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An ongoing manga series by mangaka and character designer Kiyudzuki Satoko (of Dept Heaven fame). Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro, titled Katsugi Hitsugi no Kuro in Japanese, tells the story of a boyish young woman named Kuro who travels the land in search of... something, accompanied by a flock of bats and eventually a pair of unusual young girls named Nijuku and Sanju. She always dresses in black and carries a coffin (that, suspiciously, seems just her size) on her back--and is often mistaken for a boy. Or a vampire. Or a mortician, or a coffin salesman... the list goes on and on.
The story is told mostly in 4koma, and has an episodic feel to it--though there are occasional stories about the side characters that Kuro meets and then leaves along her way. Although the readers know next to nothing about the characters when they are first introduced, eventually the reason why Kuro is traveling and what she's looking for become clear, and Nijuku and Sanju's special abilities and purpose are explored.
This series is often noted for its similarities to Kino no Tabi, though Kuro has less navel-gazing overall and tends to have a whimsical, charming feel even when serious events come up--though Kuro can get very dark every now and then.
The manga is being localized by Yen Press, and the first two volumes are out in English now. After a long delay due to the manga being on hiatus in Japan, the third volume is scheduled for November 2012.
Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro utilizes these tropes:
- Audio Adaptation: Has one drama CD, wherein Kuro is voiced by Takayama Minami, Sen by Tsukui Kyousei, Nijuku by Tokunaga Ai, and Sanju by Nonaka Ai.
- Bifauxnen: Kuro, sort of.
- Boke and Tsukkomi Routine: Kuro and Sen, (usually) without the physical-humor part of the equation.
- Bokukko: Kuro.
- Bottle Fairy: Sen--Kuro has to chaperone him in bars, as he usually drinks himself into unconsciousness.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Sanju, whenever she's in a bad mood.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Lampshaded; Sen often teases Kuro for not fully explaining what she's doing.
- Cheerful Child: Nijuku.
- Children Are Innocent: Nijuku and Sanju, though the trope is justified, considering they've spent their whole lives in their creator's laboratory before being brought along with Kuro and Sen.
- Color Coded for Your Convenience: Subverted early and often.
- Dark-Skinned Blond: The twins.
- Deadpan Snarker: Sen.
- The Drifter: Kuro, and the rest of her odd family.
- Exposition Fairy: Averted with Sen, who doesn't explain things to Kuro but to everyone she runs into.
- Expy: Yggdra Union's Mistel is based on the "witch" encountered in the third story arc; Isabeli from Gungnir has Kuro's coloring.
- God Save Us From the Queen: The selfish princess.
- Goggles Do Nothing: Averted with Kei, who always has them over his eyes.
- Kuudere: Kuro, oh so much.
- Lampshade Hanging: Lots of it. As expected from Kiyudzuki-sensei.
- Les Yay: Happens a lot and is usually played for humor, considering how often Kuro is mistaken for a boy.
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Sen, sometimes. (He never seems to actually get any, though.)
- Meaningful Name: "Sen" means "one thousand". It's also the first syllable of sensei, and Sen was originally Kuro's teacher, whose body was split into one thousand bats.
- Nightmare Fuel: The fate of Mo and her village.
- Parental Substitute: Kuro and Sen, to Nijuku and Sanju.
- Puni Plush
- Running Gag: "Just so you know, I'm a girl."
- Shout-Out: In the selfish princess' arc, Kei tells her a drama-filled adventure story; the illustrations show the princess fleeing mysterious pursuers with a massive sword.
- Also, the culprit is Yasu.
- Super-Deformed: Kiyudzuki's art is already extremely cutesy (and she rarely ever draws any other way--see Yggdra Union for the rule and Knights in The Nightmare as an exception), but she manages to take this to Serial Escalation levels of adorable.
- Talking Animal: Sen.
- That Man Is Dead: Subverted. Kuro never tells anyone her real name--turns out that this is because it's very girly and cutesy, and she doesn't think it fits her.
- Theme Twin Naming: Nijuku and Sanju are cutesy pronunciations of the Japanese words for twenty-nine and thirty.
- Tragic Keepsake: The coffin, in a really creepy way. Kuro's glasses also sort of count.
- Unusual Ears: Nijuku and Sanju. When Kuro first meets them, at least...
- Walking the Earth
- What Do You Mean It's Not for Kids?: The adorable art and cutesy themes are used to present a lot of mature, philosophical, and downright depressing subjects.
- The Virus: Kuro's curse.
- Trail of Bread Crumbs: A child uses the food trail type to keep from getting lost in a forest. Kuro and Sen, themselves lost and trying to find their way to the girl's village, are decidedly dejected because they are certain that animals have already eaten the crumbs.