Slow down, friend. The following content is incredibly perverted.
This manga is 18+, not safe for work, and is really rather sexual.
Should you be pure of heart, avert thine eyes.
Ahh, MURCIÉLAGO (ムルシエラゴ, or Murcielago); a series that could perhaps be considered infamous in yuri circles. You know, I actually avoided reading it for a while. The premise seemed like something I would just hate. I assumed the worst of it and really, fans of the series in the West didn’t exactly help entice me to WANT to try reading it. I did read it, though. Why? Because of the author, Yoshimura Kana (よしむらかな); specifically his twitter account (@yoshimurakana).
Yoshimura-sensei’s twitter account is the bee’s knees. I stumbled on it while looking up a relatively obscure yuri series, and noticed this account was highlighting not only yuri, but a bunch of other manga I was interested in as well (or manga I hadn’t heard of yet/that had just debuted). It also had some hot and neat opinions, then I noticed “wait isn’t this the Murcielago author’s twitter account?” I followed him and have since enjoyed the fruits of his good taste, thinking “okay, eventually I have to read Murcielago for real”. So I did.
Murcielago is kinda like exploitation flick meets overt oddball comedy with lots and lots of lesbian antics. I think its best comparison series might be trash., except trash. really holds true to its title and it’s just a matter of how long you can endure it or how much the ridiculous nature of it amuses you. trash. is basically like if Murcielago had no restraint and was also just generally worse, but the idea behind both of them — insane action sequences that are executed by a strange pair of hyper competent girls with a lot of violence and humor — is about the same. trash. is also a lot more depressing about everything, while Murcielago is much more lighthearted. At any rate, despite a lot of misgivings I had going into the series, from the one shot onward I found Murcielago to be a real delight.
Using the Japanese covers because the English release covers are basically the same except they don’t have kana.
Koumori Kuroko is a murderer with a staggering body count. At the start of the manga, she’s been caught and is awaiting execution. However, she’s made an offer that if she becomes a government dog, she will be allowed to live. Apparently, Kuroko isn’t just a killer, but a highly skilled assassin-like one (although as far as I know, she was never actually an assassin and previously mostly killed normal people). She accepts, becoming a “National Executioner” for the police, tasked with killing the many freaks and bastards terrorizing society.
Her…handler? Partner? Her cohort that lives with her and who she cooks for is a junior high school girl named Tozakura Hinako who seems to have an innate beyond-expert understanding of all vehicles, but she also seems to have the firm and strange personality of a young child; smiling innocently through many of the horrors within the series.
And…yep! That’s it! The series does have an overarching plot of a sort and a kind of mystery element, as everything ends up being connected in this way and that (also individual arcs have little “can you figure it out?” parts), but the main appeal of the series is its episodic arcs. It starts off letting you know that it’s all going to be utterly absurd and not realistic at all. It also starts off letting you know that Kuroko is an incredibly lustful homosexual woman as chapter one pretty much opens with [this] (really, not safe for work).
However, although Kuroko is always thinking about how she wants to fuck every girl she sees (every one, even young ones) and there are some sex scenes, most of the sex is actually confined to the omake chapters that come at the end of each volume. They can get very lewd, yes, but I honestly think the main appeal of this series is the insane action and Kuroko’s overall bizarre character.
I would describe Kuroko as an impossibility. She’s an incredibly tall, incredibly thin, big-breasted and scummy woman who has no qualms killing people and can be very creepy yet somehow she causes panties to drop with but a few words. She hardly ever seems to give a shit and yet she never gets seriously hurt and always survives mortal danger. She has the CRAZY-ness of Dante from Devil May Cry and the slick acrobatic killer efficiency of Claire Stanfield from Baccano! (if you don’t know who that is and haven’t watched or read Baccano! yet, don’t spoil yourself and go watch the anime or something). While she possesses those traits, she’s undoubtedly her own character. Kuroko is Kuroko, and aside from describing her as an impossibility, I’d also describe her as smooth and infallible evil.
Not only is she evil because she’s a murderer and sometimes molester who preys on innumerable women despite allegedly being in a relationship (that’s a whole other thing you could talk about, but the only thing I’ll say is that Kuroko’s girlfriend, Chiyo, is way better than she initially appears), she’s evil because she’s a corrupting force. This isn’t really obvious at first; at first, you might even mistake her for being half-decent because she only kills bad guys and all that. As time goes on we get more reason to believe she’s just awful, usually in seeing the full extent of her brutality, or worse: how she actively encourages bad actions in other people. Hence a corrupting force. Kuroko is seriously messed up and probably shouldn’t have near as much freedom as she is allowed.
That said she’s pretty hilarious so it’s often easy to ignore these factors.
That does remind me, though; this is probably the only exploitation fiction I’ve gone through where I actually feel bad about people dying. I also think that’s intentional.
Since Kuroko works for the police, the police are a big part of this series. Think of them as the moral thread that is there to remind you that shit is fucked. They remind you that every life is precious, so when criminals and crazies show up you end up keeping in mind that every murdered civilian had a life that ended there, suddenly. They remind you that killing is a bad thing, since they don’t really ever do it and when they do they have serious moral dilemmas over it even if the person they killed was a mass murderer. They are pretty much the only characters in the series that absolutely don’t like Kuroko and wish she wasn’t “necessary” for the super-powered/skilled monsters they encounter regularly. Basically, they seem to be just about the only people in the series who are aware of how wrong things are, giving the series a surprising air of seriousness at times (there are a few others, but most of the cast is disturbingly unfeeling when it comes to matters of death). These aren’t minor characters, either; they show up often and they’re definitely major. I think that it’s an interesting choice Yoshimura-sensei made to have them be so significant, because I feel like any other trashy action series wouldn’t bother moralizing and would instead only ever delight in the wanton lusts and violence. “Turn your brain off, enjoy the ride”. There’s some of that here, but then the police show up. I like this aspect, and don’t see it getting talked about often enough.
Really do note how Kuroko seriously doesn’t give a shit although a little girl could be killed, and many have died already. She’s really a bad person! However because Kuroko is so relaxed so often, I found it easier to deal with the bad things happening and didn’t exactly find them “edgy” or something. It’s a weird vibe this series has.
Now then, winding down a bit… I don’t really have any complaints about this series, so I’ll just offer some more praises.
Murcielago is stylish as fuark.
God damn, seriously, Yoshimura-sensei just looooves playing around with weird perspectives, style choices, and absolutely insane choreography. His imagination is also wild, and there’s a lot of completely out there stuff that could never happen in reality happening in this series. Like, the stuff that happens in volume 9 for instance…aaagghhh what the HELL is that doing in this series!? But it’s awesome! Why is it here?? It’s awesome!
You may have also noticed he gets fancy often about where he puts the series title and chapter name/number for each new, well, chapter. Sometimes they get mega stylish panels dedicated to them, other times the title and chapter name are incorporated into the scene itself. My favorite of these occur in volume 9 again, for chapter 57. However I can’t show it, because it’s a big ol’ spoiler. It’s very cool, though, trust me.
Another cool thing about this series is Hinako in general. She’s kind of like a weird chaotic force that bounds around an arc mostly stumbling into doing something useful, but for all the wrong reasons. She’s just funny, really. Sure, she’s got a creepy vibe in that you can tell something’s…off about her (and not just because she’s childish), but she’s too funny so I mostly don’t even care. She’s often in a chibi-fied form that’s…really something, and she has a catchphrase of a sort in that she is often shouting オリャー！. So if you ever see オリャー！ know that she is yelling “ORYA—!”, often repeatedly, at the top of her lungs. She’s basically almost always hyped up, unless something has scared or upset her.
Other than that, Kuroko has a cadre of allies that sometimes help her out. These two are not part of that, actually, although they work together in the series’ second arc. They also rarely show up, and only until the most latest of chapters do they seem to have a somewhat more significant role again. They’re pretty cool and amusing, though, so I look forward to seeing more of them. Conrad’s design is rad, also.
That’s it. I don’t think I have anything more to say. I highly recommend this series. Go ahead and read it, mate. It reads fast, too, and the Japanese isn’t super hard to understand. On that note…
If you want to go about reading it in English officially, you’ll have some but not much luck as of right now. Yen Press has licensed the series and released volumes 1 and 2 in English as of this date. There are 9 volumes out, though… So! If you want to buy the series in the original Japanese, check out CDJapan, Bookwalker (guide), honto, or ebookjapan. Mhm, I’d say it’s worth your time.
Next manga up: another weird yuri series. Ciao.