First Impressions – Kyoukai no Rinne

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There’s an awful lot that’s familiar here, for better or worse.

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.

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  1. N

    I think I'll apply the 3 reviews rule with this one 🙂

    Rumiko does get her share of hate, and while it might not be completely justified, it's mostly understandable. As for me, I used to really like Inuyasha back in the day, and after the original anime ended I re-read the manga and kept up with it almost to the end. I lost interest about 10 chapters short of completion. When the Final Arc anime came out I tried picking it up, but it was too confusing and fast paced (covering 21 volumes in 26 episode is kinda crazy).
    Ranma too was quite importent to my personal growth as an anime enthusiastic, as at the time there was basically nothing else animated to watch on TV, but boy did it get old fast.

  2. H

    In the good ol' days I used to read Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha from my local library. I like the fable-like sensibility she evokes in most of her work and Rinne looks like no exception.

    I never caught the end of Inuyasha since Naraku's antics felt never ending and it started to peter off a bit. Can't remember where I stopped, but wondering if I should see final arc now.

  3. Better off reading it. Because 21 volumes in 26 episodes.

  4. H

    Sage advice, sir. I started reading from vol 21 whereabouts I dropped off 10 years ago and I'm pleased to say it doesn't feel like i ever did.

    Phew! It is long though. Having that light at the end of the tunnel helps.

  5. e

    Inuyasha is certainly Rumiko's downfall, ha ha ha.
    Just like Bleach and Naruto's mangaka, she's trapped in the money oriented authoring, where you prolong your manga as long as possible, even though that manga turned into crap.
    That's why we should respect Hikaru no Go, Death Note and Bakuman's author.

    I stopped reading Inuyasha for the same reason as everyone else, the story of confrontation with Naraku is too long, drags it's feet around, tumbles down and dies.

    I stopped reading Rinne in one chapter, too.
    Let's see if the anime can do better.

  6. I liked the way Rumiko ended Inuyasha myself, even if it did take too long to get there. Your opinion is a commonly held one, but it's still an opinion.

  7. N

    It's funny that you'd bring up Death Note and Bakuman together as exmaples for not streching out stories, when Bakuman made it quite clear that Ohba and Obata felt that was exactly what they were forced to do with Death Note.

    (Also, I should point out that Hikaru was authored by Yumio Hotta, not Ohba)

  8. Let's not totally spoil Death Note in case anyone wants to see for themselves.

  9. A

    For me Inuyasha is an all-time-favorite. I also liked how it ended. It was this series – horribly dubbed in German television – that made me fall in love with anime. "Close to a masterpiece" indeed. It doesn't seem that Rinne is on that level but I'll wait and see (and enjoy!).

  10. M

    I didn't like Inuyasha at all. Fell asleep repeatedly during it at anime club meetings, and watched about 25 epsiodes later. Still dull with unlikeable characters. Ugh Kagome! Paled immensely in comparison to the likes of the amazing Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku. Inuyasha felt like Ranma, but less fresh – ouch. Akane was a much better Kagome than Kagome was, lol.

    This show instead feels more like the calm of Maison Ikkoku (which had kind of a weak first episode, too) mixed with a slight sci fi twist.

    The three episode try seems good for a wide amount of series, not just Takahashi. I'll give it a few episodes before judgement.

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