Manga-ka: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: October 2009
Synopsis: “Sakura’s curiosity about the mysterious Rinne draws her deeper into an amazing world on the boundary between the living and the dead. Helping Rinne is one thing, but will tagging along with him leave her trapped in the afterlife? And does Rinne really know what he’s doing? Dealing with the afterlife isn’t easy, especially when you don’t know all the rules!”
Like many a manga-character before her, Sakura Mamiya can see spirits – but she’s gotten used to it. One day a student in her class finally decides to show up except only she can see him. She soon learns that the student, Rinne, an oddly dressed redhead, accepts money and food in exchange for his services. His profession? Shinigami …well, sort of.
Rinne’s character is a bit of a enigma from the get-go but he doesn’t strike as the kind of character who’s especially intentional about his secrets. A Shinigami for reasons we learn by the end of this volume, Rinne lives a very financially tight lifestyle that leaves him performing miscellaneous deeds regarding lost souls in exchange for money. Far from leaving readers viewing him as a money-grubbing opportunist however, Rinne appreciates and values every penny he earns and actually seems to feel regret for the money he receives from people, seemingly unaware that the pockets of change left for him aren’t worth nearly as much to others as they are to him.
Mamiya doesn’t have much to her yet but I can’t deny her nonchalance works well in the context of the story. She’s a go with the flow kind of person and more than once I found myself chuckling at her inner-thoughts which outline a common sense that she keeps to herself in order to humour her friends.
The bulk of the book follows the two on different spirit-related incidences – including a lonely spirit looking for a date and a cell phone that just won’t stop ringing with the same strange call. It’s all fairly episodic with the few overlapping elements spanning from Mamiya learning more about Rinne as the story goes. The humour, for which Rumiko Takahashi is long since well known for, still remains in tact but it doesn’t feel as effective as usual. Perhaps my comedic tastes have changed since the days of Ranma ½’s serialization, but I was sure that a boy being swallowed by a giant Chihuahua would’ve been funnier than it was. Still, there are laughs to be had and Rin-Ne proves to be a distinctly comedic series when compared to Rumiko Takahashi’s previous series, Inu-Yasha.
By the book’s end there are two other lead characters introduced – the first is Rinne’s grandmother, a kind albeit sometimes thoughtless woman who is a full-Shinigami and plays a role in Mamiya’s past – and the other character is her ‘black cat’, an other world spirit who comes to the human world to be employed by Rinne. While the cat sort of weirds me out, for reasons readers will figure out once they see him in his natural form, I really like the character of Rinne’s grandmother. Her personality is amusing in how casual she handles most everything and the character design is really eye-catching, plus looks very snazzy in a near-full page shot of her in action that’s all kinds of awesome.
Rumiko Takahashi’s art style has reached a point where it’s hard to argue that it’s become a bit too consistent – though the character designs are different, there’s still too much in common stylistically with her other series, which makes it difficult to truly separate them. Rinne’s personality is much more subdued than say Inu-Yasha but their identical faces and postures create a distracting subconscious overlap while I’m reading, much the same with Mamiya and several female-leads past. Still, that’s not to say the charm isn’t still there – but the solidity of the art and physical humour will likely prove more effective on new readers who don’t find many of the returning elements old-hat by now.
While this first volume of Rin-Ne doesn’t really offer us anything we haven’t seen before, the handling of the material is too much fun to dismiss. Rinne’s penny-pinching has a certain charisma to it and, though not a standout character, Mamiya fits well as the series driving female protagonist. I liked reading Rin-Ne and do look forward to seeing how Rumiko Takahashi strings the plot from here on out – as long as it doesn’t go for thirty volumes anyway.
Rin-Ne can also be read online at ShonenSunday