As some of you may know, I am a rabid Inu-Yasha fangirl, which led me by extension to become a general fan of its author, Rumiko Takahashi. As such, when I found out Takahashi was starting a new series, there was no question about whether I would read it. The subject this time: wacky hijinks involving shinigami and a high-school girl with the power to see spirits.
The main character (a girl by the name of Mamiya Sakura) has been able to see spirits ever since an incident that occurred when she was a little girl. This becomes of interest when she meets Rokudo Rinne, a red-headed transfer student who, oh yeah, she first sees while no one else can. This is because Rinne is a shinigami (“death deity”), in possession of a haori that allows him to take spirit form and allows spirits to take solid form. Rinne is also totally, destitutely, broke-ass poor due to various circumstances involving a wacky and flippant grandmother and something about a mackerel. Sakura, due to her ability to see spirits and apparent inability to keep her nose to herself, ends up helping Rinne in his shinigami duties. These apparently include squatting in abandoned buildings, fleecing students for bread money and chasing off giant undead Chihuahuas.
With Kyoukai no Rin-ne (released concurrently by Viz.com as just “Rin-ne”), Takahashi seems to be returning to her comedy roots. The tone is very whimsical and absurd, and there are moments that are very reminiscent of her earlier series Ranma ½. Rin-ne is more serious and much less nonsensical than Ranma, however, and has less universe-breaking thus far. This coupled with the supernatural nature of the manga and integration of Japanese myth should make for a comedy that appeals to fans of Inu-Yasha who did not necessarily enjoy Ranma.
Of course, the best thing about any Takahashi series is always her characters, and Rin-ne doesn’t disappoint. Sakura and Rinne are probably the most subdued Takahashi protagonists I’ve ever seen, but rather than making them uninteresting, it comes off as refreshing. Sakura’s a little bit of a busybody, but she’s level-headed and reliable, thinking through problems and generally asking questions before leaping into action. She can’t help but try to help out people in need, though. Rinne, meanwhile, is probably the calmest, most serious hero Takahashi has ever written. He can get a little excitable on the job, but most of his appeal is his matter-of-fact attitude, his steadfast commitment to his job and acceptance of his situation. He also knows his shit, too, which is pretty awesome. The addition of a slightly manipulative cat mascot and the aforementioned grandmother round out the cast of recurring characters (at least for the moment). Takahashi has a tendancy to introduce important characters really gradually (which I absolutely love her for), so I’d expect more interesting folks to join the party before too long.
Currently, Rin-ne is episodic; Rinne and Sakura spend 1 or 2 chapters dealing with a particular ghost problem before moving on to the next. Discussion of Rinne’s background hints at an overarching goal, but so far there’s no continuous plotline. Nevertheless, it’s a fun read with little emotional commitment, and I intend to keep with it. I highly recommend it for your weekly comedy needs.