Kyoukai no Rinne – 04

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It’s official – Kyoukai no Rinne is a good show.

I’m enjoying Brain’s Base’s adaptation of this series so much that it’s making me wonder if I don’t need to give the manga another look, because I definitely don’t remember the same level of enjoyment.  It was pretty good, but the anime seems to have a certain spark the manga didn’t – maybe it’s good casting, or maybe it’s the fact that the comic style is so deadpan that it’s more effective in a medium that’s normally so demonstrative and hyperkinetic.

No question, part of the appeal for me here is that Kyoukai no Rinne is something quite distinct from what anime normally is these days.  The character designs are obviously old-school, but Takahashi’s writing is every bit as much so.  She’s been doing this long enough that she doesn’t feel the need to try and oversell the comic (or dramatic) moments.  And she clearly has no inclination to trying to mimic modern tropes which are of no interest to her.

The cast is filling out nicely, with last week’s excellent addition of Rokumon being followed up by the arrival of Juumonji Tsubasa (the always welcome Kimura Ryouhei).  Transfer student Tsubasa is the scion of an exorcist family who fell in love with Mamiya Sakura (we have a triangle here where both males call the female by her full name) when they attended grade school together and bonded over their shared ability to see spirits.  He arrives back in town full of pomp (and himself), looking rather ridiculous in a bolo tie, and promptly confesses to Mamiya Sakura as soon as he sees her.  This is a pretty hilarious scene, since she has no memory of him whatsoever and only gets his name right because the teacher (seriously – what it is with those eyes?  I don’t think “cross-eyed” was meant to be taken this literally) has written it on the board.

Tsubasa is a full-on core cast member in his own right, but he does serve some obvious functions in the dynamic of the story – he’s a foil for Rinne, clearly, with his divergent views on spirits.  And he’s a prompt for Rinne to consider his feelings for Mamiya Sakura (it’s clear enough that his “I have no interest in that sort of thing” is a lie, but Mamiya Sakura’s usual stone-faced demeanor makes her own views harder to read).  The nature of both these conflicts plays out through the story of a ghost, Usui (Ichiki Mitsuhiro) who’s stayed around because he died of illness before he could go on a date with the girl of his dreams – Mamiya Sakura’s friend Miho (Tokui Sora).

In the first place, Tsubasa is clearly a hard-liner – he’s only interested in exorcising Usui, while Rinne wants to help him find closure and move on to the next world.  Then we have the scenario of the date, where Miho suggests a double-date with Mamiya Sakura – clearly thinking she’ll end up with Rinne.  But it’s Tsubasa who ends up as her partner, so Rika (Suzuki Aya) asks Rinne to make it a triple (maybe there’s a little crush here, but I think she’s mostly just being a good friend).  Despite spending himself into debt again at the amusement park and crying tears of blood, Rinne actually has a good time – and discovers that he doesn’t much like the notion of Mamiya Sakura being on a date with another guy.  And judging by the way she was clutching that dolphin plushie Rinne won for her, there might be some reciprocated feeling here.

This is all fairly zany and quite funny, but again the real charm of it for me is how ridiculously low-key it all is.  You’d think a show this mild-tempered might be boring, but Rinne is anything but – rather, it’s quite refreshing.  There’s no attempt made her to be overly realistic – this is anime that’s content to be a fantasy on every level, but the naturalistic tone makes for a pretty interesting contrast.  I truly think this series would have seemed a lot more generic if it’s aired 10 or 15 years go, but it didn’t – and in this environment, it’s a real breath of fresh air.

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  1. N

    It's also refreshing in the context of other Rumiko works. Having laid back leads who are capable of introspection is quite the novelty, and it opens the intriguing possibility of character growth.

  2. M

    (Fixed link) Loving this show. So glad it's not like Inuyasha. It's far more like Urusei Yatsura with a bit of characters you want to get to know more about, like in Maison Ikkoku. This is staying on my watch list.

    The teacher's eyes are like Tobimaru and Asuka Mizunokoji's eyes from Urusei Yatsura. He does kind of remind me of Tobimaru, too, in the way he talks.

  3. LOL, so much Inuyasha hate these days. I still love that series. But I agree, this one is nothing like it – a very different (and more throwback) Rumiko.

  4. M

    Inuyasha isn't really that bad, it's just unendingly boring, and the characters aren't likeable, so it's hard to care about them. It's pretty much the same problem I had with Bleach. About the only thing keeping me going was that I wanted Hojo (the impossibly bland guy that liked Kagome) to be some type of secret enemy. Oh well.

    I always said that her shows got worse as the got newer. I'm glad Rinne doesn't follow that trend, and is more like Rumiko's best in the past. Urusei Yatsura is the whole reason I got into anime in the first place.

    I'm a high school teacher who runs an anime club at my school. Rinne was a no-brainer to add to our showing list.

  5. S

    One of my favorite things about this episode was all the little references to her previous series through the crane machine dolls (and that balloon).
    I'm not sure just how I feel about Tsubasa yet, but he had one of the few laugh out loud moments in this episode for me. When he realizes he has a date with Sakura and mutters to himself I was cracking up.

  6. Z

    Takahashi has a sense of comic timing that many younger mangaka can only dream of.

  7. e

    It's decided. Rumiko should have realized it sooner that her strength lies in comedy, and she should stop drawing shounen battle manga since long ago.
    Inuyasha has shitty casts which I want to hit so bad.
    Rinne, on the other hand, has such charming casts.
    Mamiya and her two friends.
    Rinne and his obaachan and his kuroneko.
    And now, Tsubasa.
    His character is such a breath of fresh air into the existing casts.
    He's straightforward and doesn't hesitate even once in expressing his feeling.
    Just like Ryoga from Ranma 1/2.
    Draw comedy, Rumiko.

  8. M

    Watch/read Rumiko's first (and best!!!) series, Urusei Yatsura – it's a sci-fi comedy, emphasis on comedy, and the shonen battle element is completely gone. You'll love it!!!

  9. f

    Random side note: it was also unintentionally hilarious how things that physically SHOULD have fallen off – Sakura's hat while she was on the roller coaster and the toy shark on her bed – just stayed firmly stuck to whatever impossibly adhesive surface they were touching. Is Sakura's hair made of superglue? That toy shark was right on the edge of her bed – gravity clearly had no effect on it.

    I mean the episode was fairly engaging and I liked it a lot, but somehow I still got distracted by these things.

  10. T

    I actually like this show. Its one of the few times where I think the story is told better than the manga. I didn't like the manga when I check it out a long time ago, but I might rethink my position on this series.

    This show is so chill and relaxed its a nice change from Rumiko Takahashi other works. ^_^

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