For a while it seemed as if Kyoukai no Rinne was going to be orphaned altogether in the English-language market, which seems a bit of a travesty for a Takahashi Rumiko series – even second-tier Rumiko. But CR has picked this show up, so that concern is off the table at least. And it’s certainly not a bad offering, though I question how much value it’s going to bring to the table for the average viewer.
Indeed, Rumiko-sensei is manga royalty (she is the “Princess of Manga” after all), with titles such as Inuyasha, Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikoku under her tiara. It’s seems to be fashionable to bash Inuyasha these days but I quite liked it, even thought it was close to a masterpiece at its best moments – and some of those older titles are among the foremost representatives of their genre. But I don’t put Rinne in that class – I’ve tried going back to the manga several times and I always modestly enjoy it, but it never fully grabs me. So in that light, I’ll be surprised if the anime is much different.
Rinne is the story of a girl named Mamiya Sakura (Inoue Marina) who, after an encounter with a strange spiritual
obaa-san onee-san (Yukino Satsuki) as a little girl can see ghosts. When she gets to high school the transfer student seated next to her seems to be one, but it turns out he’s just wearing what amounts to an invisibility cloak (though it can also make spiritual beings visible). This is Rokudou Rinne (Ishikawa Kaitou), who’s actually a Shinigami who sort of acts like a Binbougami. And Kyoukai no Rinne begins as the story of their efforts to help the ghosts in their lives (a disturbing number of whom are teenagers) move on to the next world.
I think it would be a stretch to call the first episode exciting, but I can say from experience that the story does get more interesting as it progresses. Rinne, like most Rumiko, is darker than it appears (there are hints of that in the premiere) and it does have that Rumiko touch to the dialogue and relationships. Yet it’s also familiar to the point that some who know her work will find it repetitive – there’s no question that a lot of the cast are quite similar to Takahashi characters we’ve seen before, and the broad premise – a normal girl connected to the spirit world through a dangerous but good-hearted boy – could hardly be more classic Takahashi.
In the end, Rinne is a good candidate for the three-episode rule – for new viewers to figure out if they like the Takahashi template, and for Rumiko veterans to see if there’s enough new and distinctive to hold their interest. It’s also the first new Brain’s Base show in a while – though hardly any of the main staff are familiar Brains’s Base names – and that certainly piques my curiosity. The premiere looks basically fine – a bit old-school, and the character designs are more Rumiko than any studio template – but generally indistinctive. Indeed, if there’s a problem with Kyoukai no Rinne I think that word sums it up -we’ll just have to wait and see if the anime is able to transcend it.