Manga-ka: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: January 2010
Synopsis: “Sakura and Rinne deal with the ghosts of an ancient warrior and a girl who drowned in the school swimming pool, but that’s just a warm-up! A wandering spirit leads them to a surprising confrontation, one that takes Sakura and Rinne on an even more amazing chase!”
A dead samurai longing for love, a troublesome school pool and a trip to the oddly corporate-looking hell are all in-store for Sakura and Rinne in this second volume of Rumiko Takahashi’s newest series. But while some fun scenes make for giggles, a lack of originality bogs it down under some deliveries that feel too formulaic to succeed at being forgivably nostalgic.
This second book is split into three distinct story-chapters. The first story continues where the previous volume left off. The cast’s current issue is the spirit of a samurai; his lingering attachment to the world is the wish to marry his long since deceased fiancé. A hunt through reincarnations then begins for the true reborn form of his beloved, leading to some expectedly amusing results. Quick to end, following this, Sakura and Rinne must figure out what can be done about the ghost of a deceased choir student trapped within the school’s pool – a boisterous young talent whose end result is random enough to throw any reader for a momentary loop.
Missing from Rin-Ne up to this point however was the lack of a rival, pivotal to Rumiko Takahashi’s manga formula. Enter Masato, a bat-winged devil who’s out for revenge against Rinne. With the series’ obviously comedic intentions, it becomes little surprise that Masato and Rinne’s childhood back-story is less than dramatic. Masato’s plots to avenge his honor are as equally silly and superficial. It feels evident right away that this new character is set to be a classic rival trapped in humorous limbo – destined to make repeated attempts at tripping up the lead character in some way or another that’s always doomed to fail. It doesn’t bode well when a new recurring character feels tiring and predictable so soon in, even if he is good for at least a few chuckles.
Within the story it becomes increasingly more apparent that the Shinigami world runs on currency as dependently as the human world. In some way it adds some justification to Rinne’s overzealous nature when it comes to earning even the smallest amount. It at least helps with his frugalness that certain purchasable Shinigami-tools, such as a memory-viewing machine for spirits, are dirt-cheap. Masato uses Rinne’s frugality against him as the bulk of his traps are cash cards he leaves laying around.
The artwork of Rin-Ne continues to show Rumiko Takahashi in top form. The character designs may look a little over-familiar to readers of her previous work but the consistency of the art itself shows a great deal of experience and polish. With some strongly rendered action scenes and interesting locales, it does seem a pity however that they’re just another element used to carry the story’s jokes.
Rin-Ne‘s comedic charms work to a point based on just how silly it is but at the same time the striking artwork and cultural elements feel wasted on the material. There’s still some fun to be had reading these books but the already tiring plot points may seal Rin-Ne as a series best appreciated by those new to Rumiko Takahashi’s work. Faith in her prior publications will keep fans coming back for more in volume three though there likely remains some unfortunate disappointment in the formula thus far.