Manga-ka: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: April 2010
Synopsis: “A boy from Sakura’s past appears, hoping to win a date with her. But the ghost of another lovelorn boy leads to an unexpected triple date. Can an exorcism take place at an amusement park? Does Rinne have feelings for Sakura? Compared to playing the dating game, dealing with angry ghosts and rogue shinigami may be less frightening!”
Rumiko Takahashi really feels like she’s finally found her footing with Rinne here in the third volume. With the lead introductions and spiritual-mythos in practice explained in the first book, and a gaggle of jokes tested and frankly flopped in volume two, this third volume comes on the heels of that less than blow away material to present a new reason for on the fence readers to give this witty supernatural series another run for Rinne’s money.
Introducing a new character to the fray, Sakura is given her own childhood ‘friend’ to get reacquainted with, a young man by the name of Tsubasa Jumonji. An overzealous exorcist with know-how to spare, though perhaps not the common sense to properly wield it, his arrival at Sakura’s school marks the end of his journey tracking down his first true love and asking her out. Naturally, this individual is none other than Sakura and, though not the most inspired of plot twists, it does bring about an oddly unexpected focus on Rinne’s feelings for Sakura. Having little in the way of social skill or interest, suddenly having Rinne thrust into a situation that leaves him questioning his own attachment to the detached Sakura is a welcomed turn of events, and an amusing one.
Tsubasa’s involvement in this fourth volume is fairly consistent, situating him as a character who iss likely to be around for a while. To no complaint though, far more endearing than the previously established childhood associate of Rinne’s (who made no appearance in this third book), Tsubasa is a fairly cool-headed yet still eccentric young man whose passion for his love and his mission to exorcise spirits makes him a character that finds a good balance between being respectable and entertaining. Humourous moments at his expense and execution are the most laugh-worthy of the book including nerf-ball dust launchers and bludgeoning a spirit with a bible.
Continuing with the episodic trend of spiritual confrontation, Rinne and co. find themselves up against another wacky assortment of misguided souls. The first is a wayward departed with unfinished business involving a date he never got the chance to go on. A double date to the carnival offers both the chance to protect the spirit from Tsubasa and give Tsubasa the chance to finally take Sakura on a date as well – much to Rinne’s mental and financial dismay.
Later in the book the trio find themselves coming face to face with the classic urban-myth of a child-haunted toilet stall that pits them again a spunky young girl with a vendetta, one that has her borrowing energy from an evil spirit on a deadly time-share system. Following it comes a short arc that has Sakura in a cute little maid outfit for the school’s festival and the group battling perhaps their most nefarious foe yet – a spirit wielding the awesome power of a pretty boy’s face and luring a gaggle of young girls to their pampered fate.
This third volume of Rin-Ne proves to be a considerably more enjoyable read than the second and returns the series to the level of promise that the first volume had poked at. Though introducing a few more of Takahashi’s more overused elements (cue the rival and dense romantic-lead relations), it still delivers on a tactfully dry level of humour that achieves the level of quirk it feels evident was intended from the start. If the series keeps going off this pleasant diversion from past tedium, then we could have another Takahashi classic on our hands.