his death, the song is performed and its title is revealed to be "Fuer meine Tochter" (For My Daughter). In "A Rose that Never Dies", a woman in a hospice plans her funeral, and asks for preserved roses she made to be added to the coffin, and also requests that he attend the funeral because she has no close relatives. At the funeral, however, several people arrive, and are allowed to take roses for mementos, in the end leaving the coffin empty handed .</td></tr> <tr style="text-align: center;"><td id="vol5">5</td></td><td> September 8, 2008[17]</td><td>ISBN 9784396764395</td><td>—</td><td>—</td></tr> <tr style="text-align: center;"><td id="vol6">6</td></td><td> November 7, 2009[7]</td><td>ISBN 4396764766</td><td>—</td><td>—</td></tr> </table>

Live-action drama

File:Shigeshoshi DVD.jpg

Shodensha magazine Feel Young announced in its September 2008 issue that The Embalmer would be adapted into a 12-episode live-action drama called Shigeshōshi (死化粧師?).[18] The series was aired on TV Tokyo's Drama 24 segment on Friday nights,[18] as well as Aichi Television Broadcasting and TVQ Kyūshū.[19] Shigeshōshi ran from October 5, 2007 to December 21, 2007.[20] The show began being broadcast again on July 1, 2009.[21] The film used several props with American themes because the main character had studied at an American university; these included doughnut boxes and sneakers with American dollar and New York prints.[22] Filming took place at various locations, including a church and a coast at Miura.[22] Due to a typhoon, seaweed and driftwood had to be cleaned off the beach before shooting began.[22] The song Key to My Heart (ココロの鍵 Kokoro no Kagi?) by Yorico was Shigeshōshi's main theme, and Slide (スライド Suraido?) by Super Flying Boy was the opening theme.[5]

Shigeshōshi was scripted by Sumino Kawashima and Ayako Katō, while Masahiro Mori, Hideo Mizumura, Minoru Tamegai, and Takeo Kakinuma directed episodes.[5] It was produced by the "Shigeshōshi" Production Committee, while TV Tokyo and The icon both worked on production.[5] Promotion was done by VAP.[5]

Two CD singles[23][24] have been produced containing music from the series.[25] Key to My Heart (ココロの鍵 Kokoro no Kagi?), by Yorico, was released on November 14, 2007 under the record label EMI Music Japan.[23] Slide (スライド Suraido?), containing music by the band Super Flying Boy, was released under the label Columbia Music Entertainment on November 28, 2007.[24] VAP released a four-disc boxset of Shigeshōshi on February 27, 2008.[5][26] The boxset also included an hour-long extra at the O Video Awards, as well as other videos showing press conferences, premiers, and behind-the-scenes footage.[5]

A spin-off web series involving the nurses from the drama was released on October 15, 2007.[19] It was made available to watch on TV Tokyo's Shigeshōshi page and is six episodes long.[27] The episodes were later included in the Shigeshōshi boxset.[5]

Reception

The Embalmer has received fairly positive reviews from Western critics. Writing for Active Anime, Sandra Scholes gave the first volume a positive review.[28] She praised the "crafting of the story", and noted that every story gives "insight into a particular character’s personality". Overrall, she felt it was "original, interesting, gothic and touching" and that readers "will find [it] impressive".[28] Leroy Douresseaux of Comic Book Bin rated the first volume with a 6/10, noting that "Mihara smartly makes the reader invest in the lives of the deceased and in the emotions and grieving of the loved ones" and recommending the series to "goth fans and readers looking for something way out there".[29]

Popculture Shock's Katherine Dacey graded the series with an A.[30] She commented that "each volume contains vivid, poignant scenarios that dramatize the very human need for closure when a loved one dies unexpectedly, showing us how personal tragedy leads to catharsis". Dacey also praised the art, saying that "highly stylized figures" and "empty backgrounds amplify her characters’ shifting moods from despair to peaceful acceptance".[28]

Melissa Harper of Anime News Network positively reviewed The Embalmer, grading the story with an A and art with a B; overrall, Harper gave the first volume a B+.[31] She praised the stories as "gripping" with detail and the art as "different and interesting"; however, Harper wrote that "the darkness of the art" made "some panels confusing", and criticised the "lack of development on main characters".[31] Writing for Mania, Jarred Pine graded the first volume with a B+.[32] Pine called the premise "refreshing" and "unique", though did comment that the main character's personality "might fall into the womanizing bishounen cliché a little bit", but that "his idiosyncrasies and quirky relationship makes him an interesting character to follow" nonetheless.[32] Library Journal's Christine Gertz noted how Miharu uses The Embalmer to ask if embalming is "loving, dignified, or disreputable to invigorate temporarily the corpse for viewing", due to the feeling surrounding the practice.[33] Gertz felt that while "it may disappoint readers looking for a gothic depiction of death and loss, since this series is her most realistic", others "interested in thanatology" could enjoy it.[33]

Cumulatively, the first four volumes of The Embalmer have sold over 300,000 copies.[5]

References

  1. Script error
  2. Script error
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Script error
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Mihara, Mitsukazu (14 August 2007). The Embalmer, Volume 4. Los Angeles: Tokyopop. pp. 157–161. ISBN 1-4278-0140-1. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 Script error
  6. 6.0 6.1 Script error
  7. 7.0 7.1 Script error
  8. "Mitsukazu Mihara Titles Confirmed at Tokyopop". Anime News Network. Retrieved July 18, 2009. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Manga + Comics: The Embalmer (1)". Tokyopop. Retrieved July 18, 2009. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Manga + Comics: The Embalmer (4)". Tokyopop. Retrieved July 18, 2009. 
  11. Script error
  12. Script error
  13. "Manga + Comics: The Embalmer (2)". Tokyopop. Retrieved June 20, 2009. 
  14. Script error
  15. Script error
  16. Script error
  17. Script error
  18. 18.0 18.1 "DOLL Creator's Embalmer Manga Spawns Live-Action Show". Anime News Network. Retrieved July 18, 2009. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Script error
  20. Script error
  21. Script error
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Script error
  23. 23.0 23.1 Script error
  24. 24.0 24.1 Script error
  25. Script error
  26. Script error
  27. Script error
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Scholes, Sandra. "THE EMBALMER VOL. 1". Active Anime. Retrieved July 18, 2009. 
  29. Douresseaux, Leroy. "The Embalmer, Volume One". Comic Book Bin. Retrieved July 18, 2009. 
  30. Dacey, Katherine. "Mitsukazu Mihara’s The Embalmer, Vols. 1-4". Popculture Shock. Retrieved July 18, 2009. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 Harper, Melissa. "The Embalmer Vol. 1". Anime News Network. Retrieved July 18, 2009. 
  32. 32.0 32.1 Pine, Jarred. "Embalmer Vol. #01". Mania. Retrieved July 18, 2009. 
  33. 33.0 33.1 Gertz, Christine. "Xpress Reviews—First Look at New Books". Library Journal. Retrieved July 24, 2009. 

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